Inferno by Dan Brown, hardback, by Transworld, £20 (ebook £7.20).

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It’s been almost four years since Professor Robert Langdon, the renowned Harvard symbologist, last embarked on a mystery.

 With Inferno, Brown wisely returns the action to Europe, the setting for his first two books, but the formula is the same: Langdon meets a very attractive, intelligent young woman called Dr Sienna Brooks and together the pair try to unravel a mystery with its roots in ancient literature to save the world from a deadly plague, while escaping from some evil types who are trying to kill them.

Brown is tackling provocative territory here, as he sets out the case for population control (neo-eugenics) through the eyes of his mad scientist and the consequences of doing nothing, while raising the spectre of a biological weapon of mass destruction.

 Brown is famously not the most literary of writers but he is a master of intrigue and clever plotting – and with Inferno he has returned to his Da Vinci Code best.

Kate Whiting