The Sunday Times - Britain

The Sunday Times January 01, 2006
Codebreakers crack the Da Vinci sequel mystery
Maurice Chittenden

CRYPTOGRAPHERS claim to have cracked clues to the forthcoming sequel of The Da Vinci Code that were planted on the cover of the bestseller by Dan Brown, its American author.

Codebreakers on both sides of the Atlantic are in a race to solve the mystery of the follow-up before Brown has even finished the manuscript of his new novel.

The film version of The Da Vinci Code opens in May with Tom Hanks in the role of Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbologist, and Audrey Tautou, who charmed cinema-goers in the title role of Amélie, as Sophie Neveu, a French cryptographer. The book has sold more than 4m copies in Britain out of 40m sales worldwide.

Langdon is the hero again in Brown’s next book, The Solomon Key, which will be published late this year or early in 2007.

Those who cannot wait to read the novel claim it will link freemasons to both the founding of America and the Mormon church and will involve a search for treasure across the United States.

Brown, who says he is fascinated by secret societies, left a series of clues on the dust jacket of the American version of The Da Vinci Code.

A grid reference written faintly and in reverse gives a location in latitude and longitude in America. If the co-ordinates are moved one degree north it leads people to a sculpture called Kryptos in the courtyard of the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

The sculpture, intended as a challenge to members of the CIA, contains a dense matrix of 1,800 or so letters, some in similar style to the German wartime Enigma code deciphered at the Bletchley Park spy centre in Buckinghamshire.

One section of the letters contain a cryptic message suggesting that the way sunlight plays on the statue may have some role in the solution of its other messages. Another passage is taken from the account of Howard Carter, the British archeologist, of the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb. The final section is still a mystery.

A magnifying glass is needed to read another clue on the jacket of The Da Vinci Code. Some of the lettering on the cover flap describing the plot is in bolder type than the rest. When read separately from the other words it says: “Is there no help for the widow’s son?”

The codebreakers have linked these words to a 1974 speech of the same name about Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons.

Smith was shot and fatally wounded by a mob who stormed his prison cell in Carthage, Illinois, in 1844. He started to say the words — a masonic call for help — before falling to his death from a first-floor window.

The Mormons believe Smith had a vision in which gold plates containing the mysteries of God were buried in a hillside. Some believe that these were similar to the treasures found by the masons building King Solomon’s temple at Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.

Others trying to unravel the plot of Brown’s next novel believe the answer is linked to the pyramid and all-seeing eye on every $1 bill.

Officially the unfinished pyramid is meant to show that America is still growing and the eye reflects the importance of God to all Americans. But conspiracy theorists say it shows that a secret order of masons helped create the United States and is now running the world.

David Shugarts is the author of a new book, Secrets of the Widow’s Son, which claims to be a prequel to the sequel of The Da Vinci Code. He said the point was not to spoil the plot of The Solomon Key, but to engage the reader ahead of time.

He believes that having explored Paris, London and Rome in previous Langdon novels, Brown has chosen Washington as the base for his new book. The Washington Monument, a 555ft obelisk at the heart of the US capital, is also likely to feature. “Dan Brown has triggered a lot of wonder in people’s heads,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City said: “We are aware the church may be included in the new book but we know nothing of buried treasure.”

Brown recently admitted he had placed the clues on the dust jacket of The Da Vinci Code. The author, who says he grew up surrounded “by the masonic lodges of our founding fathers”, confirmed his next novel is “set deep within the oldest fraternity in history, the enigmatic brotherhood of the masons”.


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