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The Dante Club: A Novel [Mass Market Paperback]

Matthew Pearl
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 27 2006
The New York Times Bestseller

Boston, 1865. A series of murders, all of them inspired by scenes in Dante’s Inferno. Only an elite group of America’s first Dante scholars—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J. T. Fields—can solve the mystery. With the police baffled, more lives endangered, and Dante’s literary future at stake, the Dante Club must shed its sheltered literary existence and find the killer.

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From Publishers Weekly

In 1865 Boston, not many people spoke Italian. It was much more popular for people to study Latin and Greek; the classic works in these languages were common reading for students and academics. But the small circle of literati in Pearl's inventive novel is bent on translating and publishing Dante's Divine Comedy so that all Americans may learn of the writer's genius. As this group of scholars, poets, publishers and professors readies the manuscript, much more exciting doings are happening outside their circle. The Boston police are hot on the trail of a series of murders taking place around town. In one, a priest is buried alive, his feet set on fire; in another, a man's body is eaten by maggots. It doesn't take a rocket scientist-only a Dante expert-to realize these murders are based on Dante's Inferno and its account of Hell's punishments. Scholars become snoopers, and the Dante Club is soon on the scene, investigating the crimes and trying to find the killer. A tad unlikely, but it makes for a terrific story. Gaines gives an stirring performance, nimbly portraying some of the "Hah-vad" professors' "Bah-ston" accents and impressively reading the Italian passages from Dante's work. Although it's sometimes hard to differentiate between the various characters-after awhile each stuffy Bostonian begins to sound alike-Gaines nonetheless amuses and, via Pearl's historical references, educates.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Pearl's fiction debut should please fans of well-crafted literary mysteries. The title refers to an actual group of 19th-century Bostonians who gathered to translate Dante's Inferno for an American audience. Among the members of this exclusive "club" were poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, physician Oliver Wendell Holmes, and poet James Russell Lowell. While poring over the poem, the men find themselves on the trail of a serial killer who tortures his victims in ways that seem to be taken straight out of the pages of Inferno. The police are at a loss and must rely on the club members' unique knowledge of Dante's work to help catch the killer. Pearl, a recognized Dante scholar, uses his expertise to create an absorbing and dramatic period piece. Using historical figures in a mystery setting is not a new idea (e.g., Sir Isaac Newton plays detective in Philip Kerr's Dark Matter), but Pearl has proven himself a master. Best for medium to large public and academic libraries.
--Laurel Bliss, Yale Arts Lib.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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JOHN KURTZ, the chief of the Boston police, breathed in some of his heft for a better fit between the two chambermaids. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To Hell and Back in olde New England March 17 2003
" Have you ever told someone or been told to "Go to Hell?"Well!
700 years ago in Florence, Italy a middle aged(that's important)
man named Dante Alighieri wrote a poem about and drew a map of
Hell. It is called the Divine Comedy and is in three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. Matthew Pearl has taken certain
sins and punishments from the Inferno and has set a murder mystery in post civil war Boston. The Dante Club consists of the poets Longfellow and Lowell,the physician and author Holmes and sveral others. These folks meet often usually at Longfellow's house and decipher a series of hideous killings that only a person familiar with the Inferno could perpetrate.This reviewer studied Dante in college and i have lived my life with his description of the heavenly and, not so heavenly, spheres in the back of my mind. However one need not be a scholar to enjoy The Dante Club. Wait 'til you find out who the real perp turns out to be!Honestly, I havent enjoyed a book so much since I played
CLUE as a teenager!I recommend this novel,ThE DANTE CLUB to everyone who likes surprises!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars O Ye Who Enter - get ready for a wonderful novel March 10 2003
Format:Audio Cassette
The city of Boston is shocked and its police force stumped by the murder of two prominent citizens in 1865. Through forensic analysis and knowledge he shares with Henry Wadwsorth Longfellow and James Russell Lowell, two of the few Americans who have read Dante, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes realizes the victims died in the macabre manner of sinners in "Inferno".
Incredibly, Matthew Pearl has crafted a novel that brings Dante to life along with three men who today are portraits hung on Harvard's walls and names on its buildings. In 1865 Holmes, Longfellow and Lowell were prominent members of the Harvard community at odds with Augustus Manning, the omnipotent head of the Harvard Corporation. As Pearl launches the three scholars on a mission to solve the bizarre chain of murders, their conversations portray a formality appropriate to the times and their stature, yet their manner and actions are more believable than what you'll read in a lot of modern crime fiction.
Pearl also uses his fiction to provide a quick primer on Dante's life and works. You might want to read his introduction to Longfellow's translation of "Inferno" (it's in the excerpt that appears on to discover how Longfellow became preoccupied with Dante in the early 1860s. There really was a Dante Club, a group of friends who gathered at Longfellow's house most Wednesdays to read and critique a canto or two.
On top of this historical and literary backdrop, Pearl builds an intriguing plot that takes the scholars and his readers through all strata of post Civil War Boston and Cambridge. The end result is an exceptionally well-crafted mystery accompanied by an interesting peek into the lives of Dante, Longfellow and the academic elite of the late 19th century - an ambitious first novel that lives up to its promise.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Join the Club! March 3 2003
By A Customer
If you crave a novel that is reminiscent of all the wonderful old American classics, then look no more!This book is written in a style the likes of which we have not seen in American literature for decades! As the words flow effortlessly, the reader is treated to endless pages that are poetic and quotable. If you love and appreciate beautifully written old world American style, you will want to read and re-read this book!
The Apocrypha by John A. De Vito is also something you should try. A cult classic in the making, I'd say.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "Devine" Thriller Feb. 23 2003
Every few years a book is written that breaks the mold of the standard mystery/thriller fare. Umberto Eco's "Name of the Rose", Martin Cruz Smith's "Rose", more recently Boston Teran's "God is a Bullet", to name a few. "The Dante Club", the remarkable debut of writer Matthew Pearl, is another example that represents a bold, ambitious, and refreshing approach to the familiar serial killer "who-dunnit".
I'll admit that at first I was somewhat leery of the concept: the Fireside Poets - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell cast as investigators of a string of horrific murders? An ambitious premise for a novel, for sure, but more aptly, bizarre and ripe with risk. Pearl, however, pulls this off with a curious combination of the poet's love of the language and the storyteller's knack for pace and action.
The "Dante Club" refers to the group assembled by Longfellow - including Holmes and Lowell - to assist him in the first American translation of Dante's "Devine Comedy". As people in high places - a judge, a minister, a wealthy merchant - turn up tortured and murdered in scenes recreating those described in Dante's classic, the poets hit the streets of Boston and Cambridge in search of the killer. The result is an exceptionally well-researched book that is rich in historical detail while capturing the post-Civil War American psyche and culture. Pearl's description of the Civil War horrors and post-war trama is especially gripping. Not since "Silence of the Lambs" or "Se7en" have murders been so brutally and vividly portrayed, as the victims are variously eaten-alive by maggots, buried upside-down and set on fire, and (literally) cut in half.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars BORING
I am a huge fan of Dantes Inferno and was very hopeful that this book would be an interesting take on the old classic...well, I couldnt even get through was so boring... Read more
Published on June 7 2010 by magsw23
1.0 out of 5 stars The Dante Club
This is one of those novels you either love or hate. I found it very boring and that's why I never finished the book. I couldn't care less who committed the murder. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2009 by Burton
1.0 out of 5 stars Torture to Read
I had to read this for a book club...

