Skip to main content

The Dante Game by Jane Langton

Genre: Thriller, cosy
Series and no. : Homer Kelly, # 8
Type of detective: Professor of literature, lawyer and former policeman
Year of publication: 1991
Setting & time: Florence, Italy, contemporary.

Harvard Professor Homer Kelly is invited to teach for one school year at a new school for American students in Florence, Italy. One of the teachers has been in prison in the USA for murder, another one is a boring creep, the students are the usual mixed bunch, including one socially-inept stalker type and a ravishingly beautiful female student with issues, and the school secretary really works for the city’s top drug baron, who is planning to use a religious fanatic to assassinate the pope, whose anti-drug campaign is affecting business.

I picked up this book mostly because of the title. I haven’t read The Divine Comedy, mostly because I couldn’t decide which of the many English translations to choose, but I did wish I had the one quoted in the book on hand – I believe it was the Sayers translation. However, it didn’t really matter that I didn’t have it, since it isn’t that important an element in the book. The titular Dante game is a game devised by the man who teaches the Dante course in the book, where he gives the students a list of clues and they have to recognise which passage from the book it refers to and find an object connected with it. This game is utilised as a diversionary tactic by the story’s criminals to cast suspicion on the students and staff of the school by stealing some of the objects the students were meant to find.

The main plot concerns a drug baron’s plans to use a man who is a fanatic for religious reform to assassinate the pope, because he has declared a holy year against drugs, which has seriously eroded the business for the drug lord.

The characters are mostly well-developed but none are sympathetic, not even the beautiful young woman who is one of the central characters or the teacher who is half-paralysed with love for her, and there is no mystery because the author lays all the cards on the table for the reader. The only bit of detection anyone does in the book is one teacher’s desperate search for a missing student he has fallen in love with, and the series detective is reluctantly drawn into that search. The pace is slow and steady until the last 50 pages or so, when it starts rolling and picks up the pace. The thriller plot is pretty good, but somehow things don’t quite come together. It may have been the pacing, or possibly the characters, and definitely the lack of detecting had something to do with it.

What really makes this story an interesting read is the combination of Dante, Florence and the author’s drawings of the city. The author expresses her love for Florence very clearly in the background narrative and makes it come deliciously alive for the reader, which is why I am giving it 3 stars and keeping it – but on the travel books shelf and not with the crime books.


Popular posts from this blog

Reading report for January 2014

Here it is, finally: the reading report for January. (February‘s report is in the works: I have it entered into Excel and I just need to transfer it into Word, edit the layout and write the preface. It will either take a couple of days or a couple of months).

I finished 26 books in January, although admittedly a number of them were novellas. As I mentioned in my previous post, I delved into a new(ish) type of genre: gay (or M/M) romance. I found everything from genuinely sweet romance to hardcore BDSM, in sub-genres like fantasy, suspense and mystery and even a quartet of entertaining (and unlikely) rock star romances. Other books I read in January include the highly enjoyable memoir of cooking doyenne Julia Child, two straight romances, and Jennifer Worth‘s trilogy of memoirs about her experiences as a midwife in a London slum in the 1950s. I also watched the first season of the TV series based on these books and may (I say 'may') write something about this when I have finis…

How to make a simple origami bookmark

Here are some instructions on how to make a simple origami (paper folding) bookmark:

Take a square of paper. It can be patterned origami paper, gift paper or even office paper, just as long as it’s easy to fold. The square should not be much bigger than 10 cm/4 inches across, unless you intend to use the mark for a big book. The images show what the paper should look like after you follow each step of the instructions. The two sides of the paper are shown in different colours to make things easier, and the edges and fold lines are shown as black lines.

Fold the paper in half diagonally (corner to corner), and then unfold. Repeat with the other two corners. This is to find the middle and to make the rest of the folding easier. If the paper is thick or stiff it can help to reverse the folds.

Fold three of the corners in so that they meet in the middle. You now have a piece of paper resembling an open envelope. For the next two steps, ignore the flap.

Fold the square diagonally in two. You…

Stiff – The curious lives of human cadavers

Originally published in November and December 2004, in 4 parts. Book 42 in my first 52 books challenge.

Author: Mary Roach
Year published: 2003
Pages: 303
Genre: Popular science, biology
Where got:

Mom, Dad, what happens after we die?

This is a classic question most parents dread having to answer. While this book doesn’t answer the philosophical/theological part of the question – what happens to the soul? - it does claim to contain answers to the biological part, namely: what happens to the body?

Reading progress for Stiff:
Stiff is proving to be an interesting read. Roach writes in a matter-of-fact journalistic style that makes the subject seem less grim than it really is, but she does on occasion become a bit too flippant about it, I guess in an attempt to distance herself. Although she uses humour to ease the grimness, the jokes – which, by the way, are never about the dead, only the living, especially Roach herself – often fall flat. Perhaps it’s just me, but this is a serio…