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The Flanders Panel Paperback – June 7, 2004

201 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Julia, a young Madrid art restorer, is pulled into a shadowy world of metaphor when she discovers a long-covered inscription on a Flemish painting: Who killed the knight? Art, chess and murder are intertwined in this elegant, seductive mystery in the manner of The Name of the Rose. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books (June 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156029588
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156029582
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (201 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Eric Wilson on July 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
I'm a chessplayer. The theme of this book caught my attention and, in many ways, lived up to its promise. The chess and real life dramas are woven smoothly, and the chess strategy and reasoning made sense (with one or two moments of artistic license). The opening intrigued me, the middle game complicated matters, and the endgame brought things to a tidy conclusion.
I couldn't help but wonder if I was missing some of the writer's heart in the translation. The characters are expertly crafted, but lacked heart and connection with me. Although I enjoyed the moves of the deadly game, I had little feeling for those that give their lives in the course of the chess maneuvering. The language, while tight and European-sounding, seemed to be a bit generic at points.
Overall, the threads of the mystery draw tighter and tighter and the author leaves a few surprises for the reader. Some may find intrigue in the chess aspects or the art aspects...I found myself primarly drawn into the strategizing of the villain and those trying to unmask the villain's identity. The suspense was based on the unfolding strategy, such as in a game of chess. And I was captured. Check and mate.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Ivan Askwith on July 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've read most of Perez-Reverte's texts, and "The Flanders Panel" -- his debut -- is vintage material. Often compared to the work of Italian intellectualist-author Umberto Eco, Perez-Reverte engages new themes and topics in each work, delving into them with a passion and interest that I can't help but find impressive -- in each case, the details are sufficient to let the characters pass for experts, but not overwhelming or boring.
In TFP, the topics du jour are art restoration, historical intrigues, and chess, and the three blend together to create a sinister and satisfying thriller -- I took this one down in about four hours, while on vacation at the beach, and was hooked as soon as the real action started. (Give it about 20-25 pages before you put it down the first time.)
Using the process of a chess game to drive the action of the book, Perez-Reverte manages to make an often-dull game vibrant, exciting, and threatening. I'm a chess fan, myself, but you don't have to be to get into, wrapped up in, or to the end of this book. Diagrams are included to show each move in the "game" that unfolds, and the action on the board is mirrored in real life -- a sinister murder for each piece captured on the table. The characters are believable and well-written, and P-R's prose, as usual, flows well and feels good going down.
If anything disappoints, it might be the ending. Like "The Club Dumas", another fantastic intelli-thriller, the ending feels a bit rushed, and less complete than you're led to expect... it IS plausible, and it ISN'T obvious, and that's enough to make it passable.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Karen Bierman Hirsh VINE VOICE on December 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
Arturo Perez-Reverte is an amazing writer, truly gifted not only in the art of spinning a creative and sophisticated mystery but also in jumping the cultural and historical boundaries.
This book (as is The Club Dumas) is a bibliomystery fan's dream come true. Julia, a woman who restores paintings for a living, is asked to help restore a fifteenth-century masterpiece, the painting depicts a chess game between the Duke of Flanders and his knight - but within it is a hidden message - Who Killed The Knight and thus the novel begins.
This book is filled to the brim with fascinating information about art, history and chess. If you liked this book you should run out and get The Eight by Katherine Neville- is another stunner!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Vithmers on October 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed The Club Dumas by the same author, and the premise of this book sounded promising. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations at all.

A huge part of the problem for me was the characters. They are pretentious beyond belief, the kind of people you would never want to know. A pretentious character now and again isn't bad: obviously you do not need to like all the characters in a book. However, I didn't like characters that weren't supposed to be "bad". I don't think there was a single person in this book I cared about, at all. The worst part, though, is how much they seemed just to be vehicles for the author to say "look how smart I am!" There is a faux-intellectualism that pervades this book and makes it really hard to enjoy.

While I was reading this book, I would periodically read off passages to my significant other so we could both laugh at how ridiculous the dialogue was. I wish I had bookmarked them, or noted them all down, because there were some great moments of unintentional comic relief. I only remember one, and I was able to look it up through Google Books to quote verbatim: "I'll stab you to death if you do. Like José in Mérimée's Carmen."

To me, this line epitomizes the book. The character talked about stabbing only to reference Carmen, in a really clunky way. But even worse, it seems as though he (and thus the author) is saying "not only am I familiar with Carmen, I know that Bizet based his much more well-known opera on a work by Mérimée." As a lone line in a book that was otherwise well-written, I would have passed this by without much thought. But given that the whole tone of the book is like this, it just further serves to illustrate the attempts at intellectualism falling flat.
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