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Ex-wife of ‘Da Vinci Code’ author Dan Brown files suit claiming ‘unlawful and egregious conduct’

"I have continually tried to absorb the shocking truth withheld during our divorce that Dan had been leading a double life..."

Author Dan Brown and his now ex-wife Blythe Brown.
Author Dan Brown and his now ex-wife Blythe Brown.E. Charbonneau

Author Dan Brown, the New Hampshire native whose 2003 novel “The Da Vinci Code” is one of the bestselling books of all time, is being sued by his ex-wife, who claims he engaged in “unlawful and egregious conduct” that amounted to a “proverbial life of lies” during the last several years of their marriage.

In a bombshell lawsuit filed Monday in Rockingham Superior Court in New Hampshire, Blythe Brown alleges that the 56-year-old author, to whom she was married from 1997 until last December, “secretly siphoned” off vast sums of money “to conduct sordid, extra-marital affairs” with women, including a Dutch horse trainer on whom he lavished extravagant gifts.

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Blythe Brown is suing the author for misrepresenting the couple’s wealth in a sworn financial affidavit he signed as part of their divorce agreement, and for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

“This lawsuit is about standing up for myself and asserting my self-worth. I have continually tried to absorb the shocking truth withheld during our divorce that Dan had been leading a double life for years during our marriage, all while coming home to me,” Blythe Brown told the Globe in a statement Monday. “I trusted this man for decades as my life’s love. We worked so hard together, struggling to build something meaningful... I don’t recognize the man that Dan has become. It is time to reveal his deceit and betrayal. After so much pain, it is time for truth. It is time to right these wrongs.”

In a statement, Dan Brown told the Globe he’s “stunned” that his ex-wife is “making false claims” and says he was fair and truthful in their divorce settlement.

“On the day that Blythe and I married, I never remotely thought that we eventually would grow so far apart,” he wrote.

Brown, who was raised in Exeter, N.H., and graduated from Amherst College, was a songwriter and, briefly, a teacher, before taking up writing full-time. His first three novels didn’t find an audience, but “The Da Vinci Code” did. A fast-paced thriller about a fictional Harvard “symbologist” who investigates a murder at the Louvre and stumbles upon an ancient society that guards dark secrets about Jesus and the Holy Grail, the book was an international sensation. It has sold more than 80 million copies and been adapted into a movie, starring Tom Hanks, which has grossed more than $760 million worldwide. In all, Brown’s seven novels have sold more than 250 million copies.

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In her lawsuit, Blythe Brown says she was not merely a bystander to her ex-husband’s phenomenal success. She claims she was the “lead researcher” and “developed the premise of the critical concepts, historical emphases, and complex plot twists” for “The Da Vinci Code” and for all of Brown’s subsequent books, a string of bestsellers that includes “The Lost Symbol,” “Inferno,” and “Origin.” Together, she says, the couple “brainstormed the storylines and plot twists” of the novels. (Blythe Brown says she also helped with “Angels & Demons,” which was published in 2000, before “The Da Vinci Code,” but republished later.)

In interviews, Dan Brown has spoken often about his ex-wife’s role in crafting his books. In 2017, he told the Daily Mail: “I was writing about the Louvre and the Grail, but it was Blythe who said I should write about Mary Magdalene, too. I probably wouldn’t have written [The Da Vinci Code] without her. She’s a great researcher.” And in the acknowledgements of “The Da Vinci Code,” the author cites: “my wife, Blythe — art historian, painter, front-line editor, and without a doubt the most astonishingly talented woman I have ever known.”

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In her lawsuit, Blythe Brown includes a sworn statement made by her ex-husband in an unrelated 2005 legal action in England alleging he plagiarized portions of “The Da Vinci Code.” In that case, which Brown won, the author credited his then-wife for refining the themes and plot of the bestselling book.

“[Blythe Brown] lobbied hard for me to find a way to use a theory which concerned the legend of the Holy Grail — the so-called ‘bloodline theory’... Initially, I was reluctant... finding it too incredible and inaccessible to readers — I thought it was a step too far,” Brown says in the court filing. “However... after much discussion and brainstorming with Blythe, I eventually became convinced that I could introduce the idea successfully.”

