In 1865 Boston, the literary geniuses of the Dante Clubpoets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, along with publisher J. T. Fieldsare 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 College are fighting to keep Dante in obscurity, believing that the infiltration of foreign superstitions into American minds will prove as corrupting as the immigrants arriving at Boston Harbor.
The members of the Dante Club fight to keep a sacred literary cause alive, but their plans fall apart when a series of murders erupts through Boston and Cambridge. Only this small group of scholars realizes that the gruesome killings are modeled on the descriptions of Hell's punishments from Dante's Inferno. With the lives of the Boston elite and Dante's literary future in America at stake, the Dante Club members must find the killer before the authorities discover their secret.
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and an outcast police officer named Nicholas Rey, the first black member of the Boston police department, must place their careers on the line to end the terror. Together, they discover that the source of the murders lies closer to home than they ever could have imagined.
The Dante Club is a magnificent blend of fact and fiction, a brilliantly realized paean to Dante's continued grip on our imagination, and a captivating thriller that will surprise readers from beginning to end.
Chosen as The Big Important Book of the Month Audacious and captivating... Don't be surprised if, after having read The Dante Club, you find yourself revisiting your old tattered college-issued Inferno. How much, it turns out, you've been missing.
Janet Maslin - The New York Times
Mr. Pearl, with this captivating brain teaser as his debut novel, seems also to have put his life's work on the line in melding scholarship with mystery. He does justice to both.
Matthew Pearl's dazzler of a debut novel, The Dante Club, is just what an historical thriller should be--a creative combo of edge-of-your-seat suspense, fully imagined characters, fictional and real, and an evocative, well-researched, well-realized setting.
The Wall Street Journal
Many American devotees may not know that they owe their first translation of The Divine Comedy to another great poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The bard gave the New World not only its first taste of the Italian poet but, with Oliver Wendell Holmes and James Russell Lowell, its first Dante Society. This is the setting for Matthew Pearl's ambitious novel, The Dante Club.....Mr. Pearl's book will delight the Dante novice and expert alike.
San Jose Mercury News
There aren't many writers around who can remind you of both James Patterson and Umberto Eco.
The San Francisco Chronicle - David Lazarus
A hell of a first novel... 'The Dante Club' delivers in spades.
Talk about high concept in Pearl's debut novel, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and James Russell Lowell team up with 19th-century publisher J.T. Fields to catch a serial killer in post-Civil War Boston ... is an ambitious and often entertaining thriller that may remind readers of Caleb Carr.
Kirkus Reviews - starred review
Ingenious use of details and motifs from the Divine Comedy, and a lively picture of the literary culture of post-bellum New England, distinguish this juicy debut historical mystery.
Library Journal - Laurel Bliss
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.
Booklist - Kristine Huntley
Starred review. 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.
Iain Pears, author of An Instance of the Fingerpost
A fascinating, erudite, and highly entertaining account of a remarkable moment in American literary history.
David Liss, Edgar Award–winning author of A Conspiracy of Paper
... a thoroughly accomplished first novel. Matthew Pearl does a marvelous job of evoking the period and making it come alive with finely drawn characters and an ingenious story.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Avid reader Thriller? The most thrilling experience I had with this book was watching it fly through the air toward my garbage can. Wooden characters and no discernible plot. Great descriptions of facial hair though!
Rated of 5
Rated of 5
I've selected this book for my book club! It's got everything we enjoy -- history and mystery and more! I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good read!
Rated of 5
A fantastic novel. I very much enjoyed the time spent with Longellow, Holmes, and the other members of the Dante Club! The writing was crisp and tight while characters were well developed with unique (and consistent) strengths and weaknesses. The... Read More
Rated of 5
I very much enjoyed Matthew Pearl's novel, The Dante Club. It combines several elements of various different types of novels I enjoy reading: mystery, horror, history and surprisingly, romance.
Mr. Pearl's treatment of historical fact... Read More
Rated of 5
I found it quite difficult getting into the book. The graphic description on the state of the dead bodies was sickening. Another point I wish to make is that I have never read Dante and therefore found it difficult to understand much of the... Read More
In the London of 1795, intrigue and death walk the dark streets. England is at war with France and espionage is rampant - and it is the job of John Absey to catch these spies. Intricately plotted and beautifully paced.
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