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The Flanders Panel (A. Perez-Reverte)

2006-07-04 2 min read Books marco

Et tu, Amazon? The infallible suggestion engine decided I should read Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Flanders Panel, a European (Spanish) novel of chess and murder. I guess that having read The Eight was a hint in the right direction, as both books focus on chess as a key to solving a murder case.

My review of The Eight was not too positive, particularly because the novel fails to deliver the promise of the publishing house. In all, though, it’s a readable novel that makes sense and is entirely enjoyable. Where the plot makes little sense, big adventures in the Sahara clearly make up for it.

In this book, art and chess mix to produce the key witness to a series of murders. The plot is rapid, the novel (as it stands) weak. A lot of characters are never developed, and those that are are stereotypical.

Warning: spoiler follows

Worst of all, you can build the whole novel from the stereotypes applied to the protagonists. The “whore” character will die a disgusting death; same is true for the “adulterer”. The “geek” will tur out to be the hero, while the “innocent heroine” will do just fine, protected by a cocoon of help and trust.

Even worse, the homosexual character will be the deranged killer, and the motive of his killing will be style (a la Queer Eye for the Straight Guy), and the sense of not having anything to lose because he’s infected with HIV and dying of AIDS mysteriously fast (within 4 months).

Someone should have told the author that writing a mystery novel whose mystery hinges on stereotypes makes it utterly predictable and hence pointless.


I couldn’t form an opinion about the writing, since the translation was atrocious. You’d think someone that translates a work that dabbles in art would have the good sense of searching for character voices that can span from the profane to the sublime. Instead, none of the characters has a separate voice – they all fall into the pitfalls of unimaginative translation.