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Zugzwang by Ronan Bennett

Zugzwang is a German word that refers to the state in chess where a player may be safe at the moment, but he's forced to make a move and any move leads to checkmate. In Ronan Bennett's novel, Dr. Otto Spethmann is a Jewish psychoanalyst and chess player who's lives comfortably with his 18-year old daughter in St. Petersburg in 1914. One of his patients is Avrom Chilowicz Rozental, a chess genius who is unfortunately losing his grip on reality. When a local newspaper editor is murdered, the police come to Spethmann asking questions. He gets pulled into a world where the Bolsheviks are playing off anti-Tsarist resentment and political and personal intrigues are played out against this background. In a world where everyone seems to have multiple aspects to their identity, if not multiple identities, it's hard to know where the truth lies. Zugzwang has received mostly positive reviews with the San Francisco Chronicle saying, "Zugzwang does not merely offer pleasures both high and low - it erases the distinction. The novel is exciting not despite but because of the moral seriousness of its situations. Bennett's premise may not be unique, but his talent is, and writers of slicker thrillers would do well to take his work as a lesson in the titillation of the mind."
Buy Zugzwang by Ronan Bennett
The Independent review
by Ian Thomson

San Francisco Chronicle review
by Anna North

The Guardian review
by Steven Poole

New York Observer review
by Damian Da Costa

The Telegraph review
by Julia Flynn

St. Petersburg Times review
by Vikram Johri

The Observer review
by Nick Greenslade review
by Sudheer Apte

The Independent review
by Tim Martin

Ronan Bennett
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