Last time on The Da Vinci Code, Andre the banker – who had previously been helping our heroes – decided to turn on them, probably because…I don’t actually know why he did that. I think it was supposed to be because he previously believed them to be innocent of the single murder of Jacques Sauniere, then discovered that three other people were also dead, joined the dots and decided that people he hadn’t suspected of one murder were capable of four.
And no, I’m not sure how that works either. There’s either an ulterior motive I’m not getting or it was just bad writing, which is always a possibility.
Anyway, the whole Andre flip out was pointless because Bob kicked him in the face, recovered the keystone and now him and Sophie are driving around in a stolen armoured truck.
So nice and inconspicuous, then.
…returns us to the flashback prone company of Bish Bling, who is driving around in a Fiat, in case you weren’t clear he was still in Italy.
He’s thinking fondly about how he and the Teacher will make the exchange – twenty million euros.
The sum would buy Aringarosa power far more valuable than that.
Yeah, I don’t think you needed to spend that much, Bish. Pretty sure you can get information about the Priory of Sion from just about anywhere. Current noisy whisperings seem to suggest they’re about as close-lipped as the Kardashians.
The mysterious Teacher has not yet contacted the Bish, which is making Bish Bling decidedly nervous.
Maybe something had gone terribly wrong.
Dude, you hired Silas. Of course something has gone terribly wrong.
Quickly Aringarosa checked the phone’s voice mail. Nothing. Then again, he realised, the Teacher would never have left a recorded message; he was a man who took enormous care with his communications. Nobody understood better than the Teacher the perils of speaking openly in this modern world.
Which is why in a previous chapter he was chatting happily with Silas over an eminently buggable cell phone. God, imagine if Twitter had existed in 2003. #HolyGrail #PrioryofSion #veryverysecretstuff
Anyway, Bish is getting very anxious for the Teacher to make contact, and that’s that. Good. Thanks, Bish (thish). And thank you for not having a flashback this time. I mean that sincerely.
…serves to remind us of the endless source of Brownian hilarity that is Robert Langdon’s poor driving. In escaping from Andre Ice-Cold he managed to tear the bumper off the armoured truck and it’s now dragging along the road making sparks.
Meanwhile Sophie is just sitting around staring glumly at her box. She’s currently wondering why Vernet flipped his wig so spectacularly, which is perfectly reasonable because Vernet’s about-face didn’t make any sense whatsoever, unless you considered it in the context of lazy-writer-needing-to-convey information, the information in this case being that three other guys died along with Sauniere and that all four Priory senechaux are dead.
Sophie wonders if Vernet wanted the Grail for himself, because of course Vernet would somehow know that a stone bicycle lock in a box with a rose on it = Holy Grail. And also that the Holy Grail is an actual, real thing and he can drink from it and…become immortal?
Langdon shook his head. Vernet hardly seemed the type. “In my experience, there are only two reasons people seek the Grail…”
One, they’re batshit. Two, they’re Nazis. And that Venn diagram is more or less a circle, because you had to be fucking bananas to believe that a meth-addled, niece-diddling mess like Adolf Hitler was in any way the apotheosis of the Aryan master race.
“…either they are naïve and believe they are searching for the long-lost cup of Christ…”
“Or they know the truth and are threatened by it. Many groups throughout history have sought to destroy the Grail.”
Oh, for God’s sake. By this point we all know – from the subtly dropped hints that keep clanging down like anvils labelled NOT A CUP LOL – that the Holy Grail is probably not a literal cup but something else. And if you’ve read Holy Blood and Holy Grail you know exactly what it is, but Dan’s going to keep tickling your taint all the same, because he’s so very proud of this clever twist. That he totally stole from someone else.
Langdon gets out of the truck to try and straighten out the bumper, because it’s annoying him. I wish I could straighten out Langdon, because he’s annoying me.
He took a deep breath of nighttime air and tried to get his wits about him. Accompanying the gravity of being a hunted man, Langdon was starting to feel the ponderous weight of responsibility, the prospect that he and Sophie might actually be holding an encrypted set of directions to one of the most enduring mysteries of all time.
See what I mean? What a self-important sack of piss and wind this man is. Who actually stands there and thinks “Hey, I’m like the hero in this thing. It’s all about me.”
Wait, no. I know the answer to that question. It’s a depressingly high number of people.
While he’s kicking the shit out of the truck bumper, Langdon realises that there’s no way to return the keystone to the Priory now that all four senechaux have upped and joined the choir invisible. And he also remembers Sophie telling him that her grandfather left her a phone message promising to ‘tell her the truth about her family’.
At the time it had meant nothing, but now, knowing the Priory of Sion was involved, Langdon felt a startling new possibility emerge.
