|27 January 2016|
‘The Club Dumas’ by Arturo Pérez-Reverte is a book about books. It has a main protagonist that teeters between the right and the wrong. It has megalomaniacal, omnipresent villains, femme-fatales with ambiguous motives; and not one, but two literary treasure-hunts for plotlines. It has the Devil, or at least explores methods to summon him. Yes, you can leave this column right here and go get the novel now.
For the ones who are still here, the protagonist of the novel is Lucas Corso, a middle-aged, itinerant book-hunter with hardly any scruples. He is a prominent figure in the shadowy world of antique books – and is often hired by immensely rich collectors to procure for them that one copy of a nearly-impossible-to-find book. Maybe from a private collection? From a museum? Corso is the guy they seek out to get them, by fair means or foul.
This time, there are two simultaneous chases for Corso. The novel starts with the suicide, in Madrid, of a man later identified as Enrique Taillefer, who owned a supposedly original partial manuscript of ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Alexandre Dumas, which contains a previously unknown chapter, ‘The Anjou Wine’. This falls in the hands of Corso, and he starts his quest to identify the authenticity of this manuscript. He encounters Liana Taillefer, the beautiful widow of Enrique, who starts off by proclaiming ‘The Anjou Wine’ to be a fake, but then offers to buy the manuscript from Corso. Corso refuses, and later when she seduces him in order to get the book, Corso refuses to part with the book nevertheless, incurring her wrath. Mirroring the story of ‘The Three Musketeers’, Liana Taillefer becomes the equivalent of Milady de Winter, the arch-enemy of D’Artagnan. Simultaneously, a sinister figure, whom Corso nicknames Rochefort after the character in the book, makes his appearance, and tries to force the manuscript off Corso.