The Club Dumas

The Club Dumas

by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Sonia Soto

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Overview

The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

A provocative literary thriller that playfully pays tribute to classic tales of mystery and adventure

 

Lucas Corso is a book detective, a middle-aged mercenary hired to hunt down rare editions for wealthy and unscrupulous clients. When a well-known bibliophile is found dead, leaving behind part of the original manuscript of Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers, Corso is brought in to authenticate the fragment. He is soon drawn into a swirling plot involving devil worship, occult practices, and swashbuckling derring-do among a cast of characters bearing a suspicious resemblance to those of Dumas's masterpiece. Aided by a mysterious beauty named for a Conan Doyle heroine, Corso travels from Madrid to Toledo to Paris on the killer's trail in this twisty intellectual romp through the book world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547538181
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 05/01/2006
Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 176,586
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

ARTURO PEREZ-REVERTE is the author of many critically acclaimed novels, including The Club Dumas, The Flanders Panel, and the Captain Alatriste series. A retired war journalist, he lives in Madrid and is a member of the Royal Spanish Academy.

Read an Excerpt

I. "THE ANJOU WINE"

The reader must be prepared to witness the most sinister scenes.

-E. Sue, THE MYSTERIES OF PARIS

My name is Boris Balkan and I once translated The Charterhouse of Parma. Apart from that, I've edited a few books on the nineteenth-century popular novel, my reviews and articles appear in supplements and journals throughout Europe, and I organize summer-school courses on contemporary writers. Nothing spectacular, I'm afraid. Particularly these days, when suicide disguises itself as homicide, novels are written by Roger Ackroyd's doctor, and far too many people insist on publishing two hundred pages on the fascinating emotions they experience when they look in the mirror.

But let's stick to the story.

I first met Lucas Corso when he came to see me; he was carrying "The Anjou Wine" under his arm. Corso was a mercenary of the book world, hunting down books for other people. That meant talking fast and getting his hands dirty. He needed good reflexes, patience, and a lot of luck-and a prodigious memory to recall the exact dusty corner of an old man's shop where a book now worth a fortune lay forgotten. His clientele was small and select: a couple of dozen book dealers in Milan, Paris, London, Barcelona, and Lausanne, the kind that sell through catalogues, make only safe investments, and never handle more than fifty or so titles at any one time. High-class dealers in early printed books, for whom thousands of dollars depend on whether something is parchment or vellum or three centimeters wider in the margin. Jackals on the scent of the Gutenberg Bible, antique-fair sharks, auction-room leeches, they would sell their grandmothers for a firstedition. But they receive their clients in rooms with leather sofas, views of the Duomo or Lake Constance, and they never get their hands-or their consciences-dirty. That's what men like Corso are for.

He took his canvas bag off his shoulder and put it on the floor by his scuffed oxfords. He stared at the framed portrait of Rafael Sabatini that stands on my desk next to the fountain pen I use for correcting articles and proofs. I was pleased, because most visitors paid Sabatini little attention, taking him for an aged relative. I waited for Corso's reaction. He was half smiling as he sat down-a youthful expression, like that of a cartoon rabbit in a dead-end street. The kind of look that wins over the audience straightaway. In time I found out he could also smile like a cruel, hungry wolf, and that he chose his smiles to suit the circumstances. But that was much later. Now he seemed trustworthy, so I decided to risk a password.

"He was born with the gift of laughter," I quoted, pointing at the portrait. and with a feeling that the world was mad . . . "

Corso nodded slowly and deliberately. I felt a friendly complicity with him, which, in spite of all that happened later, I still feel. From a hidden packet he brought out an unfiltered cigarette that was as crumpled as his old overcoat and corduroy trousers. He turned it over in his fingers, watching me through steel-rimmed glasses set crookedly on his nose under an untidy fringe of slightly graying hair. As if holding a hidden gun, he kept his other hand in one of his pockets, a pocket huge and deformed by books, catalogues, papers, and, as I also found out later, a hip flask full of Bols gin.

