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The Secrets of the Chess Machine

by Robert Lohr

A revolutionary automaton called The Turk, took the Hapsburg court by storm in the late 1700s. Could it play chess, or was it an elaborate hoax? Lust, murder and intrigue follow its progress around European cities, resulting in tragedy for its creators. Based on a true story, the historical setting provides colour and detail but with a light touch. Very unusual. Very readable.

Extract

Tibor approached the automaton with care, as if approaching a corpse, and just as one might draw back a winding-sheet, Tibor lifted the linen.
The sight made him shudder. The chess player sitting on a stool behind the cabinet with his legs crossed - or perhaps her legs, for the sex of this artificial human being could not yet be determined - was no more than a mutilated skeleton. Its breast and back were open, revealing not ribs and muscles but battens and cables; its left arm ended just above the wrist, as if someone had chopped its hand off, and three cables stuck out of the stump. Most horrible of all, however, was the chess player's face, or rather its head, because there was no face at all.
Translated by Anthea Bell

Parallels

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardener
The Musician's Daughter by Susanne Dunlap
 

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