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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I do not profess to understand this strange pattern, but we cannot escape its implication"
"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...
Published on 17 Dec. 2006 by B. Alcat

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tough to get through.
According to my normal reading habits, a book of this size would normally take me just over a week to get through. This one took just over Four and it was an effort-filled hard slog.

It wasn't that I found the storyline and plot difficult to follow, it was more down to the fact that I just could not engage with the characters and was often confused over who...
Published on 2 Jan. 2010 by S. Mohammed


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I do not profess to understand this strange pattern, but we cannot escape its implication", 17 Dec. 2006
This review is from: The Dante Club: Historical Mystery (Paperback)
"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!

Belen Alcat
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dante Club - Astonishing, 14 Mar. 2003
By 
J. Mcrorie "John Mcrorie" (Glasgow) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Dante Club (Hardcover)
Every once in a while a novel comes along and is simply stunning in every way. The last novel I was this excited about was Donna Tartt's The Secret History, and in my opinion this novel is just as good as. For those of you like me who knew nothing (and I mean nothing) about Dante, this novel offers a fascinating introduction of Dante and his work. Think of the combination, we have Dante, an insightful look into 19th Century history, a setting in smouldering Boston that you can almost smell, a killer on the loose more sadistic than any other indiviudal I have come across in print, a group of unlikely heroes using 19th century detective work, and you have a mix that is simply unbeatable. I simply could not put this book down. I read it waiting for public transport, travelling on public transport, getting off public transport, walking to and from work, and last thing at night. Give it a try, you'll have bitten every fingernail off, by the time you get to the last chapter.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dante Club, 27 Jan. 2004
This review is from: The Dante Club: Historical Mystery (Paperback)
This book probably falls into the category of a thriller, but it is oh so much more. It is literate and poetic, but in a dynamic way. There are threads of poetry running from Dante to Longfellow and his friends who are some of the greatest minds of their day.
They are the most unlikely of heroes, but I loved their characters. They may be getting on a bit in years, but they are clever, brave and resourcful in tracking down the fiend who murders his victims using methods of punishment taken from Dante's inferno. These are also people who have a great friendship and affection for each other and you feel part of that circle of friends.
I had many theories as to the identity of the murderer, but I truly didn't guess who it was until the exciting climax of the book.
I did not want the book to end and I have been making up for that by reading poems by Longfellow that I had forgotten that I knew. These include his wonderful translation of the Divine Comedy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tough to get through., 2 Jan. 2010
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This review is from: The Dante Club (Paperback)
According to my normal reading habits, a book of this size would normally take me just over a week to get through. This one took just over Four and it was an effort-filled hard slog.

It wasn't that I found the storyline and plot difficult to follow, it was more down to the fact that I just could not engage with the characters and was often confused over who was who. Whilst Matthew Pearl introduces his characters as every author would, It didn't help that the members of 'The Dante Club' all had dark unruly hair and beards (as was befitting of the late 1800's). To add to the confusion, a character would sometimes be referred to by his Surname and First name throughout the story. The switch occurring often and for reasons I could not determine.
I even had trouble picturing the Boston in which the story was set and I would forget that the tale was set in the late 1800's, 'dateless' you could almost say.

