Brown takes time with ‘Da Vinci’ follow-up

Thriller tome may not see release until '07

When it first became apparent last year that the publication date for Dan Brown’s next novel would be dragged out to 2006, Sony — and book retailers — were happy.

The delay meant the book could be released somewhere around the same time “The Da Vinci Code” was hitting theaters everywhere — a tie-in that would help all parties.

But the novel, a supposedly “Da Vinci”-style mystery centering on the Freemasons, now won’t come out until 2007 at the earliest, Doubleday confirmed to Daily Variety.

Suddenly, a lot is unclear about Brown’s next tome.

It’s been more than three years since “Da Vinci” came out, a long window for thriller writers. At one time an untitled Dan Brown project lived in the publisher’s database as a spring 2006 release; now that has disappeared.

Some Brown-ologists paid to analyze the author’s every word now say there’s a chance the book won’t be about the Freemasons after all. Even the title, at one time confirmed by Doubleday topper Steve Rubin as “The Solomon Key,” is in doubt.

Though insiders point to the distraction of a recent U.K plagiarism suit, the delay has fueled book-biz rumors that Brown is suffering from writer’s block, and that his well-known penchant for research is disguising productivity issues.

On Friday, Brown released a statement that reassured fans.

“My books are time-consuming to research and complicated to construct. I am taking the time necessary to ensure that this new book is every bit as entertaining as ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ ” he said.

Of course, for an author known for his playfulness, there’s always another possibility: The delays are all a smokescreen, and the book’s release is set for the summer.