April 18, 2011


by Glenn Cooper
368 pages, Harper Collins

Review by Hereward L.M. Proops

When a medieval manuscript written in code is found in a French monastery, it leads to the discovery of a prehistoric cave decorated with a dazzling number of paintings. Enter gruff, womanising archaeologist Luc Simard to unravel the mystery of the cave and the bewildering secret of “The Tenth Chamber”.

There. That should be enough information for any reader out there to be able to figure out what kind of a book this is. I don't want to give any more away regarding the plot as part of the fun of this sort of book is seeing how the outlandish story plays out (and how far the author can take it). It's not Shakespeare by any stretch of the imagination. This is the kind of book one can pick up in a supermarket for less than a fiver. It's the kind of book that makes perfect holiday reading fodder. I can see the average reader now... smothered in suntan lotion, a ludicrous cocktail in one hand and this no less ludicrous novel in the other. Glenn Cooper's third novel is the sort of book that the literati turn their noses up at but is also the sort that sells thousands of copies and entertains a hell of a lot of people in the process. It isn't particularly sophisticated, nor is it likely to enjoy the same kind of success as “The Da Vinci Code” (which is a shame as it is a far superior book). However, “The Tenth Chamber” is a bloody enjoyable story that kept me gripped throughout.

Whilst the character of Luc could hardly be called the most original of creations (he's part Indiana Jones and part Robert Langdon), he is interesting enough for the reader to care about for the length of the book. Whilst the supporting cast of characters are fairly well-drawn, they take a back seat when the main plot starts to unravel. Glenn Cooper's control over the narrative is impressive, gradually revealing the historical secrets through a series of flashbacks but keeping that crucial “big reveal” for the final chapters. It is this keen sense of pacing that makes “The Tenth Chamber” such an effective little potboiler. Cooper seems to have found that magic “just one more chapter” formula that keeps his readers hooked.

The ending might be a little overblown and seem particularly silly as it creeps into the realms of bad science. But let's be honest, most readers won't be looking for any deep meaning within the pages of this novel. Perfectly paced and written with a charming lack of pretension, “The Tenth Chamber” is highly enjoyable. Just don't expect anything life-changing and you'll have a blast. Given the amount of fun I had with this, I will almost certainly pick up another book by Glenn Cooper in the near future.

Hereward L. M. Proops

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