I think burning in the infernos of Hell would be more pleasant then reading this book. Read more
Published on Aug. 5 2008 by BirdOnTheWay
1.0 out of 5 stars good story lost with too many words
I was ao excited to read this book, I really thought it would be interesting. I have to say it dragged so long for me to finish this book. Read more
Published on Jan. 10 2008 by Ahmet Sabanci
4.0 out of 5 stars "I do not profess to understand this strange pattern, but we cannot...
"The Dante Club", Matthew Pearl's first novel, is the kind of book that manages to combine suspense, history and literature successfully, engaging the reader and making him care... Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2007 by M. B. Alcat
1.0 out of 5 stars How many people do I know who didnt finish this book???
Everyone I lent it to...including myself. Growing up my father taught me to always finish the book because sometimes the end makes it all worth it and you shouldnt get into a... Read more
Published on July 19 2004 by pamelars24
4.0 out of 5 stars Less about the mystery than the history
What I loved most about The Dante Club is that fiction blends seamlessly with fact. The "detectives" are all prominent literary figures; it was wonderful how Pearl... Read more
Published on July 15 2004 by ShamayimBlue
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Crime Novel -- Packed with Period Details
"The Dante Club" offers the reader an opportunity to visit Boston in 1865 in addition to an entertaining murder mystery. Read more
Published on July 15 2004 by Scott Schiefelbein
3.0 out of 5 stars Over hyped in my opinion...
All of the positive things I've heard about The Dante Club led me to believe that this was another thinking-person's mystery along the lines of Caleb Carr's terrific The Alienist... Read more
Published on July 13 2004 by CoffeeGurl
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly Skullduggery and Dante ....
A deftly, atmospheric written novel that marries seamlessly Dante with the world of 19th Century literati. Read more
Published on July 13 2004 by "woofitsmuthu"
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