The New York Times - Notable Books of 2013

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The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code (2013)

Written by Margalit Fox

In the tradition of Simon Winchester and Dava Sobel, The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code tells one of the most intriguing stories in the history of language, masterfully blending history, linguistics, and cryptology with an elegantly wrought narrative.

When famed archaeologist Arthur Evans unearthed the ruins of a sophisticated Bronze Age civilization that flowered on Crete 1,000 years before Greece’s Classical Age, he discovered a cache of ancient tablets, Europe’s earliest written records. For half a century, the meaning of the inscriptions, and even the language in which they were written, would remain a mystery.

Award-winning New York Times journalist Margalit Fox's riveting real-life intellectual detective story travels from the Bronze Age Aegean—the era of Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Helen—to the turn of the 20th century and the work of charismatic English archeologist Arthur Evans, to the colorful personal stories of the decipherers. These include Michael Ventris, the brilliant amateur who deciphered the script but met with a sudden, mysterious death that may have been a direct consequence of the deipherment; and Alice Kober, the unsung heroine of the story whose painstaking work allowed Ventris to crack the code. (Copyright © Ecco/HarperCollins. All rights reserved.)

Source:  HarperCollins Publishers.

Margalit Fox, an award-winning journalist trained as a linguist, is a senior writer for the New York Times. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in linguistics from Stony Brook University and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Her previous book, Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind, which takes readers to an isolated Middle Eastern village whose residents use a sign language unlike any other in the world, has been called "fascinating" by the Washington Post, "masterly and accessible" by Nature, and "astonishing" by the Associated Press.

She lives in Manhattan with her husband, the writer and critic George Robinson.

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