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The Flanders Panel

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  10,660 ratings  ·  514 reviews
While restoring a 15th-century painting which depicts a chess game between the Duke of Flanders and his knight, Julia, a young art expert, discovers a hidden inscription in the corner: Quis Necavit Equitem. Translation: Who killed the knight? Breaking the silence of five centuries, Julia's hunt for a Renaissance murderer leads her into a modern-day game of sin, betrayal, a...more
Paperback, 295 pages
Published June 7th 2004 by Mariner Books (first published 1990)
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Community Reviews

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Manny
My friend Cathy (also a chessplayer) told me I had to read this, and she was indeed right. I couldn't put it down, and finished it in about a day. It's... well, what is it? I read it as a kind of postmodernist reimagining of Alice Through The Looking-Glass. Other books I immediately thought of were The Name of the Rose, Gödel, Escher, Bach and Luzhin's Defense.

Formally, it's a very stylized murder mystery. Julia, the sexy but childlike Alice figure, is a Madrid art restorer. She receives an unu...more
Kelly
Feb 18, 2010 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: intellectual mystery lovers, art history scholars, fatalists
Well that was just as good as I remembered. Everything I said below still holds true. The tale may have felt a bit more heavy handed this time, but I think that's only because I knew who the murderer was and as Sherlock Holmes says, "I only saw it because I knew what I was looking for." It didn't diminish the pleasure of the experience.

This re-read had me focusing a lot more on characterization since I didn't have to be obsessively caught up in the mystery. What is beautifully done here is showi...more
Emir Never


Restoring a 15th century painting “The Game of Chess” by Pieter Van Huys, Julia, an art specialist, discovers a hidden Latin inscription: Quis Necavit Equitem. Translated as Who killed the Knight?, the text gives a different hue to the work featuring the Duke of Flanders and his Knight playing a game of chess with a mysterious lady in black hovering in the background. As Julia tries to investigate deeper, the painting sheds layers of meanings and references that seem to point to a 15th century m...more
Matthew Roche
I wanted so badly to love this book.

The simplest way to describe it is the novelisation of Douglas Hofstadter's opus, "Godel, Escher, Bach." In fact, it is impossible to believe that Perez-Reverte had finished G.E.B. more than ten minutes before furiously scribing "The Flanders Panel."

I wanted to love it because I love books based on puzzles and logic, and GEB may be one of my favorite books of all time.

But the novel is just so weak. The characters (charicatures?) were flat and absurd - how many...more
Bob
I got this as a birthday present and took it with me on our Thanksgiving trip. I wish I had taken the Manhattan phone book instead. It would have had a lot more interesting characters and none of them would be such implausible things as the characters of this novel. The whole structure is so contrived it ultimately collapses under its own weight. The book is built around a convoluted metaphor like "art is chess is life is art," but the harder the author works at it, the more tenuous it becomes....more
Louize

"I would say that chess has more to do with the art of murder than it does with the art of war.”

The Flanders Panel is the picture of Chess in its truest form.
Every piece is a character. Every move is an influence. To win it, you must cross death.

“Amazing,” he murmured.

There is no better word to describe it. The enigma itself may not be that surprising, but the steps undertaken to manipulate, and likewise, to uncover it was engaging.

ooo------------------ooo--------------------ooo---------------...more
Κώστας
3,5 αστέρια.
Είναι ένα από τα ελάχιστα βιβλία που οι εκδότες δεν το αφήνουν να πεθάνει επανεκδίδοντάς το αέναα. Το συγκεκριμένο είχε φτάσει στην 21η έκδοση το 2009 σύμφωνα με το αντίτυπο που έχω. Φαίνεται πως βρήκαν άλλη μια κότα να τους γεννάει χρυσά αυγά στο διηνεκές, αυτό δείχνει και η σταθερή ακατέβατη τιμή του εδώ και τόσα χρόνια.

Παρότι του έβαλα, τελικά, 3,5 αστέρια δεν θα το σύστηνα σε όσους δεν γνωρίζουν ή δεν αγαπούν το σκάκι. Σας προειδοποιώ ότι η βαθμολογία μου είναι προκατειλημένη. Σκ...more
Trini
This disappointed me, especially since it came so highly recommended. I just couldn't buy into it though. The plot was absurd and unbelievable in numerous places. The characters lacked common sense. Let's see...someone is trying to kill me...I think I'll go out late at night by myself and cruise around the city, hail taxis, go to a nice restaurant, and then head back to my apartment for a quiet night by myself where the killer just so happens to know I live. That kind of crap really grated on me...more
Haywardpoolpj
I have mixed feelings about this book. The plot is connected to both art history and chess. Well, in a former life (or my youth if you prefer), I was an art historian. In fact I was prepared to do a doctoral thesis on a series of paintings by Rembrandt. I bring that up because it was exciting for me to read a fictional story, a mystery no less, using art as the basis but it was like going back in time. I had to get back to a different way of thinking. Even more so with the chess angle.

