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Codebreaker digs up more 'Da Vinci' theories

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ATLANTA _Dan Brown's sequel to his super-seller "The Da Vinci Code" will not be out for perhaps a year. Or two. But that's merely a pesky detail, brushed aside by the first book to take readers inside what may be the coming book's pseudo-historical theories. Or not.

This is how over-caffeinated pop culture has become: a book that cracks the code of Brown's next novel, before anyone really knows the code. "Surely in the history of literature _ and I say literature with a small "l" _ this has happened before," says David A. Shugarts, author of "Secrets of the Widow's Son: The Mysteries Surrounding the Sequel to 'The Da Vinci Code' " (Sterling, $17.95). But he can't think of any other example.

"Da Vinci" has been on best-seller lists since it was published in 2003, and is currently No. 2 after 130 straight weeks in the Top 10, with 36 million copies in print. (The movie version, starring Tom Hanks, will only increase interest when it's released next May.) The novel's popularity inspired a slew of books debunking, decoding and analyzing Brown's controversial notions.

This new "Secrets" is a quick tour of every conspiracy theory or alternative history that's ever been floated by a serious scholar or a guy muttering to himself on a street corner. Popping up like like plastic animals in one of those Whack-a-Mole games are the Illuminati, the Mormon Church, the Founding Fathers, the Boy Scouts, the Kaballah, Skull and Bones, the Tarot, Stonehenge and the CIA. Of course, there are no guarantees that any of those will be in Brown's next book.

Shugarts, a contributor to a previous book, "Secrets of the Code," figured out the next one would be about the Freemasons, via a code hidden on the dust jacket of "Da Vinci." Bold-faced letters spell out "Is there no help for the widow's son?"refering to an alleged part of a Masonic ritual. Brown later announced his next novel would be titled "The Solomon Key" and would be about the Masons. With his detailed knowledge of Brown's taste for ancient conspiracies, Shugart plunged ahead and found that some of the theories Brown may be touching on also surfaced in last year's movie thriller "National Treasure," about a code written on the Declaration of Independence.

He says Brown made a lot of factual errors in "The Da Vinci Code" but tapped some fundamental nerve in people with his theories of the sacred feminine.

"Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while," Shugarts says.

Phil Kloer writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mai:

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