I avoid movies with car chases and wish more television heroes were not both handsome and single. In my reading, however, I tend to be more open-minded. And that's lucky, since I might otherwise have missed this fascinating book. Dan Brown's new novel, The Da Vinci Code, may sport a handsome, single hero and be loaded with car chases, but it will also drive the reader to look around her, in Western art and church history, for what she may well have missed: evidence of her own sanctity.
One of the two main plot lines we alternately follow involves discovering who is ultimately responsible for a murder in the Louvre, committed on page one by an albino monk. The other traces the solution of far more interesting puzzles by (handsome and single) Harvard professor of religious symbology Robert Langdonaccused by the French police of having committed the murderand his newly acquired colleague, French cryptologist Sophie Neveu. (Neveu, at least, has some counter-cultural appeal: Her beauty is not "waifish" but "healthy" and "unembellished.") Written in short, suspenseful chapters, the book's narrative drive is all the more remarkable because it contains a skeletal history of a real secret society, of which Leonardo da Vinci and other icons of Western culture are said to have been members. Langdon believes that the secret this society has guarded since its inception is the nature and location of a legendary Christian relic.