Dan Brown's dapper, tweed-suited symbologist Robert Langdon, the man who cracked The Da Vinci Code and found The Lost Symbol, is about to embark on a new mystery - and this time it's literary.
Brown, one of the world's bestselling authors, will publish his sixth novel on 14 May, his publishers announced this morning. Langdon, a Harvard professor of "symbology" who sports a "charcoal turtleneck, Harris Tweed jacket, khakis, and collegiate cordovan loafers", will be adventuring through the "heart of Europe" this time round, where he will be "drawn into a harrowing world centred on one of history's most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces."
The title - Inferno - was revealed soon after the announcement by readers, who had been invited to use social media posts to help expose a digital mosaic. By posting on Facebook, or tweeting using the hashtag #DanBrownToday, readers' profile images were added as tiles in a web graphic, with the title - alluding to Dante's 14th-century poem - becoming clear as more images were added.
"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 said.
"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."
"Dan Brown's enthusiasm for puzzles, codes and symbols is a passion shared by his readers," said Suzanne Herz at Brown's US publisher Doubleday, saying that the marketing stunt was intended "to harness that passion and use it as a catalyst to reveal the new title."
Brown's previous novel The Lost Symbol - which saw Langdon utter the immortal lines "'Actually, Katherine, it's not gibberish.' His eyes brightened again with the thrill of discovery. 'It's ... Latin"' - smashed records when it was published in 2009, selling more than one million copies in the US, UK and Canada in its first 24 hours in the shops. His previous novels The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, Deception Point and Digital Fortress have also enjoyed blockbusting sales.
Rik McShane, head of books at Waterstones, commented: "Like David Bowie, Dan Brown has mastered the art of surprising the world with an unexpected return. This is fantastic news for Brown's millions of fans, and also great news for booksellers. The Lost Symbol broke all sorts of sales records on its release in 2009 and this new title is likely to be the bestselling book of 2013.