Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Pages: 463
Date: 31/07/2013
Grade: 3
Details: no. 4 Robert Langdon

The blurb:

“‘Seek and ye shall find.’

With these words echoing in his head, eminent Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon awakes in a hospital bed with no recollection of where he is or how he got there. Nor can he explain the origin of the macabre object that is found hidden in his belongings.

A threat to his life will propel him and a young doctor, Sienna Brooks, into a breakneck chase across the city of Florence. Only Langdon’s knowledge of hidden passageways and ancient secrets that lie behind its historic facade can save them from the clutches of their unknown pursuers.

With only a few lines from Dante’s dark and epic masterpiece, The Inferno, to guide them, they must decipher a sequence of codes buried deep within some of the most celebrated artefacts of the Renaissance – sculptures, paintings, buildings – to find the answers to a puzzle which may, or may not, help them save the world from a terrifying threat…”

And so we may have reached the point where Dan Brown / Robert Langdon and I have to part ways. I really enjoyed The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons when I read them a few years ago. When I read The Lost Symbol I was starting to think that maybe it was just more of the same and now that I’ve finished Inferno I know that I was right. Dan Brown appears to have one story in him which he keeps on rehashing and which, it would appear, the public is only too delighted to continue reading.

Up to a point I understand why his books are so popular. There is a huge threat to the world, with both the exact threat and the possible solution obscured by symbolic messages and riddles that only one, unlikely, hero can decipher and solve, thus, hopefully, preventing disaster. Written down like this it should be a winning formula and if sales figures are anything to go buy, it is.

So, why isn’t it really working for me any more?

If I’m honest, I have to admit that I have a hard time explaining exactly why the story just didn’t work for me this time, but it didn’t. I found it too easy to put the book down. This should be a page-turner and compulsive reading but proved to be anything but for me. I got bored with the long descriptions, the writing felt clumsy and I never experienced that sense of urgency that I get when I read a good book, especially a well plotted thriller.

And that is a shame because I was intrigued by the whole mystery revolving around Dante’s Inferno and fascinated by the philosophies behind the threat Robert Langdon is trying to avert. I can’t help feeling that this could have been a captivating read if only it had been about 100 pages shorter, if the interruptions of the action had been fewer and/or shorter, if there had been less repetition in the story, if the writing had felt less clumsy, if…

It doesn’t seem fair to castigate an author for finding a successful formula and sticking to it. Lots of authors have built very successful careers on doing exactly that; James Patterson and Nora Roberts are two high profile authors that immediately spring to mind. And while my feelings with regard to Patterson are not too far of those I expressed above about Brown, I have nothing but admiration for Nora Roberts who can use her formula and still give me stories that feel fresh and new.

Still, the way things stand, and given the amount of new and exciting books being published every month, I think it is unlikely I will pick up the next Robert Langdon adventure when it comes out. Having said that, it will probably be at least two years until that moment arrives and knowing myself, there is a good possibility that by that stage curiosity will get the better of me and I’ll be tempted anyway. Time will tell.

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