MLA Gold Award Site

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
    Paperback:
    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 books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Victoria
by Daisy Goodwin

"A hit…The research is impeccable, the attention to detail, perfect." - The Sunday Mirror (UK)

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
    by Kathleen Rooney

    "Effervescent with verve, wit, and heart" - Booklist, starred review

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win No Man's Land

No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien

Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.

Enter

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A List of Cages
    A List of Cages
    by Robin Roe
    Robin Roe has written one helluva young adult debut novel. Alternating first person narratives by a ...
  • Book Jacket: Homesick for Another World
    Homesick for Another World
    by Ottessa Moshfegh
    The frizzy, freaky, funky, and frazzled all pile on in this much anticipated short story collection ...
  • Book Jacket: Conclave
    Conclave
    by Robert Harris
    Although best known for his fact-based historical thrillers, in Conclave, best-selling author Robert...

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H W S W T Devil S H A L S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & 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.