Das letzte Geheimnis : Roman

by Ian Caldwell

Other authorsDustin Thomason (Author), Rainer Schmidt (Translator)
Paperback, 2006



Call number

HU 9800 C147 G3



Bergisch Gladbach: Bastei Lübbe


Fiction. Literature. Mystery. Thriller. HTML:A mysterious coded manuscript, a violent Ivy League murder, and the secrets of a Renaissance prince collide in a labyrinth of betrayal, madness, and genius. THE RULE OF FOUR Princeton. Good Friday, 1999. On the eve of graduation, two students are a hairsbreadth from solving the mysteries of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Famous for its hypnotic power over those who study it, the five-hundred-year-old Hypnerotomachia may finally reveal its secrets -- to Tom Sullivan, whose father was obsessed with the book, and Paul Harris, whose future depends on it. As the deadline looms, research has stalled -- until an ancient diary surfaces. What Tom and Paul discover inside shocks even them: proof that the location of a hidden crypt has been ciphered within the pages of the obscure Renaissance text. Armed with this final clue, the two friends delve into the bizarre world of the Hypnerotomachia -- a world of forgotten erudition, strange sexual appetites, and terrible violence. But just as they begin to realize the magnitude of their discovery, Princeton's snowy campus is rocked: a longtime student of the book is murdered, shot dead in the hushed halls of the history department. A tale of timeless intrigue, dazzling scholarship, and great imaginative power, The Rule of Four is the story of a young man divided between the future's promise and the past's allure, guided only by friendship and love..… (more)

Media reviews

As a thriller, The Rule of Four is not especially fast-paced, but the personalities and relationships are well-handled, as is the narrator's conflict between his desire for a normal relationship with his girlfriend and the sense that he is being dragged into dangerous obsession. This is good
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entertainment, a Da Vinci Code for people with brains.
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1 more
This promises well for the future of the authors, either together or separately. Next time, their ambition may vault lower and their presentation smoother, but meanwhile The Rule of Four is a great read on its own youthfully brash terms. The title, by the way, refers not (or not only) to the
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roommates or to their college years but again to the encryption in the Hypnerotomachia. It is never fully explained.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member Bookmarque
I am profoundly glad that I didn’t get this in hardcover. And that I bought it for $4 at Sam’s Club.

Holy shit what a weird mash of things going on here. For one, the authors truly wished to showcase their knowledge of Princeton and it’s inner workings. They needed to go out of their way to
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show us they were on the inside of some pretty intimate workings of the school and its traditions. Yawn.

And then there was the whole character of Paul and Tom. I highly doubt that Tom if given a choice between spending time with a girl, and spending time with a guy and a musty old book, would actually choose the latter. College boys are not this dedicated to scholarship. Especially on some dry tome that basically drove Tom’s father to obsession and death before even coming close to the meaning of it all. And Paul is worse; he doesn’t even have a token girlfriend to distract him from his thesis. A thesis as an undergrad? How weird. But he too is a driven scholar who has no social life and thinks he can crack the mystery that smarter men have failed to crack.

Which brings me to the 3rd thing; why are these boys so light years ahead of their predecessors? It makes no sense that people with decades of learning into subjects not even broached by Paul and Tom should fail to unlock the secret of the book. Two kids with barely enough hormones between them to have a wet dream are the ones to unlock the visceral secrets of this ancient text…yeah right.

The idea of a mystery within an otherwise strange but innocuous text is a good one. But using college kids as a way to solve it when many others have gone before is a stretch. And the ending being a map and directions to a centuries old cache of hidden art treasures that would have otherwise been burned by fanatics is a really odd mystery. Compounded by the fact that they cryptically show one boy signaling to the other via equally cryptic messages that he has found said cache and go join him yonder, well that’s just out of the tethers of reality. That and the fact that none of it seems to have decayed despite the lack of hermetic sealing technology.

