A book that might have been decent or even good if the protagonist wasn't such a doof. The idea is that a mercenary book hunter and fixer, Corso, has been hired at an extravagant rate to investigate the authenticity of an ancient book. From there follows investigations, suicides, bribery, theft, assault, European travel, light murder and arson, etc. I'm making it sound more interesting than it actually is. The book is also extremely meta; it is about people who collect and hunt books, and the plot beats of the main story are setup to mirror the plot beats of *two* different books, the A) Three Musketeers and B) a fictional book of alchemy and demonology, which purports to lead the way to secret wisdom. On the face of it, it's an interesting conceit, to have the story mirror and intermix two other stories, one of which is entirely fictional to the book itself. In practice it only about 65% works; the author spends a bit too much time dwelling on the meta and not enough writing a story that is interesting and clever in and of itself.
I've mentioned some light problems, now let me mention more serious ones. The main character is not likeable, and when anyone in the story treats him as likeable or does anything for him it is annoying. I believe the funadmental problem is that the author has an idea of what a neat guy/cool guy is, and writes the protagonist to be this guy. But the author is wrong. Drinking gin isn't cool, board games are cool. And I'm not talking about Napoleonics, which Corso is lightly into, but real Euro games which mix cooperation and competition. Other things that are not cool: being hung up on the girl who left you because you were such an incurably boring downer, being rude to people, losing fist fights to guys, sexually assaulting girls. The main character has such a weirdo mythology of himself that it just makes me feel vicarious pain for anyone who has to deal with him, and it make reading the book a progressively more grueling task as the pages went by. So the book has interesting ideas, and the mechanics of the writing are fine, but I was out of phase with what the author was trying to portray.