Matthew Pearl's first novel is an interesting read. He takes a literary masterpiece such as Dante's Inferno and adapts it to a mystery novel. A killer is on the loose, but his style of killing revolves mysteriously around newly translated portions of Dante's Inferno. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and James Russell Lowell team up with 19th-century publisher J.T. Fields band together to try and find out who this mystery killer is. The chase takes readers throughout 19th century Boston and through gruesome murder scenes. Many have said this bold debut of Matthew Pearls represents a fresh approach to to the familiar who-dunnit novels. Pearl takes the popular genre of novels and adds a twist with another literary master: Dante Aligherri.
Many who know of the literary world are weary of the use of the fireside poets as investigators of horrendous murders. While the idea is a risk, Matthew pulled it off in a marvelous way. Matthew has a talent for being very detailed and his imagry is like no other author I have read. It felt as if I was walking the street of Boston at that time looking for the murderer myself. "The Dante Club" has been categorized as historical fiction because of his use of literary masters as well as historical aspects of Boston in the 1800's. Matthew Pearl has opened the doorways and expectations for his work. "The Dante Club" is an excellent novel to start out with for Pearl's writing career. It sets the stage for what we can expect in subsequent novels of his.
While there are many things to praise on this novel there are some things that could be altered. The storyline is slow to start, while there is a lot of action and description, there can be too much. Granted his descriptions are remarkable and he goes in depth with the descriptions to make his readers feel as if they are a part of the story, but there are moments within the story that the description takes away from the story.
Pros: I enjoyed how it follows Dantes circles of Hell
Cons: Can get pretty graphic at times
Bottom Line: Pearl takes an interesting twist to the classic Inferno and uses it as a base for a murder mystery. It is well worth the read.
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5