Category Archives: Contemporary

Review of A Divided Spy (Thomas Kell #3) by Charles Cumming

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Intelligent and well paced thriller

Kell is a former MI6 officer retired from the service and damaged by personal tragedy. In this book he’s tracking down a Russian agent he believes to be behind the murder of his girlfriend.

Now this might sound like the start of whizz bang all action thriller, but Charles Cumming’s style is much more thoughtful with rich depth to his characters and a slow burn. The story has loads of tradecraft detail for the espionage fan and Kell is a likeable and believable character.

I won’t giveaway the plot, but suffice to say there’s some twists and turns that keep your interest just when you think you ‘ve got the plotline sussed.

All in all an entertaining read that makes you want to read more of the Cummings canon.

I was given a copy of this book to review by the publisher, but wasn’t obliged to provide a positive review.

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Review of District VIII: A Thriller by Adam LeBor

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Adam LeBor has created a fascinating character in Gypsy murder detective Balthazar Kovac. Even though he’s a policeman, he’s on the outside, not trusted by his colleagues and shunned by his own family.

When Kovac gets a text message with a photo he’s drawn into a web of government, international organized crime gangs and the ghosts of the Soviet and Nazi era that still haunt Budapest.

LeBor describes the gritty back alleys of District VIII with a knowledge seemingly of having walked these streets on the ground, and his knowledge of the Romany community with its customs and practices adds an extra layer of authenticity and gives the book a rich atmospheric feel.

His characterisations are strong too with menacing criminals, corrupt politicians and truth seeking journalists all described in compelling detail.

I greatly enjoyed this book and found it to be quite a page turner. I will be looking out for further works by this author.

I was given a copy of this book to review by the publisher, but wasn’t obliged to provide a positive review.

Review of ” The Woman in Blue (Ruth Galloway, #8)” by Elly Griffiths

Another great labyrinthine Norfolk murder mystery.

Book 8 in the Ruth Galloway series and this centres around Walsingham, site of a popular religious pilgrimage & shrine. A young woman is found dead in a ditch and as always archaeology and history play a significant part in the story.

Having read previous books in the series this is like a comfortable pair of shoes as I’m already familiar with the great cast of characters and their complicated personal lives. New readers will find it easy to pick up, but best to start from the 1st book in the series.

The character of Ruth works really well. She’s strong, but with the human frailties we all have and prefer to keep hidden and the book captures the beautiful Norfolk coast well with a blend of fictional and real locations sprinkled through the story.

There are plenty of twists to keep you guessing and I for one didn’t guess the culprit at all!

I’d recommend the whole series for fans of Midsomer Murders, Morse, Endeavour, etc.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of ” The Dictator’s Last Night” by Yasmina Khadra, Julian Evans (Translation)

Tense and gripping imagining of Muammar Gaddafi’s last hours.

No one can know what went through the head of Gaddafi in his last hours but Yasmina Khadra ably aided by Julian Evans translation creates a plausible and scary insight into what the Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution of Libya might have been thinking.

The book begins with Gaddafi hiding in Sirte waiting for the arrival of his son, who is going to help him break out and find refuge in another part of the country. During the wait Gaddafi ponders his life, his current circumstances and the events that have brought him to this.

The book itself is short, but this keeps the tension high even though you know what will happen. Some scenes are not for the faint hearted, but it’s a very powerful story told very well.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of ” The Beaten Zone” by Tom Mykytiuk

I took a gamble on this one and it paid off.

I was looking for a fiction book on Tito and the partisans and came across this.

There’s a lot of criticism of self published books but Tom Mykytiuk has produced a fast moving novel that effectively melds the German attempt to capture Tito in 1943 with the ethnic conflicts of 1990s Yugoslavia.

His military background brings a high level of authenticity to the action, and his characters are not one dimensional that many in this genre suffer from.

If I had criticise there are a number of typos in the book such as OSE instead of SOE but these did not affect my enjoyment.

I understand there is another book with same characters in the pipeline which based on this debut will be well worth a look.

Review of ” The Birthday Gift” by Anthony Scott

A gripping balanced combination of thriller and romance that’s a real page turner, but ultimately a little unfulfilling.

Noah lives in St Ives with his mother Tess, grandfather Joshua, and Flora, the girl he loves. His relationship with Flora underpins the story as she is about to marry Jake.

Now this is sounding like a classic romance novel, but it isn’t. As the action moves from Cornwall to London to France to Germany and then to Poland where there’s a final flashback to World War 2 as Joshua discovers the history of “The Birthday Gift”.

I really enjoyed the descriptions in this book. Cornwall and St Ives come across as idyllic places (which of course they are). The writing style is rich, which made the relationships between the characters more believable and compelling.

I loved this book right up until the end when it finished….very suddenly and with too many loose ends…a real shame which is why it gets 4 stars instead of 5.

Review of “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin” by Fiona Hill, Clifford G Gaddy

An absorbing read that seeks to understand Putin despite the dearth of information available out there on him.

Newly updated (to Nov 2014) Hill and Gaddy have put together a detailed book detailing how Putin’s ideology is formed directly from his life experiences. Whilst not unusual an interpretation in itself, Putin’s life was not a privileged upbringing of the likes of the many of the Western political elite. His was from the school of hard knocks on the mean streets of Soviet Leningrad and in Dresden during the terminal decline of East Germany as a mid-level KGB officer.
They argue that it is these experiences, the tragic history of Russia, his parents struggle to survive the Leningrad siege, and the implosion of East Germany that drive many of his policies today.

The authors’ take on the Ukraine crisis is an interesting one. Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 exposed a number of weaknesses in the Russian military resulting in downsizing and the evolution of a new approach of non-linear war which saw its first use in the 2014 Crimean crisis.

Hill and Gaddy also say that Putin’s view is that the West was already engaging in non-linear war by expanding EU and NATO membership to the borders of Russia as well as infiltration by western funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs) threatening in Putin’s view Russian’s very existence.

There’s much more in this book besides, creating an absorbing read that seeks to understand Putin despite the dearth of information available out there on him.