What the Editors Are Reading

Alexandre Dumas, born the grandson of a French nobleman and an African slave in Saint-Domingue (today Haiti) in 1802 and son of one of Napoleon’s officers in Italy and Egypt, accomplished a prodigious amount of work in his 68 years.  So far as I know he never wrote a book of less than nearly a thousand pages, and I understand that unpublished works of his are still turning up.  His most famous novels are The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, so when I read earlier this year of the publication in France of a sequel to the latter novel, I ordered a copy from the publisher (Kryos).  In fact, Le sphinx rouge is a sequel in terms of historical time only, taking up after the lifting of the siege of La Rochelle in 1628, where Musketeers leaves off.

One hundred and forty-seven into 732 pages, my impression is of a book that is less an adventure story in the manner of its predecessors than a social portrait of France in the early part of the 17th century.  The Red Sphinx, of course, is Cardinal Richelieu, portrayed by Dumas as the man who governed France and held her together between the assassination of Henry IV (“Paris is well worth a Mass”) by François Ravaillac and the accession to the throne of Louis XIV—during the reign of Louis XIII, described in the novel by his wife, Anne of Austria and sister of Phillip IV of Spain, as the “phantom...

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