Category Archives: UK

Review of The Blood Card (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery #3) by Elly Griffiths

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Another solid very readable atmospheric crime thriller from Elly Griffiths

This is the third outing of the “Magic Men” and I’m really enjoying the characters.

It is May 1953 and England is on the cusp of crowning a new Queen. The murder of a gypsy fortune and the stabbing of their old boss from the Magic Men days are linked as DI Edgar Stephens investigates.

Loads of strong characters here and excellent period details that provide and enjoyable and compelling British whodunit.

Elly Griffiths continues to capture the seedy, down at heel feel of the English South Coast expertly creating another highly readable atmospheric crime thriller, with a great sense of time and place. I can’t wait for the fourth instalment of the “Magic Men”.

My thanks go to NetGalley and the Publisher for the chance to read an advance copy of this book.

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Review of “Blood and Sand: Suez, Hungary, and Eisenhower’s Campaign for Peace” by Alex von Tunzelmann

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Excellent and very readable account of the Suez Crisis of 1956

Alex von Tunzelmann has put together an excellent account of the political manoeuvring that resulted in the 1956 Suez Crisis and how that crisis prevented a more effective response to the Soviet invasion of Hungary that occurred at the same time.

It’s an incredible story of British, French and Israeli duplicity and conspiracy with US President Eisenhower valiantly trying to prevent a potential World War whilst trying to fight an election.

The writing is excellent and whilst the content itself could be quite dry the author recounts the story in style that keeps your attention via an hour by hour account featuring a colourful group of international politicians.

With the 60th anniversary approaching I’d highly recommend this for anyone wanting to understand the modern Middle East and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

I received this book free from Netgalley and was not required to write a positive review.

Review of “Britain’s War: Into Battle, 1937-1941 (Britain’s War #1)” by Daniel Todman

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A hefty tome, but fast moving and very well written.

The book is expansive with 1937 to 1941 strategic, political, economic, military, cultural and social commentary covered in equal measure.

Todman covers details of the period generally ignored by many volumes. Whilst this might appear to be a dry subject he manages to inject a very readable style with many eyewitness accounts. The book continues to the end of 1941 with a second volume to follow covering the remainder of the war.

A thoroughly fascinating read – Highly recommended.

I received this book free from Netgalley and was not required to write a positive review.

Review of “Churchill’s Last Wartime Secret: The 1943 German Raid Airbrushed from History” by Adrian Searle

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No hard evidence, but an interesting and well researched tale nonetheless.

Adrian Searle lives on the Isle of Wight and has written several history books. This book details the evidence he has compiled to validate the tale of a German raid on the Isle of Wight in 1943 to steal radar equipment.

The book gets into the evidence of the raid in the last two thirds with the first third detailing and debunking tales of other alleged German raids including the infamous Shingle Street story.

There’s also a chapter covering details of the British raid on Bruneval which again was to steal radar equipment and which bears some similarities to the alleged German raid.

Searle then goes onto to showcase his three key characters all of whom are unfortunately now deceased. The first two appear to be reputable characters, one a former war crimes investigator and local Isle of Wight historian and the second a German city senior archivist and apparent veteran of the raid. The third is a second hand source offered by a local military historian.

These combined with some archival evidence, such as an ARP report of “dingies full of Germans in the sea” put forward some scant flesh on the bones of what would result in a major re-write of British World War 2 history.

True or not, there’s shades of the early pages of Jack Higgins “The Eagle Has Landed” when Searle searches local cemeteries for evidence of British and possibly hidden German casualties.

I’ll leave you to decide, but you can’t deny Searle his diligence in his research and coming up with a rattling good tale that I for one would be delighted to be true.

I received this book free from Pen & Sword and was not required to write a positive review.

Review of ” The Midnight Watch: A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian” by David Dyer

Vivid retelling of Titanic tragedy

David Dyer ‘s story is based on real events, but is an imagining of the events that occurred on nearby ship, the Californian which failed to go to the Titanic’s aid.

I resisted googling the Californian and the reading experience was all the richer for that. Dyer’s characters are real names based on the records of the official enquiries but are more detailed than a mere official document with all their flaws and fears laid bare.

The main character is fictional journalist John Steadman who is attempting to find out the truth about the Californian. By using Steadman Dyer creates a compelling narrative that brings depth and contrast to the story and characters.

A good historical fiction debut that brings a different viewpoint to a well-trodden path

Review of ” A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment” by John Preston

Serious, but entertaining insight into one UK establishment coverup of the 60s & 70s

I remember this scandal having huge impact in the late 70s when I was a teenager. I had expected this book to be quite a dull resume of the trial and associated events, but from the start you are thrust (literally!) into the warts and all detail of the case.

I found the book an entertaining read and some aspects are almost farce like. There are sections do go into some detail that some may find unnecessary, but the book does give some great portraits of the characters involved, none of whom end up unblemished.

However on serious side it does show the lengths the “establishment” went in this period to protect one of their own even in the face of mounting evidence of financial fraud and attempted murder, making it quite pertinent in the light of recent Savile and Cyril Smith revelations.

Overall it reads like a fictional political thriller and I would recommend for anyone who enjoys books about power, politics and English history.

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 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.