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LibraryThing member MSWallack
I decided to read The Rule of Four on the basis of numerous glowing reviews and favorable comparisons to The Da Vinci Code. If you are looking for a literary story of a college student searching for meaning in his life, then this may be the book that you are looking for. If, on the other hand, you
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enjoyed the puzzles and "historical secrets" of The Da Vinci Code, then you need to look elsewhere to get what you are looking for. I really disliked The Rule of Four for two reasons: First, it was written in a manner that screamed out to me, "Hey look at us, we know how to write in a literary style! Maybe we'll get great reviews!". Second, the promised puzzles and historical interest were barely puzzles at all (certainly not puzzles that the reader had a hope of trying to solve with the protagonists) and the historical interest was, actually, of very minor import. I finished this book only because I very rarely put a book down and because I kept hoping that it would get better. It didn't. Read something else. (By the way, if a "literary version" of IThe Da Vinci Code/i is really what you want, try wading through Umberto Eco's Foucoult's Pendulum; just don't say that I didn't warn you...)
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LibraryThing member alibrarian
I started reading it because it was laying around the house and I was put off by the hype long enough. I've gone through several phases of response as I read it. At first I was surprised that it seemed not that bad, actually readable. After 50 pages, I wondered what ever happened to book editors.
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These boys need to tighten up their prose. If one more simile arose before me like an unexpected obstacle on a familiar road, I'd throw the book at the wall. Everything does not have to like something else. Sometimes snow is just snow. At 100 pages someone finally gets killed. Hope arises. But no, it just continues on and on with its graduation angst at Princeton. At 200 pages it just settles into becoming boring. Even the secret of the book hardly seems worth the trouble. I finished it because I didn't have anything else to do while commuting.
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LibraryThing member JenneB
Another one of those Da Vinci Code knockoffs. It's actually not as bad as DVC, but still not very good.
LibraryThing member Tipton_Renwick
I was not only disapointed by this book, but it actually made me angry. I thought that it was smug, pretentious and boring. The only people who should read it are other Princeton students who will get a kick out of all of the inside references. Nobody else should waste their time.
LibraryThing member astults
This book was described to me as the “smart person’s version of The Da Vinci Code.” Since I’ve only read The Rule of Four, I can’t compare the two books for you and let you know if the description is true or not. What I can tell you is that this book kept my attention almost nonstop.

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is the first book co-written by long-time friends Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. It’s been sitting on my TBR pile for many years. The main character, Tom Sullivan, grew up in Columbus, Ohio. I tried to research how the Columbus connection came into the book but could not link Caldwell or Thomason to Columbus at all. However it happened I have to give them credit for getting the details right. In one instance, they describe an Edward Hopper painting included in a Columbus Museum of Art calendar. There is no possibility it could be mistaken for any painting other than Morning Sun.

Tom Sullivan is a senior at Princeton University living on campus with his three roommates. They are Paul Harris, Charlie Freeman and Gil Rankin. Tom’s father devoted his life to trying to decipher the secret behind the book Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Paul has made the book the topic of his senior thesis. Tom assists Paul but keeps backing away from the commitment; he’s seen firsthand what the obsession did to his father and what the senior thesis is now doing to Paul. Tom doesn’t want it ruining his life too. Charlie is a premed major and the moral compass of the roommates. Gil is the roommate with all the “right” connections who wants to do his own thing but places a high value on his friendships. The title of the book refers to the four roommates and a system of measurement.

Some people will find the book dreary and others will find it exciting. Looking at the Amazon reviews people either love this book or hate it. The story begins on Easter weekend. In the first ten chapters only one or two hours of the weekend have passed but the roommates have all been introduced, been chased through some underground tunnels, and lost their pursuers in the Nude Olympics crowd. Murder, academic intrigues, cracked codes and more follow in the remaining chapters. There was one bit in the timeline about three-fourths of the way in the book where I got lost and that is when my attention wavered a bit. However, soon things got back on track. The ending wasn’t a surprise but it was satisfying.

