Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Club Dumas

I found this mystery intriguing enough from the beginning to read it quickly through to the end. The novel describes the world of rare book dealing as a cutthroat enterprise, peopled by misfits who end up going to extraordinary lengths in pursuit of certain antique books. The novel centers around Lucas Corso, who is a kind of bookworm-for-hire, willing to do just about anything to acquire the books his employers seek. In this novel, he researches a manuscript possibly penned by Alexandre Dumas, author of the Three Musketeers, for a friend. At the same time, he delves into a paid job researching an extremely rare -- only 3 copies are known -- book from the 1600s that got the publisher burned at the stake because it supposedly contained instructions on how to call forth the devil. Corso increasingly comes to feel that he is playing a role in a novel himself, as events transpire that mirror events in the Three Musketeers. This "metanarrative" is pretty distracting and seems like an obvious ploy by the author to get into the good graces of critics and academics. The mystery from the 1600s is more intriguing and seems nearly genuine. However, I don't really recommend this book because the ending is quite far-fetched, and the resolution of the mystery around both books is disappointing. Also, the female character that follows Corso around for half of the novel and with whom he develops a relationship is too much of a plot device and not enough of a character. For all its intricacy and careful plotting, this book just doesn't deliver in the end.
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