Synopses & Reviews
The English debut of one of Spain's most dazzling younger writers -- a postmodern murder mystery set in ancient Greece
In this brilliant, highly entertaining, and intriguing novel, Jose Carlos Somoza intertwines two darkly compelling riddles, forcing us to confront the ways in which we interpret reality.
In ancient Athens, one of the pupils of Plato's Academy is found dead. His idealistic teacher Diagoras is convinced the pupil's death is not as accidental as it appears, and asks the famous Heracles Pontor, the "Decipherer of Enigmas," to investigate. As the death toll rises, the two men find themselves drawn into the dangerous underworld of the Athenian aristocracy, risking their own lives to solve the riddle of these young men's deaths. Simultaneously, a second plot unfolds: that of the modern-day translator of the ancient text, who, as he proceeds with his work, becomes convinced that the original author has hidden a second meaning in the text, one that can be interpreted through certain repeated words and images. As the story advances, however, the translator is alarmed to discover references to himself, which seem to address him personally in an increasingly menacing fashion.
An original and unsettling literary mystery, The Athenian Murders introduces a beguiling new talent to an American readership.
"Though the plot's deliberate obscurities both intrigue and annoy, the rich, elegant writing will please all comers. Good thing, since mystery fans should be warned that Somoza is more interested in metaphysical questions and literary subtleties than traditional storytelling." Kirkus Reviews
"Terrific." Peter Guttridge, The Guardian (U.K.)
"[A] highly original and literary approach to crime fiction...gripping....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." Publishers Weekly
"José Carlos Somoza's diverting Chinese puzzle of a novel begins inauspiciously. From its title, The Athenian Murders
...and the first few pages, you might expect it to be one of those routine, cheesy mysteries in which an anachronistic 'detective' sleuths around with various historical figures cribbed from some freshman-year survey course....In fact, The Athenian Murders
owes more to Nabokov's Pale Fire
than it does to A Connecticut Yankee in Criminal Court
....If you're going to write a novel where cleverness is the chief point, then it must be very clever indeed. Part of the charm of The Athenian Murders
is that just when it seems about to disappoint on this count, when Somoza appears to have painted himself into a narrative corner, the book ratchets up another level and presents the reader with a new set of enigmas....Naturally, just as such a reader would be feeling particularly smug, that's when The Athenian Murders
delivers its final, most surprising twist." Laura Miller, Salon.com
(read the entire Salon review
About the Author
Jose Carlos Somoza was born in Havana in 1959 and now lives in Madrid. A psychiatrist, he is the author of six novels. In 2000 he was shortlisted for the Nadal Prize, one of the most important literary prizes in Spain.