This book is blurbed by Dan Brown on the front cover; happily, The Dante Club is a much better book than The Da Vinci Code and Pearl is a much better writer than Brown.
The poets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, their publisher, J.T. Fields, and the historian George Washington Greene are completing the first translation of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy ever to be published in America. It is Boston in 1865, just after the Civil War. Two prominent Brahmins are murdered in grotesque manner and the Dante Club realize that the details of the murders are taken straight from the as-yet little-known Inferno. Stirred out of scholarly inaction, they start looking for the killer.
Pearl conjures up nineteenth-century Boston, fresh from the War Between the States, full of little-wanted immigrants, and the distrust of the Harvard Corporation of foreign ideas. He brings his three main characters, Holmes, Lowell, and Longfellow to life. He makes a strong case for the universality of Dante; enough so that I am minded to dig up my copy of Dorothy L. Sayers’ translation of Dante’s Inferno and give it another go some day.
Background information: TheDanteClub.com.