After reading Dissolution, and being a bit disappointed with it, I looked on Amazon and quite a few people commented to the effect that that it was a not-very-good rip-off of "The Name of the Rose". So I thought I'd read this.
There certainly are similarities - this book too has a series of murders in a monastery (although it's set a couple of hundred years earlier); both books have a little map of the monastery at the front, both have an investigation led by an outsider who's got a sidekick, and both feature deranged monks. And I would say that this book enjoys an appreciably higher standard of writing.
However. I found it very hard going. While it is, ostensibly, a whodunnit mystery, and while there are bits where clues have to be followed etc., there is an awful lot of stuff about the disputes that were going on at the time between different church factions - arguing e.g. whether it is right to take a vow of poverty. On top of this there was quite a bit about arcane religious practises which seemed irrelevant (although you didn't feel you could skip it in case it turned out to be important).
Maybe this was very well researched (and again, I think it seemed more convincing than Dissolution), but I just couldn't get interested in it.
And the mystery, which seemed quite promising, didn't turn out to be very satisfying. I think that perhaps Eco intended this: he didn't want a really neat solution with all the loose ends tied, and wanted to make it a bit ambiguous. But that's not what I wanted.
So I found this a real slog, and not very rewarding.
Completed : 28-Jul-2009