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The Athenian Murders Paperback – 5 Dec 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; paperback / softback edition (5 Dec. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349116180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349116181
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 332,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

A brilliantly sketched historical mystery, The Athenian Murders is a marvellous literary conundrum that evokes such other delights as Imberto Eco's The Name of the Rose and Arturo Perez-Reverte' s The Dumas Club. The novel revolves around two intertwined riddles and is the first to be translated into English by an award winning Cuban author, now resident in Spain.

In Athens, a pupil of Plato's Academy is found dead and his teacher suspects this was no accident. He asks Heracles, the "Decipherer of Enigmas", to investigate the case and the murky cult that surrounds it. The second plot unfolds in parallel through the footnotes of the translator of the original Greek text and soon leads the reader to suspect the author of the tale has something to hide too. Plot within plot, meaning inside meaning, the story develops in a fascinating manner that will enchant both mystery fans and scholars as reality is shown to be somewhat untrustworthy. This is a delight of intellectual prowess and sheer fun. --Maxim Jakubowski --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

A delightfully paranoic read on both ancient and modern planes with enough literary cunning to satisfy fans of Nabokov's PALE FIRE as well as THE NAME OF THE ROSE (INDEPENDENT)

Extremely subtle and intelligent...totally absorbing (EVENING STANDARD)

It works, superbly (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

This is both a riveting historical novel and a subtle, unpretentious investigation of what happens when writers write and readers read. (SUNDAY TIMES)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 Nov. 2003
Format: Paperback
Don't buy this book if you're looking for something like Lindsey Davis' Falco mysteries. This isn't a generic detective novel with an unusual setting. It's in the tradition of Umberto Eco and Jorge Luis Borges and will be most enjoyed by readers who enjoy their work. Have a look at the other reviews here and see what you think...
If you're in that category, you're in for a treat. Somoza plays intertextual games with the perfunctory murder mystery (our portly Athenian detective is called Heracles Pontor) and pulls off an audacious and entirely unexpected twist at the end.
Great, original stuff this, and I look forward to reading more of Somoza's books. If only someone would translate them!
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on 13 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
I can honestly say I have never read a book like this before. The plot device was extremely unusual, (although I believe it is similar to the one used by Umberto Eco in "The name of the rose"). The murders of the title take place in Ancient Athens at the time of Plato, but the twist is that the story of the murders is actually being translated from Ancient Scrolls by a modern day scholar. His story is told in the form of footnotes throughout the book, and becomes closely entwined with text he is translating.
As someone with experience of classics professors and scholars, the translators attitudes towards those who disagreed with his interpretation of events in the text made me laugh out loud.
The story of the murders themselves bring Ancient Athens to life. The imagery is fantastic - you can see the philosphers and athletes in the academy, and taste the figs the "decipherer of enigmas" eats. This is the first book Jose Carlos Somoza has written that has been translated into English, and if his others are only half as good then I hope that they too will be translated and published over here.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Magdabat on 20 Oct. 2008
Format: Paperback
Being a fan of the light-hearted, character-driven murder mystery novels, such as the Falco series, I picked up The Athenian Murders expecting more of the same: shady goings on and cleverly gruesome ends in a period setting familiar enough for most people to picture quite easily.

What I got was something that, while being less fun than the Roman sleuth's antics, was an altogether more challenging and rewarding reading experience. From the very start I was hooked on the search for eidesis, keywords that build up a subtext far deeper than the story itself, which is being translated by a nameless translator whose own story is being told through increasingly distressed footnotes as he comes to see himself reflected in the text.

This is a really clever and unusual book and I devoured it in one sitting, desperate to see if there was a point to the eidesis, whether the imaginative murderer could possibly be stopped and how the translator was connected to the original text. Considering that the English version of the book is itself a translation from the original Spanish the language and prose are beautifully evocative, even when the plot becomes quite harrowing, and the stunning conclusion will play on an imaginative mind for days.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A.K.Farrar on 29 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
If you read the other reviews you'll get an idea of the plot - what you need to know to get a fuller understanding of the work is the connection to the works of Euripides - especially the Bachae play.
The text mixes the rational and the irrational - on one side you have a combined investigation by Agatha Christie and Plato: On the other the dark forces of the irrational and a vision of existence worthy of Mr de Sade! The God of wine and riot is firmly in control by the end of the story.
The false trails set by the translator (who has the wrong myth!) are masterful and revealing (paradoxically).
Comparisons with 'Name of the Rose' are not false - it isn't an easy read, but is quite entertaining and sustains multiple readings.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Hickson on 9 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
I'll not spoil it for you, but somewhere near the end, this book makes some pretty audacious claims about its own conclusions. You can't help but admire the author's self-confidence, and it would be churlish to say that those claims were not - to some degree - merited. Its not an historical novel, a detective story, an unnerving thriller, a philosophical treatise and a vehicle for literary shenanigans juxtaposed together. It's a less uniform cocktail of these elements (and more), which ultimately make an inventive and original slurp. This is probably just as well, as perhaps AgathaChristie-buffs will find the mystery lacking a bit of sophistication, and the literary trickery possibly a little forced (but then I suspect that's the point). Uniqueness (good or bad) is always a reason to read a book, and, if the book also happens to be good, then all the better. For those of you sick of the homogeneous formula books, this is the book for you. I've never read anything quite like it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steampunk TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
(NO SPOILERS)

How many more times must I buy this book?

I first read it years ago. It was one of the few books that grabbed me on the first page and actually managed to keep me 'grabbed' until the last.

I didn't see the surprise ending coming, and (at the risk of offending people cleverer than myself) I would kinda doubt the honestly of ANYONE who says they saw it coming.

If I had to make a list of my all time favorite books, this would be up in the top 5 or so. And for me it's stood the test of time, because I first read it nearly 10 years ago.

My friends all love it too, alas. It's the kind of book that you get excited about, and want to share. So I keep lending each new copy to friends. Unfortunately, THEY get excited, and share it too, forgetting that it was MINE!

But seriously, this is an excellent mystery with one of the biggest twists ever. I don't want to start telling you what it's about, and I strongly advise against reading any reviews that do. Just buy it, start reading, and let yourself be sucked in.

I wish I could give it more than 5 stars!
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