Boston. 1865. A small group of elite scholars prepares to introduce Dante's vision of hell to America. But so does a murderer. The literary geniuses of the Dante Club - poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell and publisher J. T. Fields - are finishing America's first translation of The Divine Comedy. The powerful old guard of Harvard College wants to keep Dante in obscurity, believing that the infiltration of such foreign superstitions will prove as corrupting as the immigrants invading Boston Harbor. The members of the Dante Club fight to keep their 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 realises that the gruesome killings are modeled on the descriptions of Hell's punishments from Dante's Inferno. With the police baffled, lives endangered and Dante's literary future at stake, the Dante Club must shed its sheltered literary existence and find a way to stop the killer.
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(197mm x 129mm x 27mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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UK Kirkus Review »
When the body of a prominent judge in 1865 Boston is discovered partly digested by exotic blowfly larvae, Chief Kurtz rightly suspects murder. Aided by his formidable freed slave partner, Nicholas Rey, his investigations lead nowhere. Also in Boston meets the eponymous Dante Club, a clutch of scholars devoted to the study of the 14th-century Italian poet Dante Alighieri. Included in their number are the esteemed American writers Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr Oliver Wendell Holmes and James Russell Lowell. When Dr Holmes is asked to attend to another gruesome murder victim in the city; he makes the connection with Dante. Soon, these three literary caballeros vow to discover the killer. But will the murders inhibit Longfellows own much-awaited translation of The Divine Comedy? At times The Dante Club reads more like a thesis than a whodunit, but it ultimately proves itself a strikingly rich novel. It is replete with information about life in post-Civil War America: the workings of its infant police force, publishing methods, literary tastes, Harvard administration and biographical sketches of historical figures. Matthew Pearls insight into the lives of the notable three poets reaps rich characterizations that lead us to imagine Dr Holmes as bumbling and sensitive, Lowell as fiery and Longfellow as stalwart. Pearl demonstrates an almost superhuman devotion to detail and, interesting as the historical information is, it does slow down the action. His knowledge of old Boston slang ('Whats with the Friday face?' 'These are bully times!') adds to the bygone flavour but detracts somewhat from the mysterys momentum. Pearl won the prestigious American Dante Prize for his scholarly work, evident throughout this story. This, his first novel and written while he was studying law, stands as a proud testament to how one can put a literature degree and a well-stocked library to good use. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Matthew Pearl
Matthew Pearl is the internationally bestselling author of The Dante Club, published in more than thirty languages and forty countries, The Poe Shadow and, most recently, The Last Dickens. Pearl is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School and has taught literature at Harvard and at Emerson College.