TITLE: THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN
AUTHOR: CARLOS RUIZ ZAFÓN
Details: no. 3 Barcelona Cycle
Barcelona, December 1957 and Daniel Sempere (The Shadow of the Wind) is now married to the love of his life, Bea and they have a young son. Daniel works with his father in Sempere & Sons’ bookshop where they are being assisted by Fermin Romero de Torres who is engaged and getting ready for his wedding in the New Year. But Fermin appears to be troubled about something, and his worries only increase after a mysterious man visits the bookshop. Daniel is on his own when the man with the limp enters the bookshop and insists on buying “The Count of Monte Cristo” the most expensive book they have in stock. The buyer doesn’t take the book with him though. He insists that it is a present for Fermin and after inscribing a message in the book the man leaves again. The dedication saying: “For Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from among the dead and holds the key to the future. 13” doesn’t mean anything to Daniel but when Fermin reads it he gets even more worried.
The man and his message are linked to events which took place twenty years earlier, shortly after Franco won the civil war. These are events Fermin has never spoken about but now feels he has to share with Daniel. It is a story about imprisonment, a prison governor with literary delusions of grandeur and Fermin, caught between the governor, an imprisoned author named David Martin and a cell-mate who is refusing to die. These are events that are somehow linked to Daniel’s mother Isabella who died under suspicious circumstances around the same time; events that continue to cast a shadow into the present.
As Daniel slowly discovers how everything connects and manages to solve most, if not all, of Fermin’s problems, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books once again uncovers a written work, “The Angel’s Game” that might shed light on some of the mysteries but could just as easily lead to the start of a new adventure.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón has done it again. He has written an intriguing story in which nothing and nobody is quite what they seem. His plots are layered and linked in ways that the reader couldn’t even begin to imagine. Events from the two earlier books tie in with and help to explain what is happening in this story while the final sentences of this book indicate that the story hasn’t reached its finale yet.
The characters in this story are as vivid as they are unique. And more unique than most is Fermin. He is not a character that allows for an easy and short description. Fermin is complex, extravagant, out-going yet secretive and most of all, a loyal friend. Daniel is a far more straightforward character. He is a good-hearted young man and easy going unless he allows his emotions to rule his actions. Jealousy and a need to know the truth bring him into situations he should probably avoid. Situations that, while providing answers also pose more questions. And not all of those questions are answered in this book.
While this is a fluently written and easy to read book it also provides the reader with a lot to think about. At times it feels almost as if the reader has a philosophical book in their hands. Thoughts and actions are hidden behind and underneath the words that are on the page. Not everything is diverged but the things left unsaid are as important to the story as everything that has been spelled out for the reader. As a result I find that while it didn’t take me long at all to read this book, it will take me a long time before the story will leave my thoughts.
“The Prisoner of Heaven” is the third book in the Barcelona cycle by Zafón. All three books are connected to each other but there is no need to read them in any particular order. I would however say that there is probably a huge benefit to be had from reading all three of them in quick succession. Now that I have finished reading this book I feel I should probably go back and read “The Angels Game” again. The way that book is referenced in this one suggests that a lot of the present story has its origins in that one, and I really can’t remember that much of it. Having said that, the ending of this book seems to suggest that there is more to come and I think I will wait with a complete re-read until Zafón has written everything he is going to write about Barcelona, these characters and the mysteries in their lives.