Booktopia Buzz with Caroline Baum
March 2013 | Breaking News
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BUZZ IN BRIEF
It's official: that slow start to the year is over. This month the reading year really kicks into gear, building momentum. As with everything, the world of books has its own internal rhythms and markers. In March the year shucks off its my brain is boiled I can only read light stuff feel and says, ok, now I'm ready for something substantial.

The quality of this month's selection just kept upping the ante with every new parcel that thudded on my doorstep. When I thought things couldn't get any better, they did. Looking at what I've chosen, a theme emerges: extremes. Whether it be eating too much in The Middlesteins or kidnapping a child in Schroder, or jeopardising everything you have in Indiscretion or exploring adolescent sexuality in All the Way or witnessing everything the twentieth century can throw at you in Life After Life.

Here are big meaty stories, full of substance, power, ideas, emotion, books that pushed my buttons and books I sank into with a grateful sigh. Books by familiar names competing with confident newcomers who seem to have arrived fully formed, without the usual jelly-legged stumbles you forgive from a novice.

If this is a taste of what's to come, it's going to be a corker of a year.

Kind Regards

Caroline Baum
Editorial Director

Booktopia Buzz

Follow me on Twitter: @mscarobaum

Follow Booktopia on Twitter: @booktopia
BOOK OF THE MONTH
Click here for more details or to order LIFE AFTER LIFE
by Kate Atkinson


Caroline Baum: OK, I'll admit, I was sceptical. The premise of this book seemed too contrived: it imagines how history could be changed if you had the chance to live your life over and over again to die and start over, each time changing a small detail that affects the course of your own destiny and perhaps, that of the world itself. Or as the publisher herself puts it, think of it as a literary Groundhog Day.

Well, that pitch did not sell itself to me. But as soon as I started reading, I was completely transported and I bought Atkinson's simultaneously serious and playful concept lock stock and barrel. It is hugely ambitious and she pulls it off with style, flair and dramatic flourish. Her sweeping narrative shifts from place to place and mood to mood as the century advances, her voice unmistakably, crisply British in its quiet but lethally accurate understanding of the nuances of class and the portent of history, which she never overplays.
 
But there's more here than showy technique. Atkinson bestows real love and care on her characters: Sylvie, my favourite, is part Mrs Dalloway and part Mitford sister. But the book belongs to her daughter, the seemingly eternal Ursula, who takes everything in, soberly, with wry humour, navigating disappointment, surviving bitter loss, uncomplaining, a timeless symbol of female resilience and potential.

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A QUIET TRIUMPH
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by Amity Gaige


Caroline Baum: Amity Gaige (what a name!), you had me at hello.

A young man who has invented a new identity for himself in order to belong in America marries, divorces and runs away with his young daughter Meadow. It's that simple and that sad.

Told in a first person confession to his wife, this is prose that is stripped back and spare but all the more powerful for it. Full of foreboding and portent, the relationship between father and daughter is so intense that it grabs you by the throat and won't let you go. You know what the father has done is wrong and yet you sympathise.

Gaige's pitch is perfect, her narrator a cool detached observer of his own heartrending alienation, punctuating his account with esoteric asides about silence, his memories of his East German childhood demarcated by a wall that some readers will not even remember existed.
 
A quiet triumph that will punch a hole in your heart.

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CHEEKILY SATIRICAL
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by Melissa Lucashenko


Caroline Baum: Talk about a Bran Nue Dae! What a landmark time it's been for perceptions of indigenous culture. First Redfern Now and next this, a wonderfully light and deft novel that manages to straddle romance and a native title claim without the slightest feeling of worthiness.

If ever we needed proof of a new way attitude to what it means to be an indigenous woman today, here it is: the story of Jo Breen, who uses her divorce to buy a neglected farm in the Byron Bay hinterland, hoping for connection with her aboriginal ancestors, has no raw bitterness or sorrow, and comes free of any victim mentality.

Jo is a wonderful creation, direct, empowered, competent and her romance with Twoboy juggles sex appeal and politics. The secondary characters are marvellously free of cliché and stereotype too and the prose has an infectious physicality and energy that is cause for celebration.
 
