Steven Kent's Reviews > The Dante Club

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
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I think my problem with this book is that it was written by a smart guy , about smart guys, and for smart guys so everything must have gone above my head. That must be it.

The Dante Club is a murder mystery set shortly after the Civil War. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is translating Dante's Divine Comedy with the help of Oliver Wendel Holmes, James Lowell, and Fields--co-founder of Tickner and Fields, when the bodies of fiendishly murdered men begin showing up around Boston.

Mid-Book SPOILER

Well, what do you know, the murders all appear to be representations of punishments mentioned in the Inferno.

So, in an effort to defend Dante's good name, the poets and publisher set out to uncover the murderer.

My first problem with this book is the way it's gushes again and again about Dante and Longfellow. My goodness. In a world that once hosted these divine fellows, I'm surprised there is room for any evil at all.

Aside from the narrative, which is mostly very well written, the mystery part of this book seems a bit on the contrived side. I mean, "The Dante Murderer," forefather of Son of Sam and W.W. Holmes... It just doesn't work.

The book is rife with implausibilities which is fine for fantasy and science fiction. Implausibilities work in less serious forms of fiction; but because of its theme, The Dante Club comes across as a mystery/literature hybrid and the implausible turns stand out.

I believe this was the author's first effort. It is a well written book overall, and I suspect the author will have a long and memorable literary career.
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