Dan Brown’s most recent Robert Langdon mystery-thriller entertains, but ultimately falls apart under its elaborate plot twists.
Robert Langdon, the Harvard professor of religious iconology and symbology, made famous in the Da Vinci Code, must now unravel the clues of Dante’s Inferno to prevent the release of a deadly plague on mankind.
As the fourth installment in the series, the plot is familiar. Once again Langdon must travel from location to location with a beautiful but mysterious woman, deciphering clues within a famous work of art, while under the pursuit of a secret organisation. The difference this time: Langdon has amnesia.
Caused by a bullet wound to the head, Langdon’s amnesia serves as a peg by which Brown hangs a number of plot points. Langdon is no longer sure why is in Florence, where he has been or who he can trust. Despite this, the story ultimately unravels in the same manner as the previous three books: clue solving, confrontation, chase scene, a new location and repeat.
I view these books as I view the movie Point Break. Both are a little cheesy, clichéd and certainly not the best written, but damn they are entertaining. Dan Brown’s insistence on teaching you about art and history along the way also serves to make this pleasure a little less guilty.
Brown wastes little time in getting the mystery underway. Within the initial chapters Langdon is solving his first clue and on the run with the genius doctor, Sienna Brooks. From that point on, it is a generally fast paced and intriguing thriller. However, as the answers to the mysteries unravel, the story begins to fall apart.
Brown’s downfall is his desire to shock the audience. As each twist unfolds the plot becomes increasingly elaborate to the point of becoming ridiculous. When several of the mysteries are explained by a simple offhand comment, it feels like a cheap shot.
Brown also refuses to explore Langdon’s character in any real depth. We already know that Langdon is claustrophobic, that he likes Harris Tweed jackets and Italian loafers, but Brown insists on repeating it. Surely by now we can learn a little more about Langdon than just the superficial? It’s the fourth book, yet I still know as much about Langdon as I did in the Da Vinci Code. Is he still single because his wife died and he never moved on? Perhaps he was once addicted to heroin? I have to speculate these things because Dan Brown won’t tell me.
It’s as if Brown is scared that if he gives Langdon any degree of complexity, we will begin to dislike him. In fact, Brown goes out of his way to ensure that it is impossible to dislike Langdon . Moments after meeting Langdon, the director of the World Health Organisation thinks to herself how much she likes the man. Sienna Brookes’ initial thoughts of Langdon are that she is strangely attracted to him…
Sigh…. I think I’ll just watch Point Break.
★ ★ ☆☆☆
Inferno can be purchased here.