Last time on The Da Vinci Code, the Eglise de Saint-Sulpice had its foreign language italic privileges revoked, for reasons unknown, Silas wound down from his last murder with some strenuous self-harm and Robert Langdon turned the Eiffel Tower into a dick joke.
Oh, and there’s been a murder. There has still been a murder. That’s still going on, but we’ve only just got to the body. In all fairness, we are only four chapters in and the chapters are very short, but I distinctly remember this book having a bit more energy than this.
But never mind. Four chapters in and there’s already a dead body and one of the characters is up to his nipples in unoriginal BDSM, which is more than you can say about Fifty Shades of Grey. I can’t remember what they were doing in chapter four of that book. Discussing tea bags, I think.
Anyway, let’s meet the chief of police, shall we?
Captain Bezu Fache carried himself like an angry ox, with his wide shoulders thrown back and his chin tucked hard into his chest. His dark hair was slicked back with oil, accentuating an arrow-like widow’s peak that divided his jutting brow and preceded him like the prow of a battleship. As he advanced, his dark eyes seemed to scorch the earth before him…
I’m tempted to make the obvious bull/ship joke here, but we did that last chapter. So. The guy looks like a bull, a battleship and a guy who can set fire to shit with his eyes, which I’m sure is a lot of fun for him.
It turns out that the rigor inducing Polaroid of Sauniere’s corpse was only the beginning of whatever Sauniere got up to in the gallery, but we can’t get to that right now because we have to talk some more about the pyramid at the Louvre. By this point I’m already impatient and itching to start fact checking some of this shit, so let’s dig in, shall we?
And don’t tell me I’m being unreasonably mean. Remember this?
All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.
See? Talk shit, get hit. You don’t get to throw down like that in your disclaimer and expect to get away with people taking you at face value.
He wondered if Fache had any idea that this pyramid, at President Mitterand’s explicit demand, had been constructed of exactly 666 panes of glass – a bizarre request that had always been a hot topic among conspiracy theory buffs who claimed 666 was the number of Satan.
Yup. This one is definitely bullshit. Even Wikipedia has this filed as urban legend. The Louvre claims the correct number is 673, although documents from the architect say 689. Either way, no beastly numbers going on here.
We discover that Langdon and Sauniere had never actually met before. They were supposed to meet for the first time the following evening, presumably for one of those off the hook symbology evenings that left Langdon feeling like the ghost of Jim Morrison in chapter one. The usually reclusive Sauniere had called Langdon for reasons unknown and Langdon had eagerly accepted because he was currently working on a book about female sanctity and Sauniere was something of a world expert on the subject. And no, they weren’t meeting to discuss the book directly, because Langdon hasn’t told anyone about the book yet, other than his editor.
Langdon did not add the reason why he hasn’t yet shown the manuscript to anyone else. The three-hundred-page draft – tentatively titled Symbols of the Lost Sacred Feminine…
Catchy title. Maybe go with something more punchy? A single word title, maybe. Mansplaining sounds like it could fit the bill.
Of course, by this point they’re still dithering around the Louvre. Look, I know it’s big, but break out a brisk walk, you guys. Think of the cardio, if nothing else. But Fache isn’t here for exercise and instead suggests they take the elevator, prompting Langdon to have a small claustrophobic meltdown, which is the closest he’s come to having an actual personality so far.
On the way up Langdon distracts himself by admiring Fache’s tie pin…
…a silver crucifix with thirteen embedded chips of black onyx. Langdon found it vaguely surprising. The symbol was known as a crux gemmata – a cross bearing thirteen gems – a Christian ideogram for Christ and his twelve apostles. Langdon had not expected the captain of the French police to broadcast his religion so openly. Then again, this was France…
Yes. Yes, it was. You know – the notoriously secular country that some might argue has gone so far in banning religious symbols that they’ve pretty much gone full Brigitte Bardot.
There’s a lot more wandering around corridors and ruminations on the smell of museum air – “an arid, deionized essence that carried a faint hint of carbon” – and Langdon asks if the security cameras are real, which is a weird question, with an even weirder answer. Fache says they’re not and I scurry to Google to discover that they are.
Thirty yards ahead ahead loomed the gateway to the Louvre’s most popular section – la Grande Galerie – a seemingly endless corridor that housed the Louvre’s most valuable Italian masterpieces.
Yeah, we don’t really need the French for ‘the grand gallery’, Dan. We can figure that one out. Also I had to stop myself from correcting the second Louvre in that sentence to ‘collection’s’. Dan Brown is not a very good writer.
