Modern Gothic Mystery Novel

The Club Dumas
Perez-Reverte, Arturo

After watching the The Ninth Gate starring Johnny Depp, I just had to read the book that inspired such a unique, haunting movie!

This eerie, Gothic mystery starts with a suicide, and only gets deadlier from there.  Lucas Corso is the man book collectors and dealers call when they want to get their hands on something rare or hard to come by.  He’s a Book Bandit of sorts – one who lives out of a canvas bag, and could disappear at any time like a “snail into its shell.”  His character is deep and dynamic, and what I love about him the most is that he isn’t exactly a good guy.  Corso will do anything it takes to find an ancient work of art for a well paying client, even if it means bending the rules or breaking the law.

“I don’t like presents,” muttered Corso sullenly. “Some guys once accepted a wooden horse. Handcrafted by the Achaeans, it said on the label. The fools.”

Already on a mission to authenticate a long lost manuscript thought to be written by Alexandre Dumas, Corso gets another job that just might cost him his life, and definitely costs him his sanity.

Varo Borja, Spain’s leading book dealer has acquired an extremely rare and dangerous book called:  Book of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows, rumored to be a manual for summoning Satan himself.  Only three copies are known to exist, and Borja offers Corso a considerable amount of money to pry them from their owner’s collections by any means possible.

That’s when reality starts to bend, and Corso’s life starts turning into his own modern version of The Three Musketeers.  As strange as it sounds, it happens slowly and believably.  The world around him becomes haunting and sinister.  Character’s from the classic book come to life and Corso is stalked by a man with a scar on his face, nearly run down and forced into a dream world that reminds me of an adult version of the Neverending Story:

“Corso swore gently under his breath. He’d have given a rare incunabulum, in good condition, to punch the face of whoever was writing this ridiculous script.”

And yet he continues on his journey through it all, traveling to unlock the mysteries of the Nine Doors and its connection with the long lost Dumas manuscript.  The two plots intertwine in a dark, beautifully written Gothic setting full of churches, old mansions and ancient cities.

“He was looking out the window at the streets and seemed to be searching in the night, in the silent flow of car lights reflected in his glasses, for the lost word, the key to uniting all these different stories that floated like dead leaves on the dark waters of time.”

In the midst of all the confusion and chaos, Corso meets a short haired girl with pale green eyes full of light, and a soul that seems much older than she looks.  She’s Corso’s very own protector, a girl who claims she’s fought with an Angel and lost.  A poor, pretty traveler who loves to read and sympathizes with those who’ve lost Heaven.  And yet the shadow of a cross spilling over the floor seems to stop just short of her feet.

“After all, the girl was his only real lead in this unreal, novelistic, ridiculous situation.”

Together they drift through the madness, unlocking secrets hiding in the other copies of the Nine Doors.  They share a strange and intimate moment in a hotel room and meet all sorts of interesting people along the way, each of them having a vivid, memorable presence and a story to tell of their own.  The further the girl and Corso travel in to the darkness surrounding the only prints left of the dark occult pages, their adventure becomes more dangerous and uncertain as book collectors start meeting their brutal demise:

“If only he knew whether the end of the story was already written, or whether he himself was writing it as he went along, chapter by chapter.”

After being held at gunpoint, the Dumas mystery unfolds first, reading like an opened packet from Clue or an episode of Scooby Doo.  The Club Dumas is revealed, but none of it explains how the Nine Doors fits in.

That’s when the story comes full circle, taking Corso back to Varo Borja, who’s too busy summoning The Devil in his huge medieval building to bother paying Corso for all of his life changing troubles.

This book was a bit above me at times with references to Latin, old forgotten novels and things I’d never heard of.  But that’s exactly why I read – to learn and see brilliant worlds through a vivid writer’s imagination.  This novel flows like a beautiful Gothic poem full of religious imagery, a touch of romance and age old themes of Heaven and Hell.  If you’re a fan of old-school fiction, enjoy novels by Anne Rice or movies like The Devil’s Advocate, I highly recommend this book…within a book…within a book.

“That’s what was so tricky— accepting the nature of the game. Accepting the fiction by entering the story and following the logic of the text, not of the outside world . .  . After that, it’s easy. In the real world, many things happen by chance, but in fiction nearly everything is logical.”


The Drop – Tom Hardy, Gandolfini

The first time I saw Tom Hardy was watching him play Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights on Amazon Prime:  I absolutely loved him in this role.  I thought he was sexy and dark.  Quiet yet capable of anything.

The next time I saw him was the other night in Mad Max.  He nailed the part of playing a post-apocalyptic captive too.

Now, after watching him star as Bob Saginowski, a lonely Brooklyn bartender, I truly believe this man can transform into anyone.

Bob is understated.  Simple.  He serves drinks to his tight-knit community along with his cousin Marv (Gandolfini), who used to own the bar until it was acquired by the Chechen mafia.  Despite the gangs and violence going on around him, Bob is a man who goes to church.  And he doesn’t consider himself to be ‘one of them.’

Walking home one night, he hears some whimpering coming from a trashcan behind one of the chain link fences.  Leaning over to lift the lid, he finds an adorable puppy inside, the poor little thing all bloody and abused.  When he opens the gate to get to the trashcan, a nervous woman steps out from her house to see what’s going on.  Nadia eventually lets the two inside and they clean the puppy up.  That night a slow, broken love story begins that gives me this Rocky Balboa/Adrian/pet store vibe that I really enjoyed.

After Cousin Marv’s bar is hit with a robbery, things get brutal pretty fast.  A warning for the squeamish, the mafia doesn’t seem to care too much about body parts and blood.  And you’ll worry about the well-being of that little pit bull the entire time.

Based on a short story called “Animal Rescue” and eventually written into a novel, this movie is full of twists and surprises.  As the story moves on, you see hints that Bob might not be so simple after all.  His character is honest, a bit self-righteous and very well played.  Although the story finishes off a little dark, it still offers up a happy ending.

This movie might not be 5 stars for me, but I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to see what Tom Hardy gets himself into next!

Mad Max – SteamPunk Action Packed Movie

My husband hates movies and most scripted TV shows.  It’s really rare that we can actually sit down and enjoy one together.  But we do watch a billion car shows at night like Fast N’ Loud with Richard and Aaron and Welder Up with Steve Darnell.  He’s really into cars so this was right up his alley.
His – not mine.  Sheesh.  I’m not saying I didn’t like this movie.  The visual effects were amazing.  The cars were totally cool and over the top.  Max was pretty cute, and Charlize Theron looked feminine and fierce playing the role of Imperator Furiosa – you go girl!  But the violence; holy crap.  I spent most of the movie worrying about the next gross scene coming up.  But that being said, it wasn’t too graphic, and most of the scenes that were literally flew by pretty quick.
The plot is basically this:  a bunch of steampunk type vehicles chase each other across the desert and lots of futuristic looking survivors of a post-apocalyptic world die in the process.  Or blow up.  Or play guitars with flames shooting out of the top.  With a whole lot of other weirdness thrown in between.
Ok so there’s a little more to it then that.  But not much.
I would say this is a guy flick for sure.  Not that some women won’t enjoy it…but even the semi-love story is somewhat lacking.  I don’t regret watching this, and recommend it to anyone into sci-fi, nonstop action and junkyard war machines with loud throaty engines.