Recommend a non Dan Brown novel/author for a Dan Brown fan

Looking for new books to read…

A very quick search for read-alikes on NoveList turns up these names:

Khoury, Raymond
Case, John
Caldwell, Ian, 1976-
Mariani, Scott
Doetsch, Richard
Bayard, Louis
Dahlquist, Gordon
Silva, Daniel, 1960-
Brokaw, Charles

One title I enjoyed a lot was The Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman.
James Becker has a fairly page-turning trilogy which begins with The Lost Treasure of the Templars.
But there are dozens or hundreds more by as many different authors…

What “Dan Brown qualities” are you looking for?
A thrilling page-turner?
A book driven by codes, mysteries, and puzzle-solving?
The use of history, art, etc. as background?
All of the above?

I would recommend PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Ken Follett. If you like it there are two sequels, each taking place in the same town a couple hundred years later. It’s not exactly the same but great yarn. IMNSHO Follett is ten times the writer Dan Brown is.

Darwin’s Blade, by Dan Simmons, is not one that I considered a good book, but it had a lot of interesting set pieces, similar to what one finds in Dan Brown’s books.

I would recommend the Agent Pendergast novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. They include a lot of the historical references, quick pacing, over-the-top action sequences, quasi-science fiction, and ostentatious cultural references that Brown likes so much.
And as a bonus, they are much, much better writers than Brown.

I’m not a Dan Brown fan. That said, when The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova was published a lot of people were comparing it to Dan Brown’s work. (Which is why I decided not to read it.)

You can never go wrong with the great American western – Lonesome Dove.

If you’re looking for far-out-there puzzles and thrillers, I’d recommend my Guilty Pleasures:

1.) The stories by Clive Cussler and his collaborators-du-jour. He used to write about his hero Dirk Pitt, but since about 2000 he’s had a bad case of Pattersonitis and has branched out into several other seriers

                --- The Oregon Files
                --- The Numa Files
                 ---The Fargo Files
                 --- The Isaac Bell cases

Cussler specializes in what I call “weapons porn”, where his characters find some excuse to use some piece of modern or ancient ordnance in ludicrous situations. I think he invented the Isaac Bell series just so he’d have an excuse to write about old railroad gear and, later, early flying machines. but the heart of these is still the wonderfully ridiculous historical puzzles and the truly wild ramifications for our assumed history. Cussler is, I guarantee, much closer to what you want than any of the above recommendations.

2.) Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs, either together or one at a time. Preston worked for a while at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and wrote a history of it. I’m convinced this got him thinking about some monster running loose in the cellars under the century-plus institution, and the result was The Relic, first as a book, then as a movie. He and Preston wrote a whole slew of stories involving a character who was completely written out of the movie, agent Pendergast (who I find particularly annoying). They also wrote several other series, including the Gideon Crew series, the Wyman Ford series, the Tom Broadbent series, the Jeremy Logan series, and a bunch of stand-alones.
If Cussler (and his co-authors), Child, and Preston do not make you stop at least once while reading the book and say “Oh, come on! I can’t believe you’d do that!” then they haven’t done their job.

With the caveat that I’ve read no more than a couple of pages of Dan Brown, there’s another series that involves covert historical puzzles, Napoleon, and mystical artifacts. It’s got a great sense of humor, and is somewhere between Flashman and Dan Brown.

I’m talking about The Ethan Gage Series, by William Dietrich. We’re not talking great literature, but it’s good enough literature, and great adventure.

To my mind, Cussler peaked with Sahara, which is way more OTT than the film of it was. Most of the others are very readable page turners but, obviously, rather formulaic!

And the Ethan Gage books by Dietrich are good, especially the first two, which form a pair set in the Near East during Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign. Lots of Masons and historical artifacts, etc.

If you think Cussler’s outrageousness peaked with Sahara, you should read his more recent stuff. There is a definite formula to his books (weird historical intro followed by present-day stuff Evil Bad Guys shown being evil and some of their capabilities shown, NUMA/Oregon/the Fargoes innocently going about their business encountering side effects of villainy, and so on, right up to the Use of Interesting technology and Wild-Ass Off-the-Wall implausible science/technology and/or really weird historical reveal, etc. These have all gotten more wonderfully ridiculous since Sahara*. Like the Machine That Can See Everything or the Ancient Lasers or the Herd of Dwarf Mammoths or the Body of Napoleon Buonaparte hidden in a period Submarine or… well, you get the idea.

I see what you’re daying but despite all the books since Sahara, I still think of that one as the epitome of what a Cussler adventure is about.

An unlikely historical hook at the beginning, leading to his heroes performing ever more extreme actions to survive and also find the treasure/solve the problem, with some neat out-dated transport and weaponry thrown in. And secret or cutting edge tech maybe including fast boats, micro subs, secret space missions, etc. Later books may have all that (and dwarf mammoths too? I haven’t come across that one!) but it all seemed to mesh perfectly in Sahara.


Yeah, but “epitome” is not “peaked”.
Goldfinger is, arguably, the epitome of the James Bond movie, but the series certainly didn’t “peak” with that film. Even the Connery films went on to peak with Thunderball or possibly You Only Live Twice. And the series continued, with arguably other peaks later.

Anything by James Rollins.

Whenever I describe him to my friends I say he’s “a non-douchey Dan Brown”. His books follow an elite underground government agency as they stop world-destroying things, but every book centers around some kind of historical or science-based activitiy. If you binge the books you can see they definitely follow a formula, but otherwise they’re great! Action packed, thoughtful, funny…the whole nine.

The best part? At the end of the book the author devotes a section as to what’s really real (Alexander Graham Bell was a real person!) and what he made up for the sake of the story (But he probably wasn’t friends with the Pope…). It really shows some transparency.

That’s really the big question- Brown’s books are a weird combination of mystery/puzzle/code with a healthy dose of “history”, and written in a page-turner style.

If there’s one aspect you really like, then we might be able to zero you in on a writer who’s really good at that.

Nobody’s mentioned the author that first popped into my mind — Robert Ludlum. I Googled “robert ludlum dan brown similar” to see if I was off-base; the first hit was which shows Ludlum and several others as “Goodreads members who liked Dan Brown also liked …”

She may not be too similar to Dan Brown, but Helen MacInnes is a thriller writer from several decades ago I used to like. And, although he’s not at all like Dan Brown, be sure and try an Adam Hall thriller if you haven’t already.

Yeah, he’s who popped into my mind right away too, but I wasn’t sure if novels that are basically what a Dan Brown spy novel would be are up the OP’s alley.

Probably all of the above but maybe mostly codes/puzzles.