A young girl's father abruptly takes her on a tour of Europe, and slowly tells her the tale of what happened to her mother, years before. As a student, Paul found a book lying open amongst his notes. It was beautifully bound, but all the pages were blank, excepting a large print of a stylized dragon. When he brought it to his mentor, Rossi paled, then gave him an envelope and told him to get lost. The envelope contained a record of Rossi's own investigation of the book, but when Paul returned to talk to him, his mentor was gone--and only a smear of blood remained. Paul and Rossi's daughter Helen searched through the libraries of Europe for clues to Rossi's whereabouts or the books' secrets, but eventually the trail went cold. Years later, Paul disappears himself, and his daughter embarks on her own search.
The book takes at least a hundred pages to get into gear, and switches between at least three different time periods, with a number of narrators. I don't believe the multitude adds much to the story--this book could have been set entirely in Paul's time without losing much, if anything. Kostova does an excellent job of creating a sense of creeping dread, but the story takes so long, and is told in such a drawn-out way, that the terror petered out long before the final climax. There are several scenes that still stick with me--Paul watching Helen, the hunger in the librarian's eyes, a Soviet conference...But a month later, I cannot remember the ending.