The probl...more
Harold
excellent! I love this blend of top shelf entertainment, intrigue and mystery which at the same time informs the reader of the mores of the Art World, the in and outs of restoring paintings, and, most prominently, the game of chess. As mediocre a player as I am, I was still able to follow the descriptions and logic of the moves and the use of a 500 year old chess game that is relevant to the mystery unfolding before us is just flat-out clever.

Reverte also wrote The Club Dumas, another book that...more
Snoozie Suzie
I really enjoyed this to start, but by the end I was disappointed. What didn't bother me at the beginning did in the end as it was kind of unfinished due to lack of character involvement/development which left it all hanging a bit and so unsatisfactory.

The chess side of things was very clever, but got a bit overwhelming toward the end I felt. But a clever alternative view of a murder mystery. In a way it reminds me of a Nancy Drew mystery as they often revolved around objects.
Cheryl
Yes, it was clever. Too clever by half, if you ask me. It was also full of cliches and stereotypes. And what's up with referring to the gigolo as a pimp? Translation error, or ambiguity in the original, or what? And what's with all that smoking around works of art? Yikes! Btw, I know almost *nothing* about chess, even after finishing the book - reading the mystery straight up does *not* require familiarity with the game - just to clarify what other reviewers have claimed.
María
Ajedrez retrospectivo que llega a su clímax con J.S Bach sonando de fondo. Una obra de arte que data del S. XV con una inscripción oculta. Una restauradora, un aficionado al ajedrez y un coleccionista de antigüedades se ven envueltos en un juego que los convierte en piezas claves.
Mark Hebwood
Overall, I liked this fine. Characters had real depth, were idiosyncratic, querky, troubled, colourful, and well-developed. The plot was complex, and Arturo managed to create an unusual whodunit by peppering his detective story with elements from the arcane worlds of reverse-chess and philosophy of perception.

Beginning to sound a little bit weird? Yes that is also what I thought. Sure, Arturo differentiates himself from the pack by writing something I might call a "literary thriller". But I cou...more
Debra
I really wanted to like this book because the premise was so great. Guess I wasn't quite enough the intellectual to understand all the philosopher references, all the Latin, and, of course, the chess - even though the chess-game-run-backwards was painfully explained at one point (even enough for this novice to understand).

Plus the characters were not believable and seemed stereotyped. The author went out of his way to describe one's beauty, and one's sophistication, etc., ad nauseum. Great premi...more
Lowed
Let me just say Arturo Perez Reverte has got what it takes to be a classic writer. If Agatha Cristie were to write Angels and Demons, the result would have been The Flanders Panel.

Excessive description could lag down the read sometimes, but over all, this is one hell of a book! It actually led me to buying my own dang chess set!
Diane
Perez-Reverte writes fast-paced witty novels, mostly based in his home country of Spain. The Flanders Panel was the first of his that I read, and maybe the very best. It has a mystery and a puzzle about the Flanders Panel, which (if I remember, after many years), has a hidden message in it that reveals an old mystery. Wonderful book.
Grace Tjan
This book, my second from the author, contains all the ingredients that should make it an engrossing read: art, medieval history, and mystery. However, after slogging through it for several days, I find the main mystery to be too contrived to be believable (that 20-page exposition at the end by the villain scarcely helps at all), and the other ingredients merely garnish instead of an integral part of the story. Sure, there are plenty of literary allusions (we are beaten over the head with the on...more
Sharakael
There's something alluring about the way the author wrote... when I was reading The Dumas Club I found myself wanting to know more about Alexandre Dumas' personal life, more than what I could find at Wikipedia. While reading The Flanders Panel, I spent a lot of time Googling about the painting and the painter mentioned in the novel... was rather surprised to read that the aforementioned painter had never actually painted the painting, but the way it had been written, I had never once questioned...more
Amy
Huh. Well, I didn't see that reveal coming! Arturo Pérez-Reverte certainly did a great job of keeping me guessing as to who done it!

The Flanders Panel was an interesting yet odd book for me. I found the passages about chess to be incredibly interesting, which is shocking because my elementary school aged niece can beat me at chess. I'm terrible at it, and completely lack the ability to think ahead and make the devious plans that seem to be required in chess. In this book, though, Perez-Reverte a...more
Claire
Jun 16, 2008 Claire rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of chess and antiques, romantics, mystery fans, and people who want to go to Spain
This book is dazzling.