". . . and this was his entire inheritance." He completed the quotation effortlessly, then settled himself in the armchair and smiled again. "But to be honest, I prefer Captain Blood."

With a stern expression I lifted my fountain pen. "You're mistaken. Scaramouche is to Sabatini what The Three Musketeers is to Dumas." I bowed briefly to the portrait. "'He was born with the gift of laughter. . . .' In the entire history of the adventure serial no two opening lines can compare."

"That may be true," Corso conceded after a moment's reflection. Then he laid the manuscript on the table, in a protective folder with plastic pockets, one for each page. "It's a coincidence you should mention Dumas."

He pushed the folder toward me, turning it around so I could read its contents. The text was in French, written on one side of the page only. There were two types of paper, both discolored by age: one white, the other pale blue with light squares. The handwriting on each was different-on the white pages it was smaller and more spiky. The handwriting of the blue paper, in black ink, also appeared on the white pages but as annotations only. There were fifteen pages in all, eleven of them blue.

"Interesting." I looked up at Corso. He was watching me, his calm gaze moving from the folder to me, then back again. "Where did you find it?"

He scratched an eyebrow, no doubt calculating whether he needed to provide such details in exchange for the information he wanted. The result was a third facial expression, this time an innocent rabbit. Corso was a professional.

"Around. Through a client of a client."

"I see."

He paused briefly, cautious. Caution is a sign of prudence and reserve, but also of shrewdness. And we both knew it.

"Of course," he added, "I'll give you names if you request them."

I answered that it wouldn't be necessary, which seemed to reassure him. He adjusted his glasses before asking my opinion of the manuscript. Not answering immediately, I turned to the first page. The title was written in capital letters, in thicker strokes: LE VIN D'ANJOU.

I read aloud the first few lines: "Apr?s de nouvelles presque d?sesp?r?es du roi, le bruit de sa convalescence commen?ait ? se r?pandre dans le camp. . . ." I couldn't help smiling.

Corso indicated his approval, inviting me to comment.

"Without the slightest doubt," I said, "this is by Alexandre Dumas p?re. 'The Anjou Wine': chapter forty-something, I seem to remember, of The Three Musketeers."

"Forty-two," confirmed Corso. "Chapter forty-two."

"Is it authentic? Dumas's original manuscript?"

"That's why I'm here. I want you to tell me."

I shrugged slightly, reluctant to assume such a responsibility.

"Why me?"

It was a stupid question, the kind that only serves to gain time. It must have seemed like false modesty, because he suppressed a look of impatience.

"You're an expert," he retorted, somewhat dryly. "As well as being Spain's most influential literary critic, you know all there is to know about the nineteenth-century popular novel."

"You're forgetting Stendhal."

"Not at all. I read your translation of The Charterhouse of Parma"

"Indeed. I am honored."

"Don't be. I preferred Consuelo Berges's version."

We both smiled. I continued to find him likable, and I was beginning to form an idea of his style.

"Do you know any of my books?" I asked.

"Some. Lupin, Raffles, Rocambole, Holmes, for instance. And your studies of Valle-Inclan, Baroja, and Galdos. Also Dumas: the Shadow of a Giant. And your essay on The Count of Monte Cristo."

"Have you read all those?"

"No. I work with books, but that doesn't mean I have to read them."

He was lying. Or at least exaggerating. The man was conscientious: before coming to see me, he'd looked at everything about me he could lay his hands on. He was one of those compulsive readers who have devoured anything in print from a most tender age-although it was highly unlikely that Corso's childhood ever merited the term "tender."

"I understand," I answered, just to say something.

He frowned for a moment, wondering whether he'd forgotten anything. He took off his glasses, breathed on the lenses, and set about cleaning them with a very crumpled handkerchief, which he pulled from one of the bottomless pockets of his coat. However fragile the oversized coat made him appear, with his rodentlike incisors and calm expression Corso was as solid as a concrete block. His features were sharp and precise, full of angles. They framed alert eyes always ready to express an innocence dangerous for anyone who was taken in by it. At times, particularly when still, he seemed slower and clumsier than he really was. He looked vulnerable and defenseless: barmen gave him an extra drink on the house, men offered him cigarettes, and women wanted to adopt him on the spot. Later, when you realized what had happened, it was too late to catch him. He was running off in the distance, having scored another victory.

Corso gestured with his glasses at the manuscript. "To return to Dumas. Surely a man who's written five hundred pages about him ought to sense something familiar when faced with one of his original manuscripts."

With the reverence of a priest handling holy vestments I put a hand on the pages protected by plastic.

"I fear I'm going to disappoint you, but I don't sense anything."

We both laughed, Corso in a peculiar way, almost under his breath, like someone who is not sure whether he and his companion are laughing at the same thing. An oblique, distant laugh, with a hint of insolence, the kind of laugh that lingers in the air after it stops. Even after its owner has been gone for a while.

"Let's take this a step at a time," I went on. "Does the manuscript belong to you?"

"I've already told you that it doesn't. A client of mine has just acquired it, and he finds it strange that no one should have heard of this complete, original chapter of The Three Musketeers until now. . . . He wants it authenticated by an expert, so that's what I'm working on."

"I'm surprised at your dealing with such a minor matter." This was true. I'd heard of Corso before this meeting. "I mean, after all, nowadays Dumas. . ."

I let the sentence hang and smiled with the appropriate expression of bitter complicity. But Corso didn't take up my invitation and stayed on the defensive. "The client's a friend of mine," he said evenly. "It's a personal favor."

"I see, but I'm not sure that I can be of any help to you. I have seen some of the original manuscripts, and this one could be authentic. However, certifying it is another matter. For that you'd need a good graphologist . . . I know an excellent one in Paris, Achille Replinger. He owns a shop that specializes in autographs and historical documents, near Saint Germain des Pr?s. He's an expert on nineteenth-century French writers, a charming man and a good friend of mine." I pointed to one of the frames on the wall. "He sold me that Balzac letter many years ago. For a very high price."

I took out my datebook and copied the address for Corso on a card. He put the card in an old worn wallet full of notes and papers. Then he brought out a notepad and pencil from one of his coat pockets. The pencil had a chewed eraser at one end, like a schoolboy's pencil.

"Could I ask you a few questions?" he said.

"Yes, of course."

"Did you know of any complete handwritten chapter of The Three Musketeers?"

I shook my head and replaced the cap on my Mont Blanc.

"No. The novel came out in installments in Le Si?cle between March and July 1844 . . . Once the text was typeset by a compositor, the original manuscript was discarded. A few fragments remained, however. You can see them in an appendix to the 1968 Garnier edition."

"Four months isn't very long." Corso chewed the end of his pencil thoughtfully. "Dumas wrote quickly."

"They all did in those days. Stendhal wrote The Charterhouse of Parma in seven weeks. And in any case Dumas used collaborators, ghostwriters. The one for The Three Musketeers was called Auguste Maquet. They worked together on the sequel, Twenty Years After, and on The Vicomte de Bragelonne, which completes the cycle. And on The Count of Monte Cristo and a few other novels. You have read those, I suppose."

"Of course. Everybody has."

"Everybody in the old days, you mean." I leafed respectfully through the manuscript. "The times are long gone when Dumas's name increased print runs and made publishers rich. Almost all his novels came out in installments that ended with 'to be continued. . . .' The readers would be on tenterhooks until the next episode. But of course you know all that."

"Don't worry. Go on."

"What more can I tell you? In the classic serial, the recipe for success is simple: the hero and heroine have qualities or features that make the reader identify with them. If that happens nowadays in TV soaps, imagine the effect in those days, when there was no television or radio, on a middle class hungry for surprise and entertainment, and undiscriminating when it came to formal quality or taste. . . . Dumas was a genius, and be understood this. Like an alchemist in his laboratory, he added a dash of this, a dash of that, and with his talent combined it all to create a drug that had many addicts." I tapped my chest, not without pride. "That has them still."

Corso was taking notes. Precise, unscrupulous, and deadly as a black mamba was how one of his acquaintances described him later when Corso's name came up in conversation. He had a singular way of facing people, peering through his crooked glasses and slowly nodding in agreement, with a reasonable, well-meaning, but doubtful expression, like a whore tolerantly listening to a romantic sonnet. As if he was giving you a chance to correct yourself before it was too late.

After a moment he stopped and looked up. "But your work doesn't only deal with the popular novel. You're a well-known literary critic of other, more. . ." He hesitated, searching for a word. "More serious works. Dumas himself described his novels as easy literature. Sounds rather patronizing toward his readers."

This device was typical of him. It was one of his trademarks, like Rocambole's leaving a playing card instead of a calling card. Corso would say something casually, as if he himself had no opinion on the matter, slyly goading you to react. If you put forward arguments and justifications when you are annoyed, you give out more information to your opponent. I was no fool and knew what Corso was doing, but even so, or maybe because of it, I felt irritated.

"Don't talk in clich?s," I said. "The serial genre produced a lot of disposable stuff, but Dumas was way above all that. In literature, time is like a shipwreck in which God looks after His own. I challenge you to name any fictional heroes who have survived in as good health as d'Artagnan and his friends. Sherlock Holmes is a possible exception. Yes, The Three Musketeers was a swashbuckling novel full of melodrama and all the sins of the genre. But it's also a distinguished example of the serial, and of a standard well above the norm. A tale of friendship and adventure that has stayed fresh even though tastes have changed and there is an now an idiotic tendency to despise action in novels. It would seem that since Joyce we have had to make do with Molly Bloom and give up Nausicaa on the beach after the shipwreck. . . . Have you read my essay 'Friday, or the Ship's Compass'? Give me Homer's Ulysses any day."

Table of Contents

I. "The Anjou Wine"
5(24)
II. The Dead Man's Hand
29(17)
III. Men of Words and Men of Action
46(23)
IV. The Man with the Scar
69(26)
V. Remember
95(18)
VI. Of Apocrypha and Interpolations
113(22)
VII. Book Number One and Book Number Two
135(27)
VIII. Postuma Necat
162(24)
IX. The Bookseller on the Rue Bonaparte
186(20)
X. Number Three
206(31)
XI. The Banks of the Seine
237(18)
XII. Buckingham and Milady
255(19)
XIII. The Plot Thickens
274(19)
XIV. The Cellars of Meung
293(20)
XV. Corso and Richelieu
313(23)
XVI. A Device Worthy of a Gothic Novel
336

Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading and discussion of Arturo Pérez-Reverte's novel, The Club Dumas. We hope they will enrich your understanding of this dazzling intellectual thriller.

1. "My name is Boris Balkan, and I once translated The Charterhouse of Parma. Apart from that, I've edited a few books on the nineteenth century popular novel, my reviews and articles appear in supplements and journals throughout Europe, and I organize summer school courses on contemporary writers" [p. 5]. What is unusual about the way Balkan introduces himself? Does his description of himself reflect his actions in the novel?

2. Corso is frequently described as resembling a wolf or a rabbit. Is either description an accurate depiction of his personality? Does Corso's character undergo a transformation by the end of the novel? And if so, what causes it?

3. Is Balkan a reliable narrator? How do you account for his detailed knowledge of Corso's activities? Why did Arturo Pérez-Reverte choose to use Balkan as a narrator? Is Corso also a narrator of the story? Who is in control of the narrative?

4. When Corso visits Varo Borja at the beginning of the novel he hears a "jarring sound, warning him. . . . He was no longer sure he wanted the job" [p. 51]. Why does Corso take the job despite his reservations? How do his feelings about books differ from Varo Borja's or Boris Balkan's?

5. Corso immediately notices Liana Taillefer's resemblance to Kim Novak, the actress who portrayed a beautiful witch in the 1958 film Bell, Book, and Candle. Does Corso use a literary and cinematiclens to view the other women he encounters in the book? How does he see Irene Adler?

