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  • Writer's pictureBernard Jan

Death by Default

My dad excels in chess. When I was a teenager, and even younger, I used to play with him. Sometimes more than I wanted. There were days when I really enjoyed the game, especially when we played on time control. Some days I was bored. Because the game was too slow and required too much thinking. Thinking is good, but when I play a game, I want to have fun. Not to test and challenge my gray brain cells.

I am grateful to my dad for teaching me the game. I was never as good as he was but he put so much effort in me. I wasn't too bad either but I could take more effort in learning from him. This is what our parents want from us. To take their knowledge, to give us their life experience. To help us.

Sometimes they can be clumsy and irritating, despite their best intentions. Like Conner Smyth who uses ten-year-old Jamie to teach him chess and play online games with a serial killer, in spite of the genuine likeness and fondness for the boy. Conner isn't Jamie's father, but the affection between the detective and a young chess champ is genuine and mutual. Conner's intentions are good—to put an end to collecting bodies with chess pieces planted somewhere in their cavities—but his judgment is bad and can easily endanger the boy's life.

Detective Conner Smyth is one of the oddest characters in mystery thriller novels I ever read, but that makes him so human and real, with so much passion for justice that burns beyond his physical, emotional and rational limits and logic. He is the guy who will rise out of his weakness and put himself in the hands of death to save the innocent, especially his friends, colleagues and family members. Yes, he is imperfect, insecure in front of the beautiful woman he loves and sometimes very submissive and humble in front of strong female characters in the novel Death by Default by Trish Reeb. But he is our unsung hero, natural and human, he is one of us.

Trish Reeb delivered us a great book. I was a bit skeptical before I start reading it, since Death by Default is a chess-themed mystery thriller, and chess and thrillers are a combination of two polarities that defined my childhood and maturity. Trish incorporated a relatively boring game (no offense to anyone) into an exciting and page-turning thriller, thus surprising me. And when she checkmated me, a smile kept lingering in the corner of my lips while my chest thumped with inner beats of satisfaction for well-invested and spent time.


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