Christmas being the season in which content filler replaces stocking filler, it’s also the season for faux-bracing tosh about “guilty pleasures”. What I never understand is the use of Dan Brown as the exemplar of the middle class “guilty reading pleasure”. He’s the one they all admit to, with that cute shuddery little frisson they do to show they know they’re on to the right wrong thing. How do they read him? I mean that literally; I mean, how do they work out what he’s saying. When I say I can’t parse Dan Brown that is a simple, direct, irony-free statement. I can’t make head or tail of him. If I ever finished a book of his I wouldn’t feel guilty so much as puzzled. I never know what he’s talking about, or what he wants me to think about the things he’s failing to convey to me. Unlike, say, Lee Child, he can’t write a clean, cheap-as-chips sentence that shows the customer round the shop and makes the trip to the till a completely unguilty pleasure. I love thrillers. I never used to feel the slightest bit embarrassed on their behalf. I even love metaphysical conspiracy thrillers. But Dan Brown brought that whole delightfully barking subgenre into disrepute. Surely (other than Lord Archly Fucked-Up of Syntax) he’s the definition of unreadable for even the most marginal value of the term “read”?