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Genre: Fiction

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.

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