The 'D' in 'Dan Brown' stands for 'Dante'

IS THIS WRITTEN IN CODE? Dan Brown's signature. In "The Lost Symbol," the most recent of Dan Brown's thrillers featuring symbologist Robert Langdon, there's a moment when Langdon compares the murky, distant secrets of Europe with those of colonial America.

This nation may not be too old in comparison to the world across the pond, but there's a rich tradition of secrecy in this country that is exciting and intriguing. That's what he thinks. Soon after these musings, Langdon sets off on another chase-and-race-against-the-clock that is rooted firmly in red-white-and-blue soil.

In his forthcoming novel, however, Brown -- and Langdon -- are heading back to Europe. The publisher Doubleday announced today that it will publish a new Dan Brown novel in May. The title, "Inferno," refers to the one and only Dante Alighieri and his epic poem of medieval Italy, The Divine Comedy.

Here's Brown, from the news release, on what drew him to the immortal Tuscan:

"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," Brown says.

What exactly does "enduring influence" mean?  In Brown's world, it also points to a familiar theme in his past books: conspiracy. "With this new novel," Brown adds, "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."

An exec editor at Doubleday also mentions that "Inferno" includes "a mystery that has global ramifications..." (Hm, I wonder if the Priory of Sion ever traveled to Italy.)

I'm looking forward to May so that I can see what Brown makes of a figure whom I've adored for all of my reading life.

My interest in the book isn't entirely neutral -- I have a story of my own involving the poet in the works -- but regardless of that, any time that is spent with Dante is time well spent. There's nothing better than turning off the television and wandering for a few hours with Virgil in Hell or up the slopes of the mountain in Purgatory.