by Sukey HowardFebruary, 2003
Matthew Pearl's dazzler of a debut novel, The Dante Club, is just what an historical thriller should be a creative combo of edge-of-your-seat suspense, fully imagined characters, fictional and real, and an evocative, well-researched setting that takes you right into another time and sensibility. Here, the setting is the post-Civil War Boston of 1865. The characters include some of the great literary Brahmins of the time Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and James Russell Lowell among them who are hard at work on the first American translation of Dante. The suspense comes quickly when their scholarly efforts are interrupted by a string of grizzly murders that exactly duplicate the dire torments described in Dante's Inferno. Intrigued and horrified, these elite intellectuals put their pens aside to go after the killer themselves. Add Boyd Gaines' perfect-pitched narration to this mix and you've got a soundly satisfying audio presentation smart and exciting.