by Dan Brown
In his latest novel, Dan Brown sends his unlikely hero, Harvard professor Robert Langdon on a romp round Florence. Accompanied by Sienna Brooks, a young doctor with an IQ of 208, Langdon embarks on a quest to find and destroy a deadly virus.
Planted by a misguided idealist Bertrand Zobrist, the virus when exposed to the atmosphere threatens to cut world population by half. Langdon believes it to be some kind of plague like the Black Death, but the only clues to its whereabouts are to be found in the pages of Dante’s greatest work, The Divine Comedy, in a paragraph of writing on the back of his death mask and in a painting by Botticelli. Pursuing Langdon and Sienna as they follow the trail from one museum to the next is a mysterious organisation called the Consortium, a would-be female assassin, a squad of sinister men in black, and representatives of the World Health Organisation. Langdon has lost his memory, you see, and doesn’t really know why he is running.
‘Lasciata ogne speranza voi ch’entrata’
Inferno is vintage Dan Brown, a fast-paced thriller in the mould of Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. Fans of his writing will find everything that led to the popularity of the earlier stories as both books and movies. However, he writes to a formula – a successful formula admittedly, and good luck to him – which I find too predictable.
Inferno, like the other novels, contains much information dump of an artistic kind which I feel overloads the plot with unnecessary detail. If I want to study mediaeval art and literature, I will pick up a non-fiction book on the subject. The other negative for me is the improbability of the scenario; Langdon, the James Bond-like adventuring professor does not quite convince me.
That said, I did find myself turning the pages with haste and expectation as the plot unfolded and the hero approached the final showdown.
As it turns out, none of the characters in Inferno are quite what they seem. Brown, by some clever cheating, keeps their true identities and purpose to himself until quite late in the novel. By then, we – and indeed Professor Langdon – are aware that the answer to the puzzle does not lie in Florence at all. To say more here would be a dastardly spoiler.