Who can resist the fascination of a labyringth of books? Piles of ancient tomes on either side. Treasures and mysteries to be uncovered behind every bin. Some of the best bookstores and libraries are messy ones with dim light, cramped ceilings and cryptic sorting. Or soaring shelves with ladders and vast collections. I’ve read three books recently that all feature this very environment at the center of their plots. Be careful with the volumes you pick up out of these joints. They might be bad news. Barnes and Noble would be a safer bet.
In The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon:
Just after the war [WWII], Daniel’s [the main character] father takes him to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a huge library of old, forgotten titles lovingly preserved by a select few initiates. According to tradition, everyone initiated to this secret place is allowed to take one book from it, and must protect it for life. Daniel selects a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. That night he takes the book home and reads it, completely engrossed. Daniel then attempts to look for other books by this unknown author, but can find none. All he comes across are stories of a strange man – calling himself Laín Coubert, after a character in the book who happens to be the Devil – who has been seeking out Carax’ books for decades, buying them all and burning them. In time this mysterious figure confronts and threatens Daniel. Terrified, Daniel returns the book to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books but continues to seek out the story of the elusive author. In doing so Daniel becomes entangled in an age old conflict that began with the author himself. Many parallels are found to exist between the author’s life and Daniel’s and Julián takes it upon himself to make sure history does not repeat.
– synopsis from Wikipedia
Or, in the more well known The Name of the Rose by Emberto Eco, the protagonists must repeatedly sneak into the mysterious library of an Italian Monastary. In the top of a wide tower, the library is a honeycomb of small 6 and 5 sided rooms. Some walls have doors some don’t. Above each door is a letter. You find your way around the library by spelling certain words as you walk. After getting lost several times, the heroes finally make a map of the place, which reveals a wall that SHOULD have a door. It’s the way into the secret chamber…
Anyway, sorry to spoil that for you. It really is a fine read. In The Name of the Rose, there is a also a dangerous book. Everyone who gets a hold of it gets killed by seemingly supernatural means within a day or two. Some of the deaths are murder, but our detective is pretty sure some of them aren’t. What is the freakin’ problem with this book? It’s worth taking the time to find out the ending.
In the story I just read, The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez Reverte, our hero is sent to track down the three remaining copies of a book called The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows. Another dangerous book, this one contains an incantation to summon the devil. Greeeaaat. It turns out its missing some of it’s pages though. Where are they hiding? In creepy personal libraries of course. Also, he’s being chased by a bunch of bad guys (and gals) that bear an uncanny resemblance to opponents in The Three Muskateers. This book was also a pretty fun read. Skip the (perportadly) really lame Johnny Depp movie that is LOOSLY based on it called The Ninth Gate.
That’s all for now. On to more serious literature. Maybe.