In the Cemetery of Forgotten Books

By Richard Eder THE SHADOW OF THE WIND By Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

Daniel, a 10-year-old boy dangerously grieving for his mother's death some years before -- ''I can't remember Mommy's face'' -- is taken by his solicitous bookseller father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. In this Borgesian labyrinth each book awaits someone to choose it, make it part of his or her life, and thereby renew its own lost life. Mostly for its handsome binding, little Daniel picks out a novel eponymously titled ''The Shadow of the Wind,'' by an obscure Spanish writer, Julián Carax. The choice will melodramatically shape the child's life, launching him as a young man, five years later, upon the garish, gothic quest that is the elaborate centerpiece of Ruiz Zafón's novel. At the same time, among other dramatic and interlocking quests that go back to the 1920's, it will shape an odd redemption for Carax's own dark tragedy. The main story is too zestfully convoluted to set out in any detail and allow space for the lush side stories that weave through it. Briefly: Once grown, Daniel is drawn into pursuing the mystery of Carax, supposedly killed in Barcelona at the start of the civil war. His search begins when he learns of the strange disappearance of all of Carax's novels, except for his own copy and several others in the Cemetery. For years, a man who gives himself the name of a Carax character has bought up and burned them in a series of small fires, and finally in a conflagration that destroys the publisher's entire warehoused stock. Daniel advances his investigation through a chain of encounters with figures connected to Carax. Each gives a different, flawed spin to the eventually converging mysteries of the writer and the arsonist.

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