Reputedly written as a result of a friend betting him that he couldn’t write a classic murder mystery with an historical setting, The Name of the Rose is Umberto Eco's first and most popular novel. Set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327, the story follows the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville and his apprentice, Adso of Melk, as they attempt to unravel the truth behind a series of murders plaguing the Benedictine monks of whom they are guests. William refuses to accept that demonic possession can explain the increasingly bizarre deaths, and must instead apply the deductive reasoning of the "scholastic method" to solve the mystery and reveal the murderer before he kills again.
Incorporating all the classic trappings of the whodunit genre – a closed community, a limited range of colourful suspects, obscure clues that inspire the detective to exquisitely executed leaps of logic – The Name of the Rose is both a brilliant crime novel and an erudite work of historical fiction. Amidst the flurry of dead bodies, we are also treated to an examination of "the question of poverty" which threatens to split branches of the Church, the appearance of real historical figures such as the Inquisitor Bernard Giu, and the strange allure of a labyrinthine medieval library.
You can read it for the gripping plot alone, and still be dazzled by the literary allusions to semiotics, biblical analysis and the nature of story-telling itself.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Available in various editions, including the Vintage Classic from €9.75 and the Everyman hardback at €11.99, while stocks last