The Da Vinci Code 33-36: Let’s Do The Timewarp Again

Previously on The Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon once again demonstrated why he is a Professor of Shape Recognition and not one of Art History, the stammering Sister Sandrine of Saint Sulpice met an alliterative end at the hands of Silas the (not very) Silent Assassin, and Sophie had a flashback hinting at some monstrous thing she caught her grandfather doing circa 1994. Possibly the Macarena. We just don’t know. Oh, and they finally left the Louvre!

This is a fast paced thriller, remember. And our heroes have been in the Louvre for almost thirty chapters, mostly because about ten chapters ago they both decided it would be fun to start having flashbacks all over the place.

Chapter Thirty-Three…

…sees our nimrod heros driving around frantically in a SmartCar while Sophie shoves the key she found behind the painting under Langdon’s nose. Oh God, and he’s going to tell her stuff about it, isn’t he?

Brace yourselves.

The key, as we have all figured out by now, bears the official device of the Priory of Sion, an organisation so secret that they have a logo and presumably a bunch of safe deposit boxes that can only be opened with keys like this one, bearing their logo. They’re about as good at secrets as Silas is at killing people inconspicuously, quietly and without smothering the crime scene in his DNA.

Langdon felt a chill to imagine what kind of secrets a man like Jacques Sauniere might keep. What an ancient brotherhood was doing with a futuristic key, Langdon had no idea. The Priory existed for the sole purpose of protecting a secret. A secret of incredible power. Could this key have something to do with it?

No. They probably just kept it around for shits and giggles.

Langdon examines the cross and Sophie says it looks Christian, which is a terrible mistake on her part because actually Langdon knows a lot about crosses.

The head of the key [snip] was a square cross – with four arms of equal length – which predated Christianity by fifteen hundred years. This kind of cross carried none of the Christian connotations of crucifixion associated with the longer-stemmed Latin cross. Langdon was always surprised by how few Christians who gazed upon ‘the crucifix’ realised their symbol’s violent history was reflected in its very name…

Absolutely. I would never have guessed the cross was a symbol of the violent death of a mouthy Jewish carpenter in Roman occupied Judea. That guy nailed hand and foot to it, bleeding from various wounds? Nah. He’s probably just up there on a jolly, right?

…‘cross’ and ‘crucifix’ came from the Latin verb cruciare – to torture.

Actually lot of people know this, but that’s mostly due to Harry Potter. Onwards.

“Sophie,” he said, “all I can tell you is that equal-armed crosses like this one are considered peaceful crosses. Their square configurations make them impractical for use in crucifixion…”

Except when you rotate them forty-five degrees. Just ask St. Andrew.

When Langdon is forced to admit that he’s actually a know-nothing windbag about this subject – which is his subject, by the way – Sophie says they need to find a safe place to figure out what the key opens. I would usually wonder why they can’t drive and figure it out, but after thirty-three chapters in the company of these rocket scientists I have no difficulty believing that they’d struggle to walk, talk and chew gum simultaneously.

Langdon thought longingly of his comfortable room at the Ritz. Obviously that was not an option. “How about my hosts at the American University of Paris?”

No, Bob. Even if that wasn’t obvious they’ll just rave about your tweedy charm, your chocolate voice and probably attempt to bang you. And my God, the last thing I need right now is Dan Brown trying to write a sex scene at me.

Sophie has another one of her plans and tells Robert to trust her, which prompts him to check his watch for some reason, perhaps because he’s as confused as to the timeline as we are. Only he can’t even look at his watch without this book piling on yet another layer of weirdness. Just look at this.

Pulling back the sleeve of his jacket, he checked his watch – a vintage, collector’s edition Mickey Mouse wristwatch that had been a gift from his parents on his tenth birthday. Although its juvenile dial often drew odd looks, Langdon never owned any other watch; Disney animations had been his first introduction to the magic of form and colour, and Mickey now served as Langdon’s daily reminder to stay young at heart.

Dear Dan Brown – WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME READ THESE WORDS? What relevance does this have to anything, other than telling us that the author almost certainly owns a collector’s edition Mickey Mouse watch and has been the recipient of a fair few odd looks in his time? What does it tell us about Langdon that he liked Disney as a child, other than that he is so absolutely basic he could probably turn a litmus paper blue from fifty yards away?

At the moment, however, Mickey’s arms were skewed at an awkward angle, indicating an equally awkward hour. 2:51 AM.

So, in other words, it’s been about two hours and twenty minutes since we first met Robert Langdon. It feels longer, doesn’t it? Much, much longer.

Sophie says “Interesting watch,” and I finally give into madness and start screaming at the unresponsive page, because if Robert Langdon explains one more thing at me I am going to lose my shit. He says “Long story,” and I start sobbing at God for letting this book happen, but thankfully for once Robert doesn’t get into the long story and instead we return to the plot, such as it is. Apparently they’re going to jump on the next train out of Paris.

Chapter Thirty-Four…

…is just Bish Bling wandering around having flashbacks and thinking thoughts that leave you in no doubt that he’s a nasty old Catholic bad guy. He’s supposed to be travelling to the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gandolfo, but on his travels he thinks of the trip he took to the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gandolfo five months ago instead. No, I don’t know either.

Some of his many grumbles include that he no longer as the Vatican seal on his car because “the world had gone mad and in many parts of Europe, advertising your love of Jesus Christ was like painting a bull’s-eye on the roof of your car.” He’s obviously never been to Britain, because I see plenty of those little Jesus fish on rear bumpers, including all the other unasked for information people like to slather all over their back windows.

Further pouts are aimed at the Vatican Observatory for doing science stuff and also at the Church in general for being okay with the concept of evolution and not being more like those backwards creatures from Texas who think you can treat the Bible as a scientific document and that Jesus rode around on a dinosaur.

