Dan Brown has a formula, no doubt about that; one might call it a cross between Hardy Boys and Umberto Eco, sparking up puzzle-solving and historical (albeit sometimes faux) arcana with a Jack Bauer-style cliffhanger every 50 pages or so. The amazing thing is that even with so obvious a formula, Brown is still able to pull off so many nifty surprises. His new book, The Lost Symbol, succeeds in large measure because of this; his prose is, as usual, no better than serviceable, but it does serve, and only rarely descends to a level of clunkiness that impedes his narrative drive.
The book, as is Brown’s custom, has a theological point — in this case, about the religious wisdom embodied in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (and other scriptures) and the divine image that Genesis 1:27 says is within man. I disagree with some of Brown’s emphases in this area, but I hope his plot gets readers interested enough in the question to read some of the other interesting discussions of it. I recommend especially the works of Joseph Campbell; The Perennial Philosophy, by Aldous Huxley, republished in paperback just a couple of months ago; and C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, in which the 20th century’s great Christian apologist examines the Tao, or moral way, at the heart of all human wisdom. (While we’re at it, the paperback one-volume edition of The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics is one of the best book investments you can make; for under $20, you get not just The Abolition of Man but five other highly important works by Lewis, including Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, in a surprisingly light and portable format.)