The Club Dumas
By Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Published Spain 1993
English translation 1998
Movie The Ninth Gate
This is my first book in the Bibliography Challenge, and in the Books to Movie challenge.
The main character, Lucas Corso is a Book detective. He searches out rare books for
his clients, and his methods of obtaining these books are not always legal. He knows
some Latin, Greek and history (wish I had learned those as well), and is quite familiar with bibliographies. At the opening of this story, Corso is given 2 jobs.
One is a manuscript of a chapter of The Three Musketeers. This chapter manuscript is supposed to be Dumas's original. Written in the early 1800's, Corso is charged with verifying its authenticity.
The other job is by a rich client called Varo Borja. He has a book called The Nine
Doors to the Kingdom of Shadows by 17th century author Aristide Torchia. This book is very old, and is said to be an occultic book with nine engravings or woodcut pictures. It details what is required to summon the devil. The story is that there are 3 copies of this book, but the publisher Torchia died (in 1667) refusing to say which one was the real book. So now noone knows which one is the authentic and original version.
Barjo demands that Corso locate the other two copies and determine which one is the
original. And Corso is also required to obtain both copies by any means necessary.
Corso thinks that the two jobs are related. The circumstantial evidence he finds
suggests that Richeleu of the 3 Musketeers was interested in the occult.
So Corso visits the owners of the other 2 copies of the Nine Doors. While looking at these books, and making notes, Corso discovers that the engravings are not exactly identical. There are some slight differences. After visiting each book owner, the owner is later killed, and the book either destroyed or stolen. Eventually Corso determines that all three books are authentic as one would need all 3 books to make one correct book. Corso eventually figures out who the killer is. The ending has the killer using the engravings and trying to summon the demon, but being unsuccessful because one of the engravings was fake.
While he is doing this searching, Corso is also followed by a mysterious dark skinned man with a mustache and a scar, as well as a woman who insinuates herself into Corso's search. She claims to be his protector. He also discovers the Club Dumas - a group of people who are fanactical about Dumas and his books. But they actually have no connection to the occultic book. As the Club founder explained to Corso, "Your mind made the connection, not us.".
I liked the book a lot - especially Corso's search for the Books of the Nine Doors. I also loved all the bibliographical details. This book is a bibliophile's fantasy. Almost every page includes a literary reference, or a description of a rare edition of a famous work. Lucas Corso also comes across a number of books on the occult, these titles are presumably of Pérez-Reverte's invention. Check the Wikipedia entry for details.
I have not yet seen the movie, although I do have a copy borrowed from the library. I wanted to finish the book first before I saw the movie. Apparently the movie cuts out the Dumas & 3 Musketeers plotline altogether, and has Corso summoning the devil instead.