Mystery at the Opera House (1999)
by Brigitta D'Arcy
This book has the honor of being the very first of the self-published Phantom novels that become so popular in later years that they now make up the bulk of the list here in the Library. Not coincidentally, it's also one of the first books blatantly based on the Lloyd Webber musical, which by this point was the most popular and well-known version of the story out there.
There's a prevalent perception out there that self-published novels are, by default, bad books - that is, if they had that much merit, they'd have been published by an established publishing house. This is not true; publishers have a vested interest in maintaining an elitist idea of traditional publishing being better by default, since it helps them control the market, and authors self-publish for a lot of reasons, including lack of access to agents or traditional publishers, wanting to keep control of their intellectual property, wanting to get their work out as quickly and easily as possible, and so on. So being self-published doesn't necessarily mean something is bad by default, but it does mean that there probably wasn't a professional editor involved in the book, so you're rolling the dice a bit more on quality.
Unfortunately, with this book, we lost that gamble.
D'Arcy (whose name may or may not be a pen name in honor of the dastardly villain from the 1962 Fisher/Lom movie?) leaps right in with telling us a very familiar story, which she claims is an account of the true events of the life of the man upon whom Leroux based his Phantom. Oddly enough, or perhaps reasonably since it was also pretty popular by now, this story seems to share the vast majority of its key points and material with the plot of Kay's 1990 novel.
But according to D'Arcy, his story came to her not from Kay's book but from an article supposedly written by one Madame Renata de Waele, the public relations agent for the Opera Garnier in 1999. D'Arcy does not provide the name of this article in her author's note nor does she cite any information on it in her reading list at the back, but some research turned up the fact that it's entitled "La véritable histoire du Fantôme de l'Opéra" ("The True History of the Phantom of the Opera") and was published in France in the Journal Illustre du Cafe de la Paix, presumably as promotion for the Opera Garnier.
Unfortunately, there don't seem to be any sources cited for this article, and while I was able to find a few snippets of the article online over the years, most of them seem to be gone now. De Waele does appear to have been an Opera Garnier employee at one point, as she turned up mentioned in a few other articles involving that venerable old playhouse, but there seems to be absolutely no substantiation for her story. Which is not surprising; as an advertising piece, the article probably drew from various published sources on Leroux's story - given the content, probably including Kay's book - and was meant to interest members of the public in the opera house and its history, rather than being some sort of actual historical tract.
So, alas, D'Arcy's apparently sincere construction of the story as being based on the real life of the fictional Phantom is as fictional as everything else about him, and pretty clearly based on Kay's book. As in Kay's version, Erik lives with an abusive/neglectful mother until boyhood, is then captured and put on display in a circus, escapes and goes to Persia in his teen years to work for the Shah's court as an architect and curiosity, goes back to France as an adult and collaborates with Garnier on the building of the opera house, and so on and so forth.
There is also a persistent description of Erik's face as "asymmetrical"; for quite a lot of the novel, I thought that this meant he had a half-face deformity like the one in Lloyd Webber's show, which assumption was backed up by D'Arcy's gushing appreciation of said musical, which she refers to in an interview as "[bringing] to life the Phantom's story" (sorry, Leroux... no love for you today, either). There was actually a description in a much later chapter, however, that seemed to indicate that the deformity was more widespread than that. Either way, the story itself is still a very obvious combination of elements from the Lloyd Webber musical and the Kay novel, with a basic but unremarkable secondhand foundation in the original book by Leroux.
The preface starts to be even more fun when, in a footnote (learn to love the footnotes, because D'Arcy sure does), she mentions that she has included a list of books for further reading. Since this footnote is in reference to her discussion of something called a "soul rescue", count me among those who definitely needed some help. Don't worry; this will be back to haunt us (literally) later in the book.
More interesting in a scholarly sens is her mention of what seems to be one of the key elements of many sequels and spin-offs of this particular story: that is, the idea that Erik should be compensated or otherwise receive some sort of reward for having such a shitty time of things. She says, "[The book] is written around these facts and tells of the last tormented days of Erik's life, his death and the lovely soul rescue which compensated him in some way for all the suffering and torture he had to endure during his lifetime." Leaving aside the mention of unsubstantiated facts and the bewildering reference to the soul rescue, this is an idea that seems to underlie a lot of derivative literature for this particular novel; I'm not sure if it's a cultural feeling that equates suffering with virtue that deserves reward, or just a general sense of reader identification with a character and a desire to see him "treated fairly", but it will become much more prevalent as we continue our chronological look at these sources.