Cheekily satirical, this novel will introduce many readers to Melissa Lucashenko although she's been a talent to watch for quite a while. Her jokes are irreverent, regardless of race, and her aim is deadly, in the Aboriginal sense of the word.

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Australian author
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REWARDING
Click here for more details or to order THE WORLD WAS ALL BEFORE THEM
by Matthew Reynolds


Caroline Baum: Meet Philip and Sue. He's a doctor, she's an art curator. They're in their mid-twenties and have just moved to a new house in a small town in the Home Counties for a year. Philip is a locum GP at the local surgery, while Sue is trying to make her mark at a pretentious contemporary gallery in London. Both of them are facing professional crises that challenge their training, hopes and aspirations (the gallery scenario is by far the livelier of the two).

What sets this book apart from its somewhat mundane commonplace subject is the author's style, a kind of literary version of Google Earth which zooms in on every microscopic detail of Phil and Sue's surroundings and every bit of minutiae floating past their self- absorbed consciousness. It's a challenging read, slow, dense and demanding, but may reward those with a liking for miniatures or needlepoint.   

P.S In case you were wondering, the title is a quote from John Milton's Paradise Lost. I didn't get the reference either.

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TO SHARE OR NOT TO SHARE...
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by Chris Ruen


Caroline Baum: I'm no geek but I am interested in the social and cultural impact of the internet. This is a lucid, persuasive well-written argument against free content, focussing on how it has affected the music industry.

I would have liked it to broaden its discussion of piracy to its impact on film and books, but the author, a self-confessed freeloader who has seen the error of his ways, is a muso obsessed with Brooklyn bands, so he stays within the territory he cares about.

He's not just a whinger though, offering constructive ideas about how to address the epidemic of illegal downloads and providing a clear exposition of the relevance of copyright in a world where everything is shared.

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ATMOSPHERIC
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by Andrew Taylor


Caroline Baum: If you like your historical fiction laced with a bit of gothic intrigue, this atmospheric tale of duplicity is for you. 

Manhattan, 1778 is the last part of America to be still under British rule. It is a murky place awash with profiteers, double agents and a swelling tide of refugees seeking justice from the British crown. When London clerk Edward Savill is sent to New York to investigate the claims of dispossessed loyalists, he finds himself drawn into the investigation a body washed up on the docks. How that relates to the secrets of the Wintour family who are Savill's hosts is the mystery he must discover.

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COOL ELEGANT PROSE
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by Charles Dubow


Caroline Baum: How many ways can you tell a story about adultery? Seemingly infinitely. But who cares about how threadbare the betrayal scenario is if the writing gives it fresh vigour?

Dubow certainly does in this polished Gatsby -esque tale. The narrator is Walter, a sophisticated and wealthy bachelor living in the Hamptons. Walter observes how Claire, an ingénue outsider is charmed into the circle of a perfect marriage between bestselling novelist Harry Winslow and his stunning wife Madeleine. The couple appear to have the best of relationships and to value each other together with the easy elegant, glamorous life  they lead enough to protect it from predators. But when the predator is disguised in such an attractive package, they drop their guard and mayhem ensues.

All of this is utterly predictable. But Dubow makes it psychologically compelling in smooth, cool elegant prose. Walter's worldly and measured analysis saves the book from being dismissible as romantic melodrama: a great example of how powerful prose can take an otherwise banal subject and invest it with almost mythic status.

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WRY HUMOUR
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by Jami Attenberg


Caroline Baum: This is the third book about obesity I've read in as many months. So I'll say it again. As far as publishing is concerned, fat is the new black (or grey). I love this take on the subject for its authentic Jewish flavour. It will make you want to go out and find a deli that does really good chopped liver, or at least a Reuben sandwich with extra pickle. 

Oyveh! (loose translation for non-Jews: oh god ) Edie weighs 300 pounds (that's one hundred and thirty six kilos to you and me) and is killing herself eating. She doesn't seem to care and even gets up in the night so she can fit in more food - before an operation, when she is supposed to be fasting. She goes to two fast food joints in one outing, so she's a really extreme case. Her husband leaves her and her children worry and argue.

