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Bookmark: The dark side of Dumas

Created date

November 24th, 2009

Intrigue, treachery, and murder are probably the last things one would associate with the yellowed pages and cracked leather spines of the rare book business, yet that s exactly what readers find in Arturo Perez-Reverte s bestseller The Club Dumas (Harcourt, 2006).

Rat-faced detective

In fact, the Spanish author spins his thrilling yarn around a host of ironic bits just like this, starting with the most unlikely protagonist, Lucas Corso, an unscrupulous, rat-faced book detective who tracks down choice editions for his equally unprincipled clients. One such associate calls upon Corso to authenticate a long-lost, handwritten chapter from the original manuscript of Alexander Dumas The Three Musketeers, left behind by a wealthy publisher who hanged himself only days earlier. Far from the usual raids on widows attics and millionaires libraries, this assignment draws the devious but expert book mercenary into a tangled web of greed and devil worship, the strands of which reach from the streets of Madrid to the chateaus of the French countryside.

Two mysteries

As he makes his way across Europe, Corso soon finds himself mired in two mysteries that of the strange Dumas manuscript and its connection to an obscure 17thcentury text believed to hold the key to conjuring the devil himself. Are the works related? Who can Corso trust in his mission to discover the truth? Such questions keep the reader turning the page to find out. And through a combination of polished prose and coarse dialogue, Reverte sets this story in the cultured world of intellectuals, doing so with a gritty touch worthy offilm noir. Between moments of swashbuckling action that often come off appropriately tuned to Dumas own style, he inserts interludes of detailed exposition, sometimes about the legendary French author, other times about the centuries-old art of book binding. Each chapter seems to demonstrate an apparently extensive knowledge of rare books, classic literature, and the business of collecting, with the fictional narrative occasionally assuming a certain nonfiction quality. Reverte takes readers into the smoke-filled drawing rooms and libraries of Europe s elite, where the book s characters exchange dialogue over glasses of Remy Martin cognac and Bols gin, the topic of conversation ranging from 18thcentury printings ofDon Quixoteto theft and murder. Ultimately, he weaves an intricate plot in which a muddled mass of characters and their back stories neatly intersect to produce a brilliant tale with a great ending. Whether you are on the beach, by the pool, or snowed in, this book is a must read.