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The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Like a medieval Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, Friar William of Baskerville and his assistant Adso of Melk are immersed in solving murders with multiple patterns and clues. Young Adso narrates the bewildering adventure from the future regarding the height of an Abbey’s final majestic reign. Occupied with puzzling schemes and shrewd suspects, Friar William is running out of time and luck. Exploring a forbidden labyrinth library adds to the unique, perplexing plot.

There are plenty of culprits with motives including Malachi, the silent and evasive head librarian that nobody trusts; Remigio, who hysterically confesses to the Inquisitor of his alliance with the Devil; and Jorges of Borges, the blind elderly monk who believes he is doing the will of God by hiding Aristotle’s disputed work on Comedy. He believes this book is poisoning religion and misdirects William’s inquiries with rumors that the crimes are related to the Revelation of John. Jorges cleverly persuades a prominent Inquisitor that William could be a murderer. William, often absorbed in thought, is often unable to see what is unfolding until it is too late. But in solving a discovered cipher, he may save some lives. Suddenly noticing that all the victims have black spots on their fingers and tongues, William penetrates deeper into the Abbey’s labyrinth. But William and Adso are not finding answers quick enough. And the Abbot of the Monastery, Abo of Fossanova, seems more interested in his own reputation than uncovering truth. By withholding information, Abo causes frustrating delays in the investigation. He declares God killed the monks due to their sins. Perhaps the murders are over the future Abbot? Or the treasures hidden in the Abbey’s crypt?

Since the suspects eventually end up dead, many monks are considering a scapegoat. Now William and Adso fear they’ll be next. Devious conspiracies escalate as a real Inquisition develops. As the two protagonists examine numerous prospects, it’s clear the clues don’t always follow logically. Adso then delivers a bizarre dream inspiring William’s deductions. Can admiring the absurd protect them? Crusading for justice and tolerance, they question the fanatical worship of fixed opinions and meanings. They barely escape confronting the murderer as everything collapses with the astonishing burning of the vast monastery. These are vivid scenes that will last forever. Recommended for those who like a fascinating, complex, well-written mystery filled with curious ideas and characters.


The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

579 pp including postscript by author

Translation for the 2014 edition by Richard Dixon

Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 1983


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