Somewhere on the internet I read Caldwell and Thomason were working on a second novel together. It hasn’t been released so it can be assumed it wasn’t finished or wasn’t picked up by a publisher. It’s too bad; after finally reading their debut novel I was looking forward to their sophomore effort.
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LibraryThing member juniper
Eh. This is possibly a touch above Da Vinci Code, but sure as hell no Umberto Eco. I found the premise, about the mysterious 15-century manuscript Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, interesting, but the story fell flat of sparking any intellectual excitement or sense of discovery - I didn't feel like I was
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learning much, nor being entertained. For me the biggest flaw was that the characters never came alive as real people with real emotions and motivations. Particularly the so-called love story subplot is ridiculously shallow and unbelievable; narrator Tom seems absurdly afraid that he and Katie will actually get to know each other rather than stick to small talk and facades. I guess she's supposed to represent human connection and love vs. intellectual obsession, but the relationship is so superficial as to negate any sense of poignancy the reader is supposed to feel. There were also many references to Princeton that seemed extraneous to the plot, more like self-indulgent reminiscences of interest only to Princeton alumni, like "heh, remember that crazy time we snuck into so-and-so and blah blah...". But mainly, because I didn't believe in or care about any of the characters this book was a mildly entertaining couple hours' read and nothing more.
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LibraryThing member Morgan_Mott
The Rule of Four was a good read once I got into it, but it started out kind of slowly. The mystery is great and builds up well, but there isn't a cliffhanger at the end of every page so it was occasionally easy to put down.
LibraryThing member bookmindful
Good, entertaining narrative of a puzzle. It was a little less exciting and suspenseful than it could have been, maybe because it's not presented as a puzzle the reader can figure out. I never got the whole steam tunnels thing.
LibraryThing member amandaking
This book was okay. Most definitly capitilizing on the dan brown adventurous historian who uncovers a secret phenomenon. I was initially attracted to it because it is set in princeton, which isn't far from where I live. It was an unimpressive read, but a good summer 'fluff' read. I hate to say
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fluff, because that is usually connotated with smutty romances, but this is a book that I don't think you really have to think too much about while reading.
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LibraryThing member swiftlet
I guess it's not fair to say that this book follows the fomula of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown since according to the authors, the idea for the book was conceived 6 years ago. But the similarities are uncanny - a race against time to break codes and solve mysteries found in ancient texts, in this
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case, it's the Hypernotomachia Poliphili. Murder, suspence, the adrenaline rush. All within 24 hours (although in The Rule of Four, there is an epiloge of sorts at the end that stretches a few years beyond that time-frame).

In terms of the storyline, The Rule of Four was bogged down by too many subplots, relationships between the 4 protagonists and their friends/family, etc. After a while, it's difficult to keep track of the minor characters and the argument behind the Hypernotomachia Poliphili. Figuring out the codes and riddles, solving mysterious, finding the murderer, these are potentially interesting, but on the whole, the Hypernotomachia Poliphili is too obscure a manuscript to really make you want to research more into its origins, or to really care about the arguments put forth as to who wrote it and why it was written.

This is why The Da Vinci Code is so hugely popular - da Vinci, the painter himself, is a familar figure and the conspirarcy theories suggested are intriguing, making you question your own beliefs about truth and facts. I mean I actually searched for a picture of The Last Supper to see if the figure on Jesus' right was really a woman.

