Inferno (Brown novel)



First US edition cover
Author Dan Brown
Country United States
United Kingdom
Language English
Series Robert Langdon #4
Genre Mystery, Conspiracy fiction, Thriller
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
May 14, 2013
Media type Print, e-book, movie
Pages 609 pages
ISBN 978-0-385-53785-8
OCLC 824723329
Preceded by The Lost Symbol
Followed by Origin

Inferno is a 2013 mystery thriller novel by American author Dan Brown and the fourth book in his Robert Langdon series, following Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol. The book was released on May 14, 2013 by Doubleday.[1] It was number one on the New York Times Best Seller list for hardcover fiction and Combined Print & E-book fiction for the first eleven weeks of its release, and also remained on the list of E-book fiction for the first seventeen weeks of its release. A film adaptation was released in the United States on October 28, 2016.


Harvard professor Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital with a head wound and no memory of the last few days. He last remembers walking on the Harvard campus, but he quickly realizes that he is now in Florence. Dr. Sienna Brooks, one of the doctors tending to him, reveals that he is suffering from amnesia. All of a sudden, Vayentha, a female assassin, shows up in the hospital. Sienna helps Langdon to escape, and they flee to her apartment.

After Sienna recounts the details of his admission to the hospital, Robert finds a cylinder with a biohazard sign in his jacket and decides to call the U.S. consulate. He is told that they are searching for him and want his location. Per Sienna's guidance, Robert gives them a location across the street from Sienna's apartment to avoid getting Sienna more involved in his mysterious situation than she already is. Soon, Robert sees Vayentha, who is armed, pull up to the location Robert gave the consulate. At this point, Sienna and Robert believe the U.S. government wants to kill him.

Robert decides to open the container and finds a small medieval bone cylinder fitted with a hi-tech projector that displays a modified version of Botticelli's Map of Hell, which itself is based on Dante's Inferno. At the bottom of the illumination are the words, "The truth can be glimpsed only through the eyes of death." Suddenly, soldiers raid Sienna's building.

The Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

Robert and Sienna head toward the Old City, believing the cylinder must have something to do with Dante. However, they find that Florentine police and Carabinieri officers have sealed the bridges and are searching for them. They run into a construction site near the Boboli Gardens where Robert illuminates the modified "Map of Hell" again, notices that individual letters, which collectively spell "CATROVACER," have been added to each of the ten layers of the Malebolge and that the layers have been rearranged. Moving them back to the order in the original Botticelli "Map of Hell" yields the words "CERCA TROVA." Robert recognizes these are the same words on the painting The Battle of Marciano by Vasari, located in the Palazzo Vecchio. Robert and Sienna manage to evade the soldiers and get into the Old City using the Vasari Corridor.

Robert stands in front of The Battle of Marciano trying to figure out where to go next by connecting the "eyes of death" phrase in the modified "Map of Hell" with his location. A custodian sees Robert snooping around and gets the director of the museum in the Palazzo Vecchio, Marta Alvarez. Marta recognizes Robert, having met him and Ignazio Busoni, the director of Il Duomo, the previous night. She leads Robert and Sienna up a set of stairs by The Battle of Marciano, and Robert realizes the top of the stairs is on the same level as the words "cerca trova" in the The Battle of Marciano painting. Marta tells Robert that she showed them Dante's death mask the previous night, which sits in a room down the hall from the Battle of Marciano painting. Robert realizes he is retracing his own steps from the previous night. Marta takes Robert and Sienna to the mask and find that it's gone. They look at security footage and see Robert himself and Ignazio stealing the mask. The museum guards turn on Robert and Sienna. At this moment, Marta calls Ignazio's office to question him but is greeted by his secretary, who informs Marta that Ignazio died of a heart attack the other night but left a message for Robert moments before he died. Ignazio's secretary asks to speak with Robert and plays Ignazio's message to him. In it, Ignazio esoterically tells Robert where the mask is hidden, referring to "Paradise 25."

Gates of Paradise at Florence Baptistry

Robert and Sienna escape the guards, but the soldiers arrive. They cross the attic over the Apotheosis of Cosimo I, where Sienna pushes Vayentha to her death. Robert connects the phrase "Paradise 25" to the Florence Baptistry, where he and Sienna find the Dante mask along with a riddle from its current owner, a billionaire geneticist named Bertrand Zobrist. Sienna explains that Zobrist was a geneticist who advocated the halting of humanity's growth, due to its out of control population and that he was rumored to be working on a means to do so using an engineered disease. A man named Jonathan Ferris, with a large bruise on his chest which he hides from the two, and a severe rash on his face, claiming to be from the World Health Organization (WHO), comes and helps them escape the soldiers. They follow the riddle to Venice, where Ferris suddenly falls unconscious, with Sienna claiming he is suffering from massive internal bleeding, causing Langdon to suspect Ferris has been infected with Zobrist's plague. Robert is captured by a group of black-clad soldiers while Sienna escapes.

