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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, translated from the Spanish by Sonia Soto. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997. ISBN: 0-15-100182-0

Another in the long list of "literary thrillers" I've been reading, this book, unlike some of the others, actually manages to fit the bill. Definitely even better than the first Pérez-Reverte book I blogged back in July.

Lucas Corso, our hard-nosed slightly seedy protagonist, a somewhat shady go-between for book dealers, finds himself involved in two simultaneous cases, one involving a handwritten manuscript chapter from The Three Muskateers, by Alexandre Dumas.

The other, seemingly more serious case, involves an extremely rare 17th century book of necromancy, The Nine Doors, which purports to contain instructions for summoning the devil. Only three copies are known to exist, and two of them are rumored to be fakes, forgeries. Corso is being paid by one of his business associates to determine which is the authentic copy. His client has obtained one of the three copies, and wants Corso to compare it with the other two copies, and obtain the real one through whatever means necessary.

The key to the The Nine Doors turns out to be nine engravings, each of which depicts a unique tarot-like image, the solving of which supposedly provides the key to commanding the devil's presence. What Corso discovers is that none of the three books is completely authentic, that the original printer, Aristide Torchia (aptly named, since he was burned at the stake for his efforts), had hidden the real book within the three remaining copies (the rest having been burnt by the Inquisition). None of the three has the authentic versions of all nine engravings.

Of course, people start being killed; one copy of The Nine Doors is burnt just after Corso examines it, and a sinister figure who resembles one of the villains from The Three Musketeers starts hounding Corso. A beautiful young woman, using the obviously phony name of Irene Adler, a character in one of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories also turns up, acting as his protector and assistant, helping him out of several sticky situations. What is her interest in all of this? Is the devil, Lucifer himself, also taking an interest?

The story has plenty of twists and turns, and if the ending is slightly disappointing, the journey is itself worth the price of admission. Definitely recommended.

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