Conclusion, The Rule of Four is fairly readable and enjoyable, but not nearly as exciting and a page-turner as The Da Vinci Code. If you like riddles, ancient manuscripts, murder mysteries, you'll probably like this book.
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LibraryThing member ExVivre
Where Do I Sign Up for a Refund?
This book is the work of amateurs. Plot elements are laid bare with only superficial attempts at building suspense. The central quartet of characters are shallow and unendearing. This reads more like a freshman guide to Princeton than a mystery novel. The 'mystery'
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of the book is dull and predictable, and the 'climax' was reminiscent of bad sexual experiences - unfulfilling and making me happy it was over. Instead of buying this book, light a $20 bill on fire. It will save you from wasting time on this pathetic story and you can warm your hands with it.
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LibraryThing member aadyer
Difficult to access, weak characterisations, poor attempt at "Donna Tartt" mimicry. Inaccessible, and convuluted, not great, avoid
LibraryThing member WhitmelB
This was one dense book! I know it was billed as, among other things, "a coming of age" story but such angst over such apparently trivial details. And yet the singular search for the solution to the Hypnerotomachia seemed to end in self-inflicted dead ends. Perhaps the plot was set up to reflect
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the mystery of that book. In any case I was forced to give up about 3/4's of the way through out of sheer boredom.
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LibraryThing member AltheaAnn
I picked this up because it was recommended for people who liked "The Name of the Rose." I wouldn't necessarily second that; I felt it was not very similar at all. However, it was a quite enjoyable literary mystery.
It has to do with four college seniors, roommates who are all studious,
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academic-career-oriented types. The narrator, Tom, had a father who devoted his life to the study of one book - the 15th-century manuscript called the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (an actual text, although I can't say how accurate the novel's depiction of it is). When Tom's father died, his work metaphorically passed on to Tom and his best friend, the overachieving orphan Paul. Paul's work on the book may very well be brilliant, genius-level stuff - but Tom fights to balance the obsession with the book with trying to maintain a normal relationship with his girlfriend - with great difficulty. It becomes especially hard to distance himself from the work when Paul makes some truly amazing discoveries of secret messages in the text, hinting at greater revelations to come - and when it seems there is a plot afoot to steal Paul's work, involving trusted members of the academic community. Gradually, the antique book and its secrets bring not just the two literary students, but their friends, into increasing danger.
The novel is notable for its extremely believable and realistic portrayal of campus life at Princeton (one of the authors is a graduate of that school), and for a very nice job of meshing the unraveling of both the literary mystery and the actual 'action' of the plot. It's a long book, but a very quick read.
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LibraryThing member mrtall
This self-conscious follow-up to the Da Vinci Code starts off well enough, but soon founders on the shoals of poor plotting, overwritten background and descriptions, and a pathetically lame ending.

The story is set at Princeton University, and as it's written (very obviously) by a Princeton grad,
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the setting is initially quite charming. As events wear on, however, numerous long, labored sequences recounting student high jinks and boring university traditions pad out the narrative, and eventually become excruciating. For example, as the plot should be climaxing, we are treated to an endless account of a sort of senior prom at one of Princeton's eating clubs. The only thing missing is the scene in which the smart kids argue with the cool kids about whether the theme this year should be 'Back in Casablanca' or 'Magic Under the Sea'.

The plot ostensibly revolves around a Renaissance manuscript that holds lots of deep secrets that are disguised in codes and riddles. That's fine, but it's remarkable how little of this long (521 pages in paperback) book actually involves this conceit. One thing I noticed: one of the tricks the author of the mysterious book employed (don't worry; I'm not giving much of anything away) was to hide his 'real' text within a much longer, and essentially irrelevant, text that served as a cover. I wondered: did the authors of this book do just the same thing? That is, it seems like the original structure of this book is a sophomoric bildungsroman, and that later on the elements of a hastily-assembled thriller were worked in, perhaps to catch the wave of interest in this sub-genre. If so, it worked, because I guess this one's been a best-seller. But I'd recommend staying far away from it.
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LibraryThing member JBD1
A good first attempt, and an excellent introduction to the mysterious Hypnerotomachia Poliphili text.
LibraryThing member HeatherCHoffman
Readers who enjoy puzzles, history, and mystery will enjoy this one. It is often compared to The Da Vinci Code, but the writing style and lack of predictability make it far more interesting. The story moves quickly and you probably won't be able to put it down (and if you are able to drop it,
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you'll spend your time thinking about what's going to happen next).
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LibraryThing member DaptoLibrary
This was a tricky one for the end of the year. Some of us were not up to the task of unraveling the puzzle of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili! It may well have been the time of year, or, as someone suggested, the self-indulgence of the two authors. Either way, it was a struggle for most of our group
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to get through this scholarly mystery.
Ann, who did enjoy the challenge, felt you needed a love of history and accumulating knowledge to get the most from this book, and she loved the ‘mystery within the mystery’ that ran throughout. Viti also found some value within its pages and the historical tidbits that were scattered through the story.
But the overall opinion was that Rule of Four did not quite make the grade for a good novel. To much work required, tedious and characters that did not connect were among the majority of views. Would it have been different if we read this book at the beginning of the year? Probably not. Our book club has a well developed sense of what they like, and are not easily convinced otherwise.

