Story about a murderer who kills people with methods described by Dante. The book is set in the 1860's, and focuses around a group of poets. The writing style is "old" and period appropriate. I enjoyed this, but the writing style made for a somewhat difficult read. None of the characters are particularly moving or endearing. They don't seem to have a lot of depth, either.
HATED IT. I only finished it because my bookclub was discussing it. It is written in a period appropriate vernacular and very difficult to get through. The murder scenes are incredibly grisly, not for the squeamish at all. I just found the tone condescending and was somewhat taken aback that the author thought he could perceive the thoughts and actions of such iconic historical/literary figures like Longfellow. The one good thing - it has inspired me to read Dante and it was nice to have it under my belt when I read Jodi Picoult's The Tenth Circle (which I did enjoy).
Set in Boston of 1865. Longfellow and several of his poet-friends (Lowell, Holmes) are translating Dante's "Divine Comedy" (against resistance from Harvard functionaries). A series of murders happens, which are basically reenactments of some of Dante's punishments in hell. The "Dante Club" helps the first mulatto police officer in Boston to find the murderer.
Even though this book is very well-written (old style), I had a hard time "getting into it". On the one hand, the book is filled with details - you learn a lot about post-civil-war Boston, on the other hand, it feels as if it is an account by an impartial observer. The characters show no emotions, sometimes it is hard to figure out who is speaking or why someone acts a certain way.
I liked the story idea, and the writing is excellent, but the characters are too flat.
The first 10 pages of this book were so graphic that I nearly stopped reading. But I kept going, to be rewarded with a finely crafted mystery centering around the Fireside Poets and Longfellow's translation of Dante's Inferno. Set in Boston at the very end of the Civil War, Pearl weaves political and literary events into a credible story that was hard to put down. I especially enjoyed his portrayals of Holmes, Lowell, and Longfellow. My only complaint is that in trying to give the book an authentic tone, he relied too much on the nearly incomprehensible slang of the era.
In 1865 Boston, not many people spoke Italian. It was much more popular for people to study Latin and Greek; the classic works in these languages were common reading for students and academics. But the small circle of literati in Pearl's inventive novel is bent on translating and publishing Dante's Divine Comedy so that all Americans may learn of the writer's genius. As this group of scholars, poets, publishers and professors readies the manuscript, much more exciting doings are happening outside their circle. The Boston police are hot on the trail of a series of murders taking place around town. In one, a priest is buried alive, his feet set on fire; in another, a man's body is eaten by maggots. It doesn't take a rocket scientist-only a Dante expert-to realize these murders are based on Dante's Inferno and its account of Hell's punishments. Scholars become snoopers, and the Dante Club is soon on the scene, investigating the crimes and trying to find the killer. A tad unlikely, but it makes for a terrific story. Gaines gives an stirring performance, nimbly portraying some of the "Hah-vad" professors' "Bah-ston" accents and impressively reading the Italian passages from Dante's work. Although it's sometimes hard to differentiate between the various characters-after awhile each stuffy Bostonian begins to sound alike-Gaines nonetheless amuses and, via Pearl's historical references, educates.