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  • Writer's picturepeter clings

The Club Dumas a book review

I must admit I am a fan of the Mystery genre in Books and Film alike. Years earlier, I have watched the 'The Ninth Gate' movie, a creation by Roman Polanski and remained fascinated by the subject ever since.

Just recently though, I have started to investigate more on the source of inspiration for the movie and came across the reference to the novel 'The Club Dumas' by Arturo Pérez-Reverte which I have purchased from Amazon in its paper back from not intending to keep it on the shelf after reading it.

The narrative of the novel seems more complex than that of the film. The character Lucas Corso has at least three more parallel plots unfolding in Reverte's story in addition to that presented in the movie.

First, the adventures of Corso is narrated though the viewpoint of Boris Balkan, who poses as a rather benevolent book collector and a great fan of Alexander Dumas. The two characters intersect where they shared interest in the famous novel The Three Musketeers and Balkan gets to know Corso through that lens. An original manuscript of a chapter in that book 'The Anjou Wine' is the subject of a hot potato between the two, a game which funnels into the narrative most secondary character of the book such as Flavio La Ponte a fellow book dealer as Porthos, Liana Taillefer the beautify woman playing the evil Milady, and Laszlo Nicolavic as Rochefort. In this plot, Corso goes as D'Artagnian, and Balkan as Richelieu. Barely mentioned in this plot is the late husband of Liana Taillefer, Enrique who hangs himself after selling the manuscript to Flavio La Ponte.

Second, Corso has a lineage which goes back to the battalions of French Grenadiers who fought for Napoleon Bonaparte in his last days as Emperor. The family tradition of a great great father of Corso plays a role on distracting him from reality at times, by giving him reasons to replay mentally the great battle of Waterloo in his late evenings and nights drinking gin.

Third, Corso has a past love, Nikon. A Jewish lady who he still loves after many years of being abandoned. The journalist was seeking to establish a family with children of her on, which Luca Corso was not interested in.

The actual madman in the story is another rich book collector called Varo Borja. He is the trigger of the main plot of the novel. As in the movie, that plot revolves around 'Umbrarum regni novem portis', rare book published by the Venetian Aristide Torchia in the seventeenth century and cost him his life, being burned at stake by the Inquisition. Having only three copies in existence, Corso is hired by Borja to research the authenticity of the book. On this main plot most of the characters match between the novel and the movie. We have Victor Fargas as the last descendant of an aristocratic family in Lisbon (Portugal), and Baroness Ungern owner of a large library of books related to the Devil. Irene Adler as she identified herself is a beautiful girl carrying an English passport. She plays the role of the guardian 'angel' of Corso and with that presents a soft image of the actual Devil just as in the movie.

The ending of the secondary plot of the book is brilliant, hence the title of the novel. Boris Balkan is the patient and the committed fan of Alexandre Dumas, the organizer of a fan club whose members are accepted for owning one of the manuscripts of the Three Musketeers. 'The Anjou Wine' is recovered by 'Milady' and her bodyguard 'Rochefort' after some struggles with Corso in Paris. The two main protagonists of the novel, Balkan and Corso meet at an annual convention of 'The Club Dumas' where it comes evident that the plot was a red herring for the researcher.

The ending of the main plot diverge from the movie significantly. Corso solves the puzzle presented in the three copies for Borja who used that to attempt to go through the 'Ninth gate' killing himself in a mad satanist ritual in his house located downtown Granada, where there three monotheistic religion overlapped at one time. The unpaid Corso and the girl carry on in an unfinished idea at the end of the novel.

It was an excellent read.

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