So it is on to a new year of reading, which gets everyone excited about what we will discover. Keep an eye on this blog for our latest reviews of 2013.
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LibraryThing member Dorritt
This tale of four Princeton students trying to discover a coded message in an ancient Renaissance text could have been worthwhile. Alas, besides a few interesting insights into Renaissance history, this book disappoints on almost every imaginable level.

Not that Da Vinci code sets the bar very high,
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but the plot of Rule of Four lurches from boring to preposterous, with the authors occassionally achieving both of these states simultaneously, which I suppose is a literary feat of sorts. Long, tedious chapters about undergrad life at Princeton, a half dozen pointless subplots, and awkward/unconvincing character development alternate with brief moments of action that feel contrived and silly. There's simply no logical reason for the boys to expend all that time and energy evading police inquiries that can't possibly implicate them; no explanation for why the boys suddenly figure out how to unlock codes whose solutions have eluded them for years; and no excuse for the preposterous motive attributed to the baddie of the piece.

Above all, if you're going to market yourself as a Da Vinci code rival, you need a boffo reveal at the end ... something like, say, Jesus was married! The secret revealed at the end of this tale is neither original nor particularly interesting. Even worse (from a plotting standpoint), it's buried after a long passage of endnote-type text, way after whatever shreds of suspense the authors managed to generate have unravelled and you're just wishing the thing would dribble to an end.

Rarely have I ever read a book that was in more desperate need of workshopping! I have to believe a group of professional writers, given the chance, would have warned the authors that (1) giving characters elaborate backstories doesn't necessarily make them interesting or likeable, (2) manufacturing/sustaining suspense requires pacing and a credible threat, (3) if you're going to write a book about codes and puzzles, your readers are going to expect you to sustain a certain standard of logic, and (4) leave present tense to the professionals!
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LibraryThing member lithium.phosphorus
This book is about four men in their senior year at Princeton University. One of them, named Paul Harris, is studying the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, and Renaissance novel about...well about nothing in particular. It's quite interesting and you can learn very much about the Renaissance.
LibraryThing member majkia
A college student, whose father was an obsessed researcher, meets a would-be disciple of his father’s. Their frendship grows and both young men are drawn into the same obsession, trying to figure out an ancient book written in code.

This book reminded me a lot of A.S. Byatt’s Possession. The
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same sense of nearly mad obsession, the same sense of needing to solve the puzzles and devote all of one’s time and energies to the mystery.

I personally loved it, but can see why others might not. I’m all for puzzles, bibliomysteries and obsessions!
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LibraryThing member skraft001
Really poorly written. Decided to get off the train wreck half way through -- other reviews indicate that was a good move. Could not engage with the characters, they all were very bland in their development. The premise was good, but not developed the way it could have been. Very obvious this is a
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first novel attempt.
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LibraryThing member mountie9
While fascinating and I learned so much, I was a bit irritated at the layout of the story. It jumps around a lot in a jarring sort of way. Interesting characters and intriguing back story saves it though. Really more a tale of father and son and growing up than a Dan Brown style novel which is what
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it came across as in the synopsis.
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LibraryThing member padmajoy
I found this book boring and repetitious. Capitalizing on the Da Vinci Code. The mystery did not interest me. The characters were predictable.


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