The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas This is one of the books that I keep coming back to and re-reading whenever the urge strikes...and it strikes quite often; five times so far. Considering the sheer length of the book that might seem odd, but Dumas keeps things moving with his breakneck pace from the moment that poor Edmond Dant├Ęs is wrongly imprisoned by jealous rivals until the final consummation of his intricate plan of revenge.

Despite the speed at which Dumas keeps the plot moving, we are still treated to an in-depth story that examines the lives of the many characters that make up the main cast and are slowly initiated into the tangled ways in which their lives intertwine.

I think Dumas too often gets a bad rap for being some kind of early pulp 'penny-dreadful' writer who cranked out tales like sausages on a conveyor belt, but just reading the beautiful words he puts on the pages (admittedly in translation for me), and experiencing the fascinating characters and events to which he treats us, should be enough to dispel this myth. I find that the characters in his stories are often much more real, and multi-layered, than he is often given credit for and while their emotions may run quite high (it is romantic fiction after all) he never deviates from the kernel of truth about human nature that he seemed to know so well.

This book has it all, from revenge to murder, intrigue, escapes, love, hatred, damnation and salvation all tied to a plot that keeps on giving and urging you to turn the next page to see what strange adventure will happen next.