Gina's Reviews > The Flanders Panel

The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
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's review
Apr 26, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 2010, 4-star
Read from April 21 to 25, 2010

** spoiler alert ** I admit that I picked this up mostly because I really liked the cover. This practice leaves me disappointed sometimes, but other times, like in this case, I find something I really like, although I waffled a bit on the rating for this. The first 60 pages felt like a 2-star rating, but then it really picked up and I thought probably 4 stars. At one point I even thought this might be a 5 star book, but there were a few issues preventing that. So 4 stars it is, because I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The main problem that I had with the book is that I was able to guess so early on who the killer was. When you only have a handful of characters you can rule out the notably creepy ones, and there aren't many left. Early on it was obvious that Cesar was the least likely of the remaining suspects--hence, our murderer. His motive was not as apparent and even at the end when he explains himself (I love me a good drawing-room final exposition scene) it seemed a wee bit lame and forced.

While I enjoyed Munoz's analysis of the invisible player (why wouldn't he take the white queen, why was the aerosol can left on Julia's car for her to find, etc.), I wasn't really buying his reasons for concluding that Cesar was the killer. Apparently his views are not uncommon (I found an excerpt from "The Psychology of the Chess Player" by Reuben Fine online and I suspect that's where Perez-Reverte found many of these ideas). However, it seems to me that if you go looking for evidence of homosexuality, Oedipal issues, and misogyny you're going to find them no matter where you look. But I think Perez-Reverte may agree with me on this to some extent, since after Munoz laid out his theories, Cesar admitted to using a computer to come up with his moves. Take that, Freud.

Finally--and this is a minor gripe, but something I found distracting--what is with all the smoking while you're restoring a painting that is hundreds of years old? Julia smokes while she works on it, smokes while she stands and looks at it, smokes all day in her apartment where she keeps the painting. This, to me, seems like a dumb idea. Plus, I just got tired of her lighting up every other paragraph.

My favorite parts of the book were those dealing with the game of chess itself. I don't think I've played chess since I was 12 or so and never seriously, so I have just a very basic understanding of the rules, but that's all you really need for this book. In fact, it may be better if you're not a serious chess player since some other reviewers have noted that the unconventional chess is bothersome. I'd always kind of considered chess to be one of those games like Scrabble where you spend most of the game sitting and waiting for your turn, but this book made me want to take it up.


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