Excerpt from The Riddle of the Labyrinth by Margalit Fox, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Riddle of the Labyrinth

The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code

by Margalit Fox

The Riddle of the Labyrinth
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2013, 384 pages
    Apr 2014, 400 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

No prize was offered for deciphering Linear B, nor were the investigators seeking one. For some, like Evans, the chance to read words set down by European men three thousand years distant was compensation enough. For others, the sweet, defiant pleasure of solving a cryptogram many experts deemed unsolvable would be its own best reward.

Today, in an era of popular nonfiction that professes to find secret messages lurking in the Hebrew Bible, and of novels whose valiant heroes follow clues encoded in great works of European art, it is bracing to recall the story of Linear B—a real-life quest to solve a prehistoric mystery, starring flesh-and-blood detectives with nothing more than wit, passion, and determination at their disposal.

Over time, two besides Evans emerged as best equipped to crack the code. One, Michael Ventris, was a young English architect with a mournful past, whose fascination with ancient scripts had begun as a boyhood hobby. The other, Alice Kober, was a fiery American classicist—the lone woman among the serious investigators—whose immense contribution to the decipherment has been all but lost to history. What all three shared was a ferocious intelligence, a nearly photographic memory for the strange Cretan symbols, and a single-mindedness of purpose that could barely be distinguished from obsession. Of the three, the two most gifted would die young, one under swift, strange circumstances that may have been a consequence of the decipherment itself.

Considered one of the most prodigious intellectual feats of modern times, the unraveling of Linear B has been likened to Crick and Watson's mapping of the structure of DN A for the magnitude of its achievement. The decipherment was done entirely by hand, without the aid of computers or a single bilingual inscription. It was accomplished, crumb by crumb, in the only way possible: by finding, interpreting, and meticulously following a series of tiny clues hidden within the script itself. And in the end, the answer to the riddle defied everyone's expectations, including the decipherer's own.

To Ventris, the solution brought worldwide acclaim. But before long it also brought doubt, despair, personal and professional ruin, and, some observers believe, untimely death. All this was decades in the future that March day at Knossos, when the first brittle tablets emerged from the ground. But of one thing Arthur Evans was already certain. Guided by the smallest of clues, he had come to Crete in search of writing from a time before Europe was thought to have writing. And there, he now knew beyond doubt, he had found it.

From The Riddle of the Labyrinth by Margalit Fox © 2013 Margalit Fox. Reprinted courtesy of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Rosetta Stone

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Comet Seekers
    by Helen Sedgwick

    A magical, intoxicating debut novel, both intimate and epic.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Next
    by Stephanie Gangi

    Fast-paced, wickedly observant, and haunting in the best sense of the word.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.