Inferno by Dan Brown

Coming a good ten years after The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown’s Inferno features Harvard Symbologist Robert Langdon for the fourth time. This book is a complex labyrinth of characters, locations, twists and turns galore. So much so that after a while, you need to take a break just to take a grasp of the situation. You are left wondering how Dan Brown would have woven this complex tale of mystery and murders and created a masterpiece. You find reference of Inferno in Dante Alighieri’s epic poem The Divine Comedy, where Inferno is the underworld , the hell which is an elaborately structured realm populated by entities known as “shades” bodiless souls trapped between life and death. 



Author : Dan Brown
Originally Published : 2013
Publication : Doubleday
Pages : 609
Genre(s) : Mystery, Conspiracy fiction, Thriller, Novel

With references to man-made virus that can wipe out populations, it bears an eerie similarity to the current pandemic with similar thought-lines.

Like the other Langdon outings, this one is also set in Europe, Florence for that matter. The book opens with a lucid dream sequence of Langdon where he sees a woman who disappears in a flash of light while telling him ‘Seek and find’ as he scrambles to know who she is. Langdon wakes up in a hospital with IV drip, as he is attended by Dr. Sienna Brooks assisting Dr. Marconi. Soon it becomes clear to Brooks that Langdon has all but forgotten the past two days from his memory and doesn’t remember how he came in Florence. But there’s surprise in store further, when Dr. Marconi is shot dead by a woman trying to break into Langdon’s room as the doctor stops her. It’s clear the assassin wants to target Langdon, but Brooks manages to help him escape to her home. The assassin is Vayentha.

At Brooks’ apartment, Langdon discovers a cylinder in his jacket sleeve hidden. It’s a canister, a biotube that hides dangerous chemicals. Inside is a projector that projects Botticelli’s hell, a take on Dante’s Inferno.  He calls the US consulate who convey they are relieved to find him alive.

Someone else is also searching for Langdon. Or for the secret chemical in fact. As Langdon surveys the old city of Florence, he meanders tracing clues. Bertrand Zobrist is a geneticist who has left a riddle along with Dante’s mask in the old city of Florence. He believes that humanity should not grow out of control and is engineering a secret disease that can wipe out a majority of population. As Zobrist is killed Langdon comes to know that he had devised a secret plague that would render a third of human population infertile, thus controlling the growth. It’s a sterility plague which is a trans humanist solution, based on the black plague of Europe that had the ratio of wiping off a third of the people infected.

That, the death potion, is the metaphor for the recurring dreams that Langdon is getting about Dante’s Inferno. Enter the World Health Organization people– Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey, in a bid to take matters in control. Zobrist has been seeking help of a group called the Consortium to safeguard the chemical cylinder before he kills himself. Things keep moving between Turkey, Venice and Florence. The secret cylinder is going to explode by the time it is in the Hagia Sophia at Turkey and we soon discover that Brooks is, in fact a secret lover of Zobrist and works in allegiance with The Consortium. She has unsuccessfully tried to convince Zobrost not to indulge in these activities.

Langdon moves along as Sienna Brooks heads back to her journey home as we see a soft emotion blooming between the two.

Key Takeaways

  1. Dan Brown has skillfully crafted a book that weaves ancient art and lore with modern context. Taking cue from Dante’s Inferno (hell), he shows how bio-hazardous viruses can be invented by persons believing in ancient metaphors.
  2. In a striking similarity to the Covid pandemic, we see that dangerous viruses have been a pursuit of several shady minds
  3. Crisscrossing continents, the book takes us to uncover a mysterious treasure hunt of sorts to crack the riddle of Dante to find the chemical
  4. Preventing highly intelligent people from using their grey to create catastrophes is going to be a challenge in the years to come as we face bio warfare

Why I recommend this book

For its distant yet eerie similarity to the Covid pandemic and the possibility that it could be developed in some lab. For the skillful interplay of science, technology, human psychology and mystery that renders the book a must read. The book is a must read for fans of Langdon, but also to those who love shady characters, a favourite genre of Dan Brown seen in almost all his earlier books.

Also recommended for its fast pace and brilliant use of exotic locales like Florence, Venice, Hagia Sophia that lends it glamour and mystic appeal.

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