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by Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran
Forge, November 2005
432 pages
ISBN: 0765311631

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It is 1985 and the cold war is still dominating the press and international relationships. People are trying to defect to America to escape prosecution. The CIA helps those who are important enough and famous enough to have an impact on the Soviet peoples. Riesling is one of the CIA's top rescue agents. On this mission, though, he will not live up to his reputation. Before he dies, he sends word via a golden snake medallion that the Grandmaster might still be alive.

The Grandmaster is Justin Gilead. Gilead is a superb chess player and spy. It is believed that he had been killed four years before but this medallion implies otherwise. If Gilead is still alive, than the CIA wants to step in and help him. The Russians, especially Alexander Zharkov, feel otherwise. Zharkov and Gilead have been enemies since the second time they meet. While Zharkov was response for Gilead's death four years before, they now must have another showdown to balance the powers of good and evil.

THE GRANDMASTER is both a cold war thriller and a mythological legend. Julian Gilead is the reincarnated Patanjale. He is a saint and religious leader to his people due to his past. In addition, the name Gilead itself means the hill of testimony and implies a path of truth and wisdom. Alexander Zharkov is the Death Prince and plans to destroy Gilead and the religious beliefs he represents. These events, which are more pertinent to legend and religious myths, make THE GRANDMASTER somewhat implausible in both characters' actions and their thoughts

In many ways, THE GRANDMASTER is a story of good and evil rather than a thriller or mystery. Every action and character has two distinct and concrete images. Russia and Zharkov represent evil and darkness while America and Gilead represent goodness and light. These comparisons are simplistic but are true in the context of this book.

I always prefer books about good and evil where the choices are not simple and the division between the two 'camps' are not so clear. The lack of subtlety and complex themes makes THE GRANDMASTER a disappointment.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, June 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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