The synopsis suggested this was going to be an original literary crime novel and I'm sure for some it was, but I'm afraid for me, the characters let it down. Crime novel it was, but not without serious flaws.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cochliomyia hominivorax and Dante, 21 Jan. 2003
By 
taking a rest - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Dante Club (Hardcover)
If, 'The Dante Club", is an indication of what readers may expect from future works by Mr. Matthew Pearl, a great new novelist has arrived. Mr. Pearl has not just taken a great setting and a great tale, but he has added notable historical figures as well as one of the most noted pieces of literature ever written, and molded them in to a wonderful mystery on the streets of Boston in 1865. He also has not hesitated to take venerable institutions to task, regardless of their presumed august positions when they stoop to hypocrisy or other unsavory acts.
The work of Dante was virtually unknown in this period of Boston's history except by the very few and equally few well educated. It was considered modern, controversial, and an affront to the classics that were taught at institutions like Harvard University. And then there is The Dante club whose members include Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and James Russell Lowell who are in the process of bringing out the first English translation of Dante's work for American readers. Powerful forces such as Harvard, amongst others, are against it, nevertheless the group proceeds week by week and level by level through the world of Dante as they prepare their publication. The process is closely guarded with their publisher knowing the full contents of their progress and other confidants having only the knowledge that their work proceeds.
But prior to publication meticulous Dantean murders occur, but knowledge of the translation is not well known, it is not even complete, and yet the murders are carried out with an exactitude that only a scholar of Dante's work would have access to. And just as Dante fits his punishments to a crime of specificity, this murderer too follows the famous work in the most exacting detail.
These are the circumstances that author Matthew Pearl arranges in his debut work, "The Dante Club", and the tour he takes readers upon is literate, well-constructed and erudite. The author was honored in 1998 when he was awarded The Dante Prize for his scholarly work by The Dante Club of America. This is a novelist that has the credentials to effectively combine his formal education in Dante with great skill as a writer of fiction.
There are many new authors that debut every year. There are far fewer who will return a second time, or even if they do will have their subsequent work noticed. I believe Matthew Pearl will be the exception. He is no one trick wonder, and no sophomore jinx awaits him either. He is very bright, as his accomplishments at Harvard and Yale have demonstrated, and he is most capable with a pen as, "The Dante Club" has shown.
Read this young man's first work, you will have the experience of excellent writing, a wonderful use of your reading time, and the pleasure of having discovered this young author on his first venture in to the eye of the public.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Murders from Hell!, 6 Jan. 2005
By 
Mrs. M. P. Small "Grammatica" (HARROW, Middlesex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dante Club, The (Audio Cassette)
Set in Boston in 1865, someone influenced by Dante's 'Hell' has begun a campaign of punishment, killing victims to match those of Dante's sinners. Members of the academic 'Dante Club' meet oppostion to their plan to publish their translation of the work and find themselves as investigators into the murders which horrify Boston and its environs. The pace is slow at first but the tempo of the plot increases as the book moves on. It is quite thrilling at the denouement. Some of the description of the deaths is not for the squeamish. Adam Sims brings the numerous characters alive so that one is not confused as to who is talking. The detailed historical background comes across well.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The amateur detective society translates Dante, 5 Oct. 2007
By 
Thomas Paul (Plainview, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
It's 1865, the Civil War has just ended, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the other members of the Dante Club are translating Dante's "Divine Comedy" for the 600th anniversary of Dante's birth. When a pair of murders occur that seem to take their inspiration from the tortures in "Inferno", the Dante Club decides to investigate. What is revealed is that 19th century poets make poor detectives and boring characters. Longfellow is treated liked some kind of poet-god, Holmes is a whiny little bore, and Lowell and Fields are interchangeably nondescript. In fact, none of the key characters other than Oliver Wendell Holmes are developed very much and Holmes is not an especially likable person.

Although using historical figures in a mystery can be interesting, the problem is that since we know that none of the members of the Dante Club were murdered by a serial killer in 1865, it's hard to create much sense of danger. Normally, an author will add additional fictional characters, make us care about them, and then put them in danger so that only the heroes of the story can save them. But Pearl doesn't go this route, instead putting his main characters at risk but this doesn't create any real tension. In fact, Pearl seems to realize this so the danger he places his characters in is quickly dispelled. The book starts off fairly well for the first chapter but then drags as Pearl introduces the Dante Club. A big problem is the dialog. Here is a random sample:

*Lowell mumbled, "Did not Dante himself once write that no poetry can be translated? Yet we come together weekly and gleefully murder his words." "Lowell, peace," gasped Fields...*

Perhaps Boston poets did speak this way in the 1860's but it makes for tedious reading. In the acknowledgments, Pearl reveals that much of the dialog is taken from essays written by the various members of the Dante Club. Since people don't speak the same way that they write, perhaps this is the source of Pearl's problem. After struggling through the first hundred pages, the book finally starts to move as the mystery deepens and our heroes start their investigation. But the story quickly begins to drag again as the "detectives" reveal their incompetence.

