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The Flanders Panel


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A brilliant murder mystery in which a clue to a murder is hidden within a medieval painting.

About the Author

Arturo Perez-Reverte was born in Cartagena in 1951. Since the publication of The Fencing Master, his first novel, Perez-Reverte has become one of Europe's bestselling authors. The Flanders Panel was awarded the Grand Prix Annuel de Litterature Policiere in France. His novel, The Dumas Club, has been made into the film The Ninth Gate by Roman Polanski and starring Johnny Depp.


When an art restorer sets out to solve the riddle of a 15th-century masterpiece in this uneven but intriguing, multilayered thriller, she finds that one murder begets another, down through five centuries. Young, beautiful art expert Julia works in Madrid for the Prado as well as for various local galleries and auctioneers. Her painstaking cleaning of The Game of Chess , by Flemish master Pieter Van Huys, uncovers a Latin inscription--painted over by the artist--with the question ``Who killed the knight?'' Julia explores this mystery with the aid of Cesar, a middle-aged, homosexual antiques dealer who has become something of a surrogate father figure for her; Alvaro, her art professor ex-lover; and Munoz, a mildly antisocial chess master. When Alvaro dies--possibly murdered--Van Huys's riddle becomes relevant not only to the figures and chess pieces represented in his painting but also to Julia and her friends in this rather seamy art community. The author, a TV journalist in Spain, makes interesting use of the chessboard as metaphor for various human interactions, and his characters' sleuthy analysis of the painting's symbols and the details of its frozen chess game is clever and quite suspenseful. But the characters themselves are carelessly drawn cartoons--perhaps distorted in translation--and prone to rather sophomoric pronouncements on aesthetic and philosophical issues. And--highbrow pretensions aside--the whodunit aspect of the narrative is resolved unconvincingly, with disappointing conventionality. Film rights to Filmania. (June)

``Who killed the knight?'' This single phrase, inscribed in Latin on a 15th-century Flemish panel depicting a game of chess, has been hidden for centuries beneath a layer of paint. Now beautiful, indepedent Julia, who restores art for a living, has discovered the inscription. She lets only a few people in on the secret: Menchu, her friend and the dealer who expects to make a bundle on the painting; the elegant César, her protector since childhood; and Alvaro, her former lover and an art history expert. Soon after Julia meets with Alvaro, he is found dead, and a peculiar game begins. The murderer circles Julia, signaling every lethal move with clues taken from the chess game depicted in the panel, and Julia and César must enlist the aid of a chess genius to figure out what their moves should be. This intelligent mystery, blending art historical insight with the intellectual pleasures of chess, moves at a good pace and comes up with a satisfying twist at the end. For The Name of the Rose crowd, though this book is not as rigorous; readers not looking for intellectual challenge will enjoy the suspense and deft characterization.-Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''

"A sleek and sophisticated chamber mystery about art, life and chess. Madly clever" New York Times "Gives murder a touch of class...delightfully absorbing" Observer "In its intellectual background detail it is reminiscent of Umberto Eco's novels...hard to stop reading" -- Michael Eaude Times Literary Supplement

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