The Lost Symbol

(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 1)

Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol is a sequel to two previous best-selling novels, Angels and Demons (2000) and The Da Vinci Code (2003). The series’s protagonist, Robert Langdon, is once again featured, as he finds himself involved in yet another mystery centering on codes, symbols, and legends, this time in Washington, D.C. Arriving at the Capitol to give a last-minute lecture at the Smithsonian Institution for his old friend and mentor Peter Solomon, Langdon is instead horrified to find his friend’s severed hand, with its distinctive thirty-third-degree Masonic ring, in the National Statuary Hall. Via cell phone, Langdon learns that he has been duped into coming to Washington by the man who now holds Peter captiveand who demands that Langdon find and unlock a portal leading to ancient mysteries. Unhappily, Langdon realizes that he has also been tricked into bringing with him a small, wrapped, cube-shaped box that Peter entrusted to his safekeeping years earliera secret object that Peter believes holds great power and that he fears powerful people may try to steal.

Indeed, powerful people begin to converge upon Langdon immediately: In particular, he encounters Inoue Sato, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Office of Security. A no-nonsense woman, Sato seems less interested in the severed hand than in what secret information Langdon may be hiding. Guided by Capitol police chief Trent Anderson, the three make their way into the depths of the Senate’s subbasement, where they find a locked room belonging to Peter Solomon full of Masonic regalia, as well as a hidden stone pyramid with cryptic engraving on one side. An X ray of Langdon’s day bag transmitted to Sato’s BlackBerry reveals that the package he is carrying contains a small golden pyramid capstone. Threatened with CIA detention and questioning, Langdon is rescued by the sudden appearance of Warren Bellamy, the Capitol’s architect (or supervisor), who spirits away Langdon and the two parts of the pyramid.

Meanwhile, Katherine Solomon, Peter’s younger sister and a research scientist in the field of noetics (the concept that human thought can affect physical matter), finds herself in danger from a mysterious being known as Mal’akh. The Solomon family has been beset by tragedy for years: Katherine’s mother died in her arms, and her nephew met his fate in a foreign prison, and now this new threat has appeared. Mal’akh has grotesquely enhanced his body through the use of steroids and human growth hormones, and every inch of his skin except the crown of his head is tattooed. Having kidnapped Peter and thus acquired the use of his cell phone, Mal’akh has been able not only to lure Langdon to Washington but also to arrange a private meeting with Katherine at her lab in an isolated corner of the Smithsonian Museum Support Center.

Posing as Peter’s psychiatrist, Mal’akh first kills Katherine’s lab assistant Trish Dunne by drowning her in a tank containing a preserved giant squid. Katherine faces a similar threat in the absolute darkness that engulfs the entryway, or pod, to her lab. Through a combination of cleverness and luck, Katherine manages to escape from the pod. While Mal’akh is not able to kill her as he planned, she is horrified to realize that he has carried out the second part of his mission, as a massive explosion destroys her lab and all of her research contained therein.

Katherine meets Langdon and Bellamy at the Library of Congress reading room, where the two men have been trying to decipher the pyramid. None of them really knows anyone else, so they do not know who can be trusted. Everyone seems to have a secret agenda, and neither Robert nor Katherine knows who may be working for which side in this complex drama of conspiracies. Before long, they find themselves on the runfirst on foot, then via taxi, subway, car, and helicopterin a race to escape Sato’s forces, which are led by CIA operative Turner Simkins. They must decode the mysterious symbols on the pyramid and save Peter’s life, while evading the predatory Mal’akh, who will put more lives in danger before the evening is over.

The Lost Symbol is classically plotted, taking place during the course of a single evening (with flashbacks...

(The entire section is 1754 words.)


(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 1)

Booklist 106, no. 3 (October 1, 2009): 6.

The Boston Globe, September 18, 2009, p. 18.

The New York Times, September 14, 2009, p. C1.

The New York Times Book Review, October 11, 2009, p. 1.

Skeptical Inquirer 34, no. 1 (January/February, 2010): 60-61.

The Spectator 311, no. 9448 (September 26, 2009): 30-31.

Time 174, no. 12 (September 28, 2009): 67-68.

The Washington Post, September 15, 2009, p. C1.

Washingtonian 44, no. 12 (September, 2009): 7-8.

The Wall Street Journal, September 16, 2009, p. A25.