In 1865 Boston, the members of the Dante Club, poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, along with publisher J. T. Fields, are finishing America's first translation of The Divine Comedy and preparing to unveil Dante's remarkable visions to the New World. The powerful Boston Brahmins at Harvard are fighting to keep Dante in obscurity, believing that the infiltration of foreign superstitions onto American bookshelves will prove as corrupting as the immigrants living in Boston Harbor.
As they struggle to keep their sacred literary cause alive, the plans of the Dante Club are put in further jeopardy when a serial killer unleashes his terror on the city. Only the scholars realize that the gruesome murders are modeled on the descriptions from Dante's Inferno and its account of Hell's torturous punishments. With the lives of the Boston elite and Dante's literary future in America at stake, the Dante Club must find the killer before the authorities discover their secret.
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and outcast police officer Nicolas Rey, the first black member of the Boston police department, place their careers on the line in their efforts to end the killing spree. Together, they discover that the source of the murders lies closer than they ever could have imagined.
The Dante Club is a magnificent blend of fact and fiction, a brilliantly realized paean to Dante, his mythic genius, and his continued grip on the imagination.
©2006 Matthew Pearl. All rights reserved.; (P)2006 BBC Audiobooks America. All rights reserved. Audioworks is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster, Inc.
"Expertly weaving period detail, historical fact (the Dante Club did indeed exist), complex character studies, and nail-biting suspense, Pearl has written a unique and utterly absorbing tale." (Booklist, Starred Review)
"Absorbing and dramatic...Pearl has proven himself a master." (Library Journal)
I thought this book was quite ambitious, and fairly successful at what it sets out to accomplish. Having Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes (senior), and James Russell Lowell fictionalized into a sort of League of Extraordinarily Literary Gentleman who hunt down a serial killer is getting to be almost old hat, going back to "The Seven-Percent Solution" in the 1970s. This may be the last entry into the genre which I find entertaining. The story is more than a little contrived, but not outlandish or unrespectable. The famous characters are well-researched and presented with sensitivity and affection, although the anachronisms fly off the page (and into the ear). This is no "Seven-Percent", but it's also ten times better than anything Caleb Carr has ever written. I look forward to seeing what Matthew Pearl comes out with next time.
I'm sorry to say that I have never read Dante. "The Dante Club" was a good intro - at least now when I come across references to "The Inferno" as one does frequently in literature, I will be familiar with the allusion. The narrator was excellent, (it's always a relief to have someone other than Scott Brick doing the reading.) The characters were vividly drawn and the story was exciting and suspenseful. The ending was satisfying in that it was surprising and believable. I will definitely download more books written by Mathew Pearl and books narrated by Boyd Gaines.
Blogger of accidental discoveries through books
I've just finished listening to this book and miss it already. I enjoyed this book very much and will miss inhabiting it very much. The environment of the "fireside poets" and their city of Boston, within which the mystery is set was really interesting, learning about Dante's poetry was enlightening and the mystery that held it all together moved along at a pace that suited me very well. And very importantly, as listeners will know, the reading of a book can make it or break it, John Siedman's reading of this book matched to story's voices perfectly. A lovely long listen, don't miss it.
Certainly one of the better historical mysteries but I would have preferred not to have such detailed descriptions of how the victims met their deaths.Squeamish? Yes. Uniquely so? No. If you listen just be prepared for some ugly moments. Beyond that, my only criticism would be the somewhat lengthy background on death in the American Civil War. Not squeamishness but felt an unnecessary impediment to the pacing of the essential story.
On the other hand, whether or not historically accurate, the "amateur detectives", four members of the Boston literati,came across interestingly and with sufficient characterization to avoid being simply puppets manipulated for the purposes of making it "historical". It is well written and well read. The setting conveys the feel of 19th Century Boston and Harvard to one who knows little of its specifics. How an expert would react I do not know. It it is not a puzzle mystery, where all clues necessary for the reader to solve the puzzle are presented. In keeping with current practice, the mystery is solved with information that is discovered by the amateur sleuths that cannot have been known to the reader. I accept this contemporary convention though devotees of the "classic", early Ellery Queen type books,will be perturbed.
Overall, it is solid fare that kept me engaged throughout the book. I do believe it would have been better if the cause of my concerns had been eliminated but I can still recommend it to anyone, whether or not familiar with the poets most of us only read in school.
I have listened to this audiobook many times. The story is interesting and the narrator is great. I have no idea of how historically accurate any of the information is, but I enjoy it as a novel. Highly recommended.
I don't try write a review as if it were the only review a potential reader will see. I write things that I noticed.
I'm not sure how I would change it. I love books with historical characters, but somehow this didn't hold me. I found myself having gotten distracted and not having taken in anything for five or more minutes. I think it could have been structured/edited better. The basic plot is fairly good and the writing style is enjoyable, but it both drags and doesn't quite hold together--for me at least.
Really hard to say. I liked it in many ways, but it just didn't quite hang together or come together. Sorry to be so vague.
Late in the book a cool historical thing about (some) Boston churches comes out, which I enjoyed. (Saying any more would be a spoiler.)
Um, no. Except maybe return the book. I might try listening again in a month or so though, to see if it is just that I am distracted at the moment in general..
Narration is pretty solid. I hope this review is perhaps useful to some in spite of my vagueness.
I read this book in college and gave a copy to several friends and family members afterward because I was so taken by it. I hadn't read it in a while, and was thrilled to find it on audible, because I have a lot of things that I've been needing to do, but many of them don't require that I use my entire brain, so I've been able to listen to it while I clean house, craft, etc. It was wonderfully read! I was thoroughly pleased with the performance, and I think that I got a completely different experience from reading the book. I would highly recommend both this book and this author to anyone. And as far as this book is concerned, I would recommend both the written and the audio versions.
Enjoying audiobooks daily!
I loved this book. The characters were wonderful. Narration was spot on. The use of Dante's prose was amazing. The idea that someone was killing like the horrors in Dante's Inferno was a great departure of motive and M.O. for someone like me that loves a good serial killer novel. I can only hope Pearle will do this for some other ancient greats.
I was expecting more and got less. It gave a lot of background on the characters and the time period but the suspense was not there for me. I worked my way through it and it was OK. Everybody has different tastes and this did not move fast enough for me.
Murder mysteries are not my favorite non-fiction, but this one was interesting and kept me engaged. Using the old poets was clever. It actually peeked my interest in Dante, also.
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