Langdon hauls the truck bumper off into the woods and comes to a conclusion, which is maybe the first sensible one he’s come to thus far.
We need help, Langdon decided. Professional help.
Yes, Bob. Yes, you do.
In the world of the Holy Grail and the Priory of Sion, that meant only one man.
Oh. You were talking about a Grail expert? Oh dear. For one brief, shining moment I thought you meant…no, never mind. Carry on.
Inside the armoured car, while Sophie waited for Langdon to return, she could feel the weight of the rosewood box on her lap and resented it. Why did my grandfather give this to me? She had not the slightest idea what to do with it.
Think, Sophie. Use your head. Grandpere is trying to tell you something!
Sophie twiddles the dials of the cryptex to make some words – GRAIL, VINCI, VOUTE – all extremely obvious and dumb in any context outside of this extremely obvious and dumb book. Granted, I haven’t got a clue what the password to the cryptex might be either, but a) I’m not a cryptographer and b) I really, really don’t care. You could fill a football stadium with the amount I don’t care right now.
Looking outside at Langdon, Sophie felt grateful that he was with her tonight. P.S. Find Robert Langdon. Her grandfather’s rationale for including him was now clear. Sophie was not equipped to understand her grandfather’s intentions, and so he had assigned Robert Langdon as her guide. A tutor to oversee her education.
Hey, remember how the Priory of Sion is a secret society all about the preservation of the sacred feminine or some such shit?
I think I’m just going to go scream into a pillow for a while, if that’s okay.
Anyway, following a short scream break, we are back in the truck and on our happy way to Versailles, to visit a former British Royal Historian (not a thing, by the way) named Sir Leigh Teabing. This is a half-assed anagram of Baigent/Leigh, two of the authors of Holy Blood and Holy Grail, because apparently Dan Brown thought this would be an amusing homage and would totally make up for him ripping off their ideas. He also thought that Leigh Teabing sounds like a name that an actual human being might have, so I think we’re just going to have to throw up our hands and just accept that Dan doesn’t make decisions in the same way as the rest of us.
Meanwhile Sophie’s poor, sad, tiny lady brain is clouded with doubts and suspicions like “Should I trust a total stranger on the say so of some guy I just met?”. Of course you should, Sophie. Robert is your patriarchal protector now, as appointed by your grandfather, who was completely trustworthy, aside from the constant obfuscation and the inability to even send you a birthday card without some kind of elaborate cypher. That and the Awful Unspecifed Thing, which is still lingering about the place like a series of hot, wet meat farts in a lift, but yeah – otherwise completely worthy of your trust. Ditto his waterheaded proxy here. Fuck it, just throw all in with these idiots. What could possibly go wrong?
Sophie points out that it might be a bit awkward to show up at this guy’s house unannounced at four o’clock in the morning or whatever time it’s supposed to be now. Also the whole being-wanted-by-the-police thing might make things awkward.
“Robert, has it occurred to you that every television in France is probably getting read to broadcast our pictures? Bezu Fache always uses the media to his advantage. He’ll make it impossible for us to move around without being recognised.”
Have you considered maybe looking different from how you look in your mug shots? I think that might be a thing that people do. In fact I’m sure there’s even a word for it. I want to say it might rhyme with ‘despise’?
Over fifty fucking chapters and my brains are bleeding out of my ears here. This is a ‘brainy’ thriller, by the way. It says so on the dust-jacket.
Sophie points out that Fache has probably put up a monetary reward for their capture by now, but Robert’s ‘instinct’ says Teabing is cool, so we’ll go with that. Also Teabing doesn’t need money, because he’s a descendant of the first Duke of Lancaster, who in reality died without any male issue and so the peerage expired and passed onto John of Gaunt, who did have issue and said issue spent several hundred years knocking the shit out of each other. Also the first Duke of Lancaster’s fortune has somehow endured through centuries of Britain’s various civil wars, plagues, economic disasters and demented tax reforms, leaving enough for Leigh Teabing to buy a fucking chateau outside of Paris. Which is bullshit, because unless your name is actually Windsor, you may as well resign yourself to holding rock festivals, opening safari parks, turning part of the grounds into a garden centre or hiring the old pile out to film companies needing locations.
But never you mind, because Dan Brown thinks that if you have a ‘Sir’ in front of your name and a dash of royal blood dating back to the thirteenth century you are fabulously rich!
I have a grim presentiment that Teabing’s character is going to be a howling hot mess of English stereotypes.
It turns out Bob knows Teabing because they made a BBC documentary about the Holy Grail some years back, and that the conclusions they came to were so ‘stunning’ and ‘controversial’ that…um…the BBC aired it anyway, apparently. And of course we’re not allowed to know what these stunning and controversial conclusions are yet, because Dan’s being coy and annoying. Again.