Despite his celebrity — Brown was one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2005 — his public persona is conspicuously cerebral. In a 2004 profile of the author, The Guardian described him as “mundane,” “unexciting,” and “not exactly a riot of hedonism,” suggesting that biographers would be disappointed if they investigated Brown with as much verve as his fictional hero, Robert Langdon, searches for the holy grail.

“The life and times of Dan Brown imply not every tale has a sting,” wrote The Guardian.

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But Blythe Brown claims in her suit that she noticed changes in her husband in 2014: “He started to act distant, dressed differently, and instigated arguments... over inconsequential matters for no apparent reason.” In 2018, Blythe Brown says, her husband told her he was unhappy in the marriage and wanted a separation. According to the lawsuit, Brown told his wife they’d “grown apart,” but could “remain best friends.”

Blythe Brown says she reluctantly moved out of the couple’s home in Rye Beach, N.H., in August 2018. She claims Brown wanted to avoid “a protracted public [divorce] proceeding” and “persuaded” her that, at the time of their divorce, she had “full knowledge” of the vast wealth the couple had accumulated during their marriage.

“This was untrue,” the lawsuit states. “Dan had, for a number of years, secretly siphoned funds from their marital assets, at least in part to finance his activities with his mistresses, including... a young horse trainer who lived in Holland.”

The horse trainer is a Friesian horse specialist and talented dressage rider whom Blythe Brown brought to the United States from Holland in 2013 to train a Friesian horse owned by the Browns. The lawsuit states that after the Browns’ divorce was finalized, in December 2019, Blythe Brown discovered that her ex-husband had begun an affair with the horse trainer, identified in the suit by the initials “JP,” in 2014 while the trainer was recuperating from shoulder surgery at the couple’s home in New Hampshire.

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Unbeknownst to his then-wife, according to the lawsuit, Brown secretly took large sums of money from the couple’s accounts to buy gifts for the horse trainer, including a prize-winning Friesian horse named “LimiTed Edition” whose price tag was $345,000, as well as a new car, a two-horse transport truck, and renovations to the woman’s apartment in Holland.

“The net effect of these transgressions substantially reduced the marital estate,according to the lawsuit.

The suit states that in January 2020, Blythe Brown confronted her ex-husband about the secret wire transfers and he replied: “I’ve done bad things with a lot of people.” Brown, according to the suit, admitted having an affair with a local hairdresser and also with the horse trainer, telling his ex-wife that his relationship with the horse trainer “has and will continue.”

According to the lawsuit, Blythe Brown subsequently discovered that Brown had used marital assets to finance affairs with “a political official” at the couple’s vacation home on Anguilla, and with his personal trainer.

The lawsuit further claims that, at the time of the couple’s divorce, Brown told his wife that he didn’t have any upcoming projects. Blythe Brown says she later learned that Brown was working on several new projects, including a television series, “Langdon,” based on the novels the couple “created together” and which NBCUniversal Studios has picked up.

“Dan stands to make millions from these projects, which is undoubtedly why he hid them from Blythe,” the lawsuit states.

“Blythe Brown agreed to a quiet divorce last year from her longtime husband Dan Brown,” her attorney, Harvey J. Wolkoff, Boston head of Quinn Emanuel, said in a statement. “Only afterward did she learn that, for years, he had been deceiving her. Blythe asks that her ex-husband be held accountable for his dishonesty. She hopes for a legal reckoning with the harm inflicted by his conduct.”

Brown, meanwhile, insists the financial affidavit he signed was a complete list of the couple’s assets at the time of the divorce.

“I swore to the truthfulness of what was contained on that list, and I stand by that financial statement today,” Brown said in his statement to the Globe. “We were very fortunate that we equally were blessed with very substantial assets with which to move forward after that.”

Through his attorney, Joan Lukey, Brown has filed a motion to unseal the confidential financial information in the divorce settlement to rebut his ex-wife’s claim that he concealed assets during their marriage.

“I am saddened that there is not enough goodwill from 21 years of marriage to temper her unfortunate actions,” he said.


Mark Shanahan can be reached at mark.shanahan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarkAShanahan