A review of Arturo Pérez-Reverte's The Fencing Master
It was my own fault really. Corso, the rare-book-scout hero of Arturo Perez-Reverte's sinister mystery, "The Club Dumas," would never have made such a fundamental mistake. But I was eager, probably over-eager, for a summer diversion, restless for an intellectual thriller in the tricksy mode of Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum," William Hjortsberg's "Falling Angel" and Iain Pears's "An Instance of the Fingerpost."
These were, after all, the sort of devilishly clever books that Perez-Reverte was known for. I had much enjoyed "The Club Dumas," despite its occasionally jarring mistakes – a wrong word in the famous first sentence of Scaramouche ("He was born with the gift for laughter and a sense that the world was mad"), 223-B, instead of 221-B, as the address for Sherlock Holmes's flat, reference to a hitherto unknown work by Merimee, etc. But these lapses could be forgiven. For what could be more entertaining than a shadowy adventure novel in which a brooding, world-weary book hunter searches for the connection between a manuscript chapter of "The Three Musketeers" and the three extant copies of a notorious 17th-century manual for summoning up the Devil - "The Book of the Nine Doors to the Kingdom of Darkness"? The result was spooky, ingenious, sexy and lots of fun.
And, according to friends, so was "The Flanders Panel," a sleekly intricate whodunit artfully mingling chess, painting conservation and murder. Last year's "The Seville Communion" even got its author called, by one reviewer, "the thinking man's Robert Ludlum" - a somewhat dubious compliment perhaps, but which of us thinking men (or women) is altogether immune to the allure of an insidious international conspiracy? So when I picked up "The Fencing Master," I sighed contentedly, sure of an elaborate, ingenious mystery and a very good time.
You can find the full review here
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