I remember when I first read this book; I enjoyed it immensely – especially because some aspects were completely unpredictable. After a good few years had passed, I decided to reread it on a whim, to see if it would still amaze me. Surprisingly it did, despite knowing everything.
Manipulative and clever are the first words that come to mind when describing this book. It’s written in such a way that the reader cannot help but make certain assumptions throughout in the absence of explicit details. Whether these assumptions are right or not is a different matter entirely.
The plot was slow but carefully thought out. The patience required to find out the identity of the criminal and for the confrontation to happen mirrored the patience required when undertaking revenge. The end scene, when the game of cat and mouse had reached its conclusion, was heart racing and extremely satisfying. The descriptions of St Oswald’s were written skilfully; they created a foreboding and almost eerie atmosphere. Equality, gender and class were often commented upon throughout the book.
Audere, agere, auferre.
The unidentified revenge-seeking protagonist was a nicely developed character. Although motives were sometimes unclear as well as downright confusing, it was really fascinating to read about their past. This was presented through flash backs, that were weaved within the present day. Moreover, one thing that was incredible was the fact that clues had been scattered within the narrative. Essentially, it was possible to piece together their identity before the unmasking at the end. Additionally, Mr Straitley, the other main protagonist, had been nicely fleshed out too. It was an enjoyable experience reading from both characters’ perspectives. Both voices were very distinct and had their own style.
Rather a small detail, but the use of chess pieces was a brilliant touch. It added something to the book and the whole chess analogy was made so meaningful towards the end when everything comes together. The use of latin phrases here and there were also nicely done.
“It is the game, not who he who plays it.”
“That depends what side you’re on.”
To conclude, this was a cleverly written book with a heart racing unveiling end scene. Albeit it does seem slow at first, it increases the pace right until the very end, and keeps the reader hooked. Anyone looking for a thriller should definitely pick up this rewarding and complex mystery.
P.S. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. “But why?” they asked, as they moved off. “Because,” he said, “I can’t stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer”.