Crime Fiction Alphabet: U is for Umberto Eco

This week’s letter in Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet series is  ‘U’.

I’ve chosen Umberto Eco, an Italian writer of post-modern fiction, full of allusions and references, using puzzles, playing with language, words and symbols.

I’ve read  The Name of the Rose twice, some years ago now.It is a fantastic historical crime mystery novel set in a Franciscan monastery in 14th century Italy. William of Baskerville and his assistant Adso are sent to the monastery to investigate a series of murders. I loved this book, which has so much of what I enjoy in reading – historical setting, the pursuit of truth behind the mystery and the meaning of words, symbols and ideas and a great detective story all combined with religious controversies and theories. William is an expert in deduction, and needs all his skills to work his way through the monastery’s labyrinthine library:

The library is a great labyrinth, sign of the labyrinth of the world. You enter and you do not know whether you will come out. … And in our midst someone has violated the ban, has broken the seals of the labyrinth … (pages 158 & 159)

I read Foucault’s Pendulum after reading The Name of the Rose, but struggled at first to read it. It’s immensely detailed, slow to get going and in parts it is boring. But I persevered and in the end I found it fascinating, although I do prefer The Name of the Rose. Again it’s a mystery thriller this time concerned with books and words, mixed in is a coded message about a Templar plan to tap a mystic source of power. It features the Knights Templar, the Crusades, the bloodline of Christ, the Rosy Cross etc, etc  so that when I read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code I immediately thought back to this book, but of course it’s nowhere near the same!

I have one other book by Eco – The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. I haven’t read it yet. From the back cover:

Yambo, a rare-book dealer, has suffered a bizarre form of memory loss. He can remember every book he has ever read but nothing about his own life.

In an effort to retrieve his past, he withdraws to his old family home and searches through boxes of old newspapers, comics, records, photo albums and diaries kept in the attic.

Flipping through it, it doesn’t look as difficult as Foucault’s Pendulum and there are colour illustrations of the books and newspapers etc that Yambo finds in the attic. As a book-lover this appeals to me.

4 thoughts on “Crime Fiction Alphabet: U is for Umberto Eco

  1. I read the Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, it’s the only one of his I was to get through easily. I think you will enjoy it.


  2. Margaret – I agree with you about historical mysteries like The Name of the Rose. I thoroughly enjoy them, too, especially with the way Eco integrates symbols and other codes. A terrific read; thanks for reminding me of it.


  3. I’ve tried several times to get into The Island of the Day Before and just am not clicking. It looks great, and starts with such a great mystery, I can’t figure out why I”m not hooked.
    After your post I will have to give it another try.


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