Audiobook Review: “The Dante Club: A Novel” by Matthew Pearl

My brother-in-law (who reads more than anyone I know) recommended this book to me as he thought I would like it. And I have to confess – I listened to it last month and am only just now getting around to reviewing it. Why? Well, first we went on vacation; but that’s really not an excuse. If truth be told, I couldn’t think of much to say.

Here’s the scoop: it’s 1865 and several notable Bostonians gather to discuss literature and Dante in particular, forming “the Dante Club”. I loved this part – I always like books where historical characters come to life (as long as they are done appropriately). A serial killer starts terrorizing the city and the clues are linked to Dante’s Inferno, so the club must put their heads together to solve the mystery and stop the killer.

Here’s where I started to have problems. I love mysteries, but I do not like really graphic stories. Some of the descriptions of the murders were so vivid and graphic (the word ‘disgusting’ comes to mind) that I had to turn off the CD player. I also couldn’t have it playing while I drove the kids places as I felt it was too graphic. It reminded me of “Angels and Demons” which I found vividly repulsive.

Here’s my other problem with the story: I kept zoning out. Now perhaps we can blame the suburban Boston traffic, or my general fatigue, or the fact that I was mentally composing what I needed to get at the grocery store, but bottom line: I missed a lot of this story as I wasn’t riveted.

At first I loved the narrator, John Siedman, and was impressed in how he could change his voice to make each main character unique (Oliver Wendall Holmes, Lowell, H.W. Longfellow, J. T. Fields, etc.). However, as with every book I listen to that takes place in Boston, I always cringe when they do the accent. Here’s the scoop people: the Boston Brahmins did not – nor will they ever – pronounce “Harvard” as “Hah – vid” . “Haw – vud” is much closer. That’s all I’ll say, but just trust me on it.

I’d be curious as to whether any of my readers have read Pearl’s books and if you liked/disliked them. I am wondering whether I should try another.

(I got mine from the library!)

Let me know what you think!

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