SS Obersturmfuhrer Paul Meissner arrives in Auschwitz wounded and fit only for administrative duty. His most pressing task is to improve camp morale, so he establishes a chess club for enlisted men. Soon Meissner learns that chess is also played among the prisoners, and there are rumors of an unbeatable Jew known as ''the Watchmaker.'' Meissner finds Emil Clement, the Watchmaker, and a curious relationship arises between them. Twenty years later, the two meet again in Amsterdam. Emil wants nothing to do with the ex-Nazi officer, but Meissner is persistent. As both men search for a modicum of peace, they recall a gripping tale of survival and trust.
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John Donoghue has published numerous articles about the treatment of mental illness in a variety of medical journals. He lives in Liverpool and The Death's Head Chess Club is his first novel.Review:
“This story is superb.” ―New York Journal of Books
“Engrossing...This is a story much like chess, with an opening move, a middle game, and an endgame, as it explores the themes of survival, guilt, friendship, and healing.” ―The Jewish Book Council
“An ambitious debut novel that raises uneasy questions.” ―Financial Times
“Perceptive, and written with feeling and integrity... The Death's Head Chess Club has much to recommend it.”The Herald (Scotland)
“This many-layered and labyrinthine tale, laced with irony and empathy, moves briskly from shock to shock. It is a masterfully crafted novel, each chapter named for a chess move. You don't need to know chess to be appalled, stunned, astonished by and delighted to be in the hands of such an accomplished writer.” ―Sam Coale, The Providence Journal
“Filled with soul and emotion” ―Alexis Helms, The Roanoke Times
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