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The Athenian Murders

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,044 Ratings  ·  111 Reviews
In classical Athens, one of the pupils of Plato's Academy is found dead. Suspecting this wasn't an accident, his teacher asks Herakles, the Decipherer of Enigmas, to investigate. A second plot unfolds in parallel through the footnotes of the translator of the text.
Paperback, 314 pages
Published December 1st 2002 by Time Warner Books UK (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,989)
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Wildly original! Bizarre but hypnotic and enthralling on every page! There are two plotlines: one, the Straightforward story of murder in ancient Athens right after the Peloponnesian War in an ancient Greek manuscript by an anonymous author COUPLED WITH periodic footnotes by [never named] Translator with his comments, feelings, and reactions. He feels the strange metaphors and similes in each chapter point to SOMETHING hidden in text. Somoza uses a device he calls "eidetic imagery"--"repetition ...more
Jan 14, 2016 Lyubov rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Първа среща със Сомоса след доста възторжени препоръки от хора с разнообразен литературен вкус, на чието мнение държа.

Избрах именно "Пещерата на идеите", защото действието се развива в Древна Гърция, а аз обичам нейната култура, както и философия, театър и изобщо всичко символично и многопластово. За съжаление нито авторът, нито книгата оправдаха очакванията ми. Така наречената символика и мета смисъл, с които Сомоса убедена съм сериозно се гордее, моментално губят от очарованието си като непре
Jul 06, 2011 surfmadpig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Italo Calvino
I was handed this book by a friend and started reading it without knowing anything about it, not even having read the backcover. I love it when that happens, because everything is a surprise and there can be no prejudice at all.

So I started, and immediately I thought, "eeek, a "period book". I generally tend to dislike writers who pretend that we know enough about an era to be able to write about its every-day life realistically. I had issues especially concerning the language, because I read it
This is one of the strangest books I’ve read. I thought it was just going to be a mystery set in Ancient Greece, but then it turned out that the book is full of translator’s notes that are actually part of the story. That immediately made the book more interesting to me because I’ve never read anything like it before.

So, the translator is translating The Athenian Murders (originally called The Cave of Ideas, a much better name, I think) and he starts noticing eidetic images in the book (words an
Jul 22, 2008 Scurra rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
Like The Club Dumas, this book is not what it appears to be. To say more would spoil one of the most ingenious literary constructs I've had the pleasure of reading: suffice it to say that it's one of those books that you immediately want to start again when you get to the astonishing ending, just to see if the author cheated at any point. Which he never does, and in fact this makes the second reading almost more pleasurable than the first.

Yes at heart it is a murder mystery, and if you don't lik
Nov 26, 2014 Louize rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone who loves mystery in multiple layers!
A very clever book. Set in Plato’s Athens, the story begins with a well-born youth found dead, devoured by wolves near a forest. Diagoras, a tutor at the Academy, acquired the services of Heracles Pontor “The Decipherer of Enigmas” to discover the truth behind his pupil’s death. Heracles, prompted by his own curiosity, agreed to solve the enigma of the youth’s death. Despite their complete contrast -one philosopher and the other a realist- the two worked together in solving the mystery.

Rich Stoehr
May 10, 2010 Rich Stoehr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It's a story within a story, within another story. It's an eidetic novel. It's a philosophical progression. It's a self-reflexive text. It's a quest for truth. It's a mystery, in many senses of the word. It's "The Sixth Sense," but rendered in prose and about a thousand times better. It's pure poetry in parts. It's a novel about ideas and words, and whether one can exist without the other.

It's one of the best books I've read in years.

It's difficult to say anything specific about "The Athenian Mu
Mar 23, 2014 Caroline rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
Mildly interesting effort to weave a debate about Dionysian mania vs Platonic forms into a 'postmodern' mystery novel set in Athens after the Peloponnesian War. Involves a translation theme.
Ria Naydenova
Dec 07, 2015 Ria Naydenova rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Театърът на сенките е безмилостно жесток:
„Пещерата на идеите“, Хосе Карлос Сомоса, изд. „Колибри“

