It is the best-selling novel of all time. By early 2006-APR, the hardcover
edition of the Da Vinci Code had been on the New York Times top ten
list of hardcover fiction for three years!
On 2006-APR-10, it was #3 among the top hardcover fiction books, and #1 among
the top paperback fiction books. 1 Over 40 million hardcover copies had been sold in at least 44 different languages
since its release in 2003-APR. It has spawned a series of books by other authors who attempt to separate fact from fiction in
The Da Vinci Code. On MAR-28, it became available in paperback format,
and sold over a half million copies in its first week. It is also
available in large print hardcover, abridged and unabridged audio CD, abridged
and unabridged audio cassette, digital download, and audio download. Over 3,000 individuals
have posted personal reviews of the book on Amazon's web site.
Why has this particular book been so successful?
A prime reason is that the book is a superb thriller-mystery. Some New
York Times best-selling authors commented:
Nelson DeMille: "Dan Brown has to be one of the best, smartest, and
most accomplished writers in the country. The Da Vinci Code is many
notches above the intelligent thriller; this is pure genius."
Clive Cussler: "Intrigue and menace mingle in one of the finest
mysteries I’ve ever read. An amazing tale with enigma piled on secrets
stacked on riddles."
Vince Flynn: "The Da Vinci Code sets the hook-of-all-hooks,
and takes off down a road that is as eye-opening as it is page-turning.
You simply cannot put this book down. Thriller readers everywhere will
soon realize Dan Brown is a master."
Robert Crais: "I would never have believed that this is my kind of
thriller, but I'm going to tell you something--the more I read, the more
I had to read. In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown has built a world
that is rich in fascinating detail, and I could not get enough of it.
Mr. Brown, I am your fan." 2
Reporters at the Chicago Tribute comment on the pace of the book, as
measured by their CPP count ("Cliffhangers Per Page"). It "...is
off the charts, as the book barrels along at a breakneck pace. Each chapter ends
with events very much up in the air. Clever escapes, midnight flights, desperate
chases down dark corridors proliferate." Donna
Seaman, associate editor of Booklist, said: "It just
has amazing momentum... We love a good story."
Another reason may be that the author has mixed in with the mystery
thriller aspects of the novel portrayal of what he describes as sinister
religious groups: the Priory of Sion, and Opus Dei. The reader's
fascination with conspiracies and secrets is fed with Brown's
description of Temple Church, Rosslyn Cathedral, Saunière, Rennes-le-Château,
codes hidden in the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and other works by Leonardo
da Vinci, etc.
Still another reason may be related to the public's fascination in religious matters:
Professor Eric Plumer at the Catholic University of Scranton, PA has been delivering lectures about the book. He said:
"The turnouts have been mainly standing room only. Some want to know how to refute the book; some want their belief in it
strengthened.... Even if people can't wholly accept what Dan Brown has to say, they feel he has touched on something they want to
Lynn Garrett, religion editor at Publishers Weekly, said:
"Americans love a conspiracy theory. It also tapped into people's disillusionment with the Catholic Church following
the sexual abuse scandals."
Nuala O'Faolain, the Irish memoirist and novelist, says that the novel's popularity grows organically from "the
scandals" within the Roman Catholic Church. She said:
"The reading public has always loved stories that chip away
Timothy Beal, professor of religion at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, referred to the the origins of the story
in Jesus and Mary Magdalene's relationship:
"One reason it works so well on readers is that he tends to begin with a kernel of something historical and then quickly
spins off into fiction - or you could say falsehood, since he represents it as something researched."
We have a hunch that some of the public's
fascination with The Da Vinci Code may be motivated by a disillusionment with
organized religion and a desire to return to the beliefs and practices of the
primitive Christian movement. Some would like to cut through stifling layers of
dogma, ritual, rules restricting the roles of women, suppression of the human
rights of gays and lesbians, oppression of people's sexual expression, etc.
and reach the simple message of Jesus. Any new information source that attempts to
demonstrate that modern-day Christianity is based on a questionable foundation is liable to be
welcomed by a growing segment of the population. This includes:
The decrease by about 0.8% percentage points per year in
Christian affiliation by North American adults, and an increase in the
numbers of adults who are not affiliated with any religious group.
With all of these religious trends in North America, one can expect considerable interest in books like the Da Vinci Code which
suggest that Christianity may have deeply buried secrets in its past that affect
is current credibility.