Review of “Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness” by Craig Nelson

infamy

Fast flowing new account of the attack on Pearl Harbor

Craig Nelson provides an expansive book that tells the often told story of the Pearl Harbor attack. It’s been a while since I’ve read Prange’s standard on this subject “At Dawn We Slept” so I have little to compare, however I found this a comprehensive account with some interesting later chapters covering how some of the characters fared in later life and the modern day Japanese and American perspective.

Divided into three parts it’s a substantial read at 500 plus pages but does flow at quite a pace. Part one covers Japanese-U.S. relations, the growing tension in the Pacific, and Japanese war planning. Part two covers the attack itself including midget submarines. Part three covers the aftermath of the attacks, rescue efforts, salvage efforts, as well as a whistle stop tour of the Pacific campaign to the dropping of the atomic bomb.

I’d recommend this for anyone looking for a present day view of the attack it’s ramifications both at the time and also to the present day.

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

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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 ” Paris Spring” by James Naughtie

Thoughtful and fulfilling espionage novel

Set in 1968 Paris with the city on the brink of insurgency MI5 agent Will Flemyng is drawn into personal doubts over his brothers loyalty to his country following an encounter on the Metro.

James Naughtie’s novel is full of imagery of the time from smoke filled bars, burning barricades to dead letter drops in remote cemeteries. The characters are richly drawn and if you’ve seen the recent version of Tinker, Taylor, Soldier Spy you will recognise a certain personality that becomes a spook.

It’s a rich story of tested personal and national loyalties that is both thoughtful and exciting and I’d highly recommend to any fans of classic espionage novels.

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 ” Girl in the Blue Coat” by Monica Hesse

Powerful and poignant YA historical fiction.

Set in German occupied Holland the story is told through the eyes of Hanneke is a young teenage girl works on the black market. In the course of her work around Amsterdam she is asked to find a missing Jewish teenager.

Impeccably researched and at times very moving Girl in the Blue Coat is a very readable story about the frailty of human nature through love, hate, jealousy, and friendship.

Monica Hesse knew little of the period or the location, but through diligent research has recreated World War 2 Holland down to food and the language and interactions of the period.

Highly recommended for anyone who enjoyed The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.

Review of ” Operation Whisper: The Capture of Soviet Spies Morris and Lona Cohen” by Barnes Carr

A fascinating and well written true story of Cold War espionage.

Morris and Lona Cohen, an ordinary-seeming couple living in New York City in the 1950s, however they are a key part of a Soviet plan to steal the secrets of the atomic bomb. Betrayed by a defector they disappear from view only to re-appear as Peter and Helen Kroger antiquarian booksellers in London.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Cohens and have long awaited a book that details their story, especially their activities in England in what became known as the Portland Spy Case. Operation Whisper is the first to study in detail their “two lives” as Morris and Lona Cohen in America and Peter and Helen Kroger in England.

Barnes Carr doesn’t disappoint telling an exciting story of espionage sweeping from the East Coast of the US to the leafy confines of London’s suburbia. With details of the actual spycraft used (and misused) this is a must read for any cold war espionage fans.

Literary fans will be fascinated by the connection between the Cohens/Krogers and Frank Doel of 84 Charing Cross Road & The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff fame.

Whilst the writer is obviously not familiar with some of the UK place names he writes in a style that is easy to read and pacey making the book read more like a novel than fact.

Recommended.

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

Review of ” The Cleaner” by Elisabeth Herrmann

I’m always wary of any title with “unputdownable thriller” in it , however this lives up to the billing.

Judith Kepler is an industrial cleaner. Got some serious stains?, she’s your woman. However one job results in her questioning her past and regenerating some uncomfortable memories.

This is a great thriller, with a strong female lead. The story keeps you guessing with the threads of Stasi, W German intelligence and cold war politics intertwining to provide with a very entertaining and stimulating read.

Highly recommended