Friday, March 9, 2007

Sweet Little Parlour Mysteries

I love Arturo Perez-Reverte. This fabulous Spaniard writes sweet little parlour mysteries for smarties. Literary entertainment for thinkers. I've got about six of his lush, Euro-centric novels on my bookshelf. He is probably best known for The Club Dumas, which was turned into a wonderful movie starring everyone's favorite actor, Johnny Depp. Dial-up The Ninth Gate from your movie provider and you'll be hooked. Perez-Reverte writes very well researched stories, replete with historic fact, literary references and a level of detail that gives his readers more than expected -without overburdening his prose or cluttering his plots. His characters are indelible, and very earthy. Aging Gypsy divas with spit curls; villains so despicable one can just imagine the tips of their mustaches curling up in ugly sneers; quirky sidekicks and a cast of colorful extras populate his work. And always strong women. Either as protagonists or antagonists.

If you enjoy art, read The Flanders Panel first. The resourceful protagonist in this story artfully restores the work of Flemish masters in her studio next to the Prado Museum. If you are intrigued by fencing and the fine art of the epee, then read The Fencing Master first. You'll meet a very beautiful, but dangerous, woman and learn the secret of the "unstoppable thrust" in a dying world of honor and chivalry. In The Seville Communion, an ancient church is a major character in a convoluted plot involving computer viruses and detective priests. The Queen of the South follows a resourceful drug cartel queen through adventures in Mexico, Spain and Morocco. For lovers of the sea and Explorer's Club sorts, there's The Nautical Chart which unveils a mystery surrounding an ancient and rare sea pilot's chart that is purchased at auction.

Memorable characters, including a lot of strong women; historic settings; engaging plots; and, lush, colorful prose. These titles are all good reads. That said, I know a lot of Perez-Reverte fans and all have at least one book that leaves them less than satisfied. Personally, I attribute that reaction to the fact that the author produces such consistently high-quality and enjoyable work - I'm talking four- and five-stars, that the occasional three-stars one might apply to a single book reflects a statistical regression to the mean. Hey, Johnny Depp starred in one of his elaborate tales. Nuff said.

No comments: