An original book - announced as a crime story but turns out to be acomedy, if not a joke. Stylistically it sways wildly from a Shakespearianstyle to Miss Marple, from people's comedy to a view of modern society. Agood book? A bad one? No idea really! But a lot of fun, you can restassured.
Zhukowsky, a veteran Russian Grandmaster thinks his English wife has beenmurdered. In the conservative village of Rambleton this is anunprecedented and unwelcome happening. Only Ophelia O., alias Oliver, alawyer, mother of six, and much more, believes the story. She starts tomake inquiries - which means that she stumbles from one calamity toanother.
Each one of them is part of a little story with many people involved. Infact, the book depends upon these little stories. It is like animpressionist painting: the whole comes together only when viewed from acertain distance, seemingly working out only at the end, when nearly allparticipants - the centenarian nun as well as the village PC Plod, thefamous Grandmaster and the murderer, the upright solicitor and the warveteran and umpteen more - come together at the chess tournament, where -as in a Shakespearian climax - the bombshell is dropped.
Everywhere in this chaos, in this affectionate - domestic knit-work ofstory telling, where no-one can grasp any more whether all the threads,when spun together, create a piece of tapestry or whether a stitch islost, chess pops up, which very often leads to a humorous situation. Themain pattern is chequered black and white.
„chess groupies" („ who would never give their love to any men belowInternational Master level" - good news for IM's upwards),
sensible discussions about women's chess (Girls are good at lots ofimportant things - Like? - Chess, she suggested - Oh, chess... We weretalking about important things.)
terrified geniuses who gave up playing chess after a series of humiliatingdefeats and have turned to hanging around with the groupies,
oldfashioned chess fanatics who "continued their twenty-five-year-longdiscussion on the King's Indian",
or chess machos („Blackburn was a man... a real man. Drank like a man,fought like a man, played chess like a man. No wonder the nebbichscouldn't stand him. ... If a man's not got the stamina to spend all nightover the chess board, he has no business calling himself a chess player atall",
and Ophelia even suffers a mystical chess vision: ("She looked down thetables towards her daughter, and was struck suddenly by the hundreds ofpieces, and thousands of squares, no board showing the same position, eachpawn poisoned or active, the servant of it's master's skill, hazard orinattention. For a moment she saw what Mother Thérèse had meant by 'theDance', felt herself caught up by the magic of the ancient game, bedazzledby the forces of will, desire and intellect which were concentrated in thetiny figures").
but mostly there are mischievous dialogues:„Interested in chess? A pretty girl like you?" and so on.
How could it be otherwise in a book with chapter headings like „An EnglishOpening", „The Moscow Variation" or „The Corkscrew Countergambit".
Somehow during „Opening Preparation" and „Bishops Ending" all is solved,the culprit is unmasked, and with him much typical English conventionalityand pedantry. It all happens during a very popular local chess tournament,of which the grandchildren will have something to talk about.
In the author's words: „...it required close inspection and a degree oflateral thinking which was, thankfully, quite common among chess players".It is this sort of banter with which the story abounds.
Indeed it is true what was written in the Peterborough Evening Telegraph:"Tanya Jones must have a tremendous sense of humour. She does have atremendous talent." She would have had much more success if the "DailyTelegraph" were to have written this. So, the book is still an insidertip.