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Review of Origin

Once again, Dan Brown delivers a riveting story in the next adventure of his erstwhile symbologist, Robert Langdon. For me, the previous story, Inferno, was absolutely breakneck thrilling. Origin takes us to a new setting-Spain-where the advocates for science face-off against those of religion, especially the Catholic Church and some factions thereof.

In this novel, Brown has ramped-up the technology aspect with a supporting character named Winston, a highly evolved artificial intelligence computer created by Edmond Kirsch, a brilliant computer scientist and inventor.

The story is much too complex to do it justice here, but suffice it to say that Kirsch plans to prove in a global broadcast presentation that God does not exist by showing that life on Earth was created by pure physics interactions. Heady stuff, to be sure.

However, before he can finish his presentation he is assassinated, which sends Langdon and the future queen of Spain, Ambra Vidal, on the usual race for answers and truth, if not resolutions.

The pace of the story is a bit slower than previous ones, but that gives the reader time to absorb the complex issues posed about the origin and fate of humanity.

Well worth a read! 5 stars.

Review of Rennes-le-Chateau: Saunière’s Secret

Many would-be treasure hunters and real-life mystery enthusiasts will find Jean-luc Robin’s in depth look at the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau and the priest fascinating. The author explores and dispels many legends, myths, and truths about Rennes-le-Chateau, France and Abbé Bérenger Saunière. In fact, there are so many of these stories that I couldn’t possibly do them justice.

In essence, the mystery revolves around Saunière, a country priest assigned to the church located in Rennes-le-Chateau in the late 1800s, and who becomes extremely wealthy almost overnight. The author explains clearly how some of that wealth may have come with firsthand knowledge derived from living on the premises of the church and contact with descendants of those who served Saunière.

It makes for an intriguing tale and shouldn’t be missed by anyone who is curious. It will also clear away many of the rumors and falsehoods that have abounded since Saunière set foot in Rennes-le-Chateau region. But, be warned, it does not answer all the questions. 4 stars.

Review of Dragon Teeth

Once again author Michael Crichton weaves a tale that blends fiction and historical facts to make a fascinating story. (Sadly, Crichton passed away in 2008-truly one of modern greats.) The novel centers around a Yale student of wealth and privilege, William Johnson, who decides to go West on a bet with another student. The venture West to the Dakota and Montana Territories of 1876 is fraught with danger and led by Othniel C. Marsh, a professor of paleontology.

The search is for dinosaur bones hidden within the vast amount of rock.

Fairly quickly Johnson is abandoned in Cheyenne, Wyoming by Marsh due to unfounded suspicions that he is a spy for another professor of paleontology, one Edward Drinker Cope.

In reality and within the story, these two professors had quite the rivalry and enmity between them.

Fortunately for Johnson, he finds himself recruited by Cope and aids him on his excavations.

Johnson’s story is a vehicle to tell of the incredible finds by Cope in the wild and dangerous Badlands of Montana. Not to spoil it for you, suffice it to say Johnson does return East, a changed man. 5 stars.

Review of The Dante Club

This is a fantastic novel by Matthew Pearl. It offers the reader an interesting and captivating mystery that must be solved by the members of the Dante Club (a real group)–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J.T. Fields. These real historical figures are perfectly positioned to solve a series of murders around Cambridge, MA. because all assist Longfellow on his translation of Dante’s masterpiece into English. The macabre crimes replicate scenes from Dant’s Inferno, which leave the Boston police baffled.

The author makes the inclusion of these real men, all primarily professors or related to literature, come alive with well-researched historical facts, settings, and dialogue of the Civil War era. Any reader that enjoys a riveting mystery, whether knowledgeable about Dante’s works or not, will delight in this wonderful story. 5 stars.

Review of The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral

Readers of history with an interest in factual mysteries will truly enjoy this non-fiction book by Louis Charpentier. I have waited to read this book for a long time.

It took a long time to finish because it is detailed with important information about the famous cathedral and because of delays from my work schedule.

Gothic cathedrals have long been a fascination of mine, so to finally read this book was an utter thrill. Even though published in the 1960’s, the author presents critical information about Chartres that many historical presentations overlook.

Furthermore, Charpentier offers some answers to the mysteries of the cathedral and Gothic architecture in general. However, some mysteries remain unanswered, such as where did the technological knowledge come from in order to build these magnificent structures? Who provided the funding? Why did it take decades to build? (The Forbidden City in China, another marvel of construction, took a mere four years.)

If you are curious, then by all means read this book. Overall, it is fantastic and enlightening.