Great news for Dan Brown fans: Peacock is developing a series based on Dan Brown’s iconic Robert Langdon character. Expect renewed interest in both the Langdon novels and Dan Brown’s impressive catalog.
Yes, there’s a lot more to Dan Brown than his Robert Langdon series.
But when people think of Brown, they naturally think of his signature Vatican thrillers as well as those that deal with symbology, ancient religions and their artifacts.
Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code and The Last Symbol are among Dan Brown’s signature books.
But you’ve already read Dan Brown’s entire catalog, you say?
While you’re waiting for the new streaming series, check out these great authors and books that are reminiscent of Dan Brown’s best work.
The Order by Daniel Silva
Just when you thought the world didn’t need another Vatican thriller, Danial Silva proves otherwise.
It seems that legendary auteur Daniel Silva is only getting better as the decades roll past. How else can we explain that his Vatican thriller, The Order, succeeds wildly even on ground that he himself has trampled over before?
As Silva fans know, longtime Israeli spymaster Gabriel Allon has had a long relationship with the Pope, and his wife is Italian. And yet this trip to Italy is different. Gabriel has slipped quietly into Venice for a much-needed holiday with his wife and two young children. He spends mornings restoring Italian art, which is the only thing outside of his work that truly gives him satisfaction.
But when Pope Paul VII dies suddenly, Gabriel is summoned to Rome by the Holy Father’s loyal private secretary, Archbishop Luigi Donati.
A billion Catholic faithful have been told that the pope died of a heart attack.
Donati, however, has two good reasons to suspect his master was murdered.
The Swiss Guard who was standing watch outside the papal apartments the night of the pope’s death is missing.
So, too, is the letter the Holy Father was writing during the final hours of his life. A letter that was addressed to Gabriel.
To say more would be to spoil the fun, this is a page turner of, ahem, the highest order.
The Newton Code by Liam Fialkov
A must-read for fans of Dan Brown and Steve Berry.
While Sir Isaac Newton’s scientific legacy is well-established, novelist Liam Fialkov uses Newton’s lesser known obsessions with Christianity and metaphysics as the core of a spellbinding religious conspiracy thriller.
As The Newton Code opens, computers around the world are held captive. For 13 minutes, frustrated users are met with a cryptic message and an almost indecipherable image of the Ark of the Covenant. Then, without so much as a demand for ransom, the crisis is over.
Meanwhile, Michael, a 32-year-old investigative journalism professor and budding spy, is recruited for his second mission. His task is to patiently infiltrate a group of religious extremists who seemingly devote their time to decoding Biblical prophecies as well as Newton’s theories about the Temple of Solomon. He soon learns that the group intends to destroy the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, one of the world’s holiest Islamic shrines, in order to spark a holy war that will eventually bring the second coming of Christ. What’s more, the group is funded by a charismatic billionaire who is married to a woman that Michael finds almost irresistable.
Fialkov, whose novel The Broadcast was named one of 2019’s Best Thrillers of the Year, has created a worthy follow-up. Through alternating chapters told in the present and ~1000 B.C., Fialkov demonstrates the irony of how doomsday cults not only continue to thrive despite quantum leaps in science and technology, but also how technologies such as the Internet can become enablers.
Michael is believable as a bored professor relishing his new career as a part-time espionage agent with the potential to prevent a global catastrophe. When it comes to his love life, Michael is so new at the espionage game that he’s adorably indiscreet, revealing critical mission details to his unhappy wife, Melany. When he tells her that he intends to make it look like they are estranged, he never dreams how many temptations might arise for both of them while he is away.
While emotional vulnerability isn’t typical in an espionage hero, Michael turns out to be far more interesting than the stereotypical hard-nosed womanizer. Complete with a healthy dose of history and the occult, religious conspiracy thriller fans will find The Newton Code irresistible.
