De Umbrarum Regni Novem Portis

“Everyone gets the devil he deserves.”

The Club Dumas, by Arturo Perez-Reverte is definitely not your average, common or garden detective story. Of course, all the elements of the genre are in residence: a puzzle to solve, a gin drinking coat wearing sleuth, dead bodies, a beautiful girl, a femme fatale, and so on with one important spanner in the works………….The unseen protagonist puppet master waiting silently in the wings, the Devil.

Book hunter, Lucas Corso has undertaken a task to authenticate a manuscript, the original chapter forty two of The Three Musketeers, handwritten by Alexander Dumas. His other task is no less daunting, to seach for the legendary De Umbrarum Regni Novem Portis (The Book of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows), a book published by Aristide Torchia, who was burned at the stake in 1667, and which supposedly gave directions on how to summon the devil. With such loose ties to historical fact and intermingling and intriguing  plot lines we are invited to look beyond the book into the shadowy landscape beyond. Whether what we encounter along the path we are invited to follow is real or our own creation, is ambiguous.

There is a secret society of antiquarians, occultists who wish to raise the devil, and Dumas, which may have links to each other – or not. Lucas Corso is a well worn, likeable sceptic who doesn`t believe in anything, let alone convenient connections, even if he`s tripped over them too many times for it to be accidental, until he finds he has no choice but to swallow the obvious and accept them.

The Club Dumas is full of more red herrings and dead ends than ten Agatha Christie novels on steroids; they just keep on coming and passing us by, before we have to turn around and go back the way we came. The Girl is a case in point: is she a dark angel sent by the devil to guide and protect our hero, or is she simply – a girl; someone who has latched onto Corso? Like everything else in the book, she appears to be a riddle inside a riddle which is left for our imaginations to solve. And this is the great gift the book offers us……Imagination. The various plot strands appear on the surface just plausible enough to explore, that we find ourselves drifting off at different angles; we are almost being invited to create our own version of events.

The Club Dumas has often been mentioned in the same breath as The da Vinci Code; they are much different books. It is not over burdened with the same psuedo historical `faction` of modern entrants which fill the genre today. The author isn`t intent on hammering the reader over the head with an avalanche of plot information to make his point; we are left with our own imaginations to fill in the missing pieces as we go along. Everything that happens in the book may be a series of coincidences which appear to come together like an unruly, distended, puzzle put together by Beelzebub himself for a chosen one to find his way to eternal life………Then again.

The Club Dumas may be an illusion which has created itself……Who knows, do you?

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