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A thriller for fans of Shadow of the Wind, The Interpretation of Murder and Restless Born of the weekly serialisation of the novel, as it was being written, in the Observer Ronan also now has a chess column in the Guardian
Ronan Bennett was brought up in Belfast. He is the author of four novels, including the hugely acclaimed The Catastrophist (shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award) and Havoc, in Its Third Year (winner of the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year and longlisted for both the Booker Prize and the IMPAC award). He has also written screenplays for film and television. Zugzwang was serialised weekly in the Observer in 2006. Ronan Bennett lives in London with his family.
Roiling with class tensions and rife with danger, St. Petersburg during the twilight of the last czar serves as the chessboard on which Irish author Bennett (The Catastrophist) stages this heady historical thriller. The game begins with a bang: the murder of prominent newspaper editor O.V. Gulko in March 1914, just weeks before the city hosts a glittering international chess tournament. (Zugzwang refers to a situation in which a player can make only moves that worsen his position.) Then there's a second slaying. Despite plenty of the usual suspects-Bolsheviks, pro-German reactionaries, Polish nationalists-the police start grilling respected psychoanalyst Otto Spethmann and his 18-year-old daughter. The widower's protestations of innocence cut little ice with his chief inquisitor, Insp. Mintimer Lychev, a mysterious sort who happens to share Spethmann's chess enthusiasm. Dr. Spethmann's only hope: using his analytic skills to crack the case. As he races the clock, he and Lychev become caught up in a high-stakes battle of wits. The plot packs more than enough surprises to keep any suspense junkie sated. (Nov.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Praise for Havoc, In Its Third Year: 'A gripping novel...staggered with betrayal and intrigue and suffused with the hot threat of violence. Bennett's prose is economical, powerful, and often poetic.' The Times 'Bennett's evocation of a corner of England on the edge of an apocalypse is wonderfully done.' Guardian 'Searingly powerful...a fable and parable for all times - and ours in particular...sublimely written.' Independent
Claiming a patch of Boris Akunin's literary territory, prerevolutionary Russia, British novelist Bennett (The Catastrophist) imagines a psychoanalyst in St. Petersburg whose vigorous efforts on behalf of his patients lead to startling results. In fact, a visit from the police just days after the murder of a St. Petersburg journalist is just the first hint that Dr. Otto Spethmann will be drawn into terrible intrigue. The title is a chess term meaning a state of utter helplessness in which any action can only make things worse. And so it is for the characters, an array of plotters and naifs whose yearning for love, justice, or power results in the deaths of many-but not of the tsar. Bennett, whose previous works have been shortlisted and longlisted for the Whitbread Award and the Booker Prize, respectively, plays out a real chess game complete with board illustrations in an intricate choreography of revolutionists, lovers, and turncoats who keep one another and us guessing until the very end. An unusual book that will find its ardent readers in most large public libraries.-Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.