6. What do the rooms in which Liana Taillefer, Boris Balkan, Corso, Varo Borja, and Victor Fargas live say about each of them? Are the rooms in any way deceptive? With what settings do you associate Irene Adler? What does the home address she gives say about her?

7. Balkan is very opinionated when it comes to the kind of writing he deems worthwhile [see pages 5, 98, 313, and 322]. Do you think Balkan would consider The Club Dumas a worthwhile piece of literature? Why?

8. The Club Dumas does not establish a precise time period. What era do you imagine The Club Dumas to take place? Do certain characters seem to exist in their own historical periods? If so, how does this effect the way characters construct their identities and how they perceive one another?

9. What are the sources of evil in the novel? Is Pérez-Reverte's interest in the presence of evil in modern history conveyed in his depiction of Varo Borja's desire to raise the devil through magic? Is Borja naive in believing that summoning the devil requires secret knowledge?

10. To what extent do the engravings in The Book of the Nine Doors to the Kingdom of Darkness illustrate Corso's quest for the truth about the two books he is trying to authenticate? What do you think engraving number VII, of a king and a servant playing chess, might represent in terms of Corso's adventure? And how does engraving number IX, of a woman riding a seven-headed dragon, illuminate Corso's discoveries?

11. Who is Irene Adler? Do you accept her explanation of her identity? How does the identity she constructs affect your understanding of the opposition of God and the devil in the novel?

12. Balkan tells Corso that "games are the only universally serious activity" [p.314]. How does Balkan's attitude to "the game" compare with that of Corso, Liana Taillefer, and Irene Adler? Does anyone win the game? Has Corso's attitude to the game changed by the end of the book?

13. Boris Balkan argues that he never led Corso to believe that there was a connection between "The Anjou Wine" and The Nine Doors: "It was you who filled in the blanks on your own, as if what happened were a novel based on trickery, with Lucas Corso the reader too clever for his own good. Nobody ever told you that things were actually as you thought. No, the responsibility is entirely yours, my friend. The real villain of the piece is your excessive intertextual reading and linking of literary references" [p. 334]. Is Balkan right? To what extent are Balkan and Corso responsible for the violence that occurs in the story?

14. Is the Club Dumas justified in its mission to protect the reputation of Alexandre Dumas by withholding evidence about his collaboration with his assistant Auguste Moquet? Why does Balkan care so much about Dumas's reputation? Does Balkan's attitude toward Dumas influence your opinion of Balkan?

15. Corso and Balkan argue about whether children and young people raised watching television have the "spiritual heritage" they themselves received from books and old movies [p. 325]. Could The Club Dumas have been written about television devotees? How would the characters and plot differ?

16. Corso recalls Nikon telling him, "Films are for everyone, collective, generous. . . . They're even better on TV: two can watch and comment. But your books are selfish. Solitary. . . . A person who is interested in books doesn't need other people and that frightens me" [p. 210]. Is Corso a frightening person because of his obsession with books? What about the other characters who share a passion for books? Is it significant that Irene Adler reads cheap paperbacks [p. 138]? Why doesn't Corso want to join the Club Dumas party?

