Lucas Corso is a book detective, a bibliopole in his early fifties, a mercenary, who hires himself out to the highest bidder to hunt down & procure rare editions at any means necessary for his wealthy, cut-throat clients. I’ve just finished reading “Club Dumas” by Arturo Perez-Reverte and it was an entertaining ride. One reason is because the main character, the aforementioned Lucas Corso, is human: he is not stunningly handsome, he smokes crumpled cigarettes that he produces from various pockets in his clothing and he likes his Bols gin.
Corso, who lives in Madrid, is enlisted by a well known book collector who owns one of only three known copies of “The Nine Doors”, a book published in the Sixteenth Century that reportedly contains authentic information for contacting Satan. Meanwhile, just after selling his original manuscript of “The Anjou Wine”, by Dumas, another book collector in Madrid has hanged himself, leaving behind his beautiful and not too distraught wife. The manuscript has been purchased by LaPonte, a fellow book collector and friend of Corso. And LaPonte wants Corso to verify the authenticity of the manuscript.
Corso quickly finds these two projects intertwined as the major players begin the resemble characters of “The Three Musketeers”, the Dumas classic. Corso’s project takes him to Seville, Barcelona and Paris. The novel becomes a sort of novel within a novel as characters in Club Dumas become more and more akin to Milady, Richeliu and D’Artagnan from the Dumas novel.
And of course, Corso has a woman, a lost love from the past, who plagues his waking hours. Meanwhile, a woman twenty years younger befriends him, follows him and even helps him out of a few scraps with the bad guys. She’s here to protect him, she explains, as the lines of reality begin to evaporate into the ethereal.
The novel is a tribute to the romantic serial novels of an earlier, more romantic time. Arturo Perez-Reverte does a wonderful job of storytelling. If I have any criticism, it might be that the book may over-explain its origin and the history of Dumas and “The Three Musketeers”.
His portrayal of the devil worshipers is uncanny, frightful and completely entertaining to follow. The relationship between Corso and the young woman is tantalizing. The blurb on the cover calls “Club Dumas”… “a beach read or intellectuals” and I think that is a fair assessment.
The copy I read was translated from Spanish Sonia Soto and I think she’s done a wonderful job keeping the spirit of the novel intact. “Club Dumas” is the eighth novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte, who also wrote “The Flanders Panel” and “The Seville Communion”. I look forward to reading more of his work.