„Пещерата на идеите“ бе четена до късно през нощта, рано сутринта в автобуса, на моменти ме караше да я затварям и да се пренасям в стая, в която има и други хора, за да се успокоя, и накрая бе довършена на настолна лампа под бюрото, за да е сигурно, че никой няма да ме прекъсне. Като в пещерата на Платон, две седмици живях и сънувах само мрака на историята.
Jan 15, 2016 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Set in ancient Greece in the time of Plato’s Academy, this postmodern, heavily footnoted murder mystery was ostensibly a scholar’s translation of a Greek text, also called The Athenian Murders, written by an anonymous author just after the Peloponnesian War. Like the Quixote, therefore, it was a meta-translation, a text put forward as a translation of a fictional original by a narrator who was conscious of the fact. Here, the fictional translator himself gave his comments on the story and his tr ...more
Jan 26, 2009 Dan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: metafiction aficianados
Shelves: novels
In a blurb on the back cover, a reviewer compares this book to Pale Fire and The Name of the Rose. I would agree with that, but with the qualification that Somoza's book is a lot less demanding of the reader's work. Moreover, I'd add another couple of titles that came to mind while reading this: If on a Winter's Night a Traveller and Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter: A Novel (perhaps also The Mezzanine and Mulligan Stew: A Novel?). Readers who liked these metafictional works will likely enjoy Som ...more
Apr 16, 2016 Ivlas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lo que en un principio parecen dos historias diferentes con cierta relación (el libro en sí, una historia policíaca ambientada en la Antigua Grecia, y a parte, las anotaciones del traductor de la misma) al final resulta una cosa que te vuelve majareta.

Con ZigZag se quedó un poco a medias, pero aquí me ha marcado el gol y ni me he dado cuenta.
Violeta Petrovska
Уникатно, ме воодушеви книгава, со нетрпение чекам нова книга од авторов....
Lance McMurchy
This book is something special! There is a warning though, it’s not the easiest read with all the philosophical theories of Plato and others, and with how these theories are worked in to the book. Even I, with a degree in philosophy, had to stop and think about want was going on – so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone without a certain level of schooling in the liberal arts. While the mystery itself is pretty straight forward with it twists and turns, the parallel contemporary story that works al ...more
My Inner Shelf
J’ai eu du mal à choisir ma lecture après avoir lu Clara et la pénombre, j’ai donc fait simple en ne prenant pas de risque, et en lisant un autre Somoza. Cette fois il nous expédie à Athènes, où l’on croise un Hercule Poirot antique et Platon, rien de moins. Tout commence par la mort d’un éphèbe, et l’inquiétude de son mentor qui s’interroge sur les derniers jours de son jeune élève. Il fait appel aux services d’Héraclés Pontor (ahah !), Déchiffreur d’énigmes, un homme sympathique mais peu encli ...more
Terri Lynn
This book was a surprise to me. I love ancient history/culture/mythology and I also love mysteries. This book was a wonderful blend of both. We start with a modern day translator of an ancient text laying out what happened. His "footnotes" are actually part of the story. As he goes along, he becomes convinced that the ancient writer has hidden secret messages in the text and as he continues to translate , he finds that these secret messages begin to refer to HIM and in a threatening way!

The que
Apr 29, 2010 Sheila rated it liked it
This is a really intriguing book. It is certainly not an easy read. It is told as two parallel yet connected stories. A modern day translator is working on the translation of a ancient Greek murder mystery text. Themain body of the book is the story of that mystery. The translator's notes are written in the book as footnotes to the translated mystery text. These footnotes contain the second story, namely what the translator is thinking and expereincing as he proceeds with his translation. Now me ...more
"The Athenian Murders" was a very interesting and strange book.
The book has two parallel and yet (seemingly) separate storylines: a 4th century BC murder mystery in Athens, and a modern translator translating the text and making notes. The murder mystery part was solid if unspectacular, but the translator part was better. The book gets very creepy as the murder mystery seems to threaten and warn the translator. The story then gets weirder and more confusing when the translator is kidnapped. The
Feb 21, 2016 Carolina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, 41libros
Este libro me ha mantenido enganchada a la trama desde que lo empecé a leer, incluso si lo leí de manera lenta (porque estaba ocupada) no paraba de pensar en él, eso es lo que me gustan de los misterios esa sensación de tener que saber la verdad lo más pronto posible. Y este libro tiene mucho de eso.

Por un lado tenemos la historia de Heracles, un descifrador de enigmas quien debe averiguar cómo es que un chico fue asesinado. Esta historia era muy interesante, pensé un millón de veces quién y por
Matt Holmes
Nov 02, 2015 Matt Holmes rated it it was ok
I'll call it cute. I like ancient Greece, philosophy, and anything meta, so I thought the first 100 pages or so were great. It lost steam after that. The symbolism was ham-fisted at best... it kind of loses the quality of "representation" when you explain the meaning behind each of the symbols in the text.

