Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Abacus (AOL Time Warner)
Release Date: November 2002
ISBN: 0349116180
Format Reviewed: Paperback
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Genre: Mystery / Literary Historical Crime (Ancient Greece, 4th century BC)
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:

The Athenian Murders
By Jose Carlos Somoza

     This is one of those rare books that teeters on the fence between popular and literary fiction, appealing to a large number of readers and possibly in line for becoming a classic similar to The Name of the Rose. On the surface it appears to be a historical crime novel as Heracles, the "Decipherer of Enigmas," is called upon to discover why a young student at Plato's Academy has been found murdered. Was he torn apart by wolves, as people first thought? Tramachus' tutor Diogoras suspects foul play and calls upon Heracles to find out whodunit. The pair will uncover dark secrets, and more deaths will occur before the horrid truth is divulged. But wait…there is far more in this novel than a mere detective story. Most pages have footnotes, and these reveal that the Ancient Greek text is being translated by a modern man, one whose life seems to have an uncanny resemblance to the text, which itself seems to be replete with clues. But what secret are these clues going to uncover?

     I am not usually a great fan of literary conundrums and confess to preferring a plainer tale, but this is a rare treat that will have you wondering how the author could have thought it all up. In addition to all this wordplay, this novel brings Ancient Greece to life, and a vast gulf soon emerges between then and now, a time of strange violent cults, slavery and many extraordinary attitudes. It is a world of men: Athenian men on the surface, but beneath the thin veneer of their much-vaunted civilization lurks the beast. Think of Umberto Eco, Margaret Doody, Arturo Perez-Reverte and M R James and you might come close, but this truly is a novel that needs to be read to be appreciated. This is one nobody would mind being caught reading on the train. Great stuff.

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