Have you ever felt like you are living in a book? Did you ever think that the feeling of deja vu you got was the result of the book you just read?Mysterious women… Devil worshippers… The lure of the greatest swashbuckling novel ever… Forget all that, a book about the world of booklovers and collectors with a book detective as the protagonist. I don’t need to say that Johnny Depp played the part of the protagonist in the movie (which is a Roman Polanski film) to let you know that “The Club Dumas” by Arturo Perez-Reverte is a novel worthy of being included in my “If You Liked The Da Vinci Code…” series.
When a rich publisher and Dumas enthusiast is found to have committed suicide, police call Lucas Corso, a antiquarian book dealer to authenticate a manuscript found near his body. Corso meets a Dumas expert Boris Balkan(who is the narrator of the book), who tells him that the manuscript (which the dead man wanted to sell through Corso’s occasional book dealer friend) is an authentic manuscript of a chapter from The Three Musketeers, The Anjou Wine.
Meanwhile, a rich book collector and occult enthusiast called Varo Borja calls Corso on a job. He has a copy of a medieval book called “The Book of Nine Doors of Kingdom of Shadows”, and wants Corso to get him the original out of the other two copies in existence. Out of three copies, only one is supposed to be original, which contains the nine panels (illustrations) which when deciphered shows the reader the formula to call His Badness himself.
Before Corso goes on a all-expenses paid trip to Europe on his mission, he finds himself playing the role of a modern day d’Artagnan. The widow of the dead man wants the chapter manuscript back at all costs, and he is being followed by a man with a scar in scenes reminiscent of the plot of the swashbuckler, with a Cardinal Richelieu-like man directing all the events. On his trip, Corso meets a mysterious young backpacker called Irene Adler, who saves him from the modern day Rochefort. His mission goes awry when he discovers that there are differences between the illustrations of the three copies of Nine Doors, but before he can get his hands on the other two copies, the owners die in mysterious circumstances and the two copies vanish.
Corso loses his conciousness, the manuscript of The Anjou Wine and Borja’s copy of Nine Doors in an attack. To get his books back, he has to go to Meung (a place from Musketeers), where he discovers the secret behind the manuscript and the Club Dumas, which gives rise to the bigger secret of the copies of Nine Doors.
Corso is (in keeping with all Perez-Reverte protagonists), a middle-aged embittered man, alone in life. A mercenary book detective, he is available for the biggest bidder to get the rare books they want, at whatever the cost. For him, books are just a means to his living. In typical Perez-Reverte fashion, he finds himself used by mysterious pretty ladies in the middle of his normal life.
His companion (later romantic interest) in the mission is a mysterious lady named after “The Lady” from Holmes. While she is a young backpacker, she is also a pretty lady who knows a lot about Devil and devil worship and capable of taking care of herself and Corso in a tight spot. She keeps popping into his life at regular intervals and keeps him getting him out of trouble. His true identity is revealed at the end, which marks her as an important part of final confrontation.
This book served as my introduction to the terrific author that is Arturo Perez-Reverte. Though translated from his original Spanish, the book contains a great plot, nice commentary on the antiquarian book trade (forging and trading included) and demonology. Wikipedia agrees with me when it states that the book is “a bibliophile’s fantasy”. A book about book trade, it avoids most of the negative points in “The Rule of Four”, while building on all the positive points, thus making it a solid 2.0 on BES.
A small advise: Though Johnny Depp stars as Corso in “The Ninth Gate”, as the name suggests, the plot is changed a lot, so make sure you read the book before you see the movie to avoid disappointment.
Quote of The Day:
It was you who filled in the blanks on their own, as if what happened were a novel based on trickery, with Lucas Corso the reader too clever for his own good.
– Boris Balkan