Price's The Da Vinci Fraud
What Price does is different. He goes back and looks at the actual history involved. As a result, this book turns out to be using The Da Vinci Code as a springboard for a whole host of other really interesting questions: Who were the Knights Templar? What do they have to do with the Masons? Where did the Grail legend come from? Who established the canon of Scripture? And who the devil is Mary Magdalene anyway?
(This, by the way, is why the book is going to go unnoticed. Instead of pointing this out on the cover--say, with a subtitle that says, "What Biblical Research Actually Says, and Why Dan Brown is Partly Right"--so you'd be able to tell this book from the dozens of others written by generic partisan Christians with axes to grind and Dan Brown to totally refute, the publisher has seemingly taken pains to make it look EXACTLY like every other book on the market. It's a terrible shame.)
What's extra cool about this is that Price himself, a biblical scholar and a former member of the Jesus Seminar, is actually more interested in the questions than he is in preserving anyone's turf. Without seemingly having decided any of the answers beforehand, Price first disembowels Brown's sources--just because a bunch of Masons in funny hats claim their brotherhood is descended from the Knights Templar doesn't mean they're not lying to sound important--and then calmly shows how and where Brown simply misunderstands a lot of the basics of biblical scholarship. (Brown at one point claims that there were 80 gospels, and Constantine personally cut them down to four. Against this blunt caricature, Price describes thirty of the gospels we actually know about, and explains why certain of them never had a chance (The Gospel of Mary is absurd fiction from beginning to end), and why a few others might have made the cut if they'd had different backers (The Gospel of Peter is a little too Docetist, and the Gospel of Thomas probably would have made it in if Irinaeus hadn't decided to base the canon on numerological perfection--and P.S., it's only because he wanted seven epistles of Paul that Hebrews was declared Pauline and brought into the fold)).
I guess it's not for everyone, but the research at work--most of which he actually shows you, so you can see why he's drawing the conclusions he is--should be fascinating to anyone who's curious and is willing to have more than a few bombs dropped along the way. Plus, he's often funny. (The biggest thing I'll take away, I think, is his assertion that the Grail legend is to England what Mormonism is to America--a way of saying, "Our country is part of the Christian story, too!" One sentence, and the whole Arthurian cycle changed for me.) It's too expensive for me to buy everyone a copy, but with this recommendation, I hereby do what I can.
And since I'm using the dumb computer that won't let me use links again, here's the address: http://www.amazon.com/Da-Vinci-Fraud-Stranger-Fiction/dp/1591023483