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The Athenian Murders [Paperback]

Jose Carlos Somoza
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Amazon

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

From Publishers Weekly

In a highly original and literary approach to crime fiction, Spanish writer Somoza's gripping English-language debut interweaves text from an ancient Greek manuscript with an account of the growing anxieties of its modern translator. In the Greek text, Heracles Pontor, Decipherer of Enigmas, is called upon to solve the grisly killings of young men at Plato's Academy of Philosophy. Athenian tutor Diagoras, a sort of Watson to Pontor's Holmes, comes to ask the sage's help after the corpse of a handsome ephebe (adolescent) is discovered. It is thought at first that he was attacked by wolves, but neither of the ancient sleuths accepts this explanation, and their investigations lead to interviews with family members, mistresses and schoolmates of a mounting number of victims. Insidiously, the translator himself becomes a murder target in the unfolding plot. As he looks for secret messages in the story (left in accordance with a Greek literary technique called eidesis), he begins to notice inexplicable allusions to himself in the text: Someone is reading the scroll right now, deciphering our thoughts and actions.... Such references become more threatening near the suspenseful buildup to the final chapter, especially when he identifies a statue of himself in the studio of a rapacious sculptor rumored to be part of a sacrificial cult terrifying the city. Somoza relies on lengthy footnotes to convey his translator's insights and growing fears, sometimes causing the modern and the ancient narratives to trip over each another, but generally moving the tale along smoothly. Underlying the text are homoerotic and pagan themes, giving an unvarnished and compelling view of Greek life in 400 B.C.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In his U.S. debut, ambitious Spanish novelist Somoza parallels a murder at Plato's Academy and the predicament of a contemporary translator, who finds that a text about the murder speaks to him in a direct and frightening way.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


The setting is Athens in Ancient Greece. A young man called Tramachus goes hunting and is then discovered on the slopes of Mount Lycabettus with his insides torn out. Initially, it is believed he has been killed by a pack of wolves, but the reality is very different. Tramachus was a student at the Academy run by Plato, and Diagoras, his tutor, knows that his pupil was disturbed, and not fully taking in the teaching he was receiving. He also learns from Tramachus' friends that he was visiting a prostitute at the city's port. Diagoras goes to Heracles, known as the 'Decipherer of Enigmas', to discover the truth. And we learn there is another mystery. In the footnotes of The Athenian Murders a second story emerges, and the modern day translator finds a message hidden in the original narrative. It makes a wonderful double story of murder and mystery.

From the Publisher

'He weaves suspense, gore, a particular corner of Plato’s philosophy and layer upon layer of tantalizing reflexivity with ease and obvious relish’ THE TIMES

'A delightfully paranoiac read on both ancient and modern planes, with enough literary cunning to satisfy fans of Nabakov’s PALE FIRE as well as THE NAME OF THE ROSE’ INDEPENDENT

‘Intriguing … an extremely subtle and intelligent work which is, at the same time, totally absorbing’ INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

About the Author

Jose Carlos Somoza was born in Habana in 1959. A doctor of medicine, and specialist in psychiatry, he has been writing full-time since 1994. He has received, amongst other awards, the Cervantes Theatre Prize and the Caf? Gijon Prize, and in 2000 his novel DAFNE DESVANECIDA was shortlisted for one of the most important Spanish literary prizes, the Nadal Prize.
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