Last week saw the much anticipated release of Dan Brown‘s fourth instalment in his series of books following art historian and symbolist, Robert Langdon. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, Brown is the author of the super successful Da Vinci Code, it’s predecessor Angels & Demons and the last instalment of the series, The Lost Symbol. Two of these have been made into (somewhat mediocre) films starring Tom Hanks, and all of them follow Langdon as he rushes to solve a mystery and save the world. He is always accompanied by a beautiful and intelligent woman and he always solves the mystery and saves the day, while still staying modest in his tweed. Ok, when put like that, it doesn’t sound so exciting. It actually sounds a little predictable. But the way Langdon gets from A to B is the best part about the books. While it might be predictable, there is always a twist (this one had me bashing the pages of the book, while on the train) and there is so much historical reference that it’s difficult not to get wrapped up in that side of things. Inferno was certainly no exception.
It all starts when Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital, with no memory of how he got there. Then he discovers he is in Florence and he has no idea how he got there either. In fact, he has no memory of the previous two days. With the help of an intriguing doctor named Sienna, Langdon sets out to find out why he is in Florence, how he ended up in hospital and why people are trying to kill him. The only clue that he has to any of this, is an image of Botticelli’s rendition of hell, based on one of the best known literary pieces in history, Dante’s Inferno. As the mystery unravels and Langdon’s memory returns, he discovers a plot that will not only have major repercussions on the people involved, but also on the population of the entire world.
I have to admit that after the last instalment The Lost Symbol, I was a little hesitant to read Inferno. When I compare The Lost Symbol to the first two Robert Langdon books, I found it wanting. I guess it’s mostly because I have more interest in history from around the time of the Renaissance than more recent history and I found it more enjoyable to read about Langdon travelling through Paris and Rome, as opposed to Washington (I think it was Washington). So I was a little excited when I found out that Langdon would find himself in Italy again, this time in Florence. After reading the book, my excitement was definitely worth it!
There were plenty of suspenseful moments in the book (though in the back of my mind I always knew things would be ok), and even the climax of the story was not what I expected. Langdon’s female sidekick, Sienna, was quite different to the previous women he has had along for the ride, her past in particular is quite intriguing as you learn more about her. The secret society that can be hired for enough money, to do just about whatever you could conceive added another touch of mystery and intrigue. Especially their “no questions asked” attitude. I think the only thing that didn’t fit for me, was towards the end when everything came together and was wrapped up in a pretty little bow. Apparently Brown suffered writer’s block while penning this novel and spent time hanging upside down to get rid of it. I suspect that this particular part of the book was when he suffered most and as a consequence of spending too much time upside down, this section is a little weaker than the rest. But aside from this, I really enjoyed this book and sped through it in no time. If you are a fan of Dan Brown and haven’t yet read this book, you won’t be disappointed.