The other notable feature of the preface is an extended mention of Joseph Carey Merrick, better known as the Elephant Man. While it's true that his lifetime and the version of the Phantom story presented by D'Arcy have quite a few similarities, he was a real person and his portrayal in media is a continuing subject of discussion about the sensitivity of authors and showrunners when it comes to depicting disabled people in a historical context.
So those are all the background problems and sources. Let's dive into this story!
D'Arcy's writing suffers from a problem with punctuation and sentence flow that sadly doesn't make it very much fun to read. Commas are sometimes missing in places that they really should be included, such as between adjectives, while at other times they jump in to gleefully splice an otherwise unsuspecting sentence. Ellipses are overused for dramatic effect, wildly slowing their paragraphs down, and those paragraphs and sentences in general suffer from a choppy, flow-inhibiting shortness that doesn't do much to enhance the story D'Arcy is trying to tell.
And as for that story? It's underwhelming, to say the least, mostly because it barely is a story - the plot, such as it is, has no real clear starting or ending point. The first chapter appears to be equal parts rehashing of the end of Leroux's novel and general whining on Erik's part over how unfortunate his life is (this is not helped by the fact that D'Arcy already rehashed the end of the novel in her preface). Erik spends his time vacillating between hatred of the human race and self-pitying moaning over Christine's failure to love him because of his face, which makes sense for the original character but completely ignores the fact that Erik achieved a sort of redemption and understanding at the end of Leroux's novel. D'Arcy's Erik has apparently completely failed to learn or take anything away from the events of the novel, completely axing Leroux's parable of transcendence and redemption and plunking the character right back down where he started except with a reduction in his murderous instability and a heaping dollop of extra angst. The melodrama of it all seriously undercuts the idea of there being any dignity to the character, even when D'Arcy is insisting that he is dignified, and the implied spiritual peace of the original character's end is totally absent.
D'Arcy's Erik is an opium addict (again, very reminiscent of Kay's version of the character), which mostly serves to confuse me when he flies into histrionic fits shortly after smoking a pipe that should as a soporific drug be putting him into a nice chill semi-stupor. But I suppose the chapter needed some more hysterical weeping and ranting.
There's more Kay influence here, as well, when Erik suffers flashbacks to his mother screaming and abusing him for failing to wear his mask. It's not exactly way Madeleine behaved in Kay's novel, but that isn't particularly surprising; since de Waele's article appears to be based on Kay and D'Arcy's novel is based upon the article, she's getting the elements of Kay's novel in a filtered, distorted form. In fact, it's entirely possible that the author is unaware that this secondhand Kay influence is present at all.
(Side note: I'm obviously making an assumption here that de Waele's article is based partially on Kay's text, as they share more than a few marked similarities. However, it is also possible that they're not related, which provides some interesting food for thought when it comes to pondering why two separate authors would come up with the same idea at the same time. As I said when something similar happened with the concurrently appearing mother figures of the 1990 Richardson/Dance miniseries and Kay's novel, the total absence of mother figures in Leroux's original work seems to strike a serious chord in many interpreters and sequel-writers; in particular, there seems to be a trend of ignoring Christine's functioning in that role in order to preserve her as a romantic prospect only. Perhaps the implied-incest-subtext is subconsciously uncomfortable for these writers... or maybe they just look at a story that intentionally omitted mother figures and see a hole that wants to be filled.)
The endless self-pitying, overly-maudlin monologues that D'Arcy's Erik insists on constantly indulging in are a long and exhausting journey to read through. I understand that the author is attempting to convey the depth of the character's unhappiness, but all she's really conveying to me is the depth of his capacity to whine. Particularly irksome is a trend, beginning now and extending to later chapters, that has Erik bemoaning the fact that Christine could not look beyond his face and love him. This is a clear indicator that D'Arcy missed the point of the redemption at the end of Leroux's novel; when he released Christine and achieved his own, personal redemption, it was because he had realized that forcing her to love him was wrong and blaming her for just being shallow about his appearance didn't change that. This Erik has apparently rejected that metaphorical salvation, enabled and affirmed by Christine's acceptance, and chosen instead to whinge hysterically about the ills he has suffered at the hands of mankind. It's tiresome.
