J.F. Penn's Reviews > The Eight

The Eight by Katherine Neville
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's review
Oct 19, 2011

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bookshelves: religious, thrillers

Full video review: http://mysterythriller.tv/the-eight-k...
The Eight is the story of the Montglane Abbey service, a chess set belonging to Charlemagne that carries a secret and a curse. There is a code embedded in the board and the pieces which must be scattered to prevent anyone from discovering the hidden power.

In the past, we follow two nuns from Montglane Abbey, cousins Mireille and Valentine, as they are sent away with some of the chess pieces to Paris to live with their godfather. There they meet with Talleyrand, the Bishop of Autun who becomes entwined in their future.

In the present, Catherine Velis is a computer expert sent to Algiers to work on modelling for OPEC. She finds herself embroiled in the hunt for the pieces with the mysterious Russian chess genius Solarin and her mad cousin Lily, whose character I enjoyed the most in the book.

The two parallel stories have plenty of murder and mystery and eventually combine in a twist that finally reveals the secret of the chess set. The book was written in 1988 but is still a good read. Someone recommended it to me as an example of a female thriller writer. I don’t think it’s fast-paced enough to be a thriller, but it’s a mystery in the vein of Kate Mosse, and just as long!

I did find the book to be a little long, I skipped over quite a bit of it, but still read to the end. Like a chess-set, there are a lot of characters and some patience is needed to follow it through. I don’t have the patience for playing chess so that probably has something to do with it!

What keeps you reading:

Interesting historical events weaved into the story. The Terror of the French Revolution and Napoleon as well as Catherine the Great of Russia are woven into the plot. I like bits of historical fiction and they are very well written so there is no jarring sense of jumping across centuries.

Information about chess and moves in the game. In the book, the game is played across centuries and the chapters relate to various moves. I can play chess but know practically nothing about it so it was interesting to learn more about it.

The mystery – what is the secret of the board? Can the characters collect all the pieces and unravel the chess game in order to reach the prize?

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