cover image The Phantom of Manhattan

The Phantom of Manhattan

Frederick Forsyth. St. Martin's Press, $19.95 (177pp) ISBN 978-0-312-24656-3

Gaston Lereaux's The Phantom of the Opera is a gothic classic of a disfigured soul who haunts the Paris Opera House, and it has weathered so many revisions on stage and film that few even recall his original work, published in 1911. Here, thriller specialist Forsyth (The Day of the Jackal, etc.) has crafted a clever followup to composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1984 stage version, which ends with the Phantom escaping the opera house before disappearing into the night. Set in 1906, 12 years after he fled Paris, the story picks up with the Phantom prospering in New York City, where he has grown enormously wealthy, first by conning Coney Island tourists, then by conquering Wall Street. Living under the name Eric Mulheim, the Phantom is bitter and angry because, despite his riches, his disfigurement prevents him from gaining acceptance and love. He still pines for Christine de Chagny, the lovely diva who rejected his romantic overtures years earlier in Paris. Hoping to lure her to New York, he spends millions building the world's greatest opera house and, scheming for her love, winds up instead learning a life-changing secret. Forsyth uses several narrators in this charming tale, all of whom speak in fresh, engaging voices and add many layers of intrigue and insight to Lereaux's original frame. In his introduction, Forsyth explains why he thinks Lereaux's Phantom has remained popular for so long while undergoing so many transformations. With this sequel, Forsyth brings the Phantom to life in a new way, in an invigorating parable about loneliness, greed and love. (Nov.)