Summary: Well after midnight, Robert Langdon, Professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard, is awakened in his Paris hotel room by Lieutenant Collet of the Judicial Police. Collet presents Langdon with a photograph of the murder scene at the Louvre. Langdon is horrified to see the bizarre, symbolic way in which Saunière’s corpse has been positioned. He is further shocked when Collet informs him that Saunière “did that to himself.”
Analysis: Having introduced Robert Langdon in his previous novel, Angels & Demons (2000), Brown spends some of this chapter reacquainting readers with his protagonist, or—as was more often the case, given that this sequel, when first published, far outperformed its predecessor—allowing them to meet him for the first time. Brown makes somewhat vague allusions to the events of the previous book—e.g., “A little over a year ago, Langdon had received a photograph of a corpse and a similar request for help. Twenty-four hours later, he had almost lost his life inside Vatican City” (p. 11)—but they are more than enough to alert readers that, by following Langdon, we are in for an adventure.
It is probably not by accident that Langdon initially suspects his midnight visitor is “some religious scholar [who] had trailed him home to pick a fight” after his lecture about “pagan symbolism hidden in the stones of Chartres Cathedral” (pp. 7-8). The Da Vinci Code famously roused the ire of several Christian critics and organizations by suggesting unorthodox, “pagan” interpretations of key Christian symbols and doctrines. The fact that Brown’s work is one of fiction seems to have been lost on most of these critics; and the controversy only served to increase interest in the book (and its subsequent adaptation to film in 2006, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks as Langdon). Readers seemed more concerned with the book as entertainment than with any basis it may or may not have had in actual history.