Tommy Linklater is an eighteen-year old magician. The magic he performs is often minor - re-directing croquet balls, making cards appear in closed purses - it is always genuine; he actually does the impossible. He will soon learn that his hobby for playing chess while his mother was alive is another gift she left him. His father, Herman Linklater, is a physicist who believes that all the universes mysteries will eventually be explained away. Tommy's mother and Herman's wife, Melanie, has died and left them a house they did not know she owned. It is in a small lake-side town called North Hatley. They decided to move there for a year so that Herman can finish his book on cosmology. Once they arrive, the Linklaters discover that Melanie was something of a local legend. She left North Hatley after throwing a game against the town's greatest chess rivals, the Russians. The town was forced to realize their mistakes. They pushed her too hard to win, undermining the soul of the game. Her ...