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The Rule of Four
Synopses & Reviews
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.
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.
"Caldwell and Thomason's intriguing intellectual suspense novel stars four brainy roommates at Princeton, two of whom have links to a mysterious 15th-century manuscript, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. This rare text (a real book) contains embedded codes revealing the location of a buried Roman treasure. Comparisons to The Da Vinci Code are inevitable, but Caldwell and Thomason's book is the more cerebral — and better written — of the two: think Dan Brown by way of Donna Tartt and Umberto Eco. The four seniors are Tom Sullivan, Paul Harris, Charlie Freeman and Gil Rankin. Tom, the narrator, is the son of a Renaissance scholar who spent his life studying the ancient book, 'an encyclopedia masquerading as a novel, a dissertation on everything from architecture to zoology.' The manuscript is also an endless source of fascination for Paul, who sees it as 'a siren, a fetching song on a distant shore, all claws and clutches in person. You court her at your risk.' This debut novel's range of topics almost rivals the Hypnerotomachia's itself, including etymology, Renaissance art and architecture, Princeton eating clubs, friendship, steganography (riddles) and self-interpreting manuscripts. It's a complicated, intricate and sometimes difficult read, but that's the point and the pleasure. There are murders, romances, dangers and detection, and by the end the heroes are in a race not only to solve the puzzle, but also to stay alive. Readers might be tempted to buy their own copy of the Hypnerotomachia and have a go at the puzzle. After all, Caldwell and Thomason have done most of the heavy deciphering — all that's left is to solve the final riddle, head for Rome and start digging. Agent, Nicholas Ellison. (May 4) Forecast:You don't have to be an expert at decoding to see that an excellent cover, high production values throughout, a gripping story, a strong publisher push and reader interest still stirred up by The Da Vinci Code will add up to big numbers for this one." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Riveting, poignant, and intensely intimate, The Rule of Four is a thinking person's thriller of the highest order." BookPage
"An impressive debut, a coming-of-age novel in the guise of a thriller." Booklist
"Profoundly erudite — and far less windy than The Da Vinci Code — this is the ultimate puzzle-book for anyone who dares to solve a geometric problem like 'How many arms from your feet to the horizon?' by consulting Curious George." Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
"Caldwell and Thomason have created a stunning first novel; a perfect blend of suspense and a sensitive coming-of-age story. If Scott Fitzgerald, Umberto Eco, and Dan Brown teamed up to write a novel, the result would be The Rule of Four. An extraordinary and brilliant accomplishment; a must read." Nelson DeMille, author of Up Country and The General's Daughter
"As much a blazingly good yarn as it is an exceptional piece of scholarship...a smart, swift, multitextured tale that both entertains and informs." San Francisco Chronicle
"The Secret History" meets "The Name of the Rose" in this riveting audiobook about a brilliant Princeton undergraduate who breaks the code hidden in a famous Renaissance text, uncovering a secret buried for centuries. Abridged. 5 CDs.
About the Author
Ian Caldwell was Phi Beta Kappa in history at Princeton University. He lives in Newport News, Virginia. Dustin Thomason won the Hoopes Prize at Harvard University. He lives in New York City. They began writing The Rule of Four after graduating in 1998. The two have been best friends since they were eight years old.
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