The novel begins with Robert Langdon arriving in Washington, DC for a lecture he has been asked to give only that day. As he enters the Rotunda of the Capitol building, he receives an eerie message – a severed human hand marked with ancient symbols of invitation. Within minutes, Langdon finds himself questioned by the CIA about a matter of national security. Langdon has to decode the secrets of the Ancient Mysteries before a mysterious villain murders his friend and prominent Free Mason, Peter Solomon.
During this novel, my mind kept turning to the Nicholas Cage movie National Treasure. The source mythology is the same – the Templar treasure – but the treasure in The Lost Symbol isn’t gold and jewels; it’s something much more profound – the key to spiritual enlightenment. What makes this book so rewarding is that the Ancient Mysteries are hidden in plain sight.
Free Masons responded well to this book, and after reading it I can see why. While other secret organizations have been eviscerated in Brown’s novels, the Masons are cleared of all negative connotations the public has about them. While the villain is a Mason, it’s clear from the first that he has infiltrated the group in order to destroy them. One after another, Masons come to Langdon’s rescue as he is pursued by the antagonist and the CIA.
Brown’s detail in this novel is as enlightening as in the previous two books in this series. For the first time, I recognized most of the symbols illustrated in this novel. Instead of skipping over the drawings and reading Langdon’s explanation, I spent long periods of time trying to decode the puzzles myself. I didn’t succeed, but it made Langdon’s following answer much more rewarding.
I was highly amused that Robert Langdon would be so skeptical of the Ancient Mysteries. This is, after all, the man who discovered the lost bloodline of Jesus Christ. Langdon persists in denying even the possibility that the Ancient Mysteries are real long after the reader has already accepted it. At the same time, his befuddled acceptance of Noetic science (also known as fringe science) comes very naturally. When a scientist speaks, Langdon listens; when a priest speaks, Langdon debates. This is where I think Brown has hit the nail on the head without beating the reader senseless.
I don’t want to reveal the secret of the Ancient Mysteries that Langdon unravels in this book, but I do want to give a word of caution. While this book isn’t as openly controversial as The Da Vinci Code, it is nonetheless challenging the traditional interpretation of the Bible, Torah, and Koran.
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Doubleday Books, 2009. 528 pages.