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This complex, Byzantine, at times longwinded work, which spent more than 60 weeks on Spain's best sellers list, throws together mystery, romance, and crime into one big mix like an olla podrida. Set in Franco's Spain, it revolves around the remarkably sophisticated 18-year-old Daniel Sempere. After visiting the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, which recalls Borges's labyrinthine Library of Babel, he decides to entrust to his care a tome by Julian Carax called The Shadow of the Wind. He soon discovers not only that he probably has the last extant copy of this work but that someone wants desperately to eradicate all the author's books and will resort to any means necessary, including murder. Daniel meets a wide range of well-developed yet eccentric characters as he wanders throughout Barcelona attempting to ascertain the truth. Zafon's fifth novel follows a traditional narrative; what is outstanding is the metaphysical concept of books that assume a life of their own as the author subtly plays with intertextual references (e.g., a pair of cockatoos named Ortega and Gasset make cameo appearances). Even the plot and characters of Carax's fictitious work are interwoven into this meticulously crafted mosaic. Recommended primarily for public libraries and especially for readers who lead double lives as bibliophiles. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/03.]-Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Ruiz Zafon's novel, a bestseller in his native Spain, takes the satanic touches from Angel Heart and stirs them into a bookish intrigue ? la Foucault's Pendulum. The time is the 1950s; the place, Barcelona. Daniel Sempere, the son of a widowed bookstore owner, is 10 when he discovers a novel, The Shadow of the Wind, by Juli n Carax. The novel is rare, the author obscure, and rumors tell of a horribly disfigured man who has been burning every copy he can find of Carax's novels. The man calls himself Lain Coubert-the name of the devil in one of Carax's novels. As he grows up, Daniel's fascination with the mysterious Carax links him to a blind femme fatale with a "porcelain gaze," Clara Barcelo; another fan, a leftist jack-of-all-trades, Fermin Romero de Torres; his best friend's sister, the delectable Beatriz Aguilar; and, as he begins investigating the life and death of Carax, a cast of characters with secrets to hide. Officially, Carax's dead body was dumped in an alley in 1936. But discrepancies in this story surface. Meanwhile, Daniel and Fermin are being harried by a sadistic policeman, Carax's childhood friend. As Daniel's quest continues, frightening parallels between his own life and Carax's begin to emerge. Ruiz Zafon strives for a literary tone, and no scene goes by without its complement of florid, cute and inexact similes and metaphors (snow is "God's dandruff"; servants obey orders with "the efficiency and submissiveness of a body of well-trained insects"). Yet the colorful cast of characters, the gothic turns and the straining for effect only give the book the feel of para-literature or the Hollywood version of a great 19th-century novel. (Apr. 12) Forecast: Appealing packaging (a weathered, antique-look jacket), prepublication bookseller events and an eight-city author tour should give this an early boost, though momentum may flag down the stretch. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.