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Brown's 'Inferno' puts Langdon through his paces

| Saturday, May 18, 2013, 6:21 p.m.

Dan Brown's globetrotting symbologist, known for his tweed jacket, Mickey Mouse watch and penchant for getting into international incidents, is back for a matter of life, death and Dante.

“Inferno” throws Robert Langdon into the fire for an Italian adventure inspired by Dante Alighieri's “The Divine Comedy.” The heroic effort is a better one than Brown's last novel, “The Lost Symbol,” and comes close to the mega-popular “The Da Vinci Code” in terms of entertaining tension.

The new novel is probably the closest Brown will ever get to his version of “The Hangover”: Langdon wakes up in a Florence hospital with a bad case of retrograde amnesia after a gunshot wound to the head and a strange object connected to Dante's Inferno. The cops, a private security firm and an assassin are targeting him, so, with the help of a secretive female doctor, Langdon goes on the run to figure out the missing two days of his life.

After three books — and two Tom Hanks movies — readers know Langdon, his smarts and his personality well, and Brown takes the opportunity to focus on building up the hero's supporting cast, which is the strongest yet in the series. Dante himself even gets some face time.

Don't know much about Dante? Brown has you covered, giving a rundown of important aspects of the Italian poet and his works.

Brown has a definite formula in place for putting Langdon through his paces, but watching him go through hell is about as close as a book can come to a summertime cinematic blockbuster.

Brian Truitt is a staff writer for USA Today.

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