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The Man Behind the Iron Mask

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Summary of: The Man Behind the Iron Mask

“For more than three hundred years the legend of ‘the man in the iron mask’ has held a place on the stage of human enquiry and debate. From the time of his incarceration during the reign of Louis XIV right through to our modern day, the awful fate of the man condemned to live a lifetime with his face encased in iron has inspired, depending on the era, anger, horror, pity and fascination.” So opened the New York Times review of the first edition of The Man Behind the Iron Mask. John Noone’s masterful account of the mystery presents all the known facts of the prisoner’s existence chronologically as they have been discovered, including the famous legend immortalized in the nineteenth century by Alexander Dumas in his sequel to The Three Musketeers, and into modern times with the supposed discovery of his skeleton in an old tower in Cannes in 1977. Noone also offers his own very convincing and intriguing solution to the identity of the Man in the Iron Mask, telling the story of this enduring mystery like no one else has.

Author: John Noone

Review of: The Man Behind the Iron Mask

This is the most convincing Iron Mask theory so far proposed as far as I’m concerned. The author looks at all the earlier theories and comes to the conclusion that all of them share the same general weakness: they have to dismiss some of the known facts in order to make sense. He uses historical records to discount many of the known theories. John Noone solves the riddle masterfully and in a totally original way, managing to present the solution almost as a conjuror’s trick: when the end of the book is a few pages away, it seems that the author has gotten nowhere with his debunking of the old theories, when suddenly it turns out that the new solution has been staring the reader in the face. But aside from all the detection, it is also a masterpiece of historical writing, elevating the genre to something like a Borgesian fable. It establishes all the facts and then transcends them in order to get to the truth. If this is not history, it’s definitely what history should be.

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Rick Mac
Student and author of History. The study of History is the beginning of wisdom.

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