This book review roundup is a special one! I’ve compiled three books from Dan Brown, one
of my favorite authors.
Dan Brown is known for his thriller novels that explore both history and science in a fun, action packed storyline that typically lasts only 24 hours!
His stories have been a huge inspiration for my work - Of Gods and Goddesses — the 3rd book in the Lords and Commoners Trilogy and Lost Powers - the 2nd installment in her upcoming series, A Woman’s World.
Let's dive in!
Thriller Novels by Dan Brown: My Favorites
Angels and Demons
Not only did Dan have to learn about anti-matter and other scientific facets when writing Angels and Demons he also had to know his history of the Catholic Church and familiarize himself with modern Italy. The places his characters visit around the city of Rome, including the Vatican, are real. To keep readers enthralled while sharing his vast knowledge base, he weaves in fascinating facts and details perfectly within a thrilling story.
This brings me to my first point, Dan Brown is a master of suspense. One of the many things I’ve learned from him was how to step up the action and pacing a notch - or two or three.
So his characters constantly have to use their big brains to figure out how to get out
of life or death situations, to the point where I actually felt exhausted as I read along.
Most of Dan’s novels (including the 3 discussed here) include Professor Robert Langdon as the protagonist along with a strong, intelligent and, yes, lovely female sidekick.
One way that Dan ups the suspense is to have Robert try the most obvious way to get out
of trouble and that doesn’t work. So he searches his brain for another way and
tries something else — no luck.
At this point I’m thinking, “There is no way to get him out alive.” Then a desperate plan C and … guess what? … He fails yet again. The air is running out, Robert is out of time and I’m thinking, “He’s dead.” Then he comes up with something I hadn’t thought of, yet makes perfect
Sense, and Ta-Da! He lives only to get himself right back in another mess - super entertaining!
It's a game! One between the mystery writer and the reader. I, for one, love to try and figure out the plot twists in advance. Who’s the real bad guy? Knowing that Dan is really good at planting red herrings to distract us, I always try to analyze the other characters to see who I think is really behind it all. I still didn’t see this one coming.
The true villain was such a likable, sympathetic character who never threatened anyone (not that we saw anyway). And he did nothing but “help” Robert and his companion. Of course, this was all for his own benefit. I was actually sad to learn the bad guy's true nature because I really liked him.
The Da Vinci Code
Oh boy, I have a lot to say about this life changing book. Dan’s novel, The DaVinci Code, was a huge inspiration for my 3rd book, Of Gods and Goddesses. Let me start with where I was when this book came into my life. It was during my master’s program where I studied the Psychology of Religion at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. My mentor was none other than Dr. Hood. He is a big name in this department and literally wrote the most used textbook for the Psychology of Religion classes.
Anyway, in my classes I was learning about lost biblical texts. After the Christian Cannon
(the Bible as we know it today) was created around 300 AD all other versions of Bible stories were destroyed, banned, forbidden, etc. Yet some survived …
Well, they were hidden away in ancient terracotta jars and buried in the dry climate of the Middle East. The two most famous scrolls that have been found were the Dead Sea scrolls and the texts of Nag Hammadi. I had the pleasure of seeing the Dead Sea scrolls on display at a museum in Jerusalem. It still gives me goosebumps.
In order to shorten this post, I’ll focus on the texts of Nag Hammadi. They rested in their
desert home under Egyptian soil for over 1,500 years. What did these scrolls have to say about the Bible, specifically Jesus’s life? Well one of the most controversial things this forbidden text says is that Jesus and Mary Magdalene would often kiss. And since Jesus was a pious man, this most likely would not have happened if Mary had not been his wife. They definitely would not have been openly affectionate with each other if it was not a holy marriage. And this text claims they were open about their relationship. The culture would not have allowed such a disgraceful display without the parties in question being wed.
So early Christians, who created the Cannon (the Bible) had lots of texts to choose from. They threw out any that didn’t suit their needs or beliefs. So the bible was created 300 years after Jesus died and by very subjective means (what one group of men liked or didn’t like). These men thought they were very careful to destroy any such texts that went against anything they didn’t want Christians to know.
