In The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte, rare book ‘finder” Lucas Corso is hired to authenticate a lost chapter of the Alexandre Dumas classic, The Three Musketeers. This leads him on a journey to find two copies of a rare book called “The Nine Doors to the Kingdom of Shadows.” The book supposedly can be used to contact the devil himself. Corso becomes embroiled in a chase for this unearthly tome, as various allies & enemies try to either aid him or hinder his progress.
Perez-Reverte’s novel features many in-jokes for bibliophiles and lovers of classic literature. Chapter sub-headings include quotes from famous fictional characters, including Poe’s famous detective, Arsene Lupin. As Corso tracks down the book, many pages features drawings, quotes & clues that aid Corso in his search. We find out information as Corso does, along the way. Much of the trivia & in jokes revolves around The Three Musketeers, as characters & situations reflect those in the famous adventure novel. The novel has elegant settings & interesting characters, including obsessive book dealers, forgers, devil worshippers and a mysterious girl whose origin (and motive for helping Corso) is unclear.
The most well drawn character is Corso himself. He is a lover of books, but has been corrupted by the nature of his work. We get inside his head, and understand how he thinks. He’s been an unscrupulous man, and, as the search goes on, he starts to doubt if he’s taken the right path. The plot keeps you intrigued as the search for the book goes on, with trips to Spain & Portugal along the way, colorfully rendered by the author. The book is a treat for mystery fans that like working out all the angles of a puzzling story. Portions of the novel were turned into the movie The Ninth Gate (1999), starring Johnny Depp, but significant changes were made to the story for the screen adaptation. The Club Dumas is an intriguing book, and fans of literary mysteries will enjoy Perez-Reverte’s thinking man’s thriller.