Matthew Pearl

Books: Mystery | Historical

The Dante Club (2003)

The Dante Club (2003)

The Dante ClubBased on historical facts combined with a murder mystery, The Dante Club tells how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J. T. Fields worked to translate Dante's Divine Comedy into English. Unfortunately, the administration at Harvard University--for which Holmes and Lowell both work--is opposed to the translation, for a variety of reasons.

In addition to the opposition by Harvard, Boston is shocked by the brutal murder of Chief Justice Judge Healey. His body is found on his estate covered by flies and maggots--and the maid who found him insists that he was alive when she stumbled upon his body.

After picking up The Dante Club, I put off reading it after seeing the blurb by Dan Brown on the cover. Luckily, The Dante Club was what I was hoping it would be--an historical mystery.

I almost put off reading the book again when I started the preface. It made no sense in relation to the story I was expecting. But I decided to get through the preface and once the story started it was--in fact--the historical mystery I was expecting.

What I particularly liked was reading about these historical figures that were barely glanced over in my history and English classes (yes, I know, my education is pitifully lacking, but I do try to remedy that fact occasionally.) I recognize the names of the famous poets and politicians and historical characters, and knew they were poets or politicians, but little more than that. Of course I've never gotten poetry, so that probably didn't help.

In addition to reading about historical figures, the story was also good. The mystery was an interesting one, and although I'd get bits and pieces of it, I never guessed the whole of it. The historical figures interesting and enjoyable, although I couldn't tell you if they were accurately portrayed or not.

The Dante Club is a solid historical mystery. It moves a little more slowly than other mysteries, but there is a lot of detail and historical. Which was a plus for me, but might be less enjoyable if you don't like historical details. (In which case why would you be looking at historical mysteries anyway.)

Rating: 8/10