Which leads us to the denouement of the story in which all is not revealed. The holes in the solution to the mystery are vast and the "detectives" make no effort to fill them. So the story seems mostly an excuse to discuss some issues with the translation of Dante. The murders are brutal but poorly described. Boston of 1865 could have been an interesting character (as New York City is in "Ragtime" and "The Alienist: A Novel") but instead Boston is barely described. In fact this is the key to the book's failures... Pearl isn't a very good descriptive writer which is critical in fiction but especially in a mystery.

I should add that the book has a foreword which gives away a key plot point (one of the few of interest in the first part of the book). Skip the foreword and return to it later... you'll thank me.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs some perseverance but eventually pays off, 1 Dec. 2006
This review is from: The Dante Club: Historical Mystery (Paperback)
This is the first book I have read by this author. I was attracted to the book as I did not know much about Dante. I was impressed with the author's CV and thought that the book may be a worthy introduction. The setting of Boston in the late 1880s was also attractive but, again, I knew little of the poets of that time.

Unfortunately the start of the book reads more like a whos who for poets. I was increasingly frustrated and confused with the number of characters who had 3 names. Not only that - to add to confusion 2 of the leading protagonists wives were called Fanny! Maybe if I had been more aware of the poets of this time this would have been less of a problem.

I felt that it took well into the second section of the book until I could feel substance and warmth from these characters. It was also then that the plot started to take off. When this did the book got exciting!

However - despite the long start and introduction, I thought that the end was rushed. Much more could have been made of the climax I had long been waiting for. It felt like Mr. Pearl had got fed up!

Nevertheless - I did like this book. I now feel educated about the period and the poets of that time. It was a well written book. I was able to put myself at that place and time in my head and even at some points feel the penetrating cold of a Boston winter in which a Lucifer is abode.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Overly literary murder mystery, 12 Jun. 2013
By 
Nicola Taunt (York, North Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Dante Club: Historical Mystery (Paperback)
This book never really took off for me. It follows a group of poets on the trail of a killer, murdering people in Dantean style. The trouble is that none of the poets are engaging characters and there's far too much literary fannying about and not enough detective work going on.

The poets never really have a clue and stumble about accidentally finding the odd clue. The only police officer with any promise is a young, black man, who deserves to be better developed as a character. Characters are dropped in and physically described, but never really lift off the page.

While you never read about the murders as they happen, the author describes the state of the victims after their death in vivid and gruesome detail. He's obviously done his Dante homework, but for me the novel is too concerned with the literary aspect, both Dante's work and the Fireside Poets, to write a real murder mystery. When the killer is revealed at the end of the book, I found myself completely underwhelmed by the revelation. Plus, I found it really odd to have the killer's backstory laid out as it was.

All in all, I found the style of prose off-putting and the protagonists and story far from compelling.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pearl's Dante Club: clever and well done!, 5 July 2012
By 
Billy J. Hobbs "Bill Hobbs" (Tyler, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Dante Club: Historical Mystery (Paperback)
Matthew Pearl has taken a clever setting and clever use of real characters to pose some very dramatic and very readable situations. Mr. Pearl's intelligent and intellectual approach in "The Dante Club" is refreshing to read; it also gives the opportunity for the reader to think and to understand Boston following the Civil War.
Using as principle characters Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell (among others), Pearl's murder scenario very cleverly surrounds--even is inundated by--Dante's "Divine Comedy." There's deaths aplenty, each a symbolic reference to one or more of Dante's "crimes in hell."

What to do? This trio, among others, has been working diligently to translate Dante into English. Alas, there are forces who violently (indeed) oppose such work, among them some of Harvard's academic elite.

The wisdom, the art, the bravery of Pearl's "characters"--combined with some he's clearly created, such as the police chief and his African-American officer--make this story gripping and fascinating. Pearl's wit, his scholarly touch, his fast-moving writing style certainly make this historial-fiction cum police procedural one not to miss. An excellent read!
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The Dante Club: Historical Mystery
The Dante Club: Historical Mystery by Matthew Pearl (Paperback - 1 Jan. 2004)
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