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by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason (New York: The Dial Press, 2004).

I don't typically read novels. Fiction has never been one of my favorite genres. But in recent months I made a two-fold exception to this rule. Yes, I did read The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. Yes, I did find it fascinating. No, I don't recommend that you read it. Wait for the movie version, which I hear is being directed by Ron Howard.

My second adventure into fiction proved far more rewarding. This summer I read the highly acclaimed best-seller, The Rule of Four, written by life-long friends Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. Caldwell graduated from Princeton University and Thomason from Harvard, both in 1998. This is their first collaborative effort, but I hope not their last one.

This is a great read! I thoroughly enjoyed The Rule of Four and highly recommend it, even for those who, like me, prefer non-fiction. The book tells the story of a group of Princeton University students whose lives are caught up in the mysteries posed by a 500 year old Renaissance document titled Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. If you think it's hard to read, try pronouncing it! I got a little help in the latter by listening to the book on CD during a recent long road trip.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but rest assured that you will struggle to put it down. The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili allegedly contains a secret about events surrounding the Renaissance and Reformation that the author carefully and secretly embedded via an elaborate code. The deciphering of this secret code has been the focus of countless scholars in the past five hundred years, but with little success. That is, until now. Two Princeton roommates are consumed with ascertaining the answer and put their lives literally at risk in the pursuit of its secrets. Suffice it to say that it has a lot to do with the fervor, some would say fanaticism, of a pre-Reformer named Savonarola and the fear of many in the late 15th century that he threatened the 're-birth of knowledge and human inquiry. If that doesn't sound exciting to you, blame me. I assure you that the story is exceptionally well crafted, well written, and will keep you guessing at the turn of every page.

Unlike most novels today, at least from what I've been told, this one has minimal sexual content, virtually no offensive language, and, although somewhat biased against Savonarola, it has no axe to grind with Christianity. If you are a book lover and enjoy the intricacies of plot and suspense and intrigue, you'll love The Rule of Four. It is poised for a sequel, and I can't wait!