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The Club Dumas 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 97 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book. The Nook version, however, is an insult to the reader and the author. It appears to have been optically scanned, with only cursory later editing. The illustrations were scanned in a size too large to fit on the b/w Nook, so one only sees a portion of the woodcuts and diagrams, some of them important to the story. For that alone, go to the hardcopy, which I assume lacks these problems. In the Nook text, periods, commas, and other punctuation are often missing for several sentences at a time, although on occasion, symbols appear for no reason. I am halfway though the book, and at least a couple sentences have been cut in half mid-line. "Paris" appears as "Pans", "Toledo" is "Toiedo", MC Escher is "Fischer", 1 (one) and I (cap i) are frequently misused (1789 is "I 789"), "grain" is "gram", "of" is "ot", "mania" is "mama", and so on. These are only the errors that I as a cold reader noticed. The errors are not constant --- whole sections pass without obvious fault --- but any problems with editing are worse in a story about books and those who obsess about them. The publishers, HMH, should be ashamed, and the author should be furious.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Avoid this edition! A totally unacceptable, cheap-ass attempt at selling an OCRed text without any correction/proofreading applied it seems. Contains hundreds if not thousands of annoying mistakes, lost punctuation, etc. Disgraceful!
Darkloom More than 1 year ago
A mystery with interesting twists and turns is a fairly rare treat. Those that can teach the reader a lot about a subject can sometimes be even rarer. The Club Dumas had me running to the encyclopedia to check facts about the life of Alexandre Dumas. Even more fascinating is the world of rare book collecting. The information on both subjects certainly makes it seem as if the author did his research. Lucas Corso, the book dealer whose adventures are told here, is an expert not only on rare books, but also on literature. Following him from city to city, collector to collector takes the reader into worlds most are unfamiliar with. In the beginning it is difficult to sympathize with him, but it is impossible not to admire his knowledge of his trade. We might envy the ability of the collectors to pay the prices these treasures demand, but it's impossible to envy the passion gone to madness. Treasures too often bring out the worst in people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am in love with this novel.... How disappointed was I to read the English translation and to see how Soto dried it out completely? A great read... I'd advise however to read it in the original, or another translation than Soto's.
Ronnie Richardson More than 1 year ago
highly recommended
Giancarlof More than 1 year ago
My introduction to Perez-Reverte was courtesy of Johnny Depp who starred in a movie called "The Ninth Gate" which was so fascinating. The credits listed The Club Damas for the adaptation and I had to read the book. I loved the book even more than the movie and so I became an instant fan of Arturo P-R. The translations are exellent and stay true to the original books in Spanish. His excellent use of history even set me back to the author DUMAS and his books. Again this a great book to start your collection. The illustrations are a big part of the movie and the book. Enjoy.
PainFrame More than 1 year ago
Intimate knowledge of The Three Musketeers is a major prerequisite before you can enjoy this book. It's referenced all over the place, along with mentions of Moby Dick and other swashbuckling stories of the time. If you are familiar with such things I don't see how you could help but love this modern mystery.
ShelfMonkey on LibraryThing 5 days ago
While I enjoy a good mystery, the problem with most of them is that the plot has been done to death. Man murders wife. Woman steals diamond. Cute old lady solves crime. The characters may be new, but the plots are so . . . familiar.On that basis alone, THE CLUB DUMAS is worthy of high praise. The plot is unpredictable, for the reason that you've never read a story like it. It's a breath of fresh air, while still adhering to the basic tenets of the mystery genre. It has a well-worn hero, a mysterious woman, an evil henchman, and murders upon murders. It also has (let me get my other list) terrific dialogue about the nature of literature, motives that I've never even considered, and the love of a good conversation.THE CLUB DUMAS begins simply enough, with a detective tracking down a source. But right from the start, something is just slightly tweaked. Lucas Corso is a book detective, trying to authenticate a handwritten transcript of THE THREE MUSKETEERS. It may sound boring, but quite soon, Corso is being stalked, in a tangled web that includes a murderous widow, twin book forgers, devil worship, regret over lost love, and insanity.It reminded me, slightly, of FALLING ANGEL, by William Hjortsberg. It, too, followed a world-weary detective on a quest into the heart of evil. But ANGEL, as good as it is, doesn't have CLUB's flair for the unobvious. Author Arturo Perez-Reverte knows how to construct a plot, but he also has a keen insight into a rarely-viewed segment of our population; the book collector, in all his or her's eccentricities.THE CLUB DUMAS is a mystery that will keep you guessing, but it's more than that. It is an essay on the quality of imagination. It is a mystery for book-lovers, not just mystery-lovers. It is a remarkably smart book.P.S. - If you've happened to see the movie adaptation of THE CLUB DUMAS, entitled THE NINTH GATE, don't be dissuaded from reading the novel. THE NINTH GATE drops entire plot lines, and does not detract from the enjoyment of the novel in the slightest. It also isn't very good. In the words of my brother-in-law, "This could have been the best movie I've ever seen, until about the half-way point. Then, what happened?" The movie is boring, the novel is amazing.
