This is possibly the most unique novel I’ve read in years. Our hero (if we may call him that,) is a sort of hard-boiled European private detective with a remarkable specialty: he works for an exclusive handful of antiquarian book dealers and collectors, usually to “acquire” rare books and manuscripts “by whatever means necessary.” He is hired by one dealer to authenticate a manuscript chapter of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, then a rich collector hires him for what should be a more difficult job concerning The Book of the Nine Doors to the Kingdom of Darkness, which is said to contain the secret of summoning the Devil. The author of this work swore just before the Inquisition burned him at the stake that only one copy existed, so why are no less than three listed in the bibliographies? Our hero’s task is to determine which, if any, of the three is genuine and finding it, to get it however he can.
During the course of the narrative it turns out that these two jobs are not as unrelated as they may appear. We encounter the strange world of rapacious collector, unscrupulous dealers, impoverished noblemen desperately trying to retain their ancestral libraries, famous occultists, restorers who are not above a little forgery on the side, a mysterious young woman who may be an Angel or the Devil or a character out of Sherlock Holmes, several people who take Dumas’ novel VERY seriously, and a disconcerting number of characters who turn up inconveniently dead. This is a first-rate mystery with many twists and an ending as satisfying as it is unexpected.