Books: Mystery Meets History

Bored with beach books? Want something fancier than Clancy? Try these sophisticated Euro-thrillers

When Umberto Eco published his surprise best seller The Name of the Rose in 1980, he created a new kind of novel, one that combined a murder investigation with philosophical inquiry and introduced the world to the unfamiliar experience of reading about medieval theology while actually remaining awake. Eco helped invent the modern Euro-thriller: a sinfully addictive page turner that nevertheless leaves you feeling virtuous and cultured, without the hangover of shame that follows a sleepless night with Crichton or Clancy. This summer the Euro-thrillers are back, and they're not just good--they're good for you too.

The hero of Stephen Fry's...

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