Written with wry (as opposed to rye) humour, the novel shifts backwards and forwards in time to explore Edie's predicament from the perspective of different family members. There are some great observations about food and family dynamics here, so go on, eat up already (but don't have what's she having).

Australian author
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POWERFUL
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by Marie Darrieussecq


Caroline Baum: I have to be honest with you (otherwise you won't trust me next time, will you?) I found this book hard to like while recognising the undeniable power of the writing and its head-on confrontation of adolescent female sexuality.
 
Solange is understandably fascinated by the power of her own body as it mutates at the mercy of its wild hormonal surges. Flexing new muscles of attraction and repulsion, she is bold and predatory one minute and uncertain the next. It's a confusing time for any young woman and Solange is hungry for knowledge, obsessed with sex and who she will do it with first and next. Her small French village cannot contain her appetite or her imagination and her neighbour exerts a particular fascination as she taunts, teases and fantasizes about him.

Tough, unflinching and simmering with the frustration of adolescents caged by boredom, convention and the spiteful bitchiness of trying on new personae and navigating the fumblings of attraction, rejection and the testing of friendship, All the Way is not pretty but it feels disturbingly and fiercely real.

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RICH WRITING
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by Ruth Ozeki


Caroline Baum: Two women, worlds apart: Nao is sixteen and lives in Tokyo. She's decided to kill herself (her father has already tried, and failed) but first she's going to write in her diary about her great grandmother who was a buddhist nun.

Ruth (who bears more than a passing resemblance to the author) lives on the Pacific coast of Canada. A few months after the 2011 tsunami she finds a lunchbox on the shore which contains Nao's diary.

Promising enough, right?

Perhaps, but this book confounded me. I just could not grasp what it was really trying to say. I persisted, because the writing was rich with cultural detail and I was intrigued as to how the two strands of story would interweave. I love works in which cultures collide and I trust Ruth Ozeki to have something to say after her brilliant My Year Of Meat. With endorsement blurbs from hefty players like Junot Diaz, Philip Pulman and Alice Sebold, who am I to say this does not work?

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POETIC PROSE
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by Laleh Khadivi


Caroline Baum: Two brothers leave Iran when the Ayatollah comes to power and have to find somewhere new to live in the world. For Saladin, the dream has always been America, but for Ali, his heart belongs unequivocally to the mountain town of his birth.

That précis sounds so deceptively slight and simple, failing to do justice to the freight of sadness, the magnitude of loss and the overwhelming sorrow that suffuses this melancholy novel. Just taste a little of the wonderfully poetic prose:

Here is Saladin, newly arrived in Los Angeles:

'He arrives at the beach just after dusk, and the expanse of blue water is, in shade and spread, the same as the sky. Sand fills the cracks in his leather shoes, and Saladin walks until he is at the lip of her, thick with white froth, and walks until he is in, ankles, knees and thighs, still clothed and moving like a man in a trance. The water is as salty as his own tears and it is warm; water like a meal and a medicine; a tonic in which to bathe and receive the ablution that blesses the Kurd boy, poor boy, new boy. It rises over his hip and then to the elbows and neck and then he is entirely under, where the long tongues of strong currents lick him in a wild love fiercer than any caress he has ever known'

Australian author
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PRACTICAL ADVICE
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by Les Robinson


Caroline Baum: Don't be put off by the title, this book is brim-full of practical advice and case studies about how to effect change in community groups and workplaces using the latest research and techniques in technology and psychology. Mercifully free of jargon it up-ends marketing nostrums in breezily direct prose and is equally suited to organisations large and small, business and not- for-profit groups and anyone interested in professional circuit-breaking and transformation.

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LITERARY GIANT
Click here for more details or to order THE CHILDHOOD OF JESUS
by J. M. Coetzee


Andrew Cattanach: Rarely does a blurb prepare you so perfectly for what you are about to read.

