Read of the Week

Origin

Dan Brown

Penguin Random House

Review: Karen Watkins

Fans of the Da Vinci Code will remember globetrotting Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon and will be thrilled with the fifth book in the series.

Origin is set in Spain and will surely do Spanish tourism a huge service.

It begins at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Langdon jets off to meet ex-student, Edmond Kirsch, who invites him and the world’s intelligentsia to what promises to be a ground-breaking presentation.

On the cusp of the quirky billionaire’s grand announcement, something goes horribly wrong and Langdon has a new mission to discover the late genius’s computer password, believed to hold the answers to the two philosophical questions that have been at the core of human inquiry: Where did we come from and where are we going?

This all takes up one third of the 456-page book, with the story being told, re-told and told some more in a variety of ways.

Along the way, Langdon picks up the Guggenheim’s director, Ambra Vidal, who is struggling with her love life and happens to be engaged to the prince of Spain whose father is dying.

There is also a likeable talking computer named Winston, designed by Kirsch, a cross between Siri and Batman’s butler.

About halfway through the book, the pace picks up as Langdon and company visit Barcelona.

Brown does what he does best, taking readers to Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila and the Supercomputing Centre.

And the science and history are fascinating as he reveals the artistic style of Gaudi and Miró, and the literary nuances of William Blake and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Origin is entertaining in a grindingly slow way as it follows the Brown template of shady assassins with mysterious associations, female partners with their own complications, helicopter rides, a self-driving car and plenty of chapter-ending suspense.

After seven cracking plots, Brown’s skills show that he is a terrific storyteller, but there is more spectacle than substance to the ending in this latest thriller.

We are giving away a copy of Dan Brown’s Origin. To enter, SMS Origin with your name, surname and email address to 33258 before midnight on Sunday November 26. SMSes cost R1.50 each.