The Eight, by Katherine Neville

Mireille is a novice at Montglane Abbey in France. It’s 1790, and the French Revolution is well under way, so the Mother Superior is closing the abbey before the army arrives. But it’s more than just the nuns she is trying to save: the abbey has long been the hiding place of the Montglane Service, a chess set once belonging to Charlemagne himself. Massive, exquisitely wrought pieces encrusted with gems, the board a meter square and made entirely of silver and gold, the service inspired greed and rage in nearly all who saw it. So it was hidden away for a thousand years, safe from the evils of the world. But with the Revolution seizing the contents of all convents and monasteries, it’s only a matter of time before the Montglane Service comes to light again. Unless she can smuggle it out, piece by piece, dispersed with her nuns across the length and breadth of France. And Mireille is a perfect candidate to help protect the pieces…

It’s New Years Eve, 1972, and Catherine Velis is late for a party. When she finally arrives, a bizarre fortune-teller rambles something at her about her hand being foretold, not trusting anyone, and an endless battle of white. A bit confused, she shrugs it off. After all, she’s only got a few months left in New York before her company ships her off to Algeria, and she wants to enjoy it. But an acquaintance is pestering her about finding a rare, extremely valuable chess piece while she’s there, and there’s something…off…about his request. And the weirdness keeps mounting: the strange man on the bicycle, the shooting at a chess tournament, the body on a slab at the United Nations. And the job in Algeria doesn’t seem quite right, either.

As Mireille struggles to protect the pieces, as Catherine comes closer to uncovering the secret of the Service, can they succeed against rising odds and mounting violence?

The Eight is best described as a quest novel, told in two concurrent timelines (Don’t worry, eventually they meet up). It’s a riveting thriller taking readers from New York to Algiers, France to Russia. Mireille and Catherine are engaging heroines, bound by fate to protect the Montglane Service. If you’re looking for a thrill, some history, some chess, or just something a little different, I seriously suggest giving The Eight a try.

Favorite Line:

“How did you know which [car] was the secret police?”

“I didn’t.” Lily gave me a smug smile as she took off down the street. “So to be safe, I drilled them all.”

Don’t read if: you get uncomfortable about chess, Rolls-Royces, historical figures in fiction, or the French.


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