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Books

Inside the matrix

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The Angel's Game By Carlos Ruiz Zafon Orion 504 pages, Rs 299

The plot is a labyrinth. The scenic descriptions have a mesmerising Gothic feel. In a book about a writer and a book, Carlos Luiz Zafón weaves captivating spells with his prose. But, while Zafón's descriptive powers hold the narrative together, his occasional reflections manifest worldviews with which the reader may or may not agree. "Poetry aside, a religion is really a moral code...with which to regulate a culture or a society," believes one of his characters. "Theory is the practice of the impotent," we are told sometime later.

Such provocative sentences take nothing away from the fact that this novel is, first and foremost, an unputdownable thriller. Structural twists and turns constitute the essence of a story whose protagonist, David Martin, makes a living by writing cheap detective novels. It is after he receives a letter from an enigmatic publisher - leading to the start of a work with the potential to transform the destiny of mankind - that the plot thickens into a baffling mystery. David's life sinks into a hellhole with numerous traps, each offering little or no scope for disentanglement. Divided into three sections, The Angel's Game has enough substance to keep the reader thoroughly occupied. It has a set of well-developed characters whose complex mindsets and actions make them intriguing. Among them is a rich writer struggling to write the novel of his life;a policeman whose intentions are bereft of any visible motive;and, best of all, David's young assistant Isabella who fascinates with her obstinacy and maturity.

As David seeks to unearth the root cause of mysteries that seem interlinked, the plot chugs along at a pace that oscillates between the leisurely and the furious. Zafón is marvellous when he describes the eerie ambience of the place where David lives. The language has such eloquence that the reader would take a few moments to figure out that something is on the way, something that shall change the protagonist's life forever.

Most major characters in the story are a part of a huge, life-deciding game. But, what lets the story down is a rather feeble conclusion. That is where Zafón falters, making us wonder why all good things had to end 10 pages before the book does.

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