Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol arrived last night and turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. What the book gained in thickness it lost in tautness .Much of the plot’s main « surprise » can be guessed after the first few chapters. Set in a Washington DC awash with Masonic symbolism one cannot help but be reminded of the movie National Treasure. Readers interested in finding more about the Masonic symbols used by Brown should consult the website, http://www.freemasonlostsymbol.com which is a collaboration of the Masonic Society, the Masonic Service Association and the George Washington Masonic Memorial to address the book’s Masonic references.

As in his Da Vinci Code, Brown’s villain here is a thoroughly repulsive psychopath, Mal’akh, reminding one of Silence of the Lambs. I wonder why such psychopaths exert such a fascination on Dan Brown. The rest of his characters lack in depth:Inoue Sato director of a mythical Office of Security within the CIA ,improbably investigating in Washington D.C. seems to step out of a cartoon.

While the book is principally a pean to people’s potential, sadly, it is spoiled by suffused sloppiness. Here are 3 glaring examples:

1-at p.421 and 424,Professor Langdon is struggling to decipher a series of pictograms when he exclaims « The first letter is Η » and then « Suddenly he realized what the word might be :Ηερεδομ » the word « Heredom » which he proceeds to define, correctly, giving a correct  etymology completely misspelled: « From the Greek Ηερεδομ originating from Hieros-domos « .In Greek, as Mr. Brown should have easily ascertained, the letter H is the capital « η »=eta not the English « H ». In Greek there is no letter for the aspirated « h », the effect is achieved through the use of a diacritic, the spiritus asper, or rough breathing represented by an inverted comma placed above and before the vowel to be aspirated. Thus the word should have been written   Ἑρεδομ or – Ἡρεδομ.

2-at p.437-8, he writes « all spiritual rituals included aspects that would seem frightening if taken out of context-crucifixion reenactments, Jewish circumcision rites….Islamic niqab… ».Sorry Mr.Brown, the niqab is not a spiritual ritual; it is merely an article of clothing that covers the entire body of certain Moslem women leaving only the eyes. Islamic scholars are divided on the question of whether the niqab is mandated or simply permitted by the Koran but none regards the niqab as a spiritual ritual.

3-at p.497, chapter 133 ( yes!) after the protagonists have been chased around ,taken prisoners liberated,escaped from improbable situations all starting with a speech that Prof.Langdon was to give at 7 p.m., Brown writes that Langdon was « still unable to believe that it had been less than ten hours since [about 7 p.m.] ».We too are unable to believe that he could have done it in ten hours, however skilled or superhuman Langdon may be!

All in all ,to borrow the phrase :a good yarn ruined.