Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cannonball Read #22: The Club Dumas, by Arturo Perez-Reverte

On the front cover of The Club Dumas, the New York Daily News declares it to be "a beach book for intellectuals," and that's an excellent description, if you don't quite like to disengage your brain all the way but want to keep it in first gear for your beach reading. I have a hard time going all the way into neutral, even on the beach, because I feel like I should be getting something more than just tripe if I'm bothering to read in the first place. Plus, a lot of stuff classed as Beach Reading is that odious sappy romance crap (more on that later) that I can't handle on any level, which leaves my actual pickin's for my beach reading pretty slim.

The Club Dumas has two distinct plotlines, both involving the same central character, Lucas Corso. Corso is a rare book...mercenary, basically; he locates, authenticates and obtains books for bibliophiles of various scruples. In this story, Corso has been called in to authenticate a chapter of The Three Musketeers and is shortly thereafter called on to locate and compare the three existing copies of a more mysterious book called the Book of the Nine Doors. The Book of the Nine Doors supposedly allows its owner to call upon the Devil and as one would imagine, there's quite a bit of intrigue and danger around the copies of it. Throughout Corso's travels, the Musketeers chapter and the Book of the Nine Doors seem to intertwine and even more mysteriously, characters from The Three Musketeers (and other literary characters) start appearing in Corso's real life for both good and ill.

This book is rife with little literary allusions, which make it fun for those with a good frame of bookish reference. The descriptions of the rare books in which Corso deals were absolutely mouthwatering; as the person who recommended it to me said, "I desperately want to live in a world [where people cherish, and live and die to collect rare books]." There is one scene in particular that may well be a glimpse into my future, where an aging man lives in an empty mansion that's been stripped of almost everything in it but his precious books.

The Club Dumas is an entertaining book, if not quite worthy of the praise heaped on it by its critics. There are some plot holes and the ending is deeply unsatisfying and a bit nonsensical. However, this shouldn't stop you from packing this for the beach. It's a fairly quick, entertaining read that presents plenty to think about.

Plus if you hate it, you'll be at the beach.

368 pages

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