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Isaac Inchbold, middle-aged proprietor of Nonsuch Books, has never traveled more than 24 leagues from London, where by 1660 he has made his home above his bookshop for 25 years. King (Domino) opens his finely wrought tale with Inchbold's receipt of a strange letter from an unknown woman, Alethea Greatorex, or Lady Marchamont. Surprising himself and his apprentice, Tom Monk, Inchbold consents to visit her at Pontifex Hall, in Dorsetshire. Once he arrives at the crumbling manor house, Lady Marchamont shows him its extraordinary library and sets him a strange task: he is to track down a certain ancient and heretical manuscript, The Labyrinth of the World, missing from her collection and identifiable by her father's ex libris. Withholding much relevant informationAsuch as the reasons that her husband and father were murderedAshe offers him a sum greater than his yearly income, but gives no reason other than that she wishes the collection undiminished. When he accepts the job, Inchbold is drawn into a clandestine, centuries-old battle over the manuscriptAhis every move, it seems, dictated by some unseen hand. King expertly leads his protagonist through an endless labyrinth of clues, discoveries and dangers, all the while expertly detailing 17th-century Europe's struggles over religion and knowledge. He interweaves a subplot describing the manuscript's journey from Prague to Pontifex Hall that involves theft, flight and murder. The world of the novel is satisfyingly complete, from its ornate syntax and vocabulary to the Dickensian names of its characters (Phineas Greenleaf, Dr. Pickvance, Nat Crumb); its beleaguered, likable narrator is fully developed; and its fast-paced action is intricately conceived. Fans of literary thrillers by the likes of Eco, Hoeg and Perez-Reverte will delight in this suspenseful, confident and intelligent novel. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
Isaac Inchbold, the asthmatic proprietor of Nonsuch Books on London Bridge, is an unassuming hero, drawn into a dangerous game of duplicity and intrigue when he is asked to track down an elusive manuscript in the summer of 1660. The Labyrinth of the World, marked with the ex-libris of intrepid collector Sir Ambrose Plessington, may be a little-known Hermetic text, a map of the lost city of El Dorado, or a heretical document capable of causing vast political upheaval. It is also being sought by a menacing trio of men in black, whom Inchbold must outwit to survive. King (Domino; Brunelleschi's Dome) has created a literary historical thriller in the vein of The Name of the Rose. It delivers fascinating but arcane facts about ciphers, Mercator maps, astronomy, and invisible ink in an engaging tale that only occasionally becomes tedious. For all fiction collections. Christine Perkins, Jackson Cty. Lib. Svcs., OR
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
I picked up this book with much anticipation having enjoyed King's non-fiction work (I'm also a librarian, a bibliophile, and love books about books) but was truly disappointed. Read morePublished on Feb. 27 2011 by Miss Print
I agree with the above review by Mark Fantino, but was able to stomach the ending more readily than was he. However, it does stretch the suspension of disbelief. Read morePublished on Aug. 16 2003 by John Angel
A fine tale too long told. Unfortunate that the editors at Penguin Books did not require King to reduce the text by another 40-60%. Read morePublished on July 1 2003 by rex v reynolds
I enjoyed what I read, but ran out of time, so I scanned the rest. But if you're put off by the historical "error" regarding the Great Fire of London in a previous... Read morePublished on June 24 2003
This reminds me of those mystery stories having endings that spill out everything leaving you mildly insulted and exasperated. Read morePublished on March 29 2003 by grandfathersclock
I was actually enjoying this book until I reached the end. Then I was mad that I'd spent time reading it. The ending just does not fit the build up, and is a major let down. Read morePublished on March 24 2003
Tedious going in alot of places. More conversation would have made a better book for those not as knowledgeable about ancient texts as Mr King. Read morePublished on March 9 2003 by Robert Noone
This is a fabulous book! I absolutely loved it. Granted, it is not for everyone, as the content is more historical than fictional. Read morePublished on Dec 9 2002 by KLHK