The Tenth Chamber by Glenn Cooper will be enjoyed by those who enjoy their thrillers interwoven with centuries-old secrets, hidden manuscripts, mysterious events echoing through the ages and such like, rather than a straightforward who dunnit and why. Not that there isn’t plenty of death in this book – quite the opposite as the characters are dropping like flies in some sections.
The story centres on the finding of a hidden cave in France containing secrets known only to the local villagers and (not a plot spoiler, I promise) also to the French government. A rare and beautifully illustrated manuscript is discoveredafter a fire in a monastery. The abbot calls in Hugo, a restorer of ancient books, to repair water damage sustained when the fire was put out.
It transpires that book was written centuries earlier by a previous occupant of the abbey, Barthomieu, who claims to be more than two hundred years old. Considering the book was written in code to hide the secrets uncovered during his lifetime, it rather strangely contains a map giving directions to the cave where most of the events take place. Hmm. A bit of a plot device, methinks.
The restorer, in turn, calls on his archaeologist friend, Luc, to help him discover the cave illustrated in the manuscript. As already mentioned, much of the book is written in code, so they send it away to an expert to be deciphered and we are drip-fed sections throughout the novel to coincide with present day happenings.
After following the map and finding the cave, Hugo and Luc persuade the department of culture to fund a research project. It is at this point the bodies start to pile up.
Much of the detail is held back deliberately on the author’s part to build suspense, but unfortunately I found the premise to be a bit contrived. I didn’t fully believe in the storyline of the past, or the events of the present day, but despite that, The Tenth Chamber makes for an entertaining read.
I’m not sure I’d rush out to grab another of his books, but neither did I fling this one across the room in disgust, as I have with other novels of this nature.