The Childhood of Jesus is not like any other novel you have read.

And it is with the same forthright vagueness, if there is such a thing, that J.M. Coetzee tells a beautiful tale of love, loss, and everything in-between... Read more of Andrew's review

Davíd is a small boy who comes by boat across the ocean to a new country. He has been separated from his parents, and has lost the piece of paper that would have explained everything. On the boat a stranger named Simón takes it upon himself to look after the boy.

On arrival they are assigned new names, new birthdates. They know little Spanish, the language of their new country, and nothing about its customs. They have also suffered a kind of forgetting of old attachments and feelings. They are people without a past.

Simón's goal is to find the boy's mother. He feels sure he will know her when he sees her. And Davíd? He wants to find his mother too but he also wants to understand where he is and how he fits in. He is a boy who is always asking questions.

The Childhood of Jesus is not like any other novel you have read. This beautiful and surprising fable is about childhood, about destiny, about being an outsider. It is a novel about the riddle of experience itself.
Australian author
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ANOTHER KIND OF COUNTRY
by Kevin Brophy
  TWITCHER
by Cherise Saywell
  THE OTHER TYPIST
by Suzanne Rindell
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The Other Typist

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THE NIGHT RAINBOW
by Claire King
  THIS MAGNIFICENT DESOLATION
by Thomas O'Malley
  WORTHLESS MEN
by Andrew Cowan
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The Night Rainbow

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THE TOWN THAT DROWNED
by Riel Mason
  IN DIAMOND SQUARE by Merce Rodoreda
  SECRECY
by Rupert Thomson
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The Town That Drowned

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In Diamond Square

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THE INFATUATIONS
by Javier Marias
  HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA
by Mohsin Hamid
  TYRINGHAM PARK
by Rosemary McLoughlin
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The Infatuations

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THE CHEF
by Martin Suter
  HARVEST
by Jim Crace
  BENEDICTION
by Kent Haruf
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The Chef

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Jim Crace

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BABIES
RED PANDA'S TOFFEE APPLE
by Ruth Paul
  FIND A CHARM BOOK: PRINCESS  DUCKIE'S DUCKLINGS
by Frances Barry
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Red Panda's Toffee Apple

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CHILDREN
THE RED POPPY
by David Hill
  PRINCESS BETONY AND THE THUNDER EGG
by Pamela Freeman
  NEW GUINEA MOON
by Kate Constable
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The Red Poppy

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New Guinea Moon

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YOUNG ADULT
CLOCKWORK PRINCESS
by Cassandra Clare
  SPELLCASTER
by Claudia Gray
  HIDDEN
by Marianne Curley
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NON-FICTION
ORDER NOW AND YOU COULD WIN

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Is it possible to untangle religion and politics? Or will one's influence always be felt by the other? Find out on March 24 at CHURCH & STATE - a fiery panel debate featuring philosopher and bestselling author AC Grayling, Sean Faircloth, author and Director of Strategy & Policy at the Richard Dawkins Foundation, Australian priest and human rights lawyer FR Frank Brennan SJ and Hon. Pru Goward MP, Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister for Women. Book Here

And Booktopia has free tickets to Church and State to give away! Order The God Argument before Monday 11th March 2013 for your chance to win!

Click here for details or to orderTHE GOD ARGUMENT
by AC Grayling


The argument for Humanism - a beautiful and life-enhancing alternative to religion that offers insight, consolation, inspiration and meaning...

The first book to deal with all the arguments against religion and, equally important, to put forward an alternative - humanism.

There has been a bad-tempered quarrel between defenders and critics of religion in recent years. Both sides have expressed themselves acerbically because there is a very great deal at stake in the debate.

This book thoroughly and calmly examines all the arguments and associated considerations offered in support of religious belief, and does so in full consciousness of the reasons people have for subscribing to religion, and the needs they seek to satisfy by doing so. And because it takes account of all the issues, its solutions carry great weight.

The God Argument is the definitive examination of the issue, and a statement of the humanist outlook that recommends itself as the ethics of the genuinely reflective person.

