Dante does it

Just as I was beginning to despair and think that another Name of the Rose wasn’t possible (and that we forever are doomed to read the illiterate snippets of The Da Vinci Code,) along comes Matthew Pearl’s The Dante Club to rewive our spirits.
This is a very good book – historically correct as far as possible, painting fascinating portraits of Longfellow, Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., and other literary figures of late 19th century Boston, and with a proper plot, shades of Sherlock Holmes mixed with modern-day notions of what happens after the conclusion of a war.
One of the critiques of The Name of the Rose was that it seemed a bit after the fact: That the main protagonist had ideas that were several hundred years ahead of themselves, in expression if not in content. I had the same feeling reading this book, but it seems based in the writings of the people involved – and I am continually amazed by how early ideas turn up, and how we seem to rediscover them in every generation.
Nevertheless, The Dante Club is a must read in the historical crime mystery genre (if there is such a thing), and a relief, as I watch the NYT Book Magazine carrying ads for talks on lectures on The Da Vinci Code. Pearl can write, is historically correct as far as possible, and can set up a plot. His book is not very filmable, though. But it is very readable.
Very highly recommended.

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