Modern Mysteries for the English Major

I’ve just discovered Matthew Pearl with some help from my manager at Borders, and I have to say, not being a huge fan of mysteries, I’m pleasantly surprised.

He’s a lot like Dan Brown, but I find his books a lot easier to follow, though admittedly less deep as far as cultural references go. I just finished The Dante Club and I can’t wait to start The Poe Shadow and eventually The Last Dickens (which just came out in hardcover). In case you haven’t noticed, his books take some sort of literary based question and attempts to solve it as a mystery novel much like Dan Brown does with art history and secret societies. I like Pearl’s take because, let’s face it, I am a HUGE bookworm.

The Dante Club is cool because it’s about a string of murders, each of which represents a level of Dante’s Inferno…the detectives have to try and figure it out before the killer gets to all the levels. It was very intricate and alluded to things in The Inferno that I hadn’t thought about before…I even went back to my copy and re-read parts to see if Pearl was actually that inventive with what Dante had written…and he was. He is so familiar with Dante’s work that it’s almost as if Dante himself invented these murders as a way to go along with The Inferno. I’m excited to see if the Poe book is the same way, and especially the Dickens one, which is supposed to be a mystery about the last long-lost Dickens text. I am pretty obsessed with Charles Dickens and I’m excited to see what Pearl has in store for this book–especially since The Dante Club turned out to be excellent.

If you’re looking for a good book to read and want something that is thrilling, fast-paced, and intellectually stimulating pick up something by Matthew Pearl. He is my official recommendation for summer reading–even if Oprah picks something else.

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