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Waiting for Dan Brown . . .

July 20, 2009 by Reader's Connection

Dan Brown’s new book, The Lost Symbol, is due out this fall, but what’s a reader to do until then? Of course, you could re-read Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, plus here are a few other possibilities to keep you occupied until Robert Langdon comes back into town.

The Eighth Day by John Case

The Eighth Day

 Danny Cray, a budding artist who works part time as an unlicensed private investigator, is hired by a wealthy attorney to find out who’s been bad-mouthing one of his clients, the even wealthier Italian businessman Zerevan Zebek. Danny’s investigation takes him to Rome, where he learns several unsettling things in rapid-fire succession and winds up on the run for his life. With few friends, little money, and no connections, can Danny keep himself alive until he can blow the lid off the secrets he’s unearthed? Unlike Case’s previous offerings, which featured slight variations on stock characters, this novel introduces us to someone new and fresh: the starving-artist-turned-hapless-detective. Danny is an engaging fellow, likable and funny and charming in an everyman kind of way. We can easily imagine ourselves in his position, frantically trying to evade pursuers who are better equipped and, in all probability, smarter than we are. This is a genuinely appealing character-driven thriller . . . Booklist


The Confessor by Daniel Silva

The Confessor

 The leaders of the Crux Vera, a church within the Catholic Church devoted to reversing the effects of the Reformation and the Enlightenment, are uneasy about Paul VII, the new pope. Hard on the heels of the conservative Pole, he causes tremendous consternation when he perseveres in a search for the facts about Pius XII’s role in the Holocaust. Gabriel Allon, a master art restorer and part-time Israeli agent (seen in The English Assassin), has an old friend whose research is getting close to the truth. When he is murdered, Gabriel is reactivated and joins battle with an assassin nicknamed the Leopard. Silva, who here loads new excitement into the word thriller, will touch nerves with this hypothetical exploration of the Church’s silence on these topics. The Vatican, Venice, and Munich are perfectly drawn as the settings for these dark acts of ambition, greed, and revenge, as are the characters, whom you’d scarcely believe live only on the page. — Library Journal


Prey by Michael Crichton


  The book begins with a brief intro noting the concerns of Crichton (and others) with the nascent field of nanotechnology, “the quest to build manmade machinery of extremely small size, on the order of… a hundred billionths of a meter” . . . Jack Forman . . . is hired by Xymos to deal with trouble at the company’s desert plant. There, he learns that Xymos is manufacturing nanoparticles that, working together via predator/prey software developed by Jack, are intended to serve as a camera for the military. The problem . . . is that groups of simple agents acting on simple instructions, without a central control, will evolve unpredictable, complex behaviors (e.g., termites building a termite mound) . . . One swarm of nanoparticles has escaped the lab and is now evolving quickly-adapting to desert conditions, feeding off mammalian flesh (including human), reproducing and learning mimicry. — Publishers Weekly



Mary, Called Magdalene by Margaret George

Mary, Called Magdalene

 George again brings a historical figure to life, this time in a low-key but persuasively feminist take on the early disciple who found Christ’s empty tomb . . . From her early childhood, when the story begins, Mary is bright and thoughtful but subject to strange dreams. Intimations of her future begin when, at seven, she goes with her family to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. She picks up a carved ivory figure from the ground where the family is camping and hides it among her possessions. On this same expedition, she also meets and is impressed by the young Jesus and his mother Mary, also attending the festival. Mary Magdalene grows up, still haunted by dreams, but as she nears marriageable age, she is increasingly troubled by voices, skin lesions, and odd movements in her room . . When none of the prescribed cures work, the young woman, despairing, heads to the desert, and there, listening to John the Baptist, meets Jesus. He exorcises the demons and the story goes on to tell how she joins Jesus (after being expelled by her family) and begins healing and preaching with the disciples. In relating the events leading to the Crucifixion, and the years afterward, George suggests that Mary loved Jesus not only as the Messiah but also as a man. Engaging and intelligent fiction that celebrates one of Christianity’s great women. — Kirkus Reviews


The Fire by Katherine Neville

The Fire

 Dan Brown stands on the shoulders of a giant. Twenty years have passed since Neville (A Calculated Risk; The Magic Circle ) transfixed readers with her debut novel, The Eight . No one knew how to categorize it; part historical novel, part contemporary thriller, the book became a cult favorite. Patience is a virtue, and Neville’s fans are a virtuous lot. Here is their reward. Set 30 years after the events of The Eight , the game that we thought ended has resumed with new players (although familiar characters figure into the plot in some way), and it returns as dangerous as ever. For those who haven’t read The Eight , there are some innovative plot recap devices, but fans may want to treat themselves to a delectable reread first. Neville deftly employs time-shifting storytelling and casts historical figures in her story with such dexterity that you are sure all these people must really have known one other. Ingenious puzzles, enthralling historical ambience, and masterful plot twists abound. More please! — Library Journal


