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Book Review

Book: The Flanders Panel
Author: Arturo Perez-Reverte
Published: June, 2004
Publisher: Harvest Books

available at

Synopsis: Julia, an art restorer, has discovered a hidden inscription beneath the paint on The Game of Chess, a 500-year-old painting otherwise known as The Flanders Panel. The discovery greatly increases the value of the painting and the prospect of deciphering the meaning of the inscription becomes not only a financial boon but an emotional challenge too as Julia becomes attached to the painting upon which she is working. Soon enough, news of the discovery leaks out and a number of people begin jockeying for a share in the profits. A baffling murder and a reason to believe that the murderer has an interest in the painting draws Julia into a series of chess puzzles with the killer whose identity is unknown and whose motive is even more of a mystery.

Editor’s Review: Arturo Perez-Reverte really knows how to turn a phrase in The Flanders Panel. I love his writing -- his descriptions are so original, his insights so profound and his characters so well-defined. My only wish is that the book weren’t a murder mystery, a fact that somehow makes it less serious. Once who-dun-it was revealed, the book seemed to lose momentum and several of the relationships that had unfolded were left dangling with no chance for “closure.” This book is sort of a hybrid in a sense that it is almost too artistically written to settle for being a mystery, most of which tend to be a bit more shallow by definition. As for the chess puzzles, I’m not an avid player but Perez-Reverte guided me easily through the analysis of the game in the painting with diagrams and clearly stated conclusions which I found to be mentally invigorating. I learned an awful lot about chess and fair amount about art restoration and a bit of history, too. Overall, I applaud the skill with which Perez-Reverte writes and despite the shortcomings that The Flanders Panel exhibited due to its genre, I found it to be an enjoyable and stimulating read.

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Diana Blake is a professional artist and art history enthusiast. Her fascination with art history began when she encountered European art firsthand during several trips abroad as a young adult. As she began to compose a portfolio for her own art career, she called upon what she had seen in Europe and extended her knowledge to other styles of art through profuse reading and exhaustive research. As a result, Diana has written more than one hundred articles in which she delves into a variety of art history topics and she has compiled a list of links that she believes to be invaluable for art history enthusiasts. In addition, she also reviews books and movies on the topic of art history and has assembled an extensive list of online stores that sell books, movies and gift items related to art history.
   You can see Diana's own artwork by visiting her site at