Robert is taken to Elizabeth Sinskey, the director-general of the WHO, and is given an explanation of what is going on: Zobrist, who committed suicide the week before, was a brilliant geneticist and Dante fanatic who had supposedly developed a new biological plague that will kill off a large portion of the world's population in order to quickly solve the problem of the world's impending overpopulation, citing the Doomsday Argument. Elizabeth raided Zobrist's safe deposit box, found the cylinder and flew Robert to Florence to follow the clues. However, Robert stopped communicating with Elizabeth after meeting with Marta and Ignazio and the WHO feared he betrayed them and was working with Zobrist to unleash the plague. The soldiers were the WHO's emergency response team and never meant to kill Robert.

Zobrist had paid a shadowy consulting group called The Consortium to protect the cylinder until a certain date. He also left a disturbing video filled with Dante imagery, which also showed a picture of the plague itself, kept in a hidden underwater location, within a slowly dissolving bag. The video claims that the world will be changed the following morning. When Elizabeth took it away, they were obligated to protect whatever the bone cylinder pointed to. They kidnapped Robert after the meeting with Marta and Ignazio, but Robert hadn't yet solved the whole riddle. They gave Robert benzodiazepine drugs to erase his short-term memory, created a fake head wound and staged every event up to this point so that Robert would be motivated to solve it. Sienna, Vayentha and Ferris are all actors working for The Consortium; the call to the U.S. consulate was also staged. The leader of The Consortium, having become aware of the bioterrorism plot, agrees to cooperate with the WHO. Ferris's rash was due to an allergic reaction to the spirit gum he used as part of the disguise as the doctor Vayentha "murdered." His bruises were because the squib used to simulate him being shot in the chest misfired and broke his ribs. He collapsed in Venice because he had been ordered to detain Sienna, as the Provost (Consortium head) had allied with Sinskey, with Sienna realizing and punching him in his damaged ribs.

Sienna goes rogue and The Consortium realizes she was a secret supporter and lover of Zobrist. She learned where the plague was being kept after Robert solved the riddle and acquires a private jet to get to it before everyone else. Robert, the WHO and The Consortium team up to stop her. After watching Zobrist's video, they conclude that the bag containing the plague will be fully dissolved by the date the video specifies and that Zobrist's clues point to its location: the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, where Enrico Dandolo is buried. Robert and the others find the plague is in the Cistern but discover that Sienna is already there. The bag that held the plague had already been broken, presumably spreading through the outer world via visiting tourists. Sienna runs out of the Cistern yelling something in Turkish, which causes panic among the tourists who stampede out into the city while Langdon gives chase.

Inside Basilica Cistern, with water below and tourists above

It is discovered Sienna didn't puncture the bag; it was water-soluble and had dissolved one week earlier in the cistern waters, meaning that the whole world has already been infected. The date specified in Zobrist's video was the mathematical calculation of when the entire world would be infected. It is also discovered that Sienna was trying to stop the virus herself, but didn't trust the WHO because samples of the virus would certainly find their way into the hands of governments performing weapons research. The leader of The Consortium tries to escape WHO custody with help from disguised underlings, but is caught later by Turkish police. It is implied that The Consortium will be investigated and ruined. Sienna receives amnesty in exchange for working with the WHO to address the crisis, since she is a medical doctor and has extensive knowledge of Zobrist's research and work.

The plague that Zobrist created is revealed to be a vector virus that randomly activates to employ DNA modification to cause sterility in one third of humans, thereby reducing population growth to a more stable level. Sienna and Elizabeth decide not to try to reverse Zobrist's actions, Sienna pointing out that doing so would be difficult and hazardous even for someone like Zobrist and Elizabeth acknowledging that Zobrist had a point about the dangers of overpopulation.


The mask of Dante Alighieri, in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence


Brown released the book's title on his website on January 15, 2013,[2] after prompting readers to help reveal a digital mosaic using social media posts,[3] and revealed the cover in late February 2013.[4] The cover depicts the famous Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore located in Florence, Italy. He also published the first chapter of Inferno along with a free ebook of The Da Vinci Code on March 17. The ebook was distributed for free to readers worldwide through online e-book stores like Amazon, Google Play and Barnes & Noble until March 24, 2013. Transworld publishers, the official UK publisher of Dan Brown books, have also released the official book trailer through YouTube and others.

Inferno has been translated into French, Russian, Turkish, Greek, German, Dutch, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Czech, Portuguese, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish for simultaneous release. The publishers hired a team of 11 translators who worked on the project at the headquarters of Mondadori in Milan between February and April 2013. They were reportedly sequestered in a basement, and worked intensively under strict security and secrecy.

