Hm. Not sure where to go with this review. I'll start off by saying I liked this book. A lot. So much so that I picked up Matthew Pearl's next two books (The Poe Shadow and The Last Dickens) and have them sitting on my HUGE to-read pile. This is probably one of the biggest compliments I can give an author after reading one book...not often does someone's first novel make me an instant fan.
The book is historical fiction. And the story is the made-up events surrounding the real-life quest of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to complete the first translation of Dante Alighieri's "The Divine Comedy" from Italian to English. Longfellow, along with real-life friends, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr and James Russell Lowell, notice a parallel between recent murders and the various punishments in the "Inferno" canto of "The Divine Comedy". With Dante's famous work being largely unread in America, the three men take it upon themselves to make the connections and solve the crimes.
The novel seamlessly tied fact with fiction and Pearl crafted a thrilling and suspenseful novel that entertained, taught, and got me interested in reading "The Divine Comedy" in its entirety. In fact, the Longfellow translation has been reprinted due to the notoriety it received from Pearl's "The Dante Club".