the_lost_symbolI didn’t find this next adventure in the Robert Langdon saga as thrilling as The Da Vinci Code, but it did have its moments.

The Da Vinci Code is packed with historical scholarship but thin on real creative writing. It’s fairly formulaic, but Brown’s vast detailing makes up for it to create an overall enjoyable and surprising ride. It’s popcorn reading, which has its place. The Lost Symbol falls short of that adventure, offering a hunt through the symbols of Washington, DC landmarks that leads up to…not very much. There’s no punch at the end, no surprise twist that brings the whole delicious experience of his books together. It just sort of ended, and I wasn’t very excited. I was, however, intrigued by the history of the Masons and the connection to our nation’s capitol. It did make me want to take a trip to DC and explore.

But this book is just as formulaic as its predecessors without the same fun feeling of being along for the ride. I haven’t read Angels and Demons, but I can guess how that one goes after reading the other two. Robert Langdon is called in to decode some symbols. He has a limited number of hours to follow a trail of clues through the famous architecture of a famous city OR ELSE. The OR ELSE is a bomb/revelation that could destroy a church/secret that could destroy everything mankind has ever believed. A smart woman closely connected to a victim of the baddies will help him. The police will at first appear to be the bad guys, then they will turn out to be the good guys. The villain will be revealed to be someone we should have seen coming all along. The crime is thwarted, the important people are saved, and Langdon goes back to his hotel room. Then he is struck with a Bright Idea and wanders out into the city, where he uncovers the real secret he’s been hunting for all night. The big reveal that it was All True. The end.

There’s nothing wrong with formula if it’s fun. But I found The Lost Symbol kind of frustrating because I figured out all the twists and secret identities long before they were revealed. It seemed obvious to me who the villain was and what was really going on. And because it was convenient to leave this revelation until the end of the plot, Brown made his characters seem dumber than they would ever be in real life. If Langdon were a real person he would have figured out all the answers before the plot made it tidy. And he was too stubborn for too long. He refused to believe things that we all know will be revealed to be true just by the way Brown writes them. His long-held skepticism became tedious after a while, and instead of being the fun character we chased all over Paris in the last book, Robert Langdon here became sort of insufferable. I preferred The Da Vinci Code, definitely.