The Lost Symbol Review
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Earlier this year, when Doubleday announced that Dan Brown’s long-awaited follow-up to 2003’s controversial best-seller, The Da Vinci Code, would be hitting stores in the fall, bookworms went wild—and struggling booksellers breathed a sigh of relief. Pre-orders and first-day sales were almost Harry Potter-like—but then…nothing. The book sold a whole bunch of copies, but the buzz died down almost as quickly as it built up. That made me even more eager to dive in when my copy finally arrived—and I’ve been on one heck of a roller coaster ride ever since.

The Lost Symbol once again follows symbologist Robert Langdon on another breakneck adventure through ancient mysteries. As the story begins, Langdon has been summoned to Washington, D. C., by his friend and mentor, Peter Solomon. He’s been told that he’ll be giving a speech in the Capitol Building, but, when he arrives, the room is empty. Within minutes, though, the entire building is in an uproar. Someone’s left a gruesome message in the middle of the Rotunda—and it soon becomes clear that Langdon was the intended recipient.

The encoded message sends Langdon on a race to decode ancient Masonic secrets—in order to save his friend. The secrets, however, are heavily guarded, and although one man, who calls himself Mal’akh, wants answers, the Masons will do anything to keep them hidden—even if it means sacrificing one of their own.

Like his earlier novels, Brown’s latest is filled with fascinating ancient puzzles and conspiracy theories. This time, though, it hits a bit closer to home—providing so many interesting observations about so many of the buildings in our nation’s capital that it’s sure to increase Washington, D. C.’s tourism.

Aside from its change of venue, though, The Lost Symbol follows Brown’s usual checklist. Langdon? Check. Once again, symbologist Langdon leads the way—yet Brown still keeps readers at an arm’s length, never really giving us a look at who Landgon is or what makes him tick. He’s a puzzle-solving skeptic, and that’s about as far as we get.

A woman at his side? Check. This time, it’s Katherine Solomon, Peter’s younger sister, a brilliant scientist. She’s actually a stronger character than Langdon, as we get to know more about her, her family, her past, and her research. She even solves just as many (if not more) of the clues as he does, making her the star of the novel.

A mysterious outsider? Check. Mal’akh is that dark, mysterious shadow—a bald figure who’s covered in symbolic tattoos. And, for some reason, he’s out to make Solomon and the Masons suffer. He’s cold and calculating and sinister—and he’ll instantly remind you of the killer in Angels and Demons and the Albino in Da Vinci.

Race against time? Check. The action takes place in just 10 hours, giving the whole thing a sense of urgency—though there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it, other than to make the book feel frantic.

And, of course, there are the symbols…and the conspiracy theories…and the controversy…and a whole lot of nerdy brain-teasing tension. At times, the story drags—and it feels like more of the same Brown drama. At other times, though, it’s breathtakingly suspenseful. I’ll even admit that, after I read one particular passage, it kept me awake at night because I couldn’t believe what had just happened. (Then again, once I found out what had really happened, I was just plain annoyed.)

The Lost Symbol definitely has its share of ups and downs—of action, drama, and suspense. There are some shocking surprises and also some frustrating disappointments. And I don’t even have time to talk about Brown’s writing—other than to mention that I’m pretty sure that I was in third grade when I learned not to use “?!” in serious writing. The biggest problem, however, is that it all ends with a pop instead of a bang. After the sometimes nail-biting build-up, the climax seems, well, anticlimactic—and what comes after is just plain disappointing. Characters are dropped, motives seem dubious, certain plot points feel like cheap tricks, and the resolution isn’t all that satisfying.

So now I finally know why the buzz over The Lost Symbol died down so quickly: because, unlike the equally-buzzed Harry Potter releases, this one doesn’t really live up to the hype. Sure, it’s fun for a while, but, in the end, it simply fizzles out.

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