Thomas H. Cook, “Master of the Delta” (2008)

thomas-h-cook-master-of-the-delta-2008“Jack Branch, teaching high school in his hometown in the Mississippi Delta in 1954, is justifiably proud of his college-prep ‘specialty’ class on the nature of evil. It’s a guts-and-gore attack on the classics–a potent mix of Dante and Melville and Jack the Ripper, delivered with the relish of Suetonius and the pizzazz of a burlesque stripper, and it prods his restless students to think about issues like hatred and intolerance. But this prideful young man, scion of an old aristocratic family who freely admits his sense of noblesse oblige in educating the poor and underprivileged, hasn’t given a thought to the kind of evil he himself can generate by meddling in other people’s lives.” [. . .]    –Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times, July 13, 2008

Matilde Asensi, “The Last Cato” (2007)

matilde-asensi-the-last-cato-2007Asensi’s first novel to be published in English features a clandestine religious organization, a code contained in the work of a long-dead genius, a plucky heroine, and just the right combination of obscure history and plausible conjecture. Sound familiar? The Last Cato will inevitably draw comparisons to The Da Vinci Code, but this book is in many ways more compelling, if a bit less accessible. After Dr. Ottavia Salina, a nun working as a paleographer at the Vatican, is asked to decipher tattoos on the dead body of an ‘enemy of the Church’ from Ethiopia, she soon discovers the deceased was tied up with the Staurofilakes, an ancient order who have sought to protect the True Cross and now seem to be stealing slivers of it from around the world. The key to tracking them down? Dante’s Divine Comedy. Turns out that Dante was a member of the order himself, and that the notoriously dense Divine Comedy is a kind of coded guidebook to the order’s rituals. Salina and a couple companions set off, with Dante as their guide, on a rollicking, round-the-world adventure. Some of the conjecture seems far-fetched, but the research is impeccable, and the behind-the-scenes Vatican life feels utterly authentic. As engrossing as it is intelligent, this just might be the next big book in the burgeoning religious thriller subgenre.”    –John Green, Booklist, Amazon

Martin Scorsese, “Cape Fear” (1991)

martin-scorsese-cape-fear-1991In the film, Robert De Niro’s character utters the line:
“‘I’m Virgil and I’m guidin’ you through the gates of Hell. We are now in the Ninth Circle, the Circle of Traitors. Traitors to country! Traitors to fellow man! Traitors to GOD! You, sir, are charged with betrayin’ the principles of all three! Quote for me the American Bar Association’s Rules of Professional Conduct, Canon Seven.'”    –IMDb

Contributed by Joe Henderson (Bowdoin, ’10)

Sarah Lovett, “Dantes’ Inferno: A Dr. Sylvia Strange Novel” (2002)

sarah-lovett-dantes-inferno-a-dr-sylvia-strange-novel-2002“The author of the critically acclaimed novels Dangerous Attachments and Acquired Motives is back with another spellbindingly original thriller featuring forensic psychiatrist Sylvia Strange. Now, in Dantes’ Inferno, Sylvia is called to Los Angeles from her New Mexico home when a massive explosion blasts through the J. Paul Getty Museum, endangering children on a field trip and claiming two lives. The police peg notorious bomber John Dantes as the mastermind, even though he’s in a maximum-security prison, serving a life sentence for another bombing he claims he didn’t commit.” [. . .]    —Amazon

Janet Jensen, “Dante’s Equation” (2006)

janet-jensen-dantes-equation-2006“Science and sci-fi go hand in hand in this ambitious, if not entirely successful, thriller by Jensen (Millennium Rising), which incorporates elements of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) as well as theoretical physics. During WWII, physicist and mystic Rabbi Yosef Kobinski vanished from Auschwitz in a blinding flash of light. Kobinski left behind at the camp his Kabbalist masterpiece, The Book of Torment, to be buried for safekeeping. Half a century later, a Jerusalem rabbi and an American journalist are trying to find it.”    –Publishers Weekly, Amazon

“Hannibal” (Ridley Scott, 2001)

hannibal-ridley-scott-2001Hannibal is set in Florence where the notorius Hannibal Lecter is posing as a medievalist and Dante scholar. He lectures on the Divine Comedy and recites poetry from the Vita nuova, as well as attends an operatic adaptation of the Vita nuova. Apart from these explicit references to Dante, there is also a sense in which the homicidal methods he employs mirror, contrapasso like, the sins of his victims, all of whom are in some sense bad. The noble folk, Starling and a nurse, are spared, despite HL’s ample oppourtunities to kill them. It is difficult to equate any of the movie’s characters with those of the Divine Comedy, although Lector does in a sense play Virgil to Starling’s pilgrim; but in his role as avenger of evil, serial killer, HL appears more like the wrathful Old Testament God.”    –Peter Schwindt

For a compilation of references to Dante in the film, see the post on the website greatdante.net.

Contributed by Peter Schwindt