28—The Book On Fire By Keith Miller

Immanion Press, 2009

I love Keith Miller's writing. He is a terrific story teller and his books enthrall me. 

Balthazar is a book thief who comes to Alexandria to steal rare books from the world famous library there. Not only is he a book thief, but he is also a connoisseur of fine literature. Some of the books he steals he keeps and reads over and over, but most, he repairs and disguises and sends to his contacts, who pay him for them. They then sell them to their rich clientele.

In Alexandria he meets Zeinab, a literay prostitute of great allure. He desires her, but her price is one of the precious books he owns. How she knows what books he owns is a mystery and at first Balthazar refuses. Ultimately his attraction to her is so overwhelming that he agrees to her price for a night of pleasure with her. The next day he watches as Zeinab burns his precious book.

He and Zeinab become friends and she introduces him to a group of kind- hearted thieves who become his friends and companions. 

Nobody is allowed in the library and it is heavily guarded by a group of women librarians trained in the martial arts, who will immediately kill anyone they find there. Zeinab shows Balthazar how to sneak into the library by going through the city's catacombs. Once in the library he encounters Shireen, the youngest of the librarians, and surreptitiously follows her and eventually meets and woos her and convinces her to leave the library with him.

This is an intriguing tale, beautifully written.

Miller's previous novel is The Book of Flying.

© Surveyor of the Passing Scene