Carlos Ruiz Zafón returns for the fourth and final time to his gothic Barcelona and (every book lover’s fantasy) the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. In The Labyrinth of the Spirits, Zafón introduces Alicia Gris, a fierce, courageous but damaged young woman who was orphaned during the Spanish Civil War and recruited to become a member of the Spanish secret police. Already disillusioned at 29 with the darker demands of her work, Alicia reluctantly agrees to investigate one final case for her boss, Leandro Montalvo, in exchange for her freedom. She and her partner, Juan Manuel Vargas, must investigate the disappearance of Spain’s Minister of Culture, Mauricio Valls.
When Alicia discovers a copy of a rare book by Victor Mataix hidden in Valls’ desk, she and Vargas start down a twisting path that leads them back to Barcelona and eventually reveals connections between Valls’ mysterious disappearance and a series of atrocities committed years earlier during the corrupt Franco regime. At the same time, Alicia must confront her own complicated past, which includes a return to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.
Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War provides the perfect setting for Zafón’s novel, with its shadowed, misty labyrinth of streets, foreboding buildings and sinister sense of corruption. The plot is exquisitely intricate, like an elaborate steampunk timepiece. Alicia, a fragile but ferociously formidable, vampire-like seductress, is unforgettable. The pacing is exceptional, with its incessant, rolling waves of tension. Even the dialogue is remarkably sharp and fresh.
The Labyrinth of the Spirits is a masterpiece more than worthy of sharing a shelf with its bestselling predecessors, The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven. For those who have read Zafón’s earlier novels, some loose ends are finally resolved. Readers’ one regret will be that Labyrinth is the last in this ingenious cycle.