Every single character that was introduced turned out to be part of a conspiracy against the protagonist, with the notable exception of Plato, and that's only because he was an unwilling parti
Apr 03, 2015 Edward rated it liked it
A postmodern murder mystery set in ancient Athens? Sounds too clever for its own good, and yet a reader gets convincingly pulled into this labyrinth based on an ancient text. A modern translation (forget that there's an additional layer of translation here, from Spanish to English) is being provided by a Greek scholar who feels himself being pulled into the story as well,. Literally, as we come to find out, Montalo, who collected the papyrus fragments on which the translator is basing his work, ...more
David Cooke
Aug 06, 2015 David Cooke rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a tough read to classify, particularly without giving too much away, but it was quite fun.

It is essentially a book about Platonic philosophy as well as an examination of logic, observation, and passion and art/society's relationship with all three; however, it is gussied up as a murder mystery in ancient Athens, which gives it a very enjoyable story arc. Toss into the mix a parallel arc in the footnotes, with notes from the translator who is translating the ancient murder mystery, and yo
Aug 05, 2011 Jasminka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own, 2011
A unique story! Unusual structure, superb and intriguing, one of the most original new novels of fiction, intelligent and full with philosophy... Reminds me a lot of Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose", which is one of my favorite novels! A brilliant mystery-novel of story within story within story...
I won't say anything specific, only - My highest recommendation!!!
Eva Grace
Mar 26, 2008 Eva Grace rated it liked it
A well thought out book but I'm not too sure it works.

As a philosophy student I was interested enough in the ideas behind it but I seem to remember being left thinking "Hmmm there's something not quite there" as opposed to a perhaps more positive response of "Ohhh you clever little devil."

All the same, a relatively enjoyable and fast paced read.
Oct 14, 2014 Farhan rated it it was ok
The novel is set out like a text describing horrific murders in ancient Greece during the time of Plato; as we learn from the footones, it is being translated by a modern day scholar who gets pulled into the narrative to the point that he finds hints scattered throughout the text that seem to point towards him. He is also convinced that the text is nothing but a code which leads to something much more important. As the translator seems to get more and more agitated, there comes a time when we, t ...more
Aug 04, 2015 Boris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Мисля, че съм прекалено тъп, за да харесам тази книга. :/
Mar 30, 2010 Vanie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intéressant... mérite certainement réflexion.
Voici un roman à plusieurs niveaux, assez malin. C'est d'une part la traduction d'un récit fictif de l'Antiquité grecque, relatant des meurtres mystérieux et leur résolution par un esprit brillant. Mais c'est aussi l'histoire du traducteur de ce récit, qui au fur et à mesure de son avancée fait remarquer dans ses notes que le texte en cache un autre : il abrite en son sein un message, un message inquiétant, qui semble menacer sa propre vie…

L'idée du récit à trois dimensions est assez géniale, ma
Ian Mapp
Apr 17, 2012 Ian Mapp rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 14, 2014 São rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Aparentemente estamos perante uma intrigante história policial passada na Grécia antiga. Três jovens alunos da Academia de Platão, surgem assassinados nas ruas de Antenas, com os corpos mutilados, e pelas características pensa-se, inicialmente, que poderá ter sido um ataque de lobos.
Diágoras, mestre dos três jovens e seguidor de Platão, solicita a Heracles Pontor, famoso Decifrador de Enigmas, que o ajude a perceber o que terá levado a estes crimes horrendos e que chocam quer a Academia, quer a
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Goodreads Librari...: Change language 2 14 Nov 11, 2015 05:16PM  
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José Carlos Somoza is a Spanish author born in Havana, Cuba. In 1960 his family moved to Spain after being exiled for political reasons. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in psychiatry, but he gave up medicine in order to be a full-time writer in 1994.
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“Ah, a literatura!... - exclamou. - Meu amigo, ler não é pensar a sós: ler é dialogar! Porém o diálogo da leitura é um diálogo platónico: o teu interlocutor constitui uma ideia. Contudo não se trata de uma ideia imutável: ao dialogares com ela, modifica-la, torna-la tua, chegas a acreditar na sua existência autónoma...” 0 likes
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