Plot summary (with spoilers): Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon receives an odd summons one Sunday morning from the assistant of longtime friend Peter Solomon. Solomon is hosting a fundraiser at the Capitol in D.C., but his keynote speaker has fallen ill, so he needs a last-minute replacement. Peter hopes Langdon will accept. He sends a private jet to Boston to pick Robert up, promising that Langdon will be back home that same evening. Once Langdon arrives at the Capitol, however, he realizes that something is terribly wrong. Instead of a black-tie affair, he finds the usual smattering of tourists — as well as Peter Solomon’s right hand, clutching a piece of paper and pointing directly up towards the dome.
Security guards descend on the scene immediately, sealing off all the exits while they try to figure out what’s going on. The initial thought is some sort of terrorist threat. This theory is given some weight when Inoue Sato, the director of the CIA Office of Security, arrives soon thereafter to oversee proceedings.
Once everything gets sorted out, the main players finally learn what they’re up against: A man named Mal’akh is holding Peter Solomon hostage. He is threatening to kill Solomon unless Robert Langdon helps unravel the mysteries surrounding a secret miniature pyramid believed to hold the key to ultimate wisdom and power. The pyramid has been in the possession of important Masons over the decades, most recently Peter Solomon. Peter had given the pyramid to Langdon a while ago for safekeeping, but asked him to bring it Washington. So now Langdon decides to get involved in order to save his friend.
The rest of the book then shows Langdon doing what he does best: deciphering codes, uncovering clues, and making connections to solve the mystery placed before him.
- The codes were pretty interesting. There’s no question that Dan Brown is great at interweaving history and fiction to create a decent story. As usual, I felt compelled to look up a bunch of the things that Brown referenced in the book, including Franklin’s order 8 magic square, the Apotheosis of Washington, and Durer’s Melancolia.
- Once the action got going, the book became the page-turner that I expected. It wasn’t quite up to the level of the Da Vinci Code, but that’s such a tall order to fill that I can hardly blame Brown for falling short.
- I learned lots of interesting things about Washington, D.C. and will definitely look at the city differently the next time I visit!
- The Lost Symbol started off very, very slowly. Even after the hand appeared in the Capitol, it seemed like it took a very long time for the action to pick up. Plus, Brown spent a lot of time talking about Katherine’s lab and research, and while I thought Noetics certainly sounded pretty cool, it didn’t have a direct relationship to the main plot, and so felt like a waste of time.
- I thought the ending was a major letdown. The whole episode was triggered by some crazy dude’s quest for the secret to all knowledge??? That sounds like something out of a cartoon, so I never fully believed in anyone’s motivation. These types of books are much better when there’s a tangible treasure involved.
I tried to evaluate The Lost Symbol as a standalone novel rather than a follow-up to The Da Vinci Code, but it’s virtually impossible to separate the two works. Therefore, my rating can’t help but be tinged by some of the disappointment I feel when comparing the latest Robert Langdon thriller to its predecessor. The Lost Symbol is agonizingly slow in the beginning, almost gets bogged down with unnecessary subplots (like Katherine’s work in Noetics), has an all-too-familiar freaky villain, and lacks a tangible goal that the characters would realistically strive for. Still, the second act is rather interesting, and I did make it all the way through the lengthy tome in less than a week, which should count for something. I give the book 3 stars out of 5.