Tuesday, 20 March 2007

The Flanders Panel - Arturo Perez-Reverte

I read this a few years ago, lent it to a friend then forgot all about it. When it was conscientiously returned to me, I couldn't not re-read it. When I started, I couldn't remember whodunit, but as I turned the pages, it all came flooding back to me. This wasn't really a problem; I don't mind knowing what happens because I read books or watch films more to see how it happens (I don't much like surprises...).

The layers of the story draw you in, but I found the 15th century mystery more compelling than the modern detective work. It was also slightly disappointing that the modern crime was not connected to the past events, except as an instigator. The flashbacks to Roger de Arras and Beatrice of Burgundy are beautifully constructed ethereal passages, portraying the distant beginnings of this mystery and the cast who played the key roles. It does seem a shame that the modern group appear more constructed and somewhat stereotypical (the louche homosexual antique dealer, the thrill-seeking aging gallery owner, the introverted chess master and the strong yet vulnerable woman they gather around). The denouement therefore, is less shocking than it should be, and the betrayal involved more of a disappointment than anything else. That said, the story is engaging enough for me to wish I could read the original, but unfortunately my Spanish isn't up to that.

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