Demon Crown by James Rollins
Rollins’ typically audacious mix of science, technology and horror is as reliable as ever in this hugely entertaining thriller.
Off the coast of Brazil, a team of scientists discovers a horror like no other, an island where all life has been eradicated, consumed and possessed by a species beyond imagination. Before they can report their discovery, a mysterious agency attacks the group, killing them all, save one, an entomologist, an expert on venomous creatures, Professor Ken Matsui from Cornell University.
Strangest of all, this inexplicable threat traces back to a terrifying secret buried a century ago beneath the National Mall: a cache of bones preserved in amber. The artifact was hidden away by a cabal of scientists―led by Alexander Graham Bell―to protect humankind. But they dared not destroy it, for the object also holds an astonishing promise for the future: the very secret of life after death.
Yet, nothing stays buried forever. An ancient horror―dormant in the marrow of those preserved bones―is free once more, nursed and developed into a weapon of incalculable strength and malignancy, ready to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world.
To stop its spread, Commander Grayson Pierce of Sigma Force must survive a direct attack on the island of Maui. To be there first has always been the core mission of Sigma Force, a covert team forged to be America’s front line against emerging threats. But this time, even Sigma may not be able to decipher this deadly mystery, one that traces back to the founding of the Smithsonian Institution.
With each new discovery, the menace they hunt is changing, growing, spreading―adapting and surviving every attempt to stop it from reconquering a world it once ruled. And each transformation makes it stronger . . . and smarter.
Running out of time and options, Commander Grayson Pierce will be forced to make an impossible choice. To eradicate this extinction-level threat and expose those involved, he will have to join forces with Sigma’s greatest enemy–the newly resurrected Guild―even it if means sacrificing one of his own.
SPECTRE by Douglas Misquita
A compulsively readable supernatural thriller filled with papal intrigue.
In a narrative that spans the first, fourth,14th and 21st centuries, SPECTRE imagines a world where a small group of Resurrectionists – people with the power to raise the dead – engage in an epic battle of good versus evil throughout the centuries.
If you’re thinking that the paranormal has no place within the confines of an FBI thriller, recall that The X-Files, which focused almost exclusively on paranormal and alien life, is perhaps the most successful FBI-focused franchise in history. To establish a world where magic is real, Misquita opens SPECTRE with a familiar scene: Jesus raising Lazarus from the tomb in 33 CE/AD Jerusalem. After establishing a set of characters consumed by the power of resurrection, he continues to mine history for delicious nuggets three centuries later, as the superstitious Constantine invades Rome, bringing Christianity with him.
Fast-forward to 2017, and we’re introduced to Jovanni Rossi, a gifted student who discovers a hand-drawn mountain trail that leads to an ancient abbey. What he finds there has the potential to change life as we know it, and will eventually gain him an audience with the Pope.
By the time rogue former FBI agent Kirk Ingram finally makes his entrance into the narrative, some readers may have forgotten that the series is actually centered around him. That changes quickly, as Ingram is soon the subject of global headlines when he’s handed over to Italian authorities after causing a ruckus aboard a commercial airliner. From that point on, he’s quickly blended into the primary story with great skill.
The sprawling SPECTRE is easily Misquita’s most ambitious novel, and packs enough characters and timelines for two or more novels. While there are a few plot points and interesting artifacts that could use more explanation (e.g. the “Sword of Christ”), Misquita manages to create a thoroughly absorbing story that will surely expand his audience. Whereas the first two Kirk Ingram novels were political thrillers that were strongly rooted in contemporary geopolitical issues, SPECTRE’s fantasy-based storyline with strong historical fiction elements is tailor-made for fans of Lincoln Child and Dan Brown. As such, it’s also a perfect entry point for those new to Misquita’s work.
Cologne Disease by J.K. Lang
A timely and atmospheric historical thriller.
