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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (242 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Ronan Bennett Narrator: Stephen Lang Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2007 ISBN: 9780739342107
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Zugzwang: A chess term used to describe a position in which a player is reduced to utter helplessness–he is obliged to move, but every move serves to make his position even worse.

The year is 1914, and St. Petersburg is spellbound by the international chess championship, even as the city seethes with revolutionary plots. One blustery April day, a respected 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 by 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. Thrilling, romantic, and rife with intrigue both on the chessboard and off, Zugzwang is a masterpiece of literary suspense. Download and start listening now!

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Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bachyboy | 2/16/2014

    " I really like this author but I found the chess references and the myriad Russian names a bit tough going at times. I enjoyed the 1914 St Petersburg setting with its political tensions and references to the Tsar. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tommy Collison | 2/14/2014

    " Good book, enjoyed the Chess notation. The ending was poor, though, as if the author couldn't keep up with what he'd created. Is there such a thing as a thriller novel with too many twists? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessica | 1/23/2014

    " I love broody, dark period pieces like this where allegiances are in constant flux and it's never quite clear who's a good guy and who's trying to kill you. Bennett gets that ambiguity perfectly right and offers up an intense story of Russia on the eve of revolution. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 JamesMarinero Marinero | 1/15/2014

    " Oh, the joys of serendipity - I turned this up in the laundry cum library at a marina in Sicily. I was never a chess person, but the plot is superbly woven, and the fact that I have been to St Petersburg illuminated more for me. I learned about the prelude to the Russian revolution, and hadn't appreciated that St P had been such a wealthy city. Anyway, a great book - and it is superbly well researched, dissecting Russian social strata very well. 4++ - nearly a 5. Oh for more books like this - entertaining and informative. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jacky | 1/9/2014

    " I read the advanced reading copy I got from my days at Barnes & Noble. It got a bit too crazy at the end, but I like Russian history and it was an interesting take on the end of the tsarist years "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Day-v | 12/29/2013

    " What a good book--a psychiatrist in USSR---historically interesting and first rate writing. Highly recommend "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kaycie | 11/21/2013

    " This was advertised as similar to Arthur Conan Doyle, but was not. I was expecting more so I was disappointed in that, but it wasnt bad. Good, easy read. Pop mystery novel. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eliszard | 11/8/2013

    " Finally a mystery where a good plot doesn't have to take away from decent writing, as it always seem to happen with contemporary mystery writers. Very good read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bayneeta | 8/18/2013

    " I remember nothing about this book. I'm guessing it came from the same list with Blue Heaven and Bangkok 8 . "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sharron | 8/8/2013

    " it was a pastiche and it barely worked. not really worth the time despite the promising reviews . "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joanne | 5/2/2013

    " Great way to spend a day or two. This is first class literary intrigue taking place in pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg. You'll also sharpen your chess skills. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janalee | 10/19/2012

    " Very smart thriller set in early revolutionary Russia. A fun read! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lauren | 7/13/2012

    " Fun. I don't play chess so that was lost on me but I am a sucker for anything set in pre-Revolutionary Russia, St Petersburg in particular. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jeanoc | 4/12/2012

    " Would have enjoyed it more if I knew how to play chess and solve chess problems "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cheryl/Aradanryl | 12/27/2011

    " Overall, I enjoyed the book, especially the Russian setting and the weaving in of the chess theme. Besides I like the sound of the word 'Zugzwang'. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rationalize | 6/4/2011

    " Begins better than it ends. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bachyboy | 3/12/2011

    " I really like this author but I found the chess references and the myriad Russian names a bit tough going at times. I enjoyed the 1914 St Petersburg setting with its political tensions and references to the Tsar. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tommy | 11/25/2010

    " Good book, enjoyed the Chess notation. The ending was poor, though, as if the author couldn't keep up with what he'd created. Is there such a thing as a thriller novel with too many twists? "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Susan | 8/27/2009

    " I only read about 40 pages of this. Basically. I just didn't care about the plot or characters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eliszard | 5/6/2009

    " Finally a mystery where a good plot doesn't have to take away from decent writing, as it always seem to happen with contemporary mystery writers. Very good read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bayneeta | 3/27/2009

    " I remember nothing about this book. I'm guessing it came from the same list with Blue Heaven and Bangkok 8. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Peter | 1/18/2009

    " A marveloous 'literary' thriller set on the eve of World War I combining Russian consipracy, the emergence of psychiatry and the intricacies of chess. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jeanoc | 11/19/2008

    " Would have enjoyed it more if I knew how to play chess and solve chess problems "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Day-v | 9/3/2008

    " What a good book--a psychiatrist in USSR---historically interesting and first rate writing. Highly recommend "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janalee | 6/5/2008

    " Very smart thriller set in early revolutionary Russia. A fun read! "

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About the Author
Author Ronan BennettRonan Bennett grew up in Belfast. He is the author of four other 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 Prize). He has also written screenplays for film and television. He lives in London with his family.
About the Narrator

Stephen Lang is a Tony Award–nominated actor who has made a name for himself on stages both at home and abroad. Perhaps most well-known for his role in James Cameron’s Avatar, his other film credits include The Men Who Stare at Goats, Public Enemies, Tombstone, and many more.