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Based on the true stories of the Polish resistance and the Auschwitz prisoner resistance movement, Gabriella Saab has created a heart-pounding, emotional story of a Polish resistance fighter who must return to Auschwitz to find justice for her family’s deaths.


A note from Gabriella Saab

In a little Polish town on an unseasonably cold summer morning, misting rain fell while I stood on muddy, rocky ground before a black metal sign. ARBEIT MACHT FREI, a phrase so infamous, harsh against the grey dawn, representing suffering, death, hatred, genocide. Despite the chilling, sombre atmosphere, I sensed the resilience and bravery of over a million people, mostly Jews, sent to a place of unspeakable cruelty known as Auschwitz. These people and all those who resisted the Nazi regime during the Second World War, particularly those in Poland whom I had spent months researching, were on my mind and in my heart as I faced that sign before walking through that gate. A tangle of indescribable emotion I will never forget; a scene so eerily similar to the opening scene I had already written for my historical novel, The Last Checkmate.


About the book

Maria Florkowska is many things: daughter, avid chess player, and, as a member of the Polish underground resistance in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, a young woman brave beyond her years. Captured by the Gestapo, she is imprisoned in Auschwitz, but while her family is sent to their deaths, she is spared. Realizing her ability to play chess, the sadistic camp deputy, Karl Fritzsch, decides to use her as a chess opponent to entertain the camp guards. However, once he tires of exploiting her skills, he has every intention of killing her.

Befriended by a Catholic priest, Maria attempts to overcome her grief, vows to avenge the murder of her family, and plays for her life. For four grueling years, her strategy is simple: Live. Fight. Survive. By cleverly provoking Fritzsch’s volatile nature in front of his superiors, Maria intends to orchestrate his downfall. Only then will she have a chance to evade the fate awaiting her and see him punished for his wickedness.

As she carries out her plan and the war nears its end, she challenges her former nemesis to one final game, certain to end in life or death, in failure or justice. If Maria can bear to face Fritzsch—and her past—one last time.

Read an extract of The Last Checkmate.


About the Author 

Gabriella Saab graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing, and now works various jobs, including teaching barre classes. In researching for this novel, she travelled to Warsaw and Auschwitz to dig deeper into the experiences and setting of those who lived there.


Praise for The Last Checkmate

‘I was rooting for our young, brave, and resourceful chess prodigy every step of the way’
—Elise Hooper, author of The Other Alcott

The Last Checkmate kept me turning pages long into the night. Fantastic!’
—Anika Scott, author of The German Heiress

‘Immersive, smart, and haunting – a do-not-miss WWII historical novel’
—Patti Callahan, author of Becoming Mrs.Lewis



To win one of 10 copies of The Last Checkmate, please email HarperCollins with the Subject: Win The Last Checkmate




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