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BOOK REVIEW: Inferno

Inferno-coverTITLE: Inferno
AUTHOR: Dan Brown
EDITION: Doubleday
PUBLISHED: May 14th 2013

It has taken me a long time to get through this book but that isn’t necessarily a reflection of the content. It is quite long at 480 pages but I always find with Dan Brown books that the short chapter lengths mean that you put it down a lot more often and therefore it takes longer to get through them. Having read all five of Dan Brown’s previous novels and loved three out of five of them, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the new release.

Once again, Professor Robert Langdon (who, in my head for now and forever, is Tom Hanks) is thrown into a global scale drama and much like all of his previous adventures, it’s up to him and an attractive, educated professional woman with an unusual, mysterious past to save the day. Set predominantly in Italy, Langdon wakes up in a Florence hospital and soon discovers that he has been shot in the head. The hospital is attacked and the nurse looking after him, Sienna Brooks, ushers him out of the building into a taxi.

After finding a cylinder that emits an altered version of Botticelli’s Map Of Hell, it transpires that the police are after Langdon as he is a suspect in the theft of the poet Dante’s death mask from the Palazzo Vecchio museum. Several twists and turns later, including a delve into the work of a mad scientist intent on solving the world’s overpopulation problem via some quite shocking methods, the story ties up all its ends and we’re left with a content ending.

Unsurprisingly, Robert has several questions about what exactly is going on, seeing as he last remembers being at home in America before waking up in Florence, but they aren’t answered by Sienna or anyone until the second half of the book. It’s this that keeps the pages turning and Dan Brown is great at doing this. Small clues are dropped in places but we are kept guessing as to the truth behind everything.

Although Langdon is an academic that I’ve followed for three previous books before this, I found his knowledge of Dante a little unbelievable. After all, he is a symbologist and I’m not sure his skill and knowledge would extend to classic literature in as much detail as he goes into. Naturally, this was done to ensure Langdon came across as the heroic character who solves everything but I think it did sacrifice some realism in the process.

The final chase scene is exciting and Sienna’s turn of character is certainly an unexpected one that stops us from guessing the ending. Dan Brown is great at creating suspense and urgency and there is plenty of that in Inferno. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Angels and Demons, which is my favourite Langdon book but it was still a thrilling, thought-provoking read, uniting classic themes of religion and philosophy with a very modern problem of population growth.

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