The Da Vinci Code is a mystery/detective novel by American author Dan Brown, published in 2003 by Doubleday.
The novel is based on the controversial premise that there is a conspiracy within the Roman Catholic Church to cover up the true story of Jesus. According to this premise, the Vatican knows it is living a lie, but continues to do so to keep itself in power.
The novel has helped generate popular interest in speculation concerning the Holy Grail legend and the role of Mary Magdalene in the history of Christianity. Fans have lauded the book as a creative, action-packed and thought-provoking work. Critics, whilst often praising the quality of the storytelling, have described the book as being inaccurate on a number of points, both large and small, and claim that most of the information on the "Fact" page at the front of the book is in fact completely untrue and creates confusion between speculation and fact. From a religious point of view, many critics, citing Dan Brown's own comments in various media interviews, claim that the book is a deliberate attempt to undermine Christianity in favour of a feminist/pagan agenda, and decry the many negative implications about the Roman Catholic Church and Opus Dei.
This book concerns the attempts of Robert Langdon, Professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard University, to solve the murder of renowned curator Jacques Saunière (see Bérenger Saunière) of the Louvre Museum in Paris. The title of the novel refers, among other things, to the fact that Saunière's body is found in the Denon Wing of the Louvre naked and posed like Leonardo da Vinci's famous drawing, the Vitruvian Man, with a cryptic message written beside his body and a Pentagram drawn on his stomach in his own blood. The interpretation of hidden messages inside Leonardo's famous works, (which relate to the concept of the Sacred feminine) including the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, figure prominently in the solution to the mystery.
The main conflict in the novel revolves around the solution to two mysteries:
- What secret was Saunière protecting that led to his murder?
- Who is the mastermind behind his murder and the murder of the three other sénéchaux?
The novel has several concurrent storylines that follow different characters throughout different parts of the book (DVC chapter summaries). Eventually all the storylines and characters are brought together and resolved in its denouement.
The unraveling of the mystery requires the solution to a series of brain-teasers, including anagrams and number puzzles. The solution itself is found to be intimately connected with the possible location of the Holy Grail and to a mysterious society called the Priory of Sion, as well as to the Knights Templar. The story also involves the Catholic organization Opus Dei.
The novel is the second book of a trilogy by Brown in which Robert Langdon is the main character. The previous book, Angels and Demons, took place in Rome and concerned the Illuminati. Although Angels and Demons is centered on the same character it is not necessary to read the book in order to understand the plot of The Da Vinci Code. The next book is tentatively scheduled for release in 2007. Its working title is The Solomon Key, and it is understood to concern Freemasonry.