The Eye of the Cybele, Akashic's second release by celebrated Uruguayan mystery novelist Daniel Chavarrma, is equal parts historical epic, whodunnit-style thriller, highbrow erotica and philosophical discourse. Set in late sixth-century B.C.--during the reign of Pericles--the novel fictionally recreates the behind-the-scenes scandals and political intrigues that occupied the Athenian home front at the height of the Peloponessian War.
The novel's central character is Alcibiades, a stutteringly precocious Athenian general whose physical beauty, unparalleled Olympic achievements, and reckless courage on the battlefield earn the fanatical enthusiasm of the polis; the affection and desire of Lysis, a lusty and seductive temple prostitute; the admiration and patronage of Socrates; and the jealousy and suspicion of Nicias, one of the city's most powerful generals and a leading competitor for the favor of both Pericles and the masses. At the center of it all is the Eye of the Cybele, a sacred jewel whose mysterious disappearance sets in motion a sequence of deceptions, subterfuges and failed schemes that ultimately undermine the self-serving ambitions of both Alcibiades and Nicias.
Much of the novel's real action takes place behind the scenes, however, through the comically megalomanical preoccupations of the Keeper of the Sum, a mad but charismatic beggar-priest who founds--and personally administers the sensual sacraments of--a new Cybeline cult. While the core beliefs and aspirations of the Golden Age are beginning to crumble from within, Chavarrma depicts--in the phallically obsessed reveries of the Keeper--the birth pangs of a new world religion.
In spite of a complexstructure that blends conventional third-person narrative, formal epistles, and deliriously sensual streams-of-consciousness, the novel progresses at a lively pace. Along the way there are savage scenes of torture and war, convoluted tales of political maneuvering, luridly sensual descriptions of cult sexual activity, and spirited philosophical debates. In a stunning denouement, Chavarrma masterly employs the Socratic method to demonstrate the Socratic roots of the suspense genre, with the great skeptical philosopher himself unwittingly assuming the role of a Nick Charles-style detective who logically eliminates one hypothesis and suspect after another to identify the novel's real culprit for an equally uncomprehending audience.show more