In The Tenth Chamber, a heavily-damaged fourteenth century script is found behind a bookcase in an abbey. The map inside points at a cave with primitive, but astounding, paintings on its walls. The book is sent to Paris for restoration and that's where Hugo Pineau, a literary historian, first sees the book. He enlists the help of archaeologist, Luc Simard, to find the cave and decipher its secrets. Soon after the team assembles at the cave and the work begins, it's apparent that this discovery is extraordinary. However, all is not well as one accidental death becomes two and the team is put in harm's way. As the bodies pile up, it's up to the survivors to race against time to save the cave, preserve its secret while trying to stay alive.
I really enjoyed this book. The story is engaging, extremely interesting and mostly plausible. Like his other books, Cooper jumps around to different time periods to tell the whole story. In this one, the story mainly takes place in the 12th century, 30,000 BP, and the present, with little forays into 1307 and 1899. While he doesn't present the story chronologically, it's pretty easy to follow. I love how the little clues add up to one stunning conclusion revealing the ancient secrets.
The characters in this book were excellent. I really liked Luc, Hugo and Sara (from the present), but my favourites were from 30,000 BP. I don't think I've ever read a book where the characters were from that long ago. Cooper did a great job of depicting them and their lives. I did have a little trouble keeping track of some of the minor characters in the story, but after I made a list of them, it was much easier.
My only complaint is that in a couple of places the book sometimes read like a history textbook rather than a novel. I know getting the background and history information in is necessary, but for me it doesn't make interesting reading. Remembering dates and events for those dates reminds me too much of school where history was not my forte. That didn't stop me from really enjoying the book.
scapular (page 6): a loose sleeveless garment worn by Christian monks
caldarium (page 11): Roman hot bath
sibilant (page 45): producing a hissing sound
propitious (page 107): favourable
desiccating (page 133): remove the moisture from something
comity (page 142): courteous behavior
BP (240): used in archaeology it means years before the present as in 30,000 BP. Much like BC or BCE.
maquisard (page 291): same as maquis, which is the French Resistance in WWII
I've also read Cooper's two other books:
Library of the Dead(my review) and Book of Souls(my review). I'd highly recommended both of these books. I think this is the weakest of the three, but still very entertaining and readable.
Highly Recommended. Despite the fact that at times I felt like I was reading a text book, the rest of the book more than makes up for that.
For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.
For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Glenn Cooper's website.
I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins Canada for this review copy.
The Tenth Chamber by Glenn Cooper, HarperCollins, ©2010. ISBN 9781554688050(Trade Paperback), 345p.