"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 about what is going to happen next.
The story takes place in 1865 Boston, where a group of friends that include poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, writer and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes and poet James Russell Lowell, among others, decide to form a Dante Club in order to produce an English translation of Dante's "Divine Comedy". Many people are against this endeavour, as they believe Dante's "Divine Comedy" to be dangerous reading material, but our academics are steadfast in their devotion to Dante. However, they begin to get nervous when a madman that seems to be delivering the punishments Dante Alighieri talks about in his "Inferno" (= "Hell", one of the three books in which the "Divine Comedy" is divided) starts killing people in Boston. Trying to avoid a death blow to Dante's reputation even before the American public can read his translated works, the members of the Dante Club decide to catch the killer by themselves. That is easier said than done, but makes for a very entertaining book.
From my point of view, "The Dante Club" is a perfect choice for Dante's fans, but also for those that just want to buy something interesting to read in their spare time. If you already love Dante, you will enjoy the way in which Matthew Pearl makes the "Divine Comedy" an integral part of this book; if you are new to Dante's works, you will learn about him and his books at the same time you read an original whodunit. In any case, you are highly likely to love "The Dante Club". Of course, recommended!