Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón returns to the world of his international mega-seller, The Shadow of the Wind, with his latest novel, The Angel’s Game. The setting is Barcelona in the first half of the 20th century—though a fictional Barcelona, envisioned, perhaps, by Poe by way of Buñuel. The story, which has threads that bind it to the earlier novel but can be read independently, once again features the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, the labyrinthian secret library where volumes languish until someone rescues them from eternal obscurity.

The liberator this time is David Martín, who as a young boy is deserted by his mother and ultimately orphaned when his abusive reprobate father is gunned downed in the street by thugs. David seeks refuge in the newspaper offices where he works as an errand boy, and soon shows his talents by writing a popular serial novel for the paper. When he is fired out of jealousy, he cleverly turns out a series of potboilers under a pseudonym.

Then David is approached by a Parisian publisher, Andreas Corelli, to take on a highly lucrative commission, but because of his long-term contract with the philistine publishers of his series, he is obliged to turn down the offer. The lure of the mysterious Corelli’s money is too great, however, and as soon as David agrees to take on the project, his obstructive publishers are killed in a suspicious fire. David, of course, is a prime suspect. Byzantine complications ensue.

The work Corelli hopes David will write will provide the founding myths for a new faith. The volume that David rescues from the Cemetery of Forgotten Books is a theological tract, Lux Aeterna. It is safe to say that Zafón has religion on his mind in The Angel’s Game, in a somewhat more didactic purpose than he seemed to have in The Shadow of the Wind. That earlier book, with its clever blend of gothic and pulp, moved at a more engaging pace than this one. But fans of Zafón’s mesmerizing literary style will not be disappointed as he sweeps them into his curious literary netherworld.

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