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The Orpheus Descent [Paperback]

Tom Harper
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
RRP: 6.99
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Book Description

24 Oct 2013

I have never written down the answers to the deepest mysteries, nor will I ever...

The philosopher Plato wrote these words more than two thousand years ago, following a perilous voyage to Italy -- an experience about which he never spoke again, but from which he emerged the greatest thinker in all of human history.

Today, twelve golden tablets sit in museums around the world, each created by unknown hands and buried in ancient times, and each providing the dead with the route to the afterlife. Archaeologist Lily Barnes, working on a dig in southern Italy, has just found another.

But the thirteenth tablet is different. This tablet names the location to the mouth of hell itself.

And then Lily vanishes.

Has she walked out on her job, her marriage, and her life -- or has something more sinister happened? Her husband, Jonah, is desperate to find her. But no one can help him: not the police; not the secretive foundation that sponsored her dig; not even a circle of university friends who seem to know more than they're saying. All Jonah has is belief, and a determination to do whatever it takes to get Lily back.

But like Plato before him, Jonah will discover the journey ahead is mysterious and dark and fraught with danger.

And not everyone who travels to the hidden place where Lily has gone can return.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (24 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444731378
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444731378
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Tom Harper has been writing elaborate thrillers that marry ironclad narrative skills with some of the most elegantly understated writing in the field; he's the thinking person's Dan Brown. Actually, Harper deserves the latter's success -- and more, as Harper is comfortably the better writer.' (Barry Forshaw, author of The Rough Guide to Crime Writing.)

'Harper effortlessly draws the reader into an unfamiliar time, bringing alive the characters and their motivations' (Publisher's Weekly)

Book Description

Would you pay the ultimate price for the ultimate knowledge?


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Parm TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Review

I was really not sure what to expect with Orpheus Descent, I have to admit to owning all of Tom Harpers Books and reading none (until now). They languish in my mountainous TBR (to be read) pile.

So this was always going to be a new experience of style and plot. That said I'm a big fan of well written time-slip books, the interplay of differing era's, attitudes and people if done right can be fantastic.

Add to the above my love of ancient Greece, thrillers and the glowing praise filtering through on Twitter, what choice did I have but to make Orpheus Descent my first Tom Harper read.

Firstly I need to add that I did read the short story "Twelfth Tablet" (The Twelfth Tablet - ebook) that acts as a teaser for this book. For anyone not sure of Tom Harpers writing, go read this, it had me hooked from page one. It is however a teaser for the modern era side of the time-slip tale only but gives a great insight into Greek tycoon who acts as principle antagonist in both stories.

The main thrust of the plot follows the two distinct and yet gradually blurring timelines. In modern Greece Lilly an archaeologist goes missing, her husband who has utter faith in his relationship and wife knows she has not run out on him and sets out to find her, battling inner demons and the voices of family and friends who all tell him that she has just left him, he knows something isn't right, and he will stop at nothing to find her again.

In the alternate plot-line Plato leaves Greece for Italy, to search for his friend Agathon.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling beyond all expectations 27 May 2013
By W.M.M. van der Salm-Pallada TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I seem to have hit a dual-timeline streak in my reading. Of the past dozen or so books I've read, at least five had dual (or multiple) timelines. It's an interesting realisation, and while probably not indicative of a trend in publishing - dual-timelines have been around for ages - as a reader, it does give me a clearer view of what can go wrong or right when such a construction is used. Tom Harper's The Orpheus Descent is another dual-timeline book and one which does it very well, in my opinion. The two timelines are clearly linked, but not dependent on each other, however, the braiding of the two narratives enriches the story as a whole and gives it added depth.

