Zugzwang (Hardcover)

By Ronan Bennett

Bloomsbury USA, 9781596912533, 288pp.

Publication Date: October 30, 2007



"Zugzwang" A chess term used to describe a position in which a player is reduced to utter helplessless: he is obliged to move, but every move serves to make his position even worse.

The breakout book from a celebrated literary writer: a thriller set in St. Petersburg in 1914 amid an international chess tournament and a series of mysterious murders.

Ronan Bennett's new masterpiece of literary suspense unfolds in a city on the verge of revolution. On a blustery April day, a respected St. Petersburg newspaper editor is murdered in front of a shocked crowd. Five days later, Dr. Otto Spethmann, the celebrated psychoanalyst, receives a visit from the police. There has been another murder in the city and somehow he is implicated. The doctor is mystified and deeply worried, as much for his young, spirited daughter as for himself.

Meanwhile, he finds himself preoccupied by two new patients: Anna Petrovna, a society beauty plagued with nightmares with whom he is inappropriately falling in love, and the troubled genius Rozental, a brilliant but fragile chess master on the verge of a complete breakdown. As Dr. Spethmann is drawn deeper into the murderous intrigue, he finds that he, his patients, and his daughter may all be pawns in a game larger in scope than anything he could have imagined.
Punctuated with board-by-board illustrations of a chess match that plays out through the book, "Zugzwang "is a masterfully written novel packed with cliffhangers, romance, unforgettable characters, and a plot that keeps readers guessing to the very end.

About the Author

Ronan Bennett grew up in Belfast. He is the author of four novels: The Second Prison, Overthrown by Strangers, The Catastrophist (shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award), and Havoc, in Its Third Year (longlisted for the Booker Award). He has also written screenplays for film and television. He lives in London with his family.

Praise For Zugzwang

"Ronan Bennet's ZUGZWANG is a breathtaking, cliffhanging, breakneck race through the worlds of Russian chess, Bolshevik terrorism, and  international espionage.  Surely the most thrilling chess thriller ever written."-- Katherine Neville, author of The Eight Praise for The Catastrophist:
“Marvelous…irresistible: as melodrama, as psychological portrait, and as story of moral conflict.”—New York Times
“A splendidly stylish thriller…chronicled with the dark energy of Joseph Conrad and the cool irony of Graham Greene.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Ravishing…call this a political story or a romantic history; either term suffices, but neither does it justice. This is a big novel, fueled by passion and ideas.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer