Sunday, 28 February 2010

Dan Brown: Angels and Demons

When a world renowned scientist is found brutally murdered, a Harvard professor, Robert Langdon, is summoned to identify the mysterious symbol seared onto the dead man's chest. His conclusion: it is the work of the Illuminati, a secret brotherhood presumed extinct for nearly four hundred years - now reborn to continue their bitter vendetta against their sworn enemy, the Catholic church.
In Rome, the college of cardinals assembles to elect a new pope. Yet somewhere within the walls of the Vatican, an unstoppable bomb of terrifying power relentlessly counts down to oblivion. While the minutes tick away, Langdon joins forces with Vittoria Vetra, a beautiful and mysterious Italian scientist, to decipher the labyrinthine trail of ancient symbols that snakes across Rome to the long-forgotten Illuminati lair - a secret refuge wherein lies the only hope for the Vatican.
But, with each revelation comes another twist, another turn in the plot, which leaves Langdon and Vetra reeling and at the mercy of a seemingly invincible enemy.

Again, a historic fact/fiction thriller with fascinating art symbols and a pacy story. Robert Langdon is an interesting character, as he is so knowledgeable about old symbols and art history, yet does not throw himself into any police action easily. Vittoria's appearance as Leonardo Vetra's adopted daughter and her involvement in sciences is also well developed. The stories surrounding Max Kohler and the Camerlegno, Captain Rocher and Captain Olivetti seemed somehow far-fetched, but what makes a good book is that the reader ís surprised and Dan Brown clearly surprised me in the book's final chapters. Again, however, I did not like the physical tension and attraction between Robert Langdon and Vittoria, as this is unfeasible and artificial...

Monday, 22 February 2010

Dan Brown: The Da Vinci Code

Robert Langdon, Harvard Professor of symbology, receives an urgent late-night call while in Paris: the curator of the Louvre has been murdered. Alongside the body is a series of baffling ciphers. Langdon and a gifted French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, are stunned to find a trail that leads to the works of Da Vinci - and further. The curator, part of a secret society named the Priory of Sion, may have sacrificed his life to keep secret the location of a vastly important religious relic hidden for centuries. It appears that the clandestine Vatican-sanctioned Catholic sect Opus Dei has now made its move. Unless Landon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine code and quickly assemble the pieces of the puzzle, the Priory's secret - and a stunning historical truth - will be lost forever.

Although I'd started reading the book several times, I could not get into it initially. This time, however, it was different and I enjoyed the read. I know from various TV programmes that not everything described in the book is true, but the story has been developed in a way that it does sound feasible. I also liked the fact that Langdon is not the typical hero of a mystery story and shows many flaws in his characters. The one aspect I didn't like about the story was the fact that there seemed to be some tension between Neveu and Langdon, which given the circumstances of their meeting is not logical and feasible at all.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Jodi Picoult: Second glance

When a plot of land is being developed in Vermont against the will of a local Native American tribe, strange things begin to happen - and Ross Wakeman, a paranormal investigator, is asked to get involved. He's a desperate drifter who's taken up ghost hunting in an effort to cross paths again with his fiancee, who died in a car crash eight years ago, but he has yet to experience anything even remotely paranormal. Then Ross meets Lia. As a seventy-year-old murder case is reopened, a shocking secret about a crime of passion long past is revealed.

The story about the paranormal activities would have been fantastic, had it been developed in greater detail. For my taste, there were too many characters that seemed interesting but then weren't important or important enough to be analysed in more details, as for example Az Thompson and Lucy. Also, the coincidences and relationship issues around Ross, Meredith, Eli and Shelby weren't feasible. A somewhat disappointing Picoult.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Douglas Hurd: Ten minutes to turn the devil

As an MP, Douglas Hurd would write a new short story every year during the summer Parliamentary recess. This collection comprises ten tales, including a moving account of a family in Bosnia (The Last Day of Summer), a caper about drugrunning off Florida (A Suitcase Between Friends), and a grimly realistic Ulster vignette (Fog of Peace). Each of these stories reflects the intelligent concerns of a politician engaged in, and committed to, both the everyday world of domestic matters and at the highest level.

The stories were interesting for their factual content and the political issues they covered. However, the short stories themselves as a genre were not well developed in my view and so I wasn't overly impressed with the writing.