The details that D'Arcy includes are sometimes a little on the bizarre side. I don't know exactly what Erik's face looks like, even after reading the entire novel, but I do know that he has a monogrammed bathrobe and I could give you a stunningly detailed list of the contents of his wardrobe.
It's worth noting that Christine, in one of Erik's flashbacks, has dark hair, which again indicates influence from the Lloyd Webber musical and its tradition, starting with Sarah Brightman, of mostly brunette Christines, or possibly from one of the movies, starting with the 1925 Julian/Chaney film's Mary Philbin.
D'Arcy begins to introduce the idea that Erik is in failing health here, although she does it inconsinstently and it contradicts itself a lot. One moment he's strong enough to splinter the arms of a theater seat just by squeezing them and the next he's out of breath and having a heart attack from running down the stairs. The heart episodes recur frequently over the next few chapters but are frustratingly vague in their symptoms, leaving me to wonder what, exactly, is wrong with him.
Erik uses a tincture of digitalis to medicate his heart problems; this isn't medically unsound for the time period, but the fact that she kept referring to it as "tinct digitalis" without the period indicating an abbreviation drove me nuts.
Much to my dismay, D'Arcy persists in writing every line of spoken dialogue in French (for the first part of the book, anyway; later chapters begin to intersperse spoken English at seemingly random intervals). This is a bad idea for a few reasons, many of which I have already complained about at length in reviews for other books. For one thing, it excludes those readers that are not fluent in French from knowing what's going on; I happened to know enough to fake my way through the sentence and get the gist of it, but if I hadn't, I'd have been even more inclined to stop reading this book than I already was. For another, it's totally nonsensical; the character is French, the book is set in France, and we, the readers, already know that everything is happening in French unless otherwise stated. Erik's internal monologues, extensive as they are, are presumably in French, but we get to read those in English. None of the French lines' meanings are contingent upon their native language (they're mostly just passing conversation), so it's not a case where translation would lose something essential; their inclusion just smacks of a lazy way to inject "Frenchness" into the writing without actually including anything culture-specific, which is a shame since one of the things D'Arcy does do well is provide fairly convincing period settings.
There continues to be a bewildering amount of detail in areas that it really doesn't need to be present, such as Erik preparing dinner. Mesmerizing as recipes may be to some people, unless you're writing Like Water for Chocolate, they seldom flow well into a narrative.
Erik's internal monologue makes mention of the fact that the one thing he wants most is "...the lady who would share his life... his soulmate..." This is in sharp contrast to the original Erik, who, though he obviously wanted Christine, wanted more to be accepted by the society which had rejected him and to prove to himself and to said society that he had worth as a human being. Distilling the original character's complex motives down to just "He needs him a lady!" seems like it missed the point, especially since it makes Christine unimportant as a person (she was just the one who happened to be there to maybe fill that slot) and
I just want to mention that D'Arcy likes to start every chapter with a bit of poetry. It's usually Shakespeare, but now and then she intersperses her own bits of verse. Approach with caution of personal poetry makes your eyelids twitch. There's also some obvious borrowing of wording from Lloyd Webber's libretto.
Erik goes off on an extended questioning-the-existence-of-God interlude here, which is another marked difference from Leroux's original character (who didn't like God very much - in fact, he usually claimed to hate him - but who definitely believed in him). Again, the simplification of a layered character with a complex antagonistic relationship with his faith down to a cranky, self-pitying whiner doesn't do a whole lot for this already struggling narrative.
A flashback to his days in Persia again displays marked secondhand influence from Kay, but presents seriously conflicting character problems. Somehow, I have trouble taking Erik's assertion that building the sultana's torture chamber "sickened him to his innermost being" when he was mere paragraphs ago discussing how much he wanted to murder Raoul, and when he has built an exact replica of said torture chamber in his house and uses it on intruders with apparently no encouragement whatsoever from anyone else. The action does not jibe with the statement. He also apparently has nerve gas in said torture chamber, as he uses it on a wandering stagehand rather than frying him. Why did he not use that in the original story? It would have been so useful!
Also, this is an opera house we're talking about, not a rotating dinner theater. Ain't nobody putting on Faust the next day after they put on Don Giovanni. I'd charitably assume that we caught the opera house on the exact week they switched over shows, but then they're suddenly performing Bellini's Norma a few days later, so there's really no way to justify that as anything other than sloppiness. I do appreciate, however, that all three shows are ones performed or mentioned in Leroux's novel (even though that just makes them more problematic, honestly, since the opera house isn't likely to put them on again right after they just did so recently!).
Despite D'Arcy's predilection for using French at the drop of a hat, I see that the libretto of Gounod's Faust has mysteriously been translated into English for this performance. How odd.
The prose becomes so purple in this chapter that it actually begins to impede my ability, as a reader, to know what's going on. His voice was so beautiful that it "made the very stones weep," eh? Was it messy? "He did not appear to be in the room anymore" from the power of his song? Did he vanish? Where does he appear to be, and what is still in the room? And while I'm criticizing the prose, please, I can't take any more switching from present to past to present again. Please, let's just pick a tense and stick with it.
Now is also the point in the novel where the spiritual weirdness begins. Erik feels some kind of warm, ghostly light... or presence... or something. There is no explanation for this, and he seems not to worry about it too much. I would be all about this being some kind of ghost, but after the author's preface, I doubt that this is anything so classical as a haunting.
The only other thing of note was the fact that, after drinking three glasses of wine (but magically, somehow, not being even a little bit drunk), Erik took his misericordia upstairs with him and D'Arcy thoughtfully provided the full definition of the word in the text, just in case any of us were incapable of safely operating a dictionary. Gotta say, it really made the sentence flow.
The opera house, apparently, felt the need to bring the performance to a screeching halt so everyone in the entire house could point and shriek at Erik in his box. Never mind that most of these people paid a good sum of money to be here, or that boxes are intentionally difficult to see into; they seen an op'ry ghost, ma, and there's gonna be huntin' tonight. I also don't think much of the opera cast that stopped dead in their performance due to a little audience disturbance. Where has professionalism gone?
Erik's bitter and unnecessary-dwelt-upon memories of the previous Hunt for the Opera Ghost are, obviously, entirely borrowed from the Lloyd Webber musical, as no such mob-hunt occurred in Leroux's novel (the mob chase first appeared in the 1925 Julian/Chaney film, but I don't see much influence from that particular source in this scene here).
Sigh. Now we've had some dialogue in English, but Erik's thinking in French.
The only description we're going to get of Erik's appearance is here, and it's a little bit vague; the mention of his sunken eye sockets and overall thinness suggest a similar condition to Leroux's Erik's, but D'Arcy's Phantom also has a nose and that persistent descriptor "asymmetrical", which sounds more like Lloyd Webber's version of the character. In the end, I can't tell. Luckily, it won't really impact Erik's ability to whine endlessly about it, so the book doesn't suffer any more than it's already doing.
Ah, author's notes, just tossed into the text willy-nilly. There really aren't a lot of writing conventions that can yank a reader out of the flow of the story faster or more brutally, or that make me more inclined to go do something more enjoyable, like mopping the kitchen. D'Arcy's helpful note, "The story continues in Erik's own words," is random and unnecessary. So what if it serves no purpose, wasn't in the slightest bit integrated into the text, and confuses the hell out of the readers? Fuck 'em. They've read this far. They're clearly gluttons for punishment.
Even worse, now that Erik's narrating flashbacks and doing things at the same time, there's yet more tense confusion since D'Arcy fails to make a clear distinction between Erik's thoughts and his actual actions. This perspective shift could have been done, but almost any other execution would have been less clumsy and off-putting.
Erik continues to mope around about his impending death (which is still coming with agonizing slowness for me, since at this point I just want the book to end), and decides that his secret garden of plant life (oho! Do I spy some influence from the 1990 Richardson/Dance miniseries? Maybe, but there don't seem to be any other instances of it in the rest of the novel) needs to be transplanted up to the streets of Paris so that it doesn't perish with him. I was unable to focus on the intended poignancy of his midnight gardening exploits due to the total ludicrousness of the idea that he had been growing orange trees, underground, and now expected them to flourish in Parisian weather. Whatever those mutant plants are, I promise they aren't oranges.