Oh my God, get to the murder scene already. They scramble under the half raised grille and “as he stood up, Langdon was beginning to suspect it was going to be a very long night.”
He’s not fucking kidding.
Because it looked as though something was about to happen in the previous chapter, chapter five promptly whisks us away from the dead body in the Louvre and off aboard an Alitalia flight to Rome so that we can meet Bishop Manuel Aringarosa.
It’s not a name I would have picked out for a shadowy baddie, since I took one look and the old child’s rhyme ‘A ring a ring of roses’ started playing in my head. This obviously hasn’t occurred to Dan because if he’d had we’d already be neck deep in the history of that rhyme and how it was totally about the Black Death. He can’t help himself, poor thing.
Normally [Bishop Aringarosa] would have wrapped a purple cinture around his waist, but tonight he would be travelling among the public, and he preferred not to draw attention to his high office. Only those with a keen eye would notice his 14-carat gold bishop’s ring with purple amethyst, large diamonds and hand-tooled mitre-crozier applique.
Yeah. Nothing says understated and anonymous like Snoop Dogg level bling, Bish. I’m just going to imagine him sipping his in-flight drink from a pimp chalice from now on. It makes this chapter a lot more interesting.
This, by the way, is the chapter where Dan introduces the shady Catholic organisation known as Opus Dei. Via infodump.
Seriously, this chapter is just a barren wasteland of exposition, so let’s trek across this tumbleweed ridden wasteland at a brisk pace so we can get back to flagellation and dead bodies.
So, Opus Dei. They have property in New York, which I’m sure you didn’t care about. I know I didn’t. The seventeenth floor of the building is entirely residential, but try to contain your excitement. Women and men are kept separated in the building, because these are the bad guys. And it was founded in 1928 by Silas’s main pain boo, Josemaria Escriva.
And some people have called it a cult. That pretty much covers it for now. I’m sure we’ll hear more later.
Recently, however, Opus Dei had found itself threatened by a force infinitely more powerful than the media…an unexpected foe from which Aringarosa could not possibly hide. Five months ago, the kaleidoscope of power had been shaken, and Aringarosa was still reeling from the blow.
I’m guessing this references whatever went down in Angels and Demons. Also I’m not entirely hating the kaleidoscope metaphor there, although I don’t know about the phrase ‘kaleidoscope of power’. I’ve got Ian McKellan as Gandalf booming on in my head now. “The only way to destroy a Kaleidoscope of Power is to cast it into the flames in which it was forged.” Lord of the Kaleidoscopes. That would have been a strange book.
Oh God, and now I’ve typed the word kaleidoscope so many times that it’s gone all weird on the page. Yeah. Onwards.
As the jet passed over the coast of Portugal, the cell phone in Aringarosa’s cassock began vibrating in silent ring mode. Despite airline regulations prohibiting the use of cell phones during flights, Aringarosa knew this was a call he could not miss.
It’s like this when Martha calls Snoop, by the way.
The caller tells the bishop that Silas has located the keystone and the Bish flys off into the night feeling “dwarfed by the events he had put into motion.”
Meanwhile Silas is washing up in Paris after a session with the cat-o-nine tails.
Drying his wounds, he donned his ankle-length, hooded robe.
That sounds incredibly conspicious. Almost as understated as the Bish’s ring.
It was plain, made of dark wool, accentuating the whiteness of his skin and hair. Tightening the rope-tie around his waist, he raised the hood over his head and allowed his red eyes to admire his reflection in the mirror. The wheels are in motion.
Okay, so let’s get this straight. You want someone dead, right? It’s an unpraiseworthy emotion, but we’ve all had it from time to time, when we encounter one of those warts on the anus of humanity who leave you with the feeling that the world would just be a much more pleasant place if they were to stumble from a cliff face.
And maybe, if you’re short of a moral or two and have a few million in the bank, you might think about hiring a professional off-bumper. Nothing wrong with that; if you want a job done well, you should always hire a professional.
Now, ideally I would imagine that the perfect assassin is the kind of person who can slip in and out without anyone noticing them at all. They should also kill people. Really. This is sort of the main thrust of their job description.
So – do you hire the ordinary looking young woman who can slip in and out of a busy Starbucks without anyone noticing that she’s just added two pumps of polonium-210 to that guy’s mocha whip coffeecino? Or do you go with the enormous albino who dresses like he escaped from In The Name Of The Rose, bleeds all over the soft-furnishings and doesn’t even finish the job with a headshot?
If you picked option B, congratulations. You’re in a Dan Brown novel.