English translation by Sonia Soto.

This is a weird book. It pretends to be an old Greek manuscript written in the Ancient times. At the same time, we are introduced to the fictional translator who is apparently translating a modern version of the original Greek. This fictional translator also seems to be able to work without dictionaries or colleagues to seek advice from. *

The detective story is set into Ancient Athens during the time when Plato was teaching in his Academy. A young man, who was one of the students at the Academy, is found dead. It looks like he had been killed by wolfs who had eaten his heart. Heracles Pontor, the Decipherer of Enigmas, sees the body and apparently sees something strange in it. However, the readers aren’t told what that is until much later.

The young man, Tramachus, had been the only male in his immediate family and so his mother and sister have been left in a difficult position. Tramachus’ mother had been Heracles’ sweetheart in their youths but their families had arranged different marriages for them. So, the meeting between Heracles and Tramachus’ mother, Itys, is awkward.

Tramachus’ teacher at the Academy, Diagoras, asks Heracles to look into the youth’s death. Heracles is at first reluctant because he solves only written riddles. However, he agrees to look into the death but on his own terms. Diagoras wants to help Heracles and the Decipherer agrees.

They go together from person to person and place to place, and find out increasingly disturbing things about Tramachus who is supposed to have been a virtuous young man. It turns out that he has been seen a hetaera, a prostitute, and has been involved with an old sculptor who is known to be a hedonist and an unvirtuous person.

Then another young man dies. Euneos, who was Tramachus’ friend and also a well-liked and virtuous student at the Academy, seems to have drunk too much wine, put on a woman’s clothes and then stabbed himself repeatedly. However, Hercules notices almost immediately that the stab wounds on the body and in the cloths don’t match. He and Diagoras continue their investigation with renewed vigor.

Hercules is the main point-of-view character but the writing is omniscient rather than limited to the POV of the characters. However, that is probably because of the eidetic messages in the book. The pace seems quite slow at times but the mystery and the story lines are engaging the whole time. However, the eidetic images do distract from the story – just as they are supposed to do.

The second story line in the book is that of the fictional translator whose story is seen in the translator’s notes. He’s never named and the languages used aren’t named either except for the original language which is Greek. During the first chapter he notes that the book has eidetic images and symbols. He seems to be translating an earlier translation of the original text. He has never seen the original text. The earlier translator, Montalo, is a respected translator but seems to not have noticed the eidetic images even though he is reputed to be an expert in the field of eidetic texts. This book’s translator comments on the images he finds and tells about the conversations he has with other people about the translation. Then one night he is convinced that someone has broken into his house and changed the text. Yet, he continues the translation. He even starts to see himself in the text.

The eidetic images are a big part of the book especially in the end so anyone expecting a normal mystery story is probably going to be disappointed. Otherwise, it’s an excellent book.

*Just to be perfectly clear: the way that the fictional translator works in completely fictional: I don’t know any translator who would have started to translate a book without first reading it. Yet, this translator seems to be surprised by the events in the book and clearly has never read the end of the book. Now, a translator could work like that but I’m fairly certain that tactic would actually result in a lot of wasted effort. It’s really good to know what is and is not relevant. Not to mention that the translator would likely have to have read the book to know what to charge and how much time it would take.

Also, no translator’s notes could ever be like the ones in this book. No publisher would agree to leave in a lowly translator’s opinions of the philosophies in the book or the writing style; those are for the readers to figure out themselves. Details about the translator’s conversations (even if they are about the book s/he’s working on) or love life would certainly never be put into translator’s notes! And the traumatic events that the translator goes through later in the book would have been put into a separate book or more likely a newspaper article and not in the translated book.

Also, he doesn’t seem to have a publisher. When he starts to suspect that the text has been changed, he should have contacted the publisher. Or maybe this is his master’s degree translation or something. But even so, if the validity of the original text is in doubt that should be figured out first before continuing the translation! If you want to know how it ends, just read the rest. Then again, I suspect that the fictional translator doesn’t work in out world but in a parallel or alternate universe.