I've read almost everything Arturo Perez-Reverte has written, and this is by far my favorite - I even like it better than "The Club Dumas," which is probably his most famous and was the first book of his I ever read.

Five reasons why I love this book:

1) The sense of place - no one does spooky, rainy Madrid streets with sad Spanish ballads barely audible in the background like this guy.

2) The main character, a feisty, chain-smoking art restorer who gets pulled into the myst...more
Renee
Jan 04, 2008 Renee rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Renee by: Random pick from the library
As I was reading this book I was very much into the intrigue--I'm a growing fan of these drama s a la Name of the Rose and The Da Vinci Code that place a murder mystery in a complex context of art, history or mythology. I feel educated at the end without feeling schooled. So, even though I'd rather take a pencil to my eye than play chess, I skimmed the chess parts and kept up with the art piece.

My biggest issue with this book was that it was an almost perfect example of deus ex machina. Suddenl...more
Michael
Well i'm not quite finished with this, but of the three Perez-Reverete books i've read this is probably my least favorite. I just haven't been able to connect with the characters or circumstances, which is odd becuase i'm an artist who enjoys a good game of chess.

One small thing i keep going back to that i just have a horrible time with, and i feel so nitpicky about it being such a big deal to me; but a Restorationist that gladly smokes like a chimney around the centuries-old art that she is res...more
Jack
A truly great historical and modern mystery involving an ancient painting, the chess game in the painting as well as the artist's subjects, the art historians trying to solve the riddle of the chess game and the hidden message painted over, a murder mystery taking place among the current observers with connections and parallels at many levels spanning the centuries, with a reclusive chess master as a key investigator. I'll need to read it again to get some of what I missed the first reading, but...more
Catherine
For the most part "The Flanders Panel" was a disappointment. It was undoubtedly well-researched, but the plot didn't grab me. I never felt that tug pulling me to the book and forcing me to continue reading. I could put it down at any moment. I like this author, but I found this book cliched and shallow. The characters lacked depth, and there was a repetitive quality to the prose, so that I found myself correctly anticipating how a sentence would end. I had difficulty connecting with his world of...more
Eric
Like other Pérez-Reverte books, this one initially consumed me. All the elements of his novels are present: interesting and complex characters, a modern mystery that plays out against a historical backdrop, in-depth descriptions that bring to life arcane subjects - in Club Dumas the antique book trade, in Fencing Master fencing, in this book, chess.

Unlike other Pérez-Reverte books, however, this one lost me in the last quarter when the mystery was resolved. I found the revelation of who and why...more
William
This is a murder mystery fundamentally, but one so cerebral and smart that you may not recognize it. If you like chess, that helps, but I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this intellectual romp. reminiscent of The Eight, but without the fantasy elements.
Olga Kowalska
It is one of the most intelligent thrillers I have ever read. The five hundred years old game of chess from an old painting comes to life. Ancient mystery, romance and murder enchanted on canvas and mirrored in reality. And only one question remains: who killed the Knight?
Joseph
Read as a trashy mystery novel, there's really nothing objectionable about this, although for some reason, I was really expecting more. Especially galling was the villain, complete with a needlessly complicated, and mostly pointless, plan that seems to exist only so that the novel might exist. When the villain finally gives an explanatory monologue at the end, the rationale is, quite frankly, kind of offensive (and it feels unintentionally so).

The chess and historical subplots ended up seeming r...more
Marky
I don't remember how I got a hold of this book, but one day I found it while cleaning my bookshelves.
The book started off pretty good, captivating mystery and murder story, reminded me of The Da Vinci Code a little. But boy, by the middle of the book the story was getting weirder and weirder and the ending was completely unrealistic and unbelievable. I would not recommend this book at all. If you want a good mystery book, try The Da Vinci Code. If you want a good murder book, any of Agatha Chris...more
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Good read. Not great. 3 37 Nov 23, 2013 02:27PM  
La Stamberga dei ...: La tavola fiamminga di Arturo Pérez-Reverte 1 2 Nov 23, 2013 07:49AM  
Around the World ...: Louise recommends The Flanders Panel 1 8 Nov 18, 2011 05:51AM  
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40398
Spanish novelist and journalist. He worked as war reporter for twenty-one years (1973 - 1994). He started his journalistic career writing for the now-defunct newspaper Pueblo.

More about Arturo Pérez-Reverte...
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“You don't choose your friends, they choose you, and you either reject them or you accept them without reservations.” 58 likes
“Chess is all about getting the king into check, you see. It's about killing the father. I would say that chess has more to do with the art of murder than it does with the art of war.” 18 likes
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