Thursday, March 27, 2003

The Athenian Murders by Jose Carlos Somoza

Heracles Pontor, Decipherer of Enigmas, is called upon to solve the grisly killings of young men at Platos Academy of Philosophy. Athenian tutor Diagoras, a sort of Watson to Pontors Holmes, comes to ask the sages 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.
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