My favourite Eco novel and one of my all-time favourite books. I keep returning to this informed and wonderfully crafted story time and time again. It _is_ very dense but Eco's narrative style is so smooth and captivating that it's not at all intimidating.
Just like 'Foucault's Pendulum' with all its Hebrew, mysticism and Kabballah (which I love), if you don't like the incidental stuff (like the Latin) in Name of the Rose then just plough through it - and then savour the richness of the characterisation and the clever and meticulously dove-tailed intricacies of the plot which is unravelled at a perfect pace before you.
The basic story is pure Conan Doyle - with the aptly named main Holmes-esque character William of Baskerville being one of the most wonderful characters of any book I've read (on a par with John Le Carre's Barley Scott Blair - coincidentally both characters being played by Sean Connery in the movie versions of their respective books). Baskerville makes the same observations and inferences as the Victorian detective and even says, "elementary" as a playful reference to his fictional mentor (Eco has that sense of fun - like concluding that an encoded scrap of paper thought to hold the secrets to an ancient secret world order of Templars (in Foucault's Pendulum) was actually just a shopping list).
The other characters at the Monastery are utterly vivid, disturbing and grotesque - straight out of an Hieronymus Bosch painting. I really can't rate this book highly enough. Eco needn't be hard work, he does try and be clever (which, let's face it, he is.....very, very clever) but there's no need to get bogged down by the peripheral stuff and commentary if that's not your thing. If it is your thing then this novel will become one of the most cherished and well-thumbed items in your book case - just don't lick your finger when turning the pages.......(you'll need to read the book to understand that last comment).