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AUSTRALIAN STORIES
Click here for more details or to order THREE CROOKED KINGS
by Matthew Condon


In 1949, a young Terence Murray Lewis graduated from the police academy, ready to start his career in law enforcement. Over the next four decades, he rose to the pinnacle of power as the knighted Commissioner of Police in Queensland before his spectacular downfall and imprisonment after the Fitzgerald Inquiry in the late 1980s.

Three Crooked Kings follows Lewis' journey through the ranks, as he becomes part of the so-called Rat Pack with detectives Glenn Hallahan and Tony Murphy under the guiding influence of Commissioner Frank Bischof. The alleged suicide of prostitute and brothel madam Shirley Brifman in the early 1970s provides the turning point for a culture that reigned unchecked for several decades. It was part of a grand narrative teeming with murder, pay-offs, political machinations, drug heists, assisted suicides, police in-fighting and a complicated system of corruption that ultimately collapsed under its own weight.

Based on unprecedented interviews with Terry Lewis and access to his personal papers, Three Crooked Kings is the missing piece in the puzzle of the story of Queensland's endemic generational corruption. It is a searing story of greed, crime and corruption. Awarded journalist and novelist Matthew Condon has crafted the definitive account of an era that changed Queensland society; an impact that reverberates across the country to this day.

Australian author
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EARTH MASTERS
by Clive Hamilton
  CAYLEY AND SON
by Penny Olsen
  PICTORIAL HISTORY KINGS CROSS
by Ann-Maree Whitaker
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LAVISH
PARIS IN THE 1920S WITH KIKI DE MONTPARNASSE
by Xavier Girard
  JONATHAN BECKER
  PIET BOON
by Joyce Huisman
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Piet Boon

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LITERATURE
KILVERT'S DIARY
by William Plomer
  WILKIE COLLINS
by Peter Ackroyd
 

THE LOVE LETTERS OF ELIZABETH BARRETT AND ROBERT BROWNING

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Love Letters

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THOUGHTFUL
SEX AND THE CITADEL
by Shareen El Feki
  BIG DATA
by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger
  THE HERETICS
by Will Storr
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The Heretics

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MIXED NON-FICTION
RHS ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GARDEN DESIGN
  COMPLETE GERMAN
by Heiner Schenke
  AFRICA
by Michael Bright
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RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design

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MEMOIR AND BIOGRAPHY
THE AIG STORY
by Maurice R. Greenberg
  WITH OR WITHOUT YOU
by Domenica Ruta
  RAISING CUBBY
by John Elder Robison
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The AIG Story

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With or Without You

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HOME
SPANISH COOKING
by Miguel Maestre
  HEIRLOOM MODERN
by Hollister Hovey, Porter Hovey
  ELEGANT ROOMS THAT WORK
by Stephanie Stokes, Jorge S. Arango
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INCREDIBLE PRE-ORDER PRICE - LIMITED TIME ONLY

Click here for more details or to orderINFERNO
by Dan Brown


Now this is big. Not just big, but big big. A new Dan Brown book. Dan Brown, the man who gave the us The Da Vinci Code, the book which got the whole world reading again. Yes, that Dan Brown. This is great news. I know people who haven't read a book since they finished the last Dan Brown book, The Lost Symbol, four years ago now. They say nothing else is as good as a book by Dan Brown. The wait is over.

And Booktopia is bringing the biggest book of the year to you at an amazing price - for a very limited time only true Dan Brown fans can pre-order the hardcover of Inferno from Booktopia for just $17.95!

Dan Brown's new novel, Inferno, features renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon and is set in the heart of Europe, where Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centred around one of history's most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces.

As Dan Brown comments: "Although I studied Dante's Inferno as a student, it wasn't until recently, while researching in Florence, that I came to appreciate the enduring influence of Dante's work on the modern world. With this new novel, I am excited to take readers on a journey deep into this mysterious realm...a landscape of codes, symbols, and more than a few secret passageways."

Our Ultimate Dan Brown Fan Pre-order Price is for Limited Time Only
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Click here to view the Robert Langdon Series

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