"It was a man, standing quite motionless and staring down. He wore a broad-brimmed hat and was otherwise wrapped in a flowing cloak that flapped about him in the wind." Making a departure from his bestselling political thrillers, Fredrick Forsyth takes a literary leap in The Phantom of Manahattan, the sequel to Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera.
Inspired by a meeting with Andrew Lloyd Webber, who longed for a sequel to his world-renowned musical, Forsyth decided after extensively researching the subject to rekindle the legend. The story opens in 1906, 12 years after the Phantom escapes a bloodthirsty mob at L'Opera in Paris and mysteriously vanishes without a trace. On her death bed, the Mistress of the Chorus, Madame Anionette Giry, confesses that she plucked a horrifically deformed boy from a carnival prison and spirited him away to live in recesses of L'Opera: "[His] face was distorted down one side as if struck long ago by monstrous hammer and the flesh of this visage was raw and shapeless like molten candle wax. The eyes were deep-set in sockets puckered and misshapen." Keeping to the shadowy nooks of the opera house, Erik Mulhiem, became known as the Phantom, living a mysterious, solitary existence. However, that abruptly ended when he fell in love with a beautiful diva, Christine Daae. Unable to control his obsession, he flees to America with the help of Madame Giry. There, after years of destitution and misery, he builds a vast empire and devises a plan to ensnare his beloved Christine.
Along with the legendary staples, the delightful cast of supporting characters--from the refined, French lawyer with a pinched disposition, to Cholly Bloom, a street-wise New York hack--appears in chapter vignettes enriching the plot and propelling the scenes, so that it reads in documentary form. And preface-skippers be warned: The introduction gives essential background to the sequel, as well as interesting tidbits about the architecture and history of L'Opera. For example, did you know there is buried lake underneath that is biannually maintained? Or that almost half of its 17 floors are subterranean and were once used for grisly tortures and imprisonment during a military coup in the early 1870s? In fact, that, coupled with reports of ghostly sightings and unexplained accidents fed Leroux's imagination and led to his classic creation.
A marvellous continuation of a timeless tale, The Phantom of Manhattan is a premium insurance policy on a long-lived love story. --Rebekah Warren [via]