Set in Cologne, Germany, J.K. Lang’s novel begins as the city is celebrating its annual Carnival festival – a perfect breeding ground for plague. Meanwhile at the University of Cologne, dean Magnus Berger is confronted and attacked by a mysterious church official who wants information concerning Magnus’ son, Gereon. Magnus knows that he must not cave, even if keeping the long-hidden secret will cost him his own life.
During another of the book’s timelines, which takes place in the 1520s, brothers Martin and Peter arrive at what was then a village to become students. Unfortunately, their arrival coincides with the burgeoning Lutheran movement, and after Peter speaks of reformation during mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral, he is soon convicted of blasphemy. Soon the brothers are at the center of a terrifying new plague called the English Sweat Fever.
Blending elements of medical suspense and historical fiction, Lang has constructed a sprawling thriller that is thematically reminiscent of Steve Berry’s best work. The power of the church, the neverending battle against plague and the endurance of family loyalty are prevalent themes throughout. In terms of structure, Lang has written an ambitious novel that takes place across multiple points in history, including World War II. While that limits the amount of time readers are able to spend with any particular character, he wisely develops Claire, an American historian and symbologist who eventually becomes the novel’s lifeblood. In particular, a confrontation between Claire and Gereon over a pivotal historical document is a highlight.
Is it frustrating that the book’s primary heroine does not appear until chapter eight? Absolutely. But in doing so, Lang firmly establishes that Cologne itself – with all its mysteries, flaws and power struggles – is the book’s primary focal point. And when it comes to the city and its wonders, Lang’s story-based tour has few equals. In particular the descriptions of the cathedral’s architecture throughout the ages – which become extremely important as the fascinating narrative unfolds – are absolutely tactile and stunning. At times, the book’s plot reveals are jaw-dropping. What is most impressive is how well Lang eventually ties the various storylines, places and people together into a satisfying conclusion.
Mind Virus by Charles Kowalski
A deftly-crafted global thrill ride about a conspiracy to eradicate the world’s belief systems.
Robin Fox may have left his military career behind for a life in academia, but that all changes when a biological attack hits Washington, D.C. While the FBI and CIA suspect Islamic terrorists, Fox sees what they don’t. The result? A global chase that even Robert Langdon would envy.
Decorated author Charles Kowalski is a pro at thrusting Fox from place to place. In less capable hands, hurtling from one ancient site to another might make for archeological whiplash. This roller coaster, however, is a joy to ride. Throughout the novel, Fox’s pacifist ethos is in constant conflict with the task at hand, and Kowalski uses that internal struggle to flesh out his protagonist. The result is a character that you’ll root for.
As themes go, it’s a meaty book for sure. However, Kowalski artfully combines the typically taboo topics of politics and religion in this page-turner without ever getting bogged down. And while Fox’s repressed feelings for an unattainable woman are part of his character development, the romance never gets in the way of the plot.
Overall, Mind Virus blurs the lines between reality and fiction, but maintains the escapist quality – including a memorable antagonist – that most readers look for. While there’s no official announcement that this is the beginning of a multi-book franchise, let’s hope that Fox will be back for another outing.
The Survivor by John Zodrow
The discovery of an ancient document reveals a shocking secret that has been concealed for centuries.
The Survivor begins in Rome with a murder investigation. The body of a deceased priest, Father Bobby, has just arrived from India. The victim’s brother, American police lieutenant Burt Powell, insists on seeing the body.
Despite significant decomposition, Burt deduces that his brother did not hang himself, as had been believed.
He was instead shot with a 9mm bullet.
What’s more, a message has been carved on his hand: “forgive me.”
Like nearly every good Vatican thriller, much rests on a document that threatens not only Catholicism, but belief in Christianity itself.
The Survivor distinguishes itself on the strength of the murder mystery at its core.
The plot evolves into a believable conspiracy that spans powerful interests across Turkey, India, China and elsewhere.
Along the way, the book is brimming with fascinating characters, including Delicata Fabrizio, an intrepid master of disguise.