I haven't mentioned the footnotes in a while, have I? THERE ARE FOOTNOTES TO THE TEXT EVERY CHAPTER AND IT IS REALLY ANNOYING, ESPECIALLY SINCE THEY DON'T ADD MUCH TO THE TEXT, AT ALL. You can have footnotes, even in fiction - Terry Pratchett does it! - but these are just here to help explain things to readers that D'Arcy thinks they won't understand but doesn't want to actually write into the book itself, which would, you know, make it coherent.
Erik heads off to visit Charles Garnier (again, we see the diluted Kay influence), who apparently has joined him in rejecting Catholicism because he seems to believe in reincarnation (maybe he's a Freemason! ...see what I did there?). The visit is really just more fodder for more whiny monologues about the suffering of his life and doesn't give us anything fun or historical to read about. Sigh.
The constant wailing of "Why?" by Erik, in particular, really gets under my skin; it undermines the character's intellect and drive a lot. The original Erik didn't like the reasons for his expulsion from normal society, but he understood what they were; likewise, once he stopped trying to fool himself, he had few illusions about Christine's motives and actions. Leroux's Erik doesn't have to scream "Why?" - he knows why, even though he may not believe those are valid reasons, and that's one of the reasons he's so bitter about so many things. D'Arcy's Erik, apparently, is a little bit slower on the uptake.
Erik finally gets around to committing suicide here, which took a very long time and is very dramatically overwrought. Unfortunately, he still has to go through the hackneyed, "Hey, I should be dead! Whoa, is that my body?" routine that just about every ghost in popular media goes through at the time of their death.
You'd think that that would be all right, though, because he's dead. So the book is over, right? How, you might ask, are there six more chapters to go?
Some helpful footnotes on astral bodies are introduced here. They are textbook unsubstantiated science, and give us a clue as to the wackiness to come.
More footnotes on astral theory abound, but luckily, you can ignore these in favor of hooting in glee with me when Erik suddenly goes, "Oh, shit, I forgot I was telekinetic and can move stuff with my mind. Always been able to do that. Just didn't come up in the story before now." It is literally that sudden, blatant, and ridiculous; it's the clumsiest possible way to introduce something that an author wants to use but doesn't want to spend literally any time setting up or writing into the story. In this case, D'Arcy wants Erik as a ghost to still be able to interact with the physical world, so she wrote in an escape hatch with no context or warning and happily moved right along.
Bizarrely, a few seconds later, Erik throws a monumental hissy fit when he realizes that he's dead and can't play his instruments anymore. Maybe he has some kind of mental block when it comes to his telekinesis that causes him to forget about it every few minutes. That might explain its weird and random appearances and disappearances.
There's been a lot of talk, up to this point, about Erik's "musical play" about his life that he's been writing, entitled Angel of Music. Somehow, I can't really see Erik composing vaudevilles when he's been an architect of grand opera up until this point., which is what a musical play would be considered at this time And second, I'm confused as to why Erik needs to write another piece, musical or opera, about his life. It seems that the subtext of Erik's Don Juan Triumphant was lost on D'Arcy, or else she is intentionally ignoring it; the entire point of Leroux choosing that particular story for Erik's opera is to suggest that Erik himself identifies with the story and has composed the opera for it as a testament to his own life as well as the original story (even his lines bear this out, what with all that, "I am a sort of Don Juan, you know," going on, not to mention the not-very-subtle subtext of his statement that he will die when the work is completed).
But, at any rate, D'Arcy's Erik feels the need to compose a "musical play" about his life in much more overt and unsubtle terms, so Angel of Music is born. And then, lo! Erik sings his "musical play" to the sky as a ghost for some reason or other, and behold!
"And so the score of Erik's music floated up and was emblazoned on the ether, from whence, many years later, it was picked up by a gifted musician and made into a play."
So, to recap, Erik, who really definitively existed as described in Leroux's novel except not the ickier parts, wrote Lloyd Webber's musical in the late nineteenth century and then branded it in the metaphysical ether, from whence Lloyd Webber, a hapless composer, plucked it and served as the conduit for recreating it for the modern world. Everybody with me?
I think the best part of that is the idea of a nineteenth-century opera composer writing one of Lloyd Webber's pop musical extravaganzas. Before his time, indeed.