kalobo on LibraryThing 5 days ago
I love Arturo Perez-Reverte as an author. The Club Dumas is what The Divinci Code should have been.
RickSchad on LibraryThing 5 days ago
This book is very well written. The character development is powerful and the plot is fun. If you like mysteries or like Dumas, this is a wonderful read.
ethelmertz on LibraryThing 5 days ago
It was an interesting story, but ultimately the main subplots did not resolve satisfactorily.
kattepusen on LibraryThing 5 days ago
On the cover of this book there is printed a review that claims this novel to be a "beach book for intellectuals". Well, it is definitely a pleasant beach read; however, I think this particular reviewer fluffs the ego of its audience... It is a typical "dude-lit" thriller - sprinkled with some supposedly high-brow reflections on the world of literature and books. There are two parallel story lines - one concerning the Three Musketeers by Dumas and the other dealing with a fictious 17th-century occult classic that can be used to summon Lucifer himself. The two stories are interwoven, but in a rather artificial and contrived way. Moreover, when the finale is reached, the mystery of the two parallel stories reaches a disappointing collapse. However, the protagonist - Lucas Corso - is quite a fun fellow to take us through the motions. His mercenary lifestyle as a book dealer makes for entertaining reading, and his "inner turmoil" albeit a bit cliche for the genre, is quite touching at times. The language is often terribly cheesy... There are several over-the-top descriptions such as "her blue eyes were as warm as a Scandinavian fjord at three in the morning" and a female character's hips are likened to the midnight sun that never sets and can bear little blond Erics and Siegfrieds. Furthermore, there is constant mention of pretty female legs and busts along with non--stop referrals to the protagonist's drinking habits. Yes, we get it - he drinks gin. A lot. On the other hand, the descriptions of book collecting, classic novels and the way such are preserved were quite interesting. Reading about incunabula, woodcuts, Moroccan leather and parchment versus linen, one gets the urge to reach in and take a feel and have a sniff of this world. I learned a lot of trivia - such as the fact that current cellulose books don't last much more than 60 years! All in all, a decent thriller with the expected "unexpected" twists and turns. I saw the Roman Polanski movie based on part of this novel right afterwards, and even though it stars everybody's favorite actor, Johnny Depp, it is quite bad. I would recommend the book - even though it is best suited in a cheap paperback binding...
cinesnail88 on LibraryThing 5 days ago
I was really intrigued by this book - it had a good taste of mystery in it, which isn't my style, but it's also very occult related and it reminded of Eco. Very good book, worth my time even if I did take a while to read it.
Cygnus555 on LibraryThing 5 days ago
A fun book - not a classic or a great work of literature, but fun. I was turned onto Perez-Reverte through this book and read many of his others. Nice read for a day at the beach or a trip on the plane.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing 10 days ago
All of Perez-Reverte's books are intellectual mysteries between two covers. This one is no exception. The hunt is on for copies of a specific medieval text. The hunter soon joins the ranks of the hunted and ends up solving not only the mystery of where the books are, but the meaning of the books themselves.There was a movie based on this...The Ninth Gate, but skip it and read the book. If you've read Dumas, you will really appreciate what's going on here. If not, well, you'll learn something.
wyvernfriend on LibraryThing 11 days ago
Okay interesting, this is the book that the film "The Ninth Gate" was based on, I prefered the film, the book came across as a bit laboured. Possibly me tho'.
JBD1 on LibraryThing 11 days ago
Possibly the best of the literary thrillers. Also was made into an interesting-but-oddly-adapted Johnny Depp movie, "The Ninth Gate". One of my very favorite books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I guess if you were a lit major or librarian this might be an interesting read. The problem is that it is a jumbled up tribute to Dumas, while trying to make sense as a novel. It takes the patience of Job to get through, and in the end you feel cheated. It's like getting a huge wrapped gift for Christmas only to find its full of filling hiding a cheap little toy at the bottom of all those wads of stuffing. Prepare to be bored and disappointed.
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