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The Club Dumas
by Arturo Perez-Reverte

Overall: 8
Readability: 8
Intelligence: 9

Meet Lucas Corso, a "mercenary of the book world" as the narrator of the story calls him. Corso has been hired by bookdealer Varo Borja, who has a predilection for books involving the devil and has recently acquired a rare copy of the "Book of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows". The Venetian printer Aristide Torchia was burned at the stake in 1667 for publishing it. There are only three known surviving copies, and Corso's job is to get a look at the other two copies and compare them to Borja's copy, as Borja suspects that his is a forgery. At the same time, Corso is hired by a friend to authenticate a manuscript chapter from Alexandre Dumas's "The Three Musketeers". The manuscript's previous owner hanged himself not long after he sold it.

In attempting to complete his tasks, Corso is thrust into a vast conspiracy with a cast of characters seemingly right out of "The Three Musketeers", complete with a femme fatale and her sinister henchman.

I enjoyed this book very much. The writing was intelligent and well formed, but also easy to read. Perez-Reverte playfully weaves the two plotlines together into an interesting intertextual puzzler. Its fun to read about Corso and his adventures. He goes about his job with gusto, obtaining the two other copies of "Nine Doors" long enough to chart the differences between the nine woodcut illustrations in each of the copies (and this book). Those illustrations, the 157 pages of text , are supposed to have been inspired by Lucifer himself, and are reproduced from what is purported to be the oldest book in the world, the "Delomelanicon", first mentioned in a papyrus written thirty-three centuries ago. Like I said, its fun to watch Corso work these things out, all the while dealing with Musketeer-like villainy and aided by an enigmatic young beauty named for Sherlock Holmes's nemesis, Irene Adler.

However, I don't much know what to make of the ending. The story sets about resolving its many mysteries, but then, it oddly converges simultaneously in different directions. It's an interesting device, and it works better than I originally thought, but something is off about it. Regardless, it's an intelligent and thoughtful book, and it's worth reading on those merits alone.

Reading Group Guides Discussion Questions (two sample questions below) Buy it here!

Further Discussion:
• 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?
• 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?

The Seville Communion by Arturo Perez-Reverte
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The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

book cover

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