Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Assassini

It's not often I offer up a book review for you to read but I thought I would on this occasion.

For the last six months it has seemed like everywhere you look, someone is reading The Da Vinci Code or another of Dan Brown's books. Me included. I've read all four of them and enjoyed them all, more or less. They've come under a lot of criticism, though, for being formulaic and clumsy, among other things, and it is true to say that you don't have to engage your brain to be able to read them. Brown's writing style is distinctly unchallenging and that means that the book can leave you somewhat dissatisfied.

However, if the general premise behind Angels And Demons and TDVC (a thriller about conspiracy within the catholic church) interests you then you could do a lot worse than to pick up a copy of The Assassini by Thomas Gifford, a story about the chase to uncover a conspiracy of murder that leads to the top of the church.

Billed as a thriller 'as shocking as The Da Vinci Code', I picked it up thinking it would be more of the same sort of stuff but I was wrong. For a start, it's older than Brown's books - first published in 1989 - and is now obviously enjoying a second moment in the limelight. More importantly, though, it's just a better book. By miles. The tale is more realistic, the characters deeper and troubled and the descriptive passages delightful. It's a book you have to think about as you read as the plot twists all over the place.

The difference between Gifford and Brown is most obvious in their writing styles. Gifford's prose flows along at an even pace, taking its time to build up a picture of what's going on in your mind. Brown races through the story from start to finish without really taking a breath. He also has an annoying tendency to plant great big signposts in the text telling you that something unexpected is about to happen, which Gifford mercifully does without (even though, since a large portion of the book is written in the first person, he could get away with it more).

If you took The Assassini and The Da Vinci Code and compared their different qualities, Gifford well outscores Brown on all but one; mass market appeal, and that's why I decided to write this post - to try and even it up a little.

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