The Remnant by Chris Kenneally

The Remnant

 Fr. Michael Flaherty, soon after his reassignment from Ireland to upstate New York, gets inexplicably transferred to Rome, where he becomes an unwitting pawn in a looming religious civil war involving a dying pope and ruthless bishops. A secret cabal of ultraconservative clerics have vowed to remove the church’s liberal advocates “with the steel of the Crusaders and the fire of the Inquisition.” Kenneally’s narrative voice is as knowledgeable as it is forceful when he describes the Vatican as “a theatre of war” and the supreme pontiff’s restricted role (“There are convicts in Roman prisons who are freer than the Pope”). — Publishers Weekly





People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book

In 1996, as Brooks has it, as a ceasefire is effected to quell the bloody violence in Bosnia, Australian book conservator Hanna Heath is called to restore the famous Sarajevo Haggadah. The condition of the manscript, including a stain on a page and certain items clinging to it (among them an insect wing that falls from the binding when Hanna conducts her preliminary review of repair needs), leads her on a search for answers to where the Haggadah has been all its life. This, of course, leads Brooks on a marvelously evocative journey backward in time, to periods of major religious strife and persecution, from the 1940 German occupation of Yugoslavia, to 1894 Vienna, to 1609 Venice, to 1492 Barcelona, and, finally, 1480 Seville. Like a flower growing through a crack in a slab of concrete, the exquisitely beautiful Sarajevo Haggadah remained an artistic treasure throughout the centuries despite always seeming to be caught between opposing sides in skirmishes of greed, intolerance, and bloodlust. — Booklist


   The Secret Cardinal by Tom Grace

The Secret Cardinal

 One is the most powerful man in the Catholic Church. The other is a man the Chinese government wants to destroy but fears turning into a martyr. Both are men of peace. Grace’s fifth thriller (after Bird of Prey ) featuring former Navy SEAL Nolan Kilkenny begins with Kilkenny on assignment in Rome helping an old family friend improve Vatican Library operations. Soon Kilkenny is swept up in Pope Leo’s dying wish–to save the long-imprisoned Yin Daoming, the bishop of Shanghai, whose only crime is practicing his faith. As Kilkenny and his elite team plan to rescue Yin and smuggle him out of China, covert forces try to thwart the rescue effort and prevent any chance of the bishop becoming the next pope. Grace’s spinning web of international intrigue makes for a gripping read, and the character of Yin provides a look at the power of one man of faith against incredible obstacles. — Library Journal


The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

The Illuminator

 Set against the tumultuous backdrop of fourteenth-century England, this is a richly detailed story of love, political intrigue, and religious tyranny. Finn is a master illustrator hired to illustrate an abbot’s new Bible. On the side, he is also working on John Wycliffe’s seditious translation of the Book of John into English. As part of his salary, he and his teenage daughter, Rose, are billeted with Lady Kathryn of Blackingham, newly widowed and desperately trying to hang on to her lands for her two sons. When alliances are formed, Finn’s past and Kathryn’s present conspire to tear their world apart. First-time novelist Vantrease mixes the historical figures of John Wycliffe, Julian of Norwich, John Ball, and Henry Despenser with her richly drawn characters, spanning the ranks from highborn to the lowest of the low. Her details and deft storytelling create a luminescent and very readable portrait of a dark time in history. — Booklist


 The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code

 Saint Paul wrote that Jesus was the first-born of many brothers and sisters. Hearing that, and trying to grasp it, has been a lifelong challenge for me, a stumbling-block. And now this novel tells us that some Frenchmen believe that Jesus was their biological granddaddy. Is that what all the thrills in this book are about? Who gives a rip, really? — Odanka Levonette









Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Angels and Demons

 Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon gets a call from Maximilian Kohler, director of CERN’s Geneva particle-physics research complex. Physicist Leonardo Vetra has been murdered,and a quantity of dreadfully dangerous antimatter stolen; worse, Vetra was branded with a single word: Illuminati. Langdon’s an expert on the history of the Illuminati, a medieval pro-science, anti-Catholic power group, often suspected of infiltrating mighty institutions but now considered extinct. The canister of antimatter soon turns up–in Rome, hidden somewhere in Vatican City, just as the church’s cardinals are gathering to select a new pope. When the canister’s batteries go dead–boom. As bad, someone’s kidnapped the four top cardinals, and a message from the Illuminati states that one cardinal will be killed–with lots of Illuminati symbolism–every hour until the antimatter explodes. Langdon and Vetra’s scientist daughter, Vittoria, must convince the late pope’s chamberlain, now in charge of the Vatican until the new pope is elected, to help them unravel the mysteries of the Illuminati and, perhaps, save the cardinals from gruesome deaths.  — Kirkus Reviews

 –Booklist compiled by Ellen Flexman, East 38th Street Library



  1. Sarah says:

    Why isn’t “The Expected One” on here?! It’s a lot like “Divinci Code” except for more research.

  2. Ellen says:

    The Expected One looks like I missed that would have made a good addition to the list. Thanks for the recommendation!

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