Ever since the amazing success of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," the market has been flooded with would-be successors. The problem is that most of the imitators miss the point. Brown didn't sell millions of copies because of Leonardo da Vinci or a code; he sold them because he launched a ferocious attack on the Catholic Church. Nonetheless, the imitators keep coming, featuring mysteries deep in the past with literary and/or religious overtones. I read one novel that involved deciphering Dante's "Inferno." Another featured a search for a missing play by Shakespeare. Our old friends the Knights Templar often figure in these plots. In one, as I recall, a band of knights, newly arrived from the Middle Ages, rode their mighty steeds along Park Avenue and up the steps of the Metropolitan Museum, where I took leave of them.Read More
The latest contender in the da Vinci sweepstakes, "Codex 632," by the Portuguese journalist and novelist José Rodrigues dos Santos, focuses on the mystery surrounding the origins and life of Christopher Columbus. As dos Santos tells it, we really don't know where or when the man we call Columbus was born or what his name was. He seems to have gone to great lengths to keep his past a secret. One theory is that the "real" Christopher Columbus -- the man who went by that name, or something close to it -- was an unlettered silk weaver whose identity the great navigator borrowed. In this, of course, are echoes of the supposed mystery of Shakespeare's identity, with some arguing that William Shakespeare was a country bumpkin whose name was used by the brilliant aristocrat who wrote the plays.
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