The story glides along and workers break into the bricked-up quarters that once belonged to Erik, coming across his body and generally milling in panic (it should be noted here, however, that there were actual workers sealing records in the vaults of the opera; in fact, said records were just recently excavated and restored for modern listeners!). I was confused by their minute inspection of Erik's body and their discussion of his appearancey; didn't he, you know, rot in the last 25 years? It typically only takes about fifty days for a body to entirely rot down to the bones and gristle phase, and even if Erik's living quarters were dry enough to mummify him, I wouldn't think there'd have been that many recognizable features left, ugly or otherwise. But, as I remind myself frequently in this project, who cares what I think?
Before we dive into chapter twelve, let me share with you the author's note page that forms a small break between the previous chapter and this one. It reads as follows:
"Although the second part of this story, which occurred a century later, may sound like a journey into utter fantasy, it is nevertheless based on fact."
Oh. Well, good. And here I was worried that it was going to be off the wall or something. I'm so relieved now.
Let the Lloyd Webber love begin! The entire beginning of the chapter concerns an unnamed woman (so TOTALLY NOT D'ARCY'S SELF-INSERT, GUYS) who attends the Lloyd Webber musical and is moved to uncontrollable emotion. Erik does not have the monopoly on overly maudlin monologues, it seems. More footnotes continue, mostly concerning things like astral travel and auras and whatever other new-age concepts D'Arcy felt like including. These are necessary because Erik somehow manages to spontaneously time-travel in ghost form (none of this waiting around for a century because as a ghost he can't die malarkey... no, he needs to time travel straight to 1991. Only non-Erik ghosts are chumps enough to wait around in torment and haunt things) and find this mysterious woman and start ghost-stalking her, so of course as readers we need to understand how all this extremely convenient metaphysical business works.
The book has pretty much given up trying by this point; Erik acclimates to his new century without even the slightest of blips, he discovers a magical telepathic ability to spy on and communicate with this woman, and discovers that she loves him. She LOVES him from seeing the Lloyd Webber stage show... real love, folks. For real. For serious. He, of course, is BOWLED OVER by this because nobody has ever loved him before (sob)! And she, of course, thanks the Beings of Light (there is copious mention of them. They are not explained) for sending him to her in her own century! It's like Ghost Whisperer except that it makes way less sense and is far more ridiculous, and that show once did a five-year time skip between seasons and suddenly introduced a child prodigy with no explanation.
Aside from the obvious turn into New Age spiritualism that this book has taken, this entire thing is depressing because it's something of a reiteration of the end of Leroux's novel. D'Arcy has ignored Erik's redemption via Christine in favor of letting this random twentieth-century woman (NOT A SELF-INSERT) do it instead. I can't come up with a good reason for reiterating Erik's redemption so obviously, or for the truly bizarre plot shenanigans that were required to bring it about (unless we assume that this is all a self-indulgent fantasy on the part of the author). The only thing I can think is that perhaps this anonymous woman gets to enact the REAL salvation of Erik because she isn't running off with Raoul like a trollop. Or something. I've got nothing.
This chapter is only notable for a lot of really bad poetry and some further abuse of Shakespeare. It's here to make sure we all know that Erik and this nameless woman are definitely for real soulmates.
Erik states unequivocally, "Her love has redeemed me." I'd talk some more about how Christine already did this, but I'd just be repeating myself.
And now this woman has a prolonged fantasy about Erik's ascension (to... Heaven? also not really explained) and how he totally is her soulmate and when she dies they'll be together forever and also his face transforms and becomes breathtakingly beautiful which is totally NOT counter to the point of loving him in spite of his imperfections and then, finally, we have reached the end. Except for some more bad poetry (this time ostensibly written by Erik himself).
There's not much going on here, except for this hysterically funny note: "Warning: It is not recommended that anyone attempts soul rescue without some form of training or knowledge thereof." That's right, kids. Don't try this at home. Somebody could get hurt... apparently.
Still confused about what the fuck all this only vaguely explained stuff about astral projection and soul rescues and Beings of Light is about? Never fear: D'Arcy has provided a reading list for those of us that are not up on the subject. Entertainingly, Leroux made the list... at the very bottom.
The real problem with this book is not the spiritualism; after all, these are someone's beliefs, and I'm not here to make fun of those. The problem is that there is no plot, the character is an almost completely unrelated mess that doesn't seem to have any follow-up from the book he's supposed to have come from, and the whole thing is essentially a personal fantasy that doesn't have much to offer a ready who isn't the original writer.
(By the way, this book was originally published as Le Fantome via the small personal Minerva Press.)