Matthew Pearl, Author, Boyd Gaines, Read by , read by Boyd Gaines. Simon & Schuster Audio $26 (0p) ISBN 978-0-7435-1791-1

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FictionTHE DANTE CLUB: A NovelMatthew Pearl, read by Boyd Gaines. Simon & Schuster Audio, abridged, four cassettes, 6 hrs., $26 ISBN 0-7435-1791-1

In 1865 Boston, not many people spoke Italian. It was much more popular for people to study Latin and Greek; the classic works in these languages were common reading for students and academics. But the small circle of literati in Pearl's inventive novel is bent on translating and publishing Dante's Divine Comedy so that all Americans may learn of the writer's genius. As this group of scholars, poets, publishers and professors readies the manuscript, much more exciting doings are happening outside their circle. The Boston police are hot on the trail of a series of murders taking place around town. In one, a priest is buried alive, his feet set on fire; in another, a man's body is eaten by maggots. It doesn't take a rocket scientist—only a Dante expert—to realize these murders are based on Dante's Inferno and its account of Hell's punishments. Scholars become snoopers, and the Dante Club is soon on the scene, investigating the crimes and trying to find the killer. A tad unlikely, but it makes for a terrific story. Gaines gives an stirring performance, nimbly portraying some of the "Hah-vad" professors' "Bah-ston" accents and impressively reading the Italian passages from Dante's work. Although it's sometimes hard to differentiate between the various characters—after awhile each stuffy Bostonian begins to sound alike—Gaines nonetheless amuses and, via Pearl's historical references, educates. Simultaneous release with the Random hardcover (Forecasts, Oct. 7, 2002). (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/03/2003
Release date: 02/01/2003
Genre: Audio
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