Inferno has been also translated into Persian by Afraz Publication, 3 months after first publishing.[5]

The book was translated into Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian and Azerbaijani and released simultaneously in January 2014.


Main article: Inferno (2016 film)

Sony Pictures announced a film adaptation that was released on October 14, 2016[6] with Ron Howard as director, David Koepp adapting the screenplay and Tom Hanks reprising his role as Robert Langdon.[7] On December 2, 2014, Felicity Jones was set to star in the film.[8] Indian actor Irrfan Khan was cast as The Provost.[9] Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen was added to the cast as Elizabeth Sinskey.[10] Filming began on April 27, 2015 in Venice, Italy, and wrapped up on July 21, 2015.[11]



Inferno received mixed reviews from critics. The New York Times praised the book as being "jampacked with tricks" and said that Langdon is on "one of those book-length scavenger hunts that Mr. Brown creates so energetically."[12] The New York Daily News reviewed the book favorably, calling it a book of "harrowing fun threaded with coded messages, art history, science, and imminent doom."[13] Other reviews were more negative. James Kidd of The Independent panned Brown's awkward prose but expressed approval of the book's plot, writing: "Brown's fusion of gothic hyperbole with a pedant's tour-guide deliberately restrains the imagination through its awkward awfulness."[14] The Boston Globe's Chuck Leddy compared the book favorably to Brown's previous works, and deemed it "the kind of satisfying escapist read that summers were made for."[15] Samra Amir of The Express Tribune was critical of the novel's predictability and malapropism, but noted that "Brown’s art reigns over boredom. He manages to keep the reader glued."[16] Writing for The Guardian, Peter Conrad dismissed the book's content as "conspiratorial farrago" and further elaborated: "Inferno is also dreadful, abounding in malapropisms and solecisms, leaden restatements of the obvious and naive disinformation about the reality outside the bat-thronged belfry that is Brown's head."[17]

Inferno is also discussed in academic scholarly debates as a diagnostics of the present.[18]


Inferno initially sold 369,000 copies at outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan. It debuted as the #1 bestselling book in the US and was also atop the UK's book charts in its first week in shops, selling 228,961 copies. The book remained #1 on Nielsen BookScan for the week ending May 26, selling 211,000 copies and bringing its two-week total to 580,000. Despite slipping 42% in its second week, Inferno far outpaced the #2 book, Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountains Echoed, which posted a debut of 91,000 copies. Inferno sold more than 6 million copies worldwide to date.


  1. McLaughlin, Erin (January 15, 2013). "New Dan Brown Novel, 'Inferno,' Set for May Release". ABC News. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  2. Farley, Christopher John (January 15, 2013). "'Da Vinci Code' Author Dan Brown Reveals 'Inferno,' Crashes Site". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  3. Flood, Alison (January 15, 2013). "Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code sequel Inferno revealed by readers". The Guardian. London. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  4. Kellogg, Carolyn (February 20, 2013). "Dan Brown's book cover reveal: It's 'Da Vinci Code'-y!". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  5. Walker, Tim (7 May 2013) "Real Inferno for Dan Brown translators who toil in underground bunker to decode his latest book". The Independent
  6. Gregg Kilday. "Tom Hanks' 'Inferno' Shifts Opening to 2016". The Hollywood Reporter.
  7. "Tom Hanks And Ron Howard To Return For Next Dan Brown Movie 'Inferno'; Sony Sets December 2015 Release Date". July 16, 2013. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  8. "Felicity Jones In Early Talks To Join 'Inferno' With Tom Hanks". Dec 6, 2014. Retrieved Dec 2, 2014.
  9. "Irrfan Khan to work with Tom Hanks in Inferno". Hindustan Times.
  10. Patrick Hipes. "'Inferno' Movie Adds Omar Sy & More As Cast Goes Global - Deadline". Deadline.
  11. "Sony Pictures Locks Tom Hanks, Ron Howard For April 'Inferno' Start". August 26, 2014. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
  12. Maslin, Janet (2013-05-12). "On a Scavenger Hunt to Save Most Humans". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-12.
  13. Connely, Sherryl (2013-05-14). "Dan Brown's powerful 'Inferno' thriller challenges readers with new puzzles based on Dante". Daily News (New York). Retrieved 2013-05-14.
  14. Kidd, James (June 1, 2013). "Review: Inferno, By Dan Brown". London: The Independent. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  15. Leddy, Chuck. "'Inferno' by Dan Brown". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  16. Amir, Samra. "Book review: Dan Brown's Inferno - to hell with it". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  17. Conrad, Peter (May 19, 2013). "Inferno by Dan Brown – review". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  18. Zwart H. (2014) Viral pandemics, Transhumanism and bio-art gadgets: a Lacanian reading of Dan Brown’s Inferno. Psychoanalytische Perspectieven, 32, 4: 367-403

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