cover image The Orpheus Descent

The Orpheus Descent

Tom Harper. Harper, $15.99 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-0-06-230528-2

This thought-provoking thriller marks a return to form for the talented Harper (The Mosaic of Shadows) after a string of lackluster efforts. In 389 B.C.E., a young Plato, who has left Athens following the forced suicide of his mentor, Socrates, seeks Agathon, the most brilliant of Socrates’s students, who claims to have found a valuable book of Pythagorean wisdom and has wondrous discoveries to share. Plato’s quest for someone who, bafflingly, keeps staying one step ahead of him, parallels Jonah Barnes’s present-day search for his archeologist wife, Lily, who vanished from the dig she was working on in Sibari, Italy, after finding a gold tablet. When Jonah finds messages, apparently from Lily, indicating that she wants to be left alone, everyone is ready to write off his concerns, but the absence of direct communication keeps Jonah suspicious. Along the way to a resolution of both suspenseful plotlines, Harper explores the fitness of philosophers as rulers, besides presenting a convincing portrait of Plato’s time. [em](May) [/em]