This is an extraordinary tale with all of the best features of a good novel: treachery, deception, murder, sex… And as a bonus, it involves rare books and literature, even if not everyone would agree that the author of the The Three Musketeers – a popular serial after all – should be counted as having produced “Literature”.
It is one thing to be involved in unraveling the mysteries of a murder (or was it suicide?) but it is quite another when those investigations are tangled up with questions of the authenticity of manuscripts, whether the leather binding of a volume indicates that it is an original or a very clever copy, and indeed whether the participants in these bizarre events are merely doing their jobs as rare book dealers and mercenaries or are characters in a real life novel fulfilling their roles as scripted by the daemonic mind of some unknown author.
This book satisfied my greatest hope for a novel which is to place me right in the middle of the story. I remember traveling through parts of Spain and France, meeting rather extraordinary people there, examining rare volumes in the private libraries of the greatest collectors and participating in puzzling out mysteries of book binding provenance that made solving murders seem trivial. And I remember these things as well as I remember events in my own life.
There is a film called The Ninth Gate based on the novel with Johnny Depp as the protagonist which I thought was rather good – but then, it is Johnny Depp.