Ramzi's Reviews > Knight's Gambit

Knight's Gambit by William Faulkner
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Dec 30, 2010

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Read from August 16 to 24, 2011 — I own a copy

Book # 14 in the shelf experiment


Knight's Gambit is a collection of six mystery stories by William Faulkner. Each story features the protagonist Gavin Stevens, a highly intelligent local Mississippi prosecutor.

A judge is murdered and it's up to Gavin to decide what connection lies between his death and the impending inheritance of two local brothers.
Faulker's writing is as good as it gets for a 20th century American writer but I can't help feel confused by the way Gavin Stevens unravels the mystery. It's a good introduction to the character, time period and setting, however, so I look forward to reading more. (8/16)

Monk tells the story of a mentally stunted man jailed and ultimately executed for a murder he didn't commit. Told from Stevens' nephew's POV, the doomed character of Monk is one that not only elicits sympathy but in a strange way, endearment. Faulkner's characters continue to be interesting and well developed. (8/16)

Hand Upon the Waters tells the story of Lonnie Grinnup, a mentally challenged man found suspiciously drowned on his fishing line. Sensing foul play, Stevens investigates the case which leads him to two brothers who have more at stake in Lonnie's death than in his survival. This was definitely my favorite story so far. Faulkner once again creates interesting and vivid characters and paints rural life in an eloquently picturesque way. Stevens, as a character, shows real strength and integrity outside of the courtroom which adds another much needed dimension to a "detective" who has quickly become the least interesting character in his own stories. (8/19)

The stories just keep getting better. This one is told, once again, from Gavin's nephew's point of view and is a retelling of an incident early in Gavin's career. Essentially, Gavin travels to find a lone hung juror in an open and shut case to determine why he torpedoed what seemed to be an obvious conviction. The reader ultimately learns the connection between the juror and the perpetrator thereby further illustrating the complexity of human emotion, southern character and that most noble of human emotions, love. Great story. (8/19)

This story is also told from Gavin's nephew's point of view and follows a murderer's seemingly illogical confession. What the reader comes to learn is that while the murderer is telling the truth, he's disguised truth in a way that only he can reveal. A less interesting story than the previous two but still somewhat interesting, mostly for the interplay between Gavin and the Sheriff. (8/21)

The titular story (more like a novella) is told in 3rd person omnicient and follows Charles Mallison (the nephew) and Gavin Stevens as they attempt to prevent the murder of a gold digging Argentine soldier. This story presents Gavin at an older age (50s) and of a very different disposition. To say he's ornery, would be an understatement. The soft idealism seems to be a thing of the past, replaced with a caustic pragmatism. With that said, the novella delves quite deeply into Gavin's character and the reader learns far more about him than we ever have before. This makes for very interesting reading, covering generations of life in rural Mississippi all the while framed by a chess game that the nephew and uncle start at the beginning of the story (hence the title). I'd give this story 4 stars alone and definitely recommend the read for any fan of Faulkner. (8/24)
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