The earlier timeline follows Plato, one of the most important philosophers in Western history. One of Socrates' disciples, he was hit hard by his teacher's execution by his beloved Athenian state and for years he's set adrift, as were many of Socrates' other pupils. This results in Plato taking ship for Italy after receiving a cryptic letter from one of his closest friends and one of Socrates' star pupils, Agathon. He sets out on a ship in the - rather unwanted - company of Euphemus, a sophist, someone who embodies everything Plato and Socrates before him disapproves of heartily. What follows is a long game of chase across the Greek colonies in Italy, one in which Plato never quite manages to catch up to Agathon, but does manage to piece together the mystery his friend has unearthed. It's a fascinating journey, not just in a physical sense, but also on a meta-physical level, as Harper manages to incorporate the seed questions to Plato's best-known teachings. As such, he makes a convincing case for how Plato's departure from his Socratic principles came about.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Kate TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When archaeologist Lily disappears from the excavated remains of an ancient drowned city in southern Italy, we embark on a journey that will astonish us. Refusing to believe claims of friends and family, and police, that Lily has become another of those wives or husbands who simply decides one day to vanish, her husband Jonah, a musician, begins his own investigation, insisting that the disappearance from the dig of a small gold tablet must be related and even worrying that Lily's archaeological friends, his own friends, too, may know more than they say. Jonah sets of on a journey across Italy and Greece, following the clues, archaeological and otherwise, to find his wife. He is on a quest but he's not the first.

The Orpheus Descent is a novel that tells two stories. In parallel to Jonah and Lily's story is that of Plato. In the years following Socrates' murder or assassination, Plato's writings underwent a significant change as his philosophical view of life, love, beauty and virtue shifted. Tom Harper here gives us one possible reason for this. Plato is also on a quest. He is hunting for his friend Agathon or, more particularly, a book that Agathon was prepared to pay an enormous amount of money for but, as far as Plato can tell, he disappeared in the act of buying it. Wars between Greek and Italian cities makes this a dangerous time to travel but Plato is determined to find his friend and his book. Accompanying him through shipwreck and capture is philosopher Euphemus, a Sophist with an entirely different interpretation of goodness to Plato. Both philosophies will be tested. But as the hunt continues, following the clues left by people he encounters as well as his own gold tablet, the possibility arises that Plato is also not the first to follow this path.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Keep the concentration going!
Once I got used to the two very different timelines it was a great read. Needed a lot of concentration but kept me interested all the way through.
Published 11 days ago by Wendier
2.0 out of 5 stars Found the time difference of thousand of years connecting the ...
Found the time difference of thousand of years connecting the two stories sometimes difficult to understand, but Greek mythology was never my strong point.
Published 14 days ago by Marjorie Cole
4.0 out of 5 stars Well structured and thought provoking
With each chapter alternating between the ancient world and the present day, this book has a nice rhythm to it and acts as an gentle introduction to what philosophy is/was all... Read more
Published 2 months ago by B B
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosophic Thoughts on a Thriller
The second book I’ve chosen to review for this month is THE ORPHEUS DESCENT by Tom Harper. The reason I’ve chosen it is fairly simple – Tom and I are fellow members of York Authors... Read more
Published 5 months ago by N.E.David
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings
To be honest, as I say in my title, I have mixed feelings about this book. In some ways it is a good book with a good storyline. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Wendy Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars well, it was better than I thought
The recent glut of historical type adventure novels has meant that there are few periods, characters or scenarios that have not been written, However, this Grecian story is a neat... Read more
Published 6 months ago by J. Turner
3.0 out of 5 stars An ok book
This book had great potential but it went on far too long, became tedious and was ultimately a big disappointment.
Published 7 months ago by Charmian Law
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lily vanishes....
This is my first Tom Harper book and I thoroughly enjoyed it - I'd agree with other reviewers who say that he deserves the acclaim and success of the likes of Dan Brown. Read more
Published 7 months ago by uncle barbar
4.0 out of 5 stars Very clever and erudite
Such a large book, Orpheus Descent sat on my book shelf for more than a year before I decided to tackle it. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Dr. K. E. Patrick
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read...
This was a great story AND I learned some stuff. I haven't read anything else by this author and I wasn't really sure what to expect with this, I had just heard that it was an... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Me read
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