Of course, there was no way to destroy all texts that went against them… some slipped through the cracks.
Now, the problem is we have no way of knowing which versions of the Bible are true.
Nothing was written down about Jesus until 300 years after his death so (and, by the way, the texts of Nag Hammadi are exactly that old). As we know, legends and word of mouth stories change over time, even a short time, think of the telephone game we played as children. Start with a circle of children. One sentence is whispered at one end and repeated through to all the kids. By the time it reaches the other end the sentence has been greatly transformed.
Any stories of Jesus that remained 300 years after his death most likely contained some
truth and some fiction.
So I had just learned all this in my early Christian history class when a friend told me
about Dan Brown’s controversial novel and insisted that I read it. And I’m so
glad I did!
Dan brilliantly intertwines facts with fiction. He cited the texts of Nag Hammadi
(facts) as evidence that Jesus may have living descendants who still walk this
earth. It’s a possibility. And that Robert Langdon’s lovely, intelligent and
brave sidekick (and her brother) are the last two beings from Jesus and Mary
Magdalene’s direct line (fiction).
No wonder the Church FREAKED OUT. This book received a lot of bad press from fundamentalist Christians. They even held book burning parties for the Da Vinci Code.
I also cite the Dead Sea scrolls and the texts of Nag Hammadi in my book Of Gods and Goddesses (book 3 in the Lords and Commoners series). I took this concept a step farther in when my characters are led to a different ancient text that provides them with the answers to where vampires came from. Also, very biblical and controversial and ALL fictional.
So a BIG thank you to Dan Brown for teaching me to masterfully mix facts with fiction in
Last but not least, Origin … I was actually afraid for Dan with this one. He built up the amazing discovery of the key to the universe, “Where we came from and where we're going?” so much that I thought the end was doomed to fall far short of the expectations he’d set. Dan’s previous work was so brilliant that I thought there was no way he could outdo himself … yet again.
I was biting my nails for this man who is my idol. I shouldn’t have worried...
HE DID IT!
And he made it look easy ... I hate him.
No. But I do envy him.
I clearly hold Dan Brown in the highest regard. He and his novels are beyond brilliant
and this one was no exception.
Origin helped to push me to do my very best with the novel I just finished, Lost Powers, book 2 in the Woman's World series. I upped the suspense in true Dan Brown style.
One, out of the many, things that I admire about Dan's writing is his ability to show both
sides, this usually consists of religious zealots vs. science geeks. In this novel, Dan shows us the backstory to the religious “bad guy,” making his actions at least understandable, if not creating outright empathy for him. And the scientists are not off the hook either, they’re not always “angels.”
As one of my college professors said, “the world is not black or white, right or wrong.
There's only grey.”
One last thing before I wrap up, I’d like to explore Dan’s mastery of complex plots. He’s the
king of surprise twists. The balance here is that the reader needs to be surprised but also, when looking back, the story needs to make sense. And Dan’s stories always do. He said that he wrote a 100 page outline for the Da Vinci Code. This is the only way to make such complex plots work.
One thing I love the most about Dan’s books is that I learn while I’m incredibly entertained. It’s educational and fun. I can’t wait for his next book. He’s hinted that the eternal bachelor, Robert Langdon, is in a stable relationship and that he’s with one of his former sidekicks. OMG! I can’t wait to find out who she is!!
Heat Level: All these books had a mild heat level. There was the usual sexual tension with the brilliant colleague who Robert Langdon inevitably ends up stuck with but no sex. They're too busy solving mysteries and running for their lives.
Looking for an Exciting New Page-Turner?
Already read Dan’s works but still on the hunt for a new read that can give you just as
My fantasy adventure series, Lords and Commoners , will have you filled with suspense as you go through the twists and turns of potential vampire takeover. Set in Medieval Europe, the story follows a young peasant girl who must fight to save humans from vampires who wish to enslave them.
While there are certainly supernatural treats to enjoy, this trilogy also offers many actual historical events and people from the days when the Byzantine Empire met its demise and the Black Plague had just begun its deadly toll on society.
Grab a copy of Lynne’s Lords & Commoners Trilogy here and enjoy the ride!