Julia, a young and beautiful art restorer discovers a hidden inscription in a famous Flemish painting she's working on. The painting shows two knights playing chess and a woman in the background, reading.

From here the plot commences, a complicated thriller involving murder, love, art, phulosophy, mystery and chess.

The chess aspect immediately captured my attention. I've never read a book involving chess before, and have been looking for one for some time. So as I stood in the bookstore and flipped through the book's pages, the chess board diagrams convinced me to buy it.

This book has a lot in common with "The Da Vinci code", in my opinion. Both are about art and mystery, both involve mysterious murders and both explore the connection between the past and the present. The redability is also comparable... similar to Dan Brown's thriller, "The Flanders Panel" grips the reader pretty hard - it's not easy to stop reading.

As in any good mystery novel, the beginning draws a tangled plot, with many complications anticipated. Julia and her friends, with the help of a strong chess player, discover a connection between the story the painting tells and the chess game described there. They believe that playing the game backwards will help them understand the history of the people drawn. At this point, my expectations were very high, since the chess analysis was quite enjoyable, and I anticipated complication to multiple levels - for example the floor in the painting was painted as a chess board, and I expected a different level, one with the floor being the board and the three people being chess pieces.

But as I went on reading, I got more and more dissapointed. The plot went into a completely different direction after the first murder. The "mysterious player" played the game forward, and the "backward" direction was immediately forgotten. My dissapointment came to its climax when it became clear how white won. It seemed just like a stupid mistake on behalf of the black, which didn't fit the high level of the game.

But I found the end very satisfying - especially when it became known that a machine was playing black (btw, I was wondering throughout the whole book, why didn't Julia just use a PC). It shattered all the "deep" philosophy about finding out about a player's character and mindset from how he plays chess.

The author seems to have read "Godel Escher Bach", since he brings quotes from there, and the old painting owner refers to Bach's music the way hofstadter talked about it in GEB. References to Sherlock Holmes are also abundant, which is nice for his fans (like me :)

The writing style is nice, and the book is very readable as I mentioned before. Reverte has a compelling way to describe characters, I think.

To conclude, I recommend this book as a good, light reading. It requires some knowledge of chess, though even without chess the plot is quite clear. Just be aware of having too much expectations :)