Prins puts a contemporary spin on the Apollo and Daphne myth in his laudable debut, which revolves around the relationship of a classical philology student and her unscrupulous mentor. Tessa Templeton is just weeks away from receiving her doctorate from Oxford when she discovers that her trusted adviser, Christopher Eccles, professor of classics at Westfaling College, has effectively sabotaged her budding career with a misleading recommendation letter that he sent to the universities she’d applied to for teaching positions—leaving her only option to accept a faculty job at Westfaling, where she would be subject to Eccles’s continued scheming and enamored attention. As Tessa attempts to free herself from his obsessive manipulation, she uncovers groundbreaking revelations regarding a second-century female Roman poet with a penchant for limping iambs that could propel her career into the stratosphere. Prins’s riveting tale of love, power, and possession matches deep characterization with an intriguing plot involving ancient texts, necropolises, and archaeological sites. Fans of academic thrillers will dig this. (Jan.)
"With its ambitious young scholar, an ancient tomb, and a scheming advisor, The Latinist is a twisty and memorable new addition to the campus-novel genre. Mark Prins propels you through his tale of breakthroughs and retribution while delivering a sharp commentary on power dynamics in academia. A cunning and insightful read—I couldn’t put it down."
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
"Within the first few pages of this book, I knew I was in the hands of a masterful storyteller. The Latinist is imaginative, propulsive, and wildly intelligent. What a joy to encounter a thrilling and singular new voice in fiction."
"Brainy and deftly plotted, The Latinist enchants with its deft inversions of power, its witty poetic inventions, and its passion for languages old and new. A lovely debut."
"A novel about love and scholarship, ego and obsession, coercion and consent—a brilliant, marvelously infuriating puzzle of a book that combines the globe-trotting exploits of The Da Vinci Code with the smarts and literary gifts of A. S. Byatt. A terrific debut!"
"Mark Prins weaves together an extremely contemporary plot—an American academic caught up in the machinations of her advisor at Oxford—with a much older plot—the discovery of a second-century Roman poet. The two thrillingly intertwine and the result is a wonderfully suspenseful novel. The Latinist is a brilliant debut."
" The Latinist is a whip-smart tale of obsession that teeters on the knife-edge of suspense and literary fiction; Mark Prins is a worthy successor to Patricia Highsmith, Donna Tartt, and Ian McEwan."
Boston Globe - Clea Simon
"Smart and fast-paced.... [A] sparkling debut.... A contemporary classic."
Washington Post - Maureen Corrigan
"Ingenious.... a superb literary suspense novel that calls to mind an earlier such debut, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.... Like the classics that inspire it, The Latinist is an inventive wedding of the elegant and the barbaric."
Washington Independent Review of Books - Hannah Joyner
"This cerebral thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat.... Prins’ analysis of the toxic relationship between advisor and student is nuanced and thoughtful.... The Latinist succeeds as both literary fiction and thriller; it is every bit as suspenseful as it is intellectually intriguing, with many of the features of A.S. Byatt’s Possession."
The Millions - Jianan Qian
"Brilliant.... Delves deep to question the blurring line between love and obsession, between a yearning for truth and a desire of power."
Minneapolis Star Tribune - Sharmila Mukherjee
"An engrossing psychological thriller.... an absorbing drama about obsession, abuse of power and intimate violence."
"A devilishly clever and terrifically entertaining campus novel/philological whodunnit that also happens to be a brilliantly sly riff on Ovid’s Apollo & Daphne.... A remarkably polished and skillful first novel."
Vanity Fair - Chris Murphy
"Prins’s confident, engrossing debut novel.... contains more than enough twists to keep you turning the page until the very end."
Christopher J. Yates
"Darkly disturbing and luminously told.… Every twist is delicious and every turn breathtaking as Mark Prins’s devilish debut revels in a scholarly world of cunning, ruthlessness, and dangerous obsession. Funny, erudite, and utterly absorbing, this is a merciless tale to be relished like a guilty pleasure."
Los Angeles Review of Books - Ayelet Haimson Lushkov
"Propulsive.... a campus novel turned psychological thriller.... The novel invites us to see Tessa as Daphne, manipulated by but ultimately escaping Eccles’s Apollo, yet it also asks us: what happens to her humanity along the way?"
New York Times - Molly Young
"It would have taken me a single night to read the book except that I kept pausing to pursue tantalizing nuggets of information, ranging from choliambic verse to amputation practices of yesteryear. [A] cleverly plotted adventure about an American student who falls prey to the schemes of her malevolent adviser—a tale of passion, suspense and archaeology. (That’s what I call a ‘triple threat’!)"
NPR, Best Books of 2022 - Jason DeRose
"Oxford University graduate student Tessa Templeton trusts her dissertation adviser, Christopher Eccles—but should she? ... The Latinist, which twists around the Daphne and Apollo myth from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, culminates with a deeply satisfying blow to the treachery of academia."
In this retelling of the Daphne and Apollo myth by Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate Prins, the winner of multiple scholarships, Tessa Templeton learns just before her thesis defense at Oxford that her beloved mentor, classics professor Christopher Eccles, has secretly sabotaged her chances for being offered a job at any other institution. He wants her for himself at Oxford, but Tessa has other plans.
What do you do when you find out that the mentor supposedly advancing your career is actually sabotaging it?
Oxford graduate student Tessa Templeton, just about to receive her doctorate, is stunned when an anonymous email warns, “You may want to reconsider asking Christopher Eccles for a recommendation letter in the future.” Attached is a photo of a dismissive letter that has torpedoed her chances of a tenure-track university job despite her outstanding grades and a brilliant dissertation on Apollo and Daphne being considered for publication. Tessa thinks of Chris as a friend as well as her dissertation adviser; he rescued her from the University of Florida and a family of doctors who thought studying classical Latin literature was a ridiculous waste of time. True, she’s been a little uneasy about how personal their relationship is, especially now that he’s separated from his wife and her boyfriend has dumped her because she’s too wrapped up in her work. Now she fears that Chris is scheming to keep her at Oxford in a low-pay, no-future lectureship so she’ll remain under his thumb—which is exactly the case, we learn as the point of view shifts occasionally to Chris in this deftly plotted debut. There’s intrigue and deception enough for a spy novel as Tessa takes off for an archaeological dig in Italy to pursue traces of Marius, an obscure second-century Latin poet whose unusual use of choliambic meter has attracted her interest, repeatedly discouraged by her adviser. Meanwhile, creepy Chris has hacked her email and is busily plotting to further damage her prospects. Events come to a satisfying climax at an Oxford conference at which Chris and Tessa deliver dueling papers, but then the author tacks on a bizarre, gothic denouement that nothing in the development of his two main characters has prepared for. The novel’s subdued but pronounced feminist undertones suddenly morph into distasteful and implausible revenge porn that leaves a nasty aftertaste as the plot is hastily wrapped up.
Ninety percent of a smart, twisty thriller, but the finale just doesn’t work.