In this rather gruesome Victorian murder mystery that fictionalises a real group of writers that used to meet, the rather bizarre and gruesome murders that occur punctuate the meetings of the group of writers. Of course, the novel opens with the discovery of the first terrible murder, where the victim has been hit hard on the head and then exposed outside to die by beating slowly eaten alive by maggots and wasps. The second murder therefore occurs a few chapters after the start of the book, when the next tragic murder is discovered when the minister of Cambridge's Second Unitarian Church is stuffed into a whole head-first and then his feet are set on fire.
Of course, as the members of the Dante Club quickly realise, these murders enact certain punishments from Dante's Inferno, and then the plot picks up pace as the game is afoot and the members of the Dante Club work hard to predict what the next murder will be and how to prevent it by discovering the identity of the murderer.
The second murder occurs in 1865, early in the book. In this incident, the Reverend Talbot is discovered dead in a cemetery located underground, where he is buried upside down up to his waist. His burned feet are buried under money. We find out the money was a bribe he accepted, and that he had been hired to write against Dante by the Harvard Corporation, which is trying to suppress the Dante club's translation of the Inferno. The Harvard Corporation rejects Dante because he is a foreigner, an Italian.
Like the other gruesome murders in this mystery novel, Talbot's follows the punishments laid out for various sins and offenses in Dante's Inferno. In this case, the punishment is for simony, which means selling church positions to people with money rather than giving them to people who have a genuine sense of calling or belief in what they are doing. Clearly, whoever murdered the reverend believes he had "sold out" Dante.