Entertainment & Arts

Dan Brown's Inferno: Reviews round-up

Inferno cover
Image caption Booksellers predict that Dan Brown's latest could become the biggest-selling book of the year

As Dan Brown's new thriller Inferno goes on sale, early reviews describe it as a page-turner that will not win any literary prizes.

"Even though I thought it was bilge from beginning to end, I could not stop myself reading it," wrote AN Wilson in the Daily Mail.

Inferno is the fourth novel in the crime series following Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon.

The plot centres on Langdon trying to stop the spread of a deadly virus.

[Please note, some plot details are revealed by the reviews.]

The story begins with the tweed-suited professor waking up in an Italian hospital with no memory of why he is there.

With an assassin on his tail, he sets off through Florence - and other locations - to crack codes that allude to passages from Italian poet Dante's classic work, Inferno.

"The way the story is told is very similar to The Da Vinci Code: it is basically an extended chase," notes Wilson.

"Dan Brown claims to have gone into philosophical, theological and literary history in great depth for his books, but if he has done so, he has left no trace of these in-depth researches in Inferno. It's all twaddle, but at least it is entertaining twaddle."

In his two-star review, the Telegraph's Jake Kerridge said Inferno was Dan Brown's most ambitious novel yet - and his worst.

"As a stylist Brown gets better and better: where once he was abysmal he is now just very poor," wrote Kerridge. "His prose, for all its detailing of brand names and the exact heights of buildings, is characterised by imprecision. It works to prevent the reader from engaging with the story.

"This mattered less in his previous novels, but with Inferno I sense for the first time that Brown is aiming at a tauter, better book, one more interested in the real world, longing to escape from the prison of his pleonasm.

"But in the end this is his worst book, and for a sad, even noble, reason - his ambition here wildly exceeds his ability."

The Washington Post's Monica Hesse observed that Brown had "perfected the breathless art of the cliffhanger chapter, the ooky villain, the historish backdrop".

But she found that his storytelling sagged under the weight of historical detail.

"Narration appears lifted from a Fodor's guide, as when Langdon pauses in the middle of a life-or-death escape to remember the history of a bridge... It's like trying to solve a mystery while one of those self-guided tour headsets is dangling from your ears."

The Independent's Boyd Tonkin also noted "a plot rammed to bursting point with guide-book factoids".

"Brace yourself for a worldwide media outbreak of sizzling punditry about over-population, global resources and the promise or threat of genetic engineering. However barmy his premises, however leaden his prose, Brown retains all the advantages of surprise," he concluded.

Metro, meanwhile, found Inferno "weirdly good".

"Brown's grasp on adjectives is never going to win him the Pulitzer," it said. "But while the apocalyptic plot is naturally ludicrous, Brown respects his source material enough to give Inferno an enjoyable lo-fi credibility.

"It's customary to give Brown a critical kicking, but Inferno contains enough narrative tricks to keep even the most cynical reader guessing."

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