4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
My first thought when setting out to write this review was, 'Hmmm, I wonder how many irrelevant and obscure titles I can work into the review, that may or may not shed some light on the subject matter at hand?'
I am a fairly well-read person (I am told I am too modest, and that I qualify as a very well read person, but I don't want to claim too much, lest some diabolic force leap forward to claim me back for my sin of pride, a particularly bad thing for those of holy orders, as every guide and advice to the priestly states since the days of Irenaeus). But I digress.
But this is in keeping with the flavour of the novel. Unless you like digression, stay far away (run, don't walk!) from this novel. But, if you go in for the seemingly endless, barely understandable and eventually irrelevant, then by all means, this is the book for you.
I would not have read this book but for the urgings of friends who were similarly reading this, and wanted to compare notes. Thanks, guys!
Now, I must hasten to add at this point, I did find myself enjoying the book several times. I don't mind the digressions, but I found the attempts (subtle but there) to equate Corso with a Holmesian character unconvincing (and the attempts were subtle enough that Perez-Reverte could claim they aren't actually there). Apart from Holmes, he ignores most of English literature--when he talks of those who wrote in serial form, i.e, Stendahl et alia, he neglects those such as Dickens.
I would love to have the card catalogue Perez-Reverte was sitting next to as he wrote this; perhaps he used Amazon.com and other internet searching to add that final irrelevant entry in each of the listings of books.
I am a bibliophile. I sit in a room, such as Perez-Reverte describes in several places, where shelves sag on walls groaning from the strain of heavy books, heavy in content as well as mass weight. I have several such rooms in my home. But I couldn't quite find the same love of books in this book, where sometimes bibliophilia was a fetish, and other times a useless detail.
Basic plot--is it a murder or is it a suicide? What does the manuscript have to do with it? Dumas (who wrote, among other things, the stories involving the Musketeers) is seemingly at the centre of things, along with a possibly-phoney book of occult forbidden knowledge, for which men will die (obviously) or kill. There is diabolic force at work, maybe. Corso is the rare-books expert called in to investigate the case, who doesn't always like the role of policeman.
Perez-Reverte seems intent on impressing us with his erudition in the field of literature and continental travel. It would be impressive if it were consistent and organised along better lines, and woven into a story where such details made a contribution. This book, as a mystery, fails to deliver because it both gives more information than is necessary (which can be an effective device, forcing the reader to separate 'the wheat from the chaff', or figure out which strands to follow; sadly, that is not the case here) and insufficient information in the strands which count to allow the reader to 'figure it out' (another sin, often difficult to avoid when one is trying for a 'complex' novel; even Conan Doyle frequently failed on this point).
In all, this is an inventive idea, with interesting character formation; for some reason, neither the story nor the characters get developed sufficiently (either in size or direction) to make this a first-class novel.
The New York Daily News described this book as 'A cross between Umberto Eco and Anne Rice' (Eco is very prominent here, as Perez-Reverte is obviously trying to emulate and cash in on Eco's prominence in the richer-and-book-purchasing English-speaking world). The New Yorker gets even more, well, New-Yorker-ish: 'A noir metafiction [please someone, tell me just what that means, in English??] Even a reader armed with a Latin dictionary and a copy of The Three Musketeers cannot anticipate the thrilling twists of this stylish, Escher-like mystery.'
Perhaps one of the reasons one cannot anticipate 'the thrilling twists' is the inconsistency in the novel? Just a thought.
Escher-like...well, yes, you read one thing and it turns out to be another (for instance, I thought I was reading a great novel, and it turned out to be...)
No, that is unfair. It is worth reading, but not devoting much time toward. Use as a diversion, not a devotional. I won't spoil the ending for you. I don't like it when others do that for me. You'll have to suffer as I and my fellow readers did to find out. You may love it! You may despise it! Yes, it is one of those books.
on 7 April 2012
One of the best Spanish novels of the last few years. It contains several substyles within, literature, adventure, mistery, etc. The adaptation to the film industry wasn't as good (The Ninth Gate, with Johnny Depp), but the book is fab! Highly recommended!