The Da Vinci Code 9-12: Lurking At The Loos In The Louvre

Last time on The Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon came face to abs with the corpse of Jacques Sauniere and promptly admired the dead man’s muscle definition. Like you do. Also he did some symbology and it was terrible. Something about pentacles, I can’t remember.

Chapter Nine

At this point in time, our heroine – Sophie Neveu – arrives at the Louvre. Sophie is a British-educated French cryptographer, and – unlike Robert – her job title is actually a real thing. It’s also a hell of a lot more pronounceable than Symbololology.

Her appearance promptly turns Fache from bull to pig – of the male chauvinist variety – and he angrily thinks that the main problem with Sophie is that she distracts the men in the office. This is, of course, Her Fault.

Langdon turned to see a young woman approaching. She was moving down the corridor toward them with long, fluid strides…a haunting certainty to her gait. Dressed casually in a knee-length, cream-coloured Irish sweater over black leggings, she looked to be about thirty. Her thick burgundy hair fell unstyled to her shoulders, framing the warmth of her face.

Okay, that’s not the very worst description of a woman I’ve ever read from a male writer, although in the interests of full disclosure I should admit that I spent the summer I gave up smoking distracting myself by mainlining George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. What I’m saying is that I’ve read some pretty dreadful descriptions of women. Myrish swamp, anyone?

Unlike the waifish, cookie-cutter blondes that adorned Harvard dorm room walls, this woman was healthy with an unembellished beauty and genuineness that radiated a striking personal confidence.

Oh. Oh dear. She’s Not Like Those Other Girls. This always goes well and never reveals deep-seated issues with women.

Also what the hell is up with bad writers and blondes? Stephenie Meyer, E.L. James and now Dan Brown – they all seem to have some serious problems with blondes. Is it because blondes are basically a lazy way of dismissing a woman as dumb, generic and therefore unsuitable for supposedly deep and intelligent heroes like Robert Langdon, Christian Grey and Edward Cullen?

Because if that’s the case I’m kind of flattered, actually. In this universe, blondes really do have more fun, because they don’t have to listen to Robert Langdon or wake up in strange hotel beds to find a rubbish vampire staring at them.

Sophie announces that she’s deciphered the numeric code, but before she explains she tells Robert that there’s an urgent message for him at the US Embassy. She actually coughs up a reasonable explanation for how she knows this, then hands Robert a number which he calls and it goes not to the US Embassy but to her voicemail, where he hears her voice telling him not to react and follow her directions, because he’s in danger right now.

Chapter Ten…

…sees us back with Silas, who is currently hulking around outside the still italicless Church of Saint Sulpice. There’s a whole lot of backstory about how Silas killed a bunch of people – including his father – and ended up in prison, then there was an earthquake and the prison was destroyed. He escaped and wound up unconscious in a seminary, where one of the priests took a fancy to him – and no, not in that way – and renamed him Silas, after the man who was freed by an earthquake in the Book of Acts. And the priest was – of course – our good friend Bish Bling.

Meanwhile Bish Bling is somewhere above the Mediterranean recalling a conversation with a man he knows only as The Teacher. The Teacher charged Bish Bling a cool twenty million for the names of the four senechaux, in order for Silas the Crap Assassin to half-assedly murder them.

Chapter Eleven

Begins with Sophie explaining that all of the numbers on the floor are in the Fibonacci sequence, a mathematical sequence in which the two preceding numbers are added to make the next.

By this point Bezu Fache has had just about enough of people infodumping on him and demands to know what it means. And that’s not good, because I’m not even on page 100 yet and already I know that if someone in this book asks what something means it usually means we’re all about to get donked on the head with a metaphorical 500lb stage weight labeled EXPOSITION.

But then Sophie says this;

“Absolutely nothing. That’s the point. It’s a simplistic, cryptographic joke. Like taking the words of a famous poem and shuffling them at random to see if anyone recognises what all the words have in common.”

It’s not a very good joke, Sophie. It also doesn’t work very well if the poem in question is Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, or anything by Edward Lear.

This is an even weirder explanation of Sauniere’s dying thoughts than Langdon’s theory that he decided to stick it to the patriarchy with his final breaths.

When Fache is understandably unsatisfied with this theory, Sophie tosses her head and flounces off to commit suicide professionel. In italics. That’s career suicide in French, in case you were wondering.

Fache thinks Langdon is on the phone to the US Embassy and has a growl about this to himself, at which point I realise that Fache has become the POV character for this chapter. I don’t think he’s had a go before.

Langdon gets off the phone and invents a quick lie about some friends getting into an accident back home, and that he’ll need to fly back to the States tomorrow. Then he says he needs to use the toilet and heads for the crapper. Fache goes back to Sauniere’s office where that statue of a knight stares at him in a Hey-I’m-Important-To-The-Plot sort of way and where Collet reveals that not only are they watching Langdon, but someone has slipped a GPS tracker into the pocket of his coat.

Chapter Twelve

How do symbologists go to the toilet? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here’s how.

At the end of the corridor, illuminated signs bearing the international stick figure signs for toilets guided him through a maze-like series of dividers displaying Italian drawings and hiding the toilets from sight.

When he finds the little boy’s room, Sophie reappears; her flounce was just a feint.

Langdon stood beside the sinks, staring in bewilderment at DCPJ cryptographer Sophie Neveu. Only minutes ago Langdon had listened to her phone message, thinking the newly arrived cryptographer must be insane, but [snip]filled with uncertainty Langdon had decided to do exactly as Sophie advised. He told Fache that the phone message was regarding an injured friend and…

I KNOW. I just read that in the last chapter. Not even a page ago. Why are you repeating yourself at me, book? This book feels like one of those annoying documentaries where your attempts to follow the story are hampered by the need to recap every five minutes.

Also the bathroom smells of ammonia, in case you were wondering. Piss, in other words.

The smell of urine makes Langdon oddly romantic.

Langdon was surprised to see that her strong air actually radiated from unexpectedly soft features. Only her gaze was sharp, and the juxtaposition conjured images of a multi-layered Renoir portrait…veiled but distinct…

Okay. That description is the first that’s landed for me. I can picture the Renoir quality he’s describing. Good job. Unfortunately it’s kind of ruined by…well, everything else I’ve read so far. Seriously – check out that paragraph further up the page. It reads like the sinks are staring at Sophie. (This actually happened to a friend of mine once. And yes, there were funny mushrooms involved.)

Sophie tells Langdon that he’s the prime suspect in Sauniere’s murder, prompting our hero to sputter and WTF, since he hadn’t even met the dead man. She also tips him off to the GPS tracker in the pocket of his Harris tweed and drops the final bombshell of the chapter; there was a fourth line written in black-light pen on the floor, one that the police erased before he arrived. It said P.S. Find Robert Langdon.

Way to drop a guy in the shit, Sauniere.

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