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Publisher's Summary

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 preparing to unveil Dante's remarkable visions to the New World. The powerful Boston Brahmins at Harvard College 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 Nicholas 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 our imaginations.

©2003 Matthew Pearl, All Rights Reserved; (P)2003 Simon & Schuster Inc., All Rights Reserved.

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Pamela
  • Beckley, WV, USA
  • 04-08-03

Join the club

If you can't get enough mysteries to fill your listening time, this one is worth a try. It's a quaint, historical, literary mystery that starts slowly, but has lots of twists and turns. Not the best I've come across, but not the worst. An interesting look a Boston in the 1800's.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Poorly edited

This was disappointing. I didn't realize that this was an abridged version of the book. However,after going back several times thinking that my mind must have wandered, I came to realize that it wasn't my fault after all. Rather,it was the writing, or specifically the editing. Too bad, because the narrator does an exemplary job of vocal inflection, accents and nuances. Furthermore, there is much to glean from the subject matter, but it's too bad an unabridged version is not available (or at least I couldn't find one).

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Dark yet enjoyable

This was a well read mystery that held my attention so that at times I didn't want to shut it off. The narration is excellent and the characters so believable that at times I laughed out loud at the their antics while trying to solve the mystery. It's not overly complicated and a relatively short book but certainly worth a listen.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jimmy
  • Willow Springs, MO, USA
  • 02-29-04

Original Story, Bad Abridgement

<i>The Dante Club</i> is one of the most original story concepts to come along in awhile. The story take place in post-Civil War Boston/Cambridge and someone is killing well-known residents using Dante's <i>Inferno</i> as inspiration -- very original. Boyd Gaines does a relatively good job narrating the story, giving distinct Bostonian accents to each of the characters; although, one did sound too much like Thurston Howell, III. Even with the original concept and excellent historical characters, this reading suffered from a choppy abridgement. At times it seemed like the story jumped entire chapters. If you love a good, original, historically researched mystery, then <i>The Dante Club</i> is a good choice, even with the bad abridgement.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sonia
  • Toronto, ON, Canada
  • 05-23-03

Excellent Fiction

The character portaits of real persons is admirably realized in this dark mystery.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Richard
  • 12-26-03

Tough to get in to.

Not a terrible mystery but a bit slow paced for my taste. I found the plot pretty interesting but either the writing or the narration (it's hard to tell sometimes which is more important) was such that it moved very slowly especially in the beginning.

I had several false starts with this - deleting it from my OTIS and then re-doing it again until I finally worked my way through.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Don't waste your time with abridged version

The beauty of this book is in the detail like "Club Dumas" or "DaVinci Code," and that's lost in this abridgment.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Adam
  • Cary, NC
  • 07-31-15


Highly doubtful that I will remember the story in the next few days let alone in the next few months or years. Most interesting thing about the book is the setting but unfortunately the characters and the plot did little to add any value.

  • Overall
  • Katherine
  • olympia, WA, United States
  • 07-14-10


long and boring

  • Overall

The Dante Club

Rather than repititious characterizations of the poets more energy should have been spent moving this mystery along. Was Longfellow really like that? This was for me a little known era and scene with great potential getting poorly stirred with the mystery, though scenes of immediate post-Civil War Boston were interesting. I did manage to get to the end, I think. I am aware it was fictional.