Deception Point by Dan Brown – Book Review

I got knocked over by a nasty cold last week, and I had two things to keep away the tedium of recovering in bed: my kitten who was ecstatic to have his human available all day for cuddles, and this book.

Back in 2003 I like many others got swept up in the Da Vinci Code hype, and while it ran out of steam near the end I had to admit it was one of the most insanely addictive mystery thrillers I’ve ever read. Brown’s writing might be clunky and his characters flat and forgettable, but you don’t read his books for graceful prose and deep psychological insights, you read them for the trashy fast-paced plot and twists that make you turn page after page. Does Deception Point deliver on this front? Mostly.

It opens with a mysterious murder of a geologist somewhere in the icy northern wilderness and then jumps back to Washington D.C., where our heroine Rachel Sexton, an Intelligence Analyst, is contacted by the USA President Zachary Herney. He sends her all the way to the Arctic to investigate a recent NASA find that could prove to be the greatest discovery in the history of the humankind. Rachel happens to be the daughter of Herney’s biggest political rival, Senator Sedgewick Sexton, who’s been using NASA’s recent failures to boost his own campaign, and her assessment of the evidence would be seen as objective. There’s also of course a bunch of real scientists working to establish the authenticity of the find, including Michael Tolland, an oceanographer and charismatic TV personality and naturally a total hunk.

The book takes its sweet time unveiling this exciting discovery, which then begs the question, ok so what’s next. Right before the President is about to address the world about the NASA find, the evidence gets… complicated. So complicated that soon Rachel and Tolland find their lives in danger from the lethal and relentless Delta Force team (who never get proper names outside of Delta One and Delta Two and so on). From then on, there are two main questions driving the story: a) is the NASA discovery real or a 100% elaborate fake and b) who is pulling the strings behind it all. And c) will Rachel and Tolland hook up by the end (though if you think that the answer could be negative you’ve probably never read a mainstream thriller before).

To keep you reading, Brown basically repeats the same trick of switching the focus of the story right after a character has a profound insight you don’t get to see, so you plow through the pages to find out what this amazing game-changing insight is. Simple and repetitive, but effective, yeah. The conspiracy plot and political machinations are fun and there’s a dramatic sequence set in the desolate Arctic which could make for a pretty stunning chase scene if this book was ever adapted for the big screen. The book however loses something when it leaves the Arctic setting, and it’s way bogged down with overlong descriptions and science talk. I get it, the writer has done his research, but there’s no need to bore the reader with excessive details.

Like Da Vinci Code, this novel also can’t quite sustain itself, to the point where I skipped entire sections just to get to the end. The answer to question a) above becomes quite obvious well before the end and it’s a drag to read through the endless pages of scientific jargon as the characters reach the obvious conclusion. While the identity of the mastermind was a surprise, the amount of effort their devious plan took seemed a tad over-the-top and the idea that they couldn’t achieve their goal by simpler means seemed implausible. Still, while the novel is flawed it kept me mostly entertained.

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