It always pays to be skeptical about indulging in the latest pop-culture sensation, from the most recent Hollywood hype job to whichever tripe is being passed off as music and dutifully propelled into the top spot by the obedient masses. It may be somewhat harder to create a successful book where the actual quality of the volume does not back up that popularity, though inevitably it does happen. Within all the flotsam, it takes only a modicum of common sense to determine which segment of the population a particular book may be directed towards. Occasionally a book will transcend classes—including social, gender, genre preference and entertainment (i.e. the format which a person normally patronizes) and appeal to a wide and varied audience.
The Da Vinci Code is such a book. Released in 2003, it has steadily gained in appeal, exposure and overall sales.
After reading the book I can understand its success. The strongest things going for it are a compelling story idea backed up with loads of interesting, supposed facts, as well as a plot that, while cliched, keeps things ticking along quite nicely.
The protagonist is a yank academic expert specializing in religious symbols. A clever opening has the yank symbologist, Robert Langdon, drawn into the murder investigation of a top curator at the Louvre while he is in Paris to give a lecture. He is brought together with the other lead character, Sophie Neveu, who happens to be the grand-daughter of the slain Louvre sentinel. The last remaining elite member of a brotherhood that protects the Holy Grail from being discovered, he leaves a series of clues at the location of his death in hopes of leading Langdon and Neveu to the hiding spot.
A grizzled, merciless French police chief is after Langdon and Neveu once a contrived series of events ensure made-for drama confusion and an incorrect accusation against Langdon regarding the murder. In any such drama based on the race to find something, there are normally at least 3 interested parties in the hunt, and Brown employs the same tactic here. The 3rd seeker of the Grail is a bishop from the powerful catholic church group known as Opus Dei. With his freakish charge, a brain-washed albino giant, and help from an unknown "Teacher" who provides inside information and keeps the reader guessing as to who he is, the different parties are after Langdon and Neveu as they follow the series of clues left by the dead Loevre curator.