Readers who love historical mysteries set in ancient times, such as Stephen Saylor or Lindsey Davis's Roman series, may well find themselves adrift in this postmodern metafiction riddle whose original Spanish title, "The Cave of Ideas" more accurately presages the contents. At first, the book appears to be a translation of an ancient whodunit. The mutilated body of one of Plato's students is discovered outside Athens and his tutor engages Heracles, The Decipherer of Enigmas (i.e. detective), to find out what happened. However, the anonymous translator's notes soon start to intrude, as he excitedly notes that the ancient whodunit apparently contains "eidesis", a literary technique allegedly used by the ancient Greeks to convey secret messages in texts.
As the book progresses, the two narratives become more an more entwined. It's difficult to describe further without spoiling it, but essentially, the translator grows increasingly convinced the manuscript contains a personal message for him, and his footnotes grow correspondingly lengthy and agitated. The mystery in ancient Greece progresses in relatively pedestrian fashion, with more bodies following the first, and a running argument concerning the merits of empirical reason vs. Platonic philosophy as additional food for thought. However, the mystery of the tale's translator begins to eclipse it. Switching back and forth between the two narrative lines takes some getting used to, but the device will be familiar to readers of Eco and Borges, among others and is integral to the book.
Somoza is plays a tricky game, stringing the reader along with the dual narratives, only to land a wallop of a suckerpunch at the end. His literary devices are nothing new, and nor is his ultimate point (which can't be revealed here), but it's a clever book, bound to entertain and please plenty of folks, especially those with an interest in ancient Greek philosophy.