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Checkmate

1eight

There are numerous literary examples of imagined meetings of historical characters. The Eight is such a hokum. I’ve been reading this 1988 debut of Katherine Neville because I’m a chess player and I’m excited to see a novel hinged on chess game. It’s a complicated conspiracy novel that pre-dates Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code but with more commendable writing. I’ve marveled at how many historic characters Neville managed to include or mention in the novel: Marat, Robespierre, Talleyrand, Jaques-Louis David, Ben Franklin, Jefferson, Wordsworth, Blake, James Boswell, Rousseau, Napoleon, Catherine the Great, Bach, the mathematician Euler, Benedict Arnold, and on and on. The French Revolution, modern and historic chess players, the Freemasons, OPEC are all included. Philidor the chess-player and composer, meets Euler and J. S. Bach and the latter composes a ricercar (polyphonic instrumental form) based on one of Euler’s knight’s tours. Trimmed to the bone is a simple story: A young novice during the French Revolution risks her life to keep a jeweled chess set that Moors gave Charlemagne, and in the 20th century, a computer expert and a chess master try to solve the mystery of what happened to her.

3 Responses

  1. There were a bit too many historical characters for my taste, and I couldn’t stand Neville’s penchant for writing stuff like “little did she know that her actions would blah, blah, blah” to keep me informed of unfolding events super-annoying.

    But still, much better than Dan Brown.

    • It’s very convoluted! My head is spinning between the two time periods and the ever shifting continents. Then you got all these names from history that meet. I’m almost at the end.🙂

  2. Love this book, though I could do without the sequel.

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