Asti Spumante Code (Toby Clements) - Time Warner Books (small-size paperback original) - 2005 - 247 pages

This is not a bad parody of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.  The author pokes fun at Brown's descriptive writing style by using too much description such as: "... the Central Library of the European Commission was a functional, charmless room full of shelves holding nothing but books and papers.  These shelves were arranged along a north-south axis, but, following a tradition that went back to the ancient Greeks, the shelves were punctuated by gaps, or more properly, aisles.  These aisles intersected the shelves at right angles, so that anyone walking down one would, when they looked left, or right, see the shelf end-on where the curator of the Central Library had chosen to place a small symbol, or 'number', so that anyone looking for a particular book could be told on which shelf they were most likely to find it.  Then all that person had to do was walk down the aisle and find the number that denoted which shelf they were looking for.  Once at the shelf, the books were, as is common in most libraries where the Roman alphabet is used, arranged alphabetically."  What?  Why do I need to know that?

The protagonists are an American author, Mr. James ("Jim") Crack ("gimcrack: a cheap and showy object of little or no use") who is an expert on obscure symbology and the Order of Psion (not the car), and the beautiful young Emily Paquin, a Belgian bibliotechnician .  It seems that someone has broken into the Grand Gallery of the Grand Biblioteque (big library of old books) and murdered the old curator, Gordon Sanitaire who also happens to be Emily's nephew (It's a long story: "My father, his brother, was much younger than Gordon's father, who married very young, while my father married very late ..." etc. etc. etc.).  However, before old Gordon died, he left a bunch of clues including his depiction in death of the snowy train-wreck scene from Anna Karenina (by shredding priceless books and chewing leather bindings into the form of a jacket).

Jim and Emily race around the country trying to decode the clues while most of the law enforcement officials in Western Europe are hot on their trail and causing much death and destruction in the process.  Jim explains to Emily that most of the great writers in history (Homer, Dickens, Hemingway, etc.) were actually women and that Jane Austen was really a man.  The primary plan ("chick-lit plot") of the Order of Psion was to "... demonise women by making them read about dreary domestic concerns."  Meanwhile, they manage to reveal a scheme by the English Book Guild to find the asti spumante code allowing them to rule the publishing world. 

Take that, Dan Brown! [JAM 7/19/2009]