I was heading out the Cannes Film Festival and I wanted to take a book with me, as the festival was opening with The Da Vinci Code and I had a copy of the Angels and Demons in my ‘too read’ pile, I thought it was an appropriate choice.
Although Brown is best known for The Da Vinci Code, he wrote three books before it, starting with Digital Fortress, then Deception Point, and then Angels and Demons. While the other two are based around technology, this book is much closer to what people who have come to his work via his immensely successful best seller would expect: consipracies, ancient cults, Vatican involvement, religious nuts and Professor Langdon.
It starts with a scientist being murdered, there is a sign branded into his chest, which leads the director of the laboratory to call on a expert, Robert Langdon, to identify it. The sign is that of the Illuminati, an ancient society long thought to have been disbanded, though rumour of their existence has fuelled conspiracy theories for centuries. They were supposed to support science against the church and wield unimaginable power behind the scenes of the world’s most powerful nations and establishments. The investigators, one of whom is the daughter of the murdered scientist, learn that a canister of anti-matter has been stolen, it’s extremely unstable and if it isn’t returned to the lab within 24 hrs, it could destroy half a city as it explodes. That’s when they receive a contact from the Vatican’s Swiss Guard, the men in charge of protecting the Pope and the Vatican that suggests they have the canister. The race is on to find it when the Illuminati make contact and tell them they have kidnapped the four likely winners of the Conclave that is also going on that night to elect a new Pope. Can Langdon decipher the codes and solves the clues fast enough to save the kidnapped cardinals and the Vatican itself?
It’s a racing yarn, starting off a fast pace and barely slowing to take a breath before the end, and for the most part it’s a fantastic murder mystery. It’s harder hitting than The Da Vinci Code, with gruesome deaths, and plenty of them. Unfortunately, the ending starts to get just too ridculous and the writing is bad and unbelievably cheesy. That’s not say it’s not a good read, but when your heroes are practically coming back from the dead or hearing the voice of God, it’s hard to suspend your disbelief.
For the most part it’s a good book and a great story, you can see why they’ve already announced they’re planning to adapt it into a movie, but be ready for so many plot twists you begin to lose count, cheesy dialogue and ever more stupid stunts in the final third. The Da Vinci Code looks subtle by comparison, but this would have been a better book if he hadn’t messed up the ending, in my opinion.