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'The Lost Symbol' Summary of the book
The novel begins when Robert Langdon is summoned to a Smithsonian fundraiser in Washington DC by his mentor, Peter Solomon, who he is told will be speaking at the event. Robert is told by Peter to bring a small sealed box that he entrusted to Robert years before. Robert arrives at the fundraiser but Peter is not in attendance – after calling Peter’s assistant, Robert discovers that the call was a hoax to lure him to the museum by Peter’s kidnapper, Mal’akh. Moments later, Robert hears a scream, and discovers Peter’s severed hand in the Capitol Rotunda. The hand has a Freemason’s ring on one finger, and is tattooed with mysterious symbols on the fingers and the palm.
Robert then meets officers Anderson and Sato, who enlist him to help them interpret the symbols on Peter’s hand. The three soon find themselves at a Masonic altar in the Capitol’s basement, where they find an inscribed pyramid without its capstone. Anderson and Sato attempt to take Robert into custody because x-ray records that show that he was carrying a pyramid shaped object into the Capitol earlier that evening – this pyramid was in the sealed package that Peter requested Robert bring. But before he can be arrested, the Capitol’s architect William Bellamy is added into the mix, and in the confusion William and Robert flee together. Later, William tells Robert that he wants his assistance rescuing Peter.
At this point, Brown reveals that Mal’akh is a heavily tattooed Freemason, and many chapters are dedicated to telling the backstory between Peter Solomon and Mal’akh. Mal’akh, formerly known as Andros Dareios, was the cellmate of Peter’s rebellious son Zachary during his brief imprisonment in Turkey, where Zachary was caught smuggling drugs. Zachary was murdered in prison, and Dareios steals Zachary’s large inheritance and flees to Greece. Andros becomes obsessed with the Freemasons from stories Zachary told him in prison, and breaks into Peter’s house to find the pyramid hidden there. During the break-in, Andros accidentally kills Peter’s mother, and is then shot by Peter and left to die. He nurses himself back to health, takes the name Mal’akh, and makes it his mission to uncover the secrets of the Freemasons.
For many chapters there is confusion around the identity of Mal’akh, and William accuses Agent Sato of working with Mal’akh, though she is not. The group is joined by Katherine Solomon, Peter’s sister, who runs a noetic science lab at the Smithsonian. Mal’akh destroys her lab and nearly captures her, but she escapes and continues with Robert, William, and Sato in the search to find Peter.
Eventually, the group is captured by Mal’akh, and Robert is nearly drowned in a sensory deprivation tank that Mal’akh uses as a tool to interrogate him about the encoded inscription on the bottom of the pyramid capstone. Mal’akh also nearly kills Katherine with a hypodermic needle, and Peter Solomon is discovered alive but weak and bound to a wheelchair. Mal’akh flees with Peter to the Temple Room of the Scottish Rites House of the Temple, and in a shocking reveal the group discovers, at the moment just before Peter kills Mal’akh, that Mal’akh is in fact Zachary. Rather than being murdered in prison, Zachary had killed another man and disfigured him beyond recognition, and then assumed another identity to escape. Peter tries to kill Zachary, but can’t bring himself to do it. In that moment, Sato arrives by helicopter to the Temple and breaks the glass ceiling – the shards of glass fall, and one fatally impales Zachary.
At the end of the novel, Peter shows Robert the true secrets of the Freemasons – a Bible, which the Masons believe holds the key to the enlightenment of the human spirit. It is also revealed that Katherine’s research has been backed up externally, and as such she can continue her research.
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