Review: The Dante Club

The Dante Club
The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

If I would have known Dan Brown wrote a blurb for this book, I would have avoided it. However, I saw Dante in the title, saw that it was about a series of Dante inspired murders, and having just learned about Dante’s importance in Italian history, decided this might be a good read.

The murder scenes are lavishly describe, almost to the point where you think they should belong in a Saw film, but that’s about the only time anything ever happens in this book. Outside of the murders, the plot drags along, and it doesn’t help that the four main characters aren’t even remotely likeable. Granted, they are based on rather famous historical figures, but they’re all so pompous and self-indulgent that it’s difficult to root for them. It wasn’t until I learned their respective jobs that I was able to tell them apart because they all exuded the same air of self-importance.

Furthermore, there was an entire chapter dedicated to the motivation of the killer, like the readers were too stupid to figure out why he was doing the things that he was doing. There’s nothing I despise more than a book spelling something out for me, especailly a book that appears to be aimed towards a more literary audience.

The only thing likeable about this book was Rey, and it wasn’t because he was an interesting character, even though compared to the other characters he seems like a rainbow on a grey day. No, the only thing that made his parts of the book readable were the slight attempts to explore what life was like for a black policeman in Boston shortly after the Civil War, in this case the first colored policeman to serve in the city. The trials he faced professionally were far more interesting than the poets chasing after dead ends while they were trying to preserve the integrity of Dante. Save yourself the trouble and just read Longfellow’s translation of the Divine Comedy instead. It will probably give you more insight as to who Longfellow was as an individual.

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