“Believe me, Leigh Teabing knows more about the Priory of Sion and Holy Grail more than anyone on earth.”
Sophie eyed him. “More than my grandfather?”
Well, maybe not, but probably a bit more than all of those people who watched that BBC documentary. How many people watch BBC documentaries, anyway? Probably not that many, right? Sir David who?
Even Sophie – who has the kind of superhuman reserves of patience usually associated with being a poorly written fictional character – is getting a little sick of this Dan Brownian taint tickling. She pretty much straight up demands that Langdon tell her what the Holy Grail really is, but she’s shut down because there’s half a page left and it’s time for a cliffhanger.
Langdon paused. “I’ll tell you at Teabing’s. He and I specialise in different areas of the legend, so between the two of us you’ll get the full story.” Langdon smiled. “Besides, the Holy Grail has been Teabing’s life, and hearing the story of the Holy Grail from Leigh Teabing will be like hearing the theory of relativity from Einstein himself.”
Wait, wasn’t Einstein notoriously socially awkward?
Anyway, Langdon drops another snooze bomb of pointless knowledge when he tells Sophie that actually it’s Sir Leigh.
Sophie looked over. “You’re kidding, right? We’re going to visit a knight?”
Langdon gave her an awkward smile. “We’re on a Grail quest, Sophie. Who better to help us than a knight?”
A knight who says ni?
…opens with the kind of infodump we haven’t seen in a while, detailing the boring history of Chateau Villette, near Versailles. This is not to say the Chateau Villette is boring, but everything is boring when filtered through the Wiki-flavoured yawn of a Dan Brown infodump.
As if to proclaim his home a British Isle unto itself, Teabing had not only posted his signs in English, but he had installed his gate’s intercom entry system on the right-hand side of the truck – the passenger’s side everywhere in Europe except England.
He sounds like a cunt, as we say in England.
Langdon shifted his position, leaning out across Sophie to press the intercom button. As he did, an alluring whiff of Sophie’s perfume filled his nostrils, and he realised how close they were.
Okay, a) what the hell is she wearing that’s lasted through everything she’s been up to tonight? And b) don’t you just love that she’s accepted him as her tutor and protector and he’s accepted her as a vaguely sentient source of pleasant smells? So much for the sacred feminine.
Some French butler growls at them over the intercom for a bit and then Langdon actually says he’s here about the Grail. Fucked if I know, people.
Finally, someone spoke. “My good man, I daresay you are still on Harvard Standard Time.” The voice was crisp and light.
And sounded a lot like a PG Wodehouse character with a life-limiting brain injury. Pip pip, old chap.
Because Leigh is a nightmare of a character, he insists on doing some terrible Tom Bombadil ‘Three riddles must you answer before you may traverse these gates’ shit, and I’m already wailing and rocking back and forth, begging for this to stop.
“Your first question,” Teabing declared, his tone Herculean. “Shall I serve you coffee, or tea?”
Langdon knew Teabing’s feelings about the American phenomenon of coffee. “Tea,” he replied. “Earl Grey.”
Oh God, why is this happening? Second question is milk, sugar or lemon. I don’t fucking know. And why would you put lemon in Earl Grey, unless you were dedicated to making it taste even fucking worse than it does already? I’m told it’s an acquired taste. I have yet to acquire said taste.
“And finally, I must make the most grave of inquiries.” Teabing paused and then spoke in a solemn tone. “In which year did a Harvard sculler outrow an Oxford man at Henley?”
Oh my God. This is horrible. Horrible. The surly, chainsmoking French stereotypes prowling the first few chapters of this book were embarrassing enough, but now we have to deal with some kind of whimsical twee-as-fuck Brit golem assembled from leftover Bake Off scones and animated by writing KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON across his floury inanimate forehead in apricot jam. I hate him already.
The next few chapters are going to be rough, aren’t they?
…is a very short one, which exists to inform us that Andre ‘Ice-Cold’ Vernet is still in the game after getting kicked in the face by Langdon. He calls the bank to tell them to activate the truck’s emergency transponder and someone does.
“Sir, you are aware that if I activate the LoJack system the transponder will simultaneously inform the authorities that we have a problem?”
Vernet was silent for several seconds. “Yes, I know. Do it anyway. Truck number three. I’ll hold. I need the exact location of that truck the instant you have it.”
And lo, Jack – they activate the LoJack, and discover the whereabouts of the truck.
That was chapter fifty-three. It was short and unassuming, but guess what? It marks an important milestone, because there are one hundred and six chapters in this book. I would usually bust out the Bon Jovi for this occasion, but even Eighties hair metal can’t cheer me up about what’s coming next; we’re going to talk to Teabing. Deep breath. It can’t be that bad, right?
(Spoiler alert: It can.)