Ronan Bennett Zugzwang

ISBN 13: 9780747589396

Zugzwang

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“Beautifully told...a compelling portrait of a highly civilized society as it approached one of history's great upheavals. [Shows us that] there are moments when the tides of history will not be denied.”—Washington Post

Zugzwang—A chess term used to describe a position in which a player is reduced to utter helplessless: he is obliged to move, but every move serves to make his position even worse.

Ronan Bennett’s new masterpiece of literary suspense unfolds in a city on the verge of revolution. On a blustery April day, a respected St. Petersburg newspaper editor is murdered in front of a shocked crowd. Five days later, Dr. Otto Spethmann, the celebrated psychoanalyst, receives a visit from the police. There has been another murder in the city—and somehow he is implicated. The doctor is mystified and deeply worried, as much for his young, spirited daughter as for himself. 

Meanwhile, he finds himself preoccupied by two new patients: Anna Petrovna, a society beauty plagued with nightmares with whom he is inappropriately falling in love, and the troubled genius Rozental, a brilliant but fragile chess master on the verge of a complete breakdown. As Dr. Spethmann is drawn deeper into the murderous intrigue, he finds that he, his patients, and his daughter may all be pawns in a game larger in scope than anything he could have imagined.

Punctuated with board-by-board illustrations of a chess match that plays out through the book, Zugzwang is a masterfully written novel packed with cliffhangers, romance, unforgettable characters, and a plot that keeps readers guessing to the very end.

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About the Author:

Ronan Bennett grew up in Belfast. He is the author of four novels: The Second Prison, Overthrown by Strangers, The Catastrophist (shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award), and Havoc, in Its Third Year (longlisted for the Booker Award). He has also written screenplays for film and television. He lives in London with his family.

From Booklist:

*Starred Review* Remaining apolitical is a tall order for a Jew in 1914 Russia. The Bolsheviks are on the rise, tensions are mounting between alliance-seeking France and Germany, and acrid threats of pogrom and czarist repression linger in the air. Yet psychoanalyst Otto Spethmann prefers to stay above the fray and guard the middle-class standing he's achieved despite his humble roots. How ironic, then, that he's thrust into the midst of a murder plot involving power players across the political spectrum of prerevolution St. Petersburg. Bennett explains that his delicious title is a chess term "used to describe a position in which a player is reduced to a state of utter helplessness. He is obliged to move, but his every move only makes his position worse." That indeed appears to be Spethmann's predicament as he's stalked by the secret police, manipulated by old friends, frustrated by a treatment-resisting chess master, seduced by the daughter of a Jew-hating German sympathizer, and jailed by an overzealous policeman for refusing to reveal the real name of his daughter's dead boyfriend. Spethmann's a better chess player than even he realizes, however, and ultimately the good doctor navigates these (and many other) dangers by always thinking several moves ahead. Readers who love Anna Karenina as much as they enjoy a gripping mystery will find a little slice of heaven here. Sennett, Frank

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