Review: Umberto Eco's Numero Zero doesn't add up

THIS book is pitched as a thriller - "a gripping novel from the author of The Name of the Rose". It's not.

In fact, it barely seems to be a novel at all. It reads more like Eco's notes for a novel, hurriedly put together for premature publication.

Early on there is some cynical fun to be had at the expense of newspapers and journalists, with wry observations on the nature of news organisations.

But then there are interminable swathes of dialogue - no, monologue - as a character dredges up a mix of history and conspiracy theory in an attempt to show that Mussolini did not die at the end of the Second World War and that the body brutalised and displayed to the world was an unfortunate doppelganger.

After scores of pages of this - with an occasional bit of witty dialogue thrown in to leaven this barely digestible loaf - there is a moment of drama before the book tails off into a weary salute to cynicism.

The plot never thickens nor resolves; the characters barely develop. Disappointing.

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