It’s a Mystery: The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Great expectations

The Angel's Game
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every book has a soul, according to Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and in The Angel’s Game, would-be novelist David Martin discovers that for himself. Eking out his living by churning out lurid pulp fiction, David is fortunate to be living in 1920’s Barcelona, a city rife with riches and horrors alike. Even better, he encounters an elegant, mysterious publisher, who makes him an offer he can’t refuse: if, in the course of a year, David can produce a book good enough to start a new world order, health and riches will surely be his. David accepts a hefty advance, and, moving into the moldering, towered mansion he has coveted since childhood, he settles down at his typewriter. His health improves, and the publisher likes his early chapters, and David looks forward to winning Christina, the girl of his dreams.

From this point, Zafon spins out a tale rife with gothic atmosphere, doomed romances, grisly murder, and more than a hint of the supernatural. From this point, his readers are left on their own, to make what they will of the vicissitudes of David’s tumultuous life. Zafon’s characters are quirky and memorable, but are not the sort with which readers will easily bond. The exception to this pattern is Isabel, who shines brilliantly from start to dramatic finish. If you need your endings neatly wrapped up and tied with a bow, The Angel’s Game is not for you. But if you like to really “think” about what you’ve read, what are you waiting for? The literary references alone will hook you.

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