Books: Murders in a Medieval Monastery

THE NAME OF THE ROSE by Umberto Eco

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; 502 pages; $15.95

When a renowned Italian expert in semiotics, the arcane science of signs, sets out to write a thriller, the resulting fiction is bound to bristle with more obscure clues, mysterious ciphers and symbolic happenings than were ever conjured up by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So it is with Umberto Eco's first novel, The Name of the Rose, a Sherlock Holmesian fantasy in a medieval setting.

Eco, 51, is the author of a study of the sources of James Joyce's language, as well as more than a dozen other scholarly works,...

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