Unbiased science could not possibly be performed by a man who possessed faith in God.

Yeah, pretty sure plenty have managed it in the past, Bish. Bish Bling has wildly swinging characterisation as regards theology. He goes from Ken Ham to full-blown Dawkins in about the space of two pages.

Approaching the door, Bishop Aringarosa would never have imagined the shocking news he was about to receive inside, or the deadly chain of events it would put into motion. It was not until an hour later, as he staggered from the meeting, that the devastating implications settled in. Six months from now! he had thought. God help us!

In other words, we’re not going to tell you the shocking news, and this entire flashback sequence has been a complete waste of your time.

The bishop briefly returns to the present to worry whether Silas has the keystone or not, but as we all know, Silas does not have the keystone and is presently bludgeoning a nun.

Chapter Thirty-Five

…returns us to Paris, where Sophie is at the Gare du Nord coming up with another brilliant plan, this time to pay for two tickets to Lille with Robert Langdon’s credit card and then…wait for it…not get on the train at all and leave the police think they’ve gone to Lille.

Wait, isn’t this basically the same thing she did with the bar of soap?

In the distance to the right, at quay three, the train to Lille was already belching and wheezing in preparation for departure…

See? I told you time behaved strangely in this novel. Apparently France is still in the age of steam.

Sophie and Langdon then jump into a cab for more aimless driving around Paris while staring at a key. Hurrah.

Langdon examined the cruciform key again, holding it to the window, bringing it close to his eyes in an effort to find any markings on it that might indicate where the key had been made. In the intermittent glow of the streetlights he saw no markings except the Priory seal.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” he finally said.

From your lips to God’s ear, Bob.

Langdon then decides to sniff the key. No, I don’t know either. I scribbed IDEK on the corner of the page here, and I stand by it. On the other hand, learning that Robert Langdon is some kind of a habitual key sniffer has lent him more characterisation than all previous attempts to give him a personality. Yes, it’s a weird personality, but so far he’s come off as robotic as Mitt Romney.

“I think this key was cleaned recently.”
“Why?”
“It smells like rubbing alcohol.”
She turned. “I’m sorry?”

Why does everyone in this chapter keep saying what I’m thinking?

“It smells like somebody polished it with a cleaner.” Langdon held the key to his nose and sniffed. “It’s stronger on the other side.” He flipped it over. “Yes, it’s alcohol-based, like it’s been buffed with a cleaner or-”

I take it back about at an attempt at characterisation. Clearly what is happening here is that Captain Infodump has suddenly morphed into Sherlock Holmes because the plot demands it. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Anyway, Langdon – who knows so much about the smells of solvents that I can’t be sure if he’s not morphing into Sherlock Holmes by way of noted turpentine-aficionado Charlie Kelly – diagnoses the key smell as black-light pen.

Thankfully Sophie still has a small black-light on her, because if she hadn’t then I have a horrible feeling they’d attempt to break back into the Louvre to get one. And there’s writing on the key, because of course there is.

Sophie stared in amazement at the purple writing on the back of the key.
24 Rue Haxo
An address! My grandfather wrote down an address!

Sophie’s characterisation is the worst. She vacillates wildly between being the woman with all the plans and the anagrams and then…this. Yes, Forrest. It’s an address. Try to contain yourself.

And why is she excited that Jacques Sauniere of all people wrote down an address? By this point in the book if someone told me that Jacques Sauniere had used his dying moments to build an intricate scale model of the Cutty Sark, write a complete annotation of James Joyce’s Ulysses and still found time to yank out his small intestine and rearrange it on the floor to spell a Shakespearean couplet before carking it – well, put it this way: it wouldn’t merit an exclamation point. What didn’t this man do before turning up his toes on the floor of the Louvre?

Sophie asks the cab driver if he knows the way to Rue Haxo and wonders what they will find there.

Her mind filled again with images of the secret ritual she had witnessed in the basement grotto ten years ago, and she heaved a long sigh. “Robert, I have a lot of things to tell you.”

You would think this is the perfect place to end the chapter with a classic Dan Brown ball tickle, wouldn’t you? Yeah – well. Think again.

She paused, locking eyes with him as the taxi raced westward. “But first I want you to tell me everything you know about this Priory of Sion.”

WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS, SOPHIE? WHY?

The chapter promptly ends in time for us to assume the crash position in anticipation of an almighty Langdon infodump…

Chapter Thirty-Six

…and then we predictably fuck off to join Bezu Fache and Collet, who are fuming to discover that Langdon and Sophie have escaped from the Louvre.

Fache quickly figures out that Sophie’s trip to Lille was a fake-out similar to the one that saw him chasing his mastermind nemesis Bar of Soap (RIP) across Paris some twenty or so chapters ago. Glancing back I now realise this is the third time Sophie has pulled this move. The first was when she first appeared in the Louvre and pretended to flounce away from the murder scene, the second was when she lobbed the exquisitely characterised Bar of Soap from the window and now she’s pretending to get on a train to Lille. This woman literally has one move – she says “I’M GOING OVER THERE NOW. THERE. WATCH. THAT DIRECTION I’M POINTING IN. THAT IS THE WAY I AM GOING. OKAY?” – and it’s only now that Fache has figured out that it might be a trick.

Everyone in this book is so wonderfully dim.

Fache gets Interpol involved and then stands around staring out of a window for some reason.

Even a trained field agent would be lucky to withstand the pressure that Interpol was about to apply. A female cryptologist and a schoolteacher? They wouldn’t last till dawn.

Oh, they will, Bezu. They will. Because, unlike you, I know that the thicker chunk of this bloated volume is still very much in my right hand. And Robert Langdon is about to explain things.

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