A Stuga On the Cusp of the Orust Riviera, tucked away next to a hobbit hole in the woods.
A man is found shot in his garden, in a village not far from Vienna. Unable to be defined as either a suicide or a homicide, the death is called one of "mysterious circumstances." The garden--unlike the prominent citizen's life--is highly unusual, a "concentric maze of ten-foot-high hedges leading to a chessboard-shaped clearing paved with squares of white and black marble." Frisch, the murdered man, was obsessed with chess, and the novel's chilling first sentence--"They say that chess was born in bloodshed"--bears this out.
In this first novel, Paolo Maurensig coolly executes the ultimate drama of manipulation--life as a game of chess. On this armature, he hangs a tale of vengeance set against a backdrop of historic villainy, Nazi against Jew. The two chess players are as black and white as can be--a persecuted Jew and a ruthless, persecuting German who first "duel" over a chessboard in an international tournament, and then in a concentration camp. The narrative is a meticulous reconstruction of the moments and background events that led to Frisch's death. Ingeniously referring everything back to the machinations and executions of movements in a chess game, life itself is at stake as the inescapable sins of the past catch up with the chess-obsessed characters.