Dan Brown’s runaway bestseller The Da Vinci Code brought modern mystery and suspense to ancient art and religious texts. It took the book world by storm, and was even adapted into a blockbuster film. Naturally, such a popular work of adventure fiction has left readers wanting more. Are you a fan of conspiracy fiction? Do you love an academic sleuth or a museum heist? Do mysteries that lead to centuries-old secret societies and hidden treasures keep you on the edge of your seat? If so, this list is for you.
One aspect of The Da Vinci Code that readers can't get enough of is the mystery plot set around real history, art, and museums. You'll also find lots of historical landmarks, museum heists, and academic protagonists in Ben Mezrich's The Midnight Ride. Hailey, an MIT grad student, is paying her tuition through some questionable gambling tactics. When she's caught counting cards, she hides in a hotel room only to find a dead body—that of a professor who might have just uncovered a clue to a deeply hidden Revolutionary War secret.
Fans of The Da Vinci Code can tell you that academics make the best sleuths, and universities are great settings for mysteries. In Lightseekers by Femi Kaydode, Nigerian psychologist Dr. Philip Taiwo is more accustomed to exploring motives behind crimes than actually finding out whodunit. But when a Nigerian politician asks him to investigate the murders of three students at a remote university, he can't say no. His mission becomes even more complicated when he finds out someone is actively trying to sabotage his investigation.
There's something completely thrilling about watching someone pull off a (fictional) museum heist. In The Last Island by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, scientist-turned-thief Gideon Crew is tasked with stealing a page from the ancient Latin Book of Kells. When he manages to pull off that stunt, he discovers something even more enticing: a hidden map to a centuries old treasure that might just change the world.
Secret warring factions of an ancient religion? Count me in! Steve Berry's The Omega Factor stars Nicholas Lee, an investigator for UNESCO tasked with protecting cultural artifacts. He's well aware of the Ghent Altarpiece, the world's most frequently violated work of art. But while on a trip to Belgium, the last thing he expects to find is panel of the Altarpiece missing since the 1930s. The panel leads Nicholas into a centuries long conflict between the Vatican and a secret order of nuns.
Love mystery/thrillers about authors behaving badly? David Morrell's Murder as a Fine Art stars Thomas de Quincey, an infamous author in Victorian England known for his addiction to opium. One of his controversial essays called a series of murders that took place decades earlier a "fine art." So when an identical set of murders occur, he's obviously the prime suspect. But Thomas can't escape the opium haze long enough to clear his name. It'll take his daughter and a couple of sympathetic detectives to save him.
There's something extra thrilling about suspense books set across the globe. Kathleen Kent's Black Wolf finds mystery and danger in the Soviet Union in the 1990s. CIA agent Melvina Donleavy has a special gift for remembering faces, which comes in handy when she's sent undercover to stop Russia from funneling nuclear weapons to the Middle East. But when she starts investigating a pattern of disappearing women, she catches the interest of the KGB.
Do you love an ancient history mystery? So does Harvard theology professor and occasional sleuth Cal Donovan. In The Lost Pope, the sixth book in the Cal Donovan series by Glenn Cooper, Donovan is called in by a former student, now a museum curator in Cairo, to research a piece of papyrus holding three undiscovered lines from the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. If it's legitimate, it could massively change tenets of Christian faith, and there's at least one person willing to commit murder to ensure that doesn't happen.
Three frenemy codebreakers teaming up to solve one last mystery? The Rose Code by Kate Quinn has that and more! Early in WWII, three very different British women came together at an elite, secret estate to crack Germany's military codes. One is a beautiful debutante who came from money, another is a clever social climber who grew up impoverished in the East End, and the third is a shy spinster with a knack for solving puzzles. But by the end of the war, the three friends are at odds. A strange encrypted letter forces them back together, and it might be entangled in the secret that tore them apart.
If you love thrillers that blend actual history with fast-paced fiction, Matthew Pearl's The Dante Club series is for you. The first novel is set in 1865 Boston, where the first American translation of Dante's Inferno is dividing scholars. Some are trying to block the publication, concerned about foreign superstitious religious texts changing the country's values. Others are fighting for Dante's literary work to get the recognition it deserves. But when the latter group notices a series of local murders are inspired by Dante's circles of hell, they become determined to find the killer responsible.
This is a must-read for anyone who can't get enough museum heist novels. Grace D. Li's Portrait of a Thief stars Will Chen, an art history major at Harvard. A strange Chinese benefactor offers Will $50 million to pull off a mission to return priceless sculptures once stolen from Beijing, now on display in a museum. It's an impossible task, so Will assembles a brilliant team of students, including a thief, a hacker, and a getaway driver. But the potential reward also comes with enormous risk.
You can count on former special forces officer Brad Taylor for political suspense that feels terrifyingly possible. In The Devil's Ransom, government operatives Pike and Jennifer are sent to Afghanistan to extract an informant to the U.S. during political turmoil. But in the midst of their search, they realize their task force has been hit with a dangerous ransomware attack—one that might soon affect the whole U.S. government.
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