by Arturo Perez-Reverte
“The rainbow is the bridge between heaven and earth. It will shatter at the end of the world, once the devil has crossed it on horseback.”
Fans of the Polanski movie, The Ninth Gate, may recognize this book as the source, although the differences between the two are extensive.
Written in Spanish and translated by Sonia Soto, we begin with Lucas Corso, a cynical ‘book detective,’ who is hired to authenticate an extremely rare Alexander Dumas manuscript–an original chapter of The Three Musketeers. Over the course of his investigation his search becomes entwined with the legendary book, The Book of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows, reportedly written in conjunction with The Devil himself. His travels take him throughout Europe, where he compares notes on the three existing versions of the Nine Doors, eventually finding subtle differences although all three are considered authentic. The shrewd and experienced Corso is an expert at his job but is in a constant struggle to understand what’s happening to him, in parallel with the reader.
There is a need to emphasize the story differences between the film version, which was a fine supernatural mystery, and the book version, which is highly complicated mystery with a few supernatural elements. The film streamlined this like you wouldn’t believe, eliminating huge portions of the plot, combining characters, and ignoring the Alexander Dumas storyline entirely. It works for the movie, but the book contains constant references to The Three Musketeers, including many of the characters assuming roles from that earlier story. Corso as d’Artagnan, Liana Taillefer as Milady, etc. The film was complicated enough without these elements, but they certainly enrich the book. There are also plenty of compelling moments of insight, caution and humor.
This isn’t the lightening fast read that we sometimes find, but it never bogs down which is an achievement considering its complexity. An occult mystery diving into the history of Dumas, it’s interesting on every page and difficult to set aside.
“The lost word keeps the secret.”