The Rule of Four appears to be the first book by Ian Caldwell, which he co-authored with Dustin Thomason. The info on the book jacket indicates that they wrote this over a number of years, in their twenties. I read his more current book last year, and that was terrific. I tried to find this book at the library then, but it was out. The reviews on this book were pretty good, and the publisher was then touting it as DaVinci Code-like. not really
Caldwell and Thomas have developed a really interesting story revolving around a mysterious 500 year old book called Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,* which is the subject of a Princeton senior's research paper. The story, told from the perspective of the researcher's roommate, spins a tale that goes back to his own father's obsession with the same book, and was the spark that united the two roommates to begin with. The researcher, Paul, recognized his future roommate's name from the dedication in his father book; Thomas Corelli Sullivan. [Paul: Are you that Tom? I'm a big fan of your father! Tom: Yeah, I am. But, he's dead. And that book is whack, right?]†
By the time Paul and Tom are seniors, they have two more pals, Gil and Charlie, and all four are fast friends and roommates. Paul has been cracking on Hypnerotomachia Poliphili for 4 years now, and has finally begun to make some headway. His interest in the story is what brought him to Princeton, where Vincent Taft is a scholar on the book, and an old adversary of Tom's father. The two started out as friends before Tom was born, but soon argued over the book, and ended up hating each other. Another guy who was also into the book, and was friends with both Sullivan and Taft also shows up as a patron for young Paul. Everyone is trying to get in on the action as Paul, with some help from Tom, starts to uncover some of the book's secrets.
So its intrigue, mystery, whodunits, back-stabbery, and bumbling campus police; uselessly yelling 'stop right there!' about 20 times throughout the book. The title appears to come from math, rather than the Supreme Court.
It was okay. They took a long time to write it, and it still ended up being a little jerky and fragmented feeling. You don't need to read it prior to The Fifth Gospel, its unrelated. in fact, you don't need to read it at all
* Translates as: "The Strife of Love in a Dream."
† That's not a direct quote. More of a synopsis.