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Easy to be mocked, I know, but: I did buy the new Dan Brown book on the day of its publication, and it entertained me whenever I was stuck in an airport or plane or coffee shop for the next couple of days. That’s what Dan Brown books are for, I believe, and they are quite good at that.

Of course “Inferno” gives you a bit of a hard time, even compared with its predecessors. In the first two Robert Langdon books, I was aware of course of Brown’s, let’s say, unpretentious writing style, and “Lost Symbol” lost not just its symbol but its composure when sickening plot twists came pouring on the readers’ heads. The drive of the narrative kept me on it, though.

With “Inferno”, that could have been different. From very early on, the book got on my nerves: It is so excessively repetitive, redundant and detailed on irrelevancies that I really had to grind my teeth and bite my tongue. I would have been willing to stop reading the time a video sequence that plays a role in the plot (or does it? Actually no…) is described for the … I don’t know … fifth time. The 10th time around I wanted to scream. The way arbitrary knowledge from what was certainly a generous collection of tourist guide books the publishers had provided Brown with free of charge was interspersed, or rather sprayed across the book was less annoying, actually quite cute in a way. Next time they should do little text boxes on the side of the page, or embed the tourist association’s video introduction to … whatever it will be next time. Moscow? Beijing? Something with plenty of tourist information offices that can provide maps and easily readable information on the two or three top attractions of the place.

And that leads to the reason why I stuck with the book even though it is written in even worse style than the previous ones (at one point I was: this looks like the book of somebody who wants to copy Dan Brown style, but somehow gets it all wrong – only to realise: oh yes, that’s exactly Brown’s problem…), and I cared even less about the characters than for those in the previous books. “Inferno” is about Florence and Venice, and I love Florence and Venice. It is about Dante’s Divina Commedia, and I love the mythology of that book and the artwork that it inspired. Even more than in the Rome or Paris of “Lost Symbol” and “Da Vinci Code”, I enjoyed running along familiar streets, learning what lies underneath, who built it and how he was murdered. That kind of story. A novelised tourist guide book through what happen to be two of my most favourite places in the world (plus one that I always wanted to visit, but haven’t managed yet) and one of my favourite books – they should do that for every city! Actually, “they” do, with Brown working his way through the global map, with Ruiz Zafon providing Spain backstopping support…

All in all: an often painful, but still entertaining experience, through the sheer luck of location and literary references. That same book playing it out in Madrid or Berlin would certainly have been unbearable, though.

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