This sequel to a 1988 bestseller, The Eight, picks up the story thirty years later. Alexandra Solarin, daughter of Cat Velis and Alexander Solarin, was a childhood chess prodigy. But tragedy brought her career to a premature end. Now, she’s a chef at one of Washington, D.C.’s finest restaurants. After receiving a puzzling message, Alex travels to Colorado for her mother’s birthday. She arrives to find her mother gone, and an unusual dinner party to host. So begins the next round of The Game, and where it will end is anyone’s guess.
Just as in the first book, the narrative alternates between the present (2003) and the past (primarily the years 1822-23). Renowned historic figures, including English poet Lord Byron, play a part in the story, which involves a mysterious chess set called the Montglane Service and, in particular, the Black Queen. The action takes place across North America, Europe, North Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Puzzles, riddles, history, science, romance and a few red herrings all combine to make this a compelling thriller.
Neville keeps several pins in the air at all times and makes this complex juggling act seem effortless. I can’t claim to understand every detail, but I’m not a chess player. Nevertheless, this is an intelligent, intriguing novel with a solid premise and precise pacing. New characters are introduced and some old ones return. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait to read it again.