Review of Seasons of the Moon by Julien Aranda, Roland Glasser

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Beautifully written

Although listed as historical fiction this is more a reflection on life, circumstance and being true to yourself.

The story centres on farmers boy Paul, who aged 15 is saved by a Nazi soldier from being killed. Paul now finds this same soldier captured, and with his last gasps asks Paul to please find his daughter and to let her know that her father loved her.

So far so good, but this isn’t your regular WW2 tale as it evolves into a memoir of Paul’s life which takes the reader on a beautiful journey.

The book has quite a slow start and as other reviewers have commented it takes a while to lure you in, but once in, the story ebbs and flows in a lyrical fashion despite being a translation from French to English.

If you are expecting a formulaic World War 2 novel you will be pleasantly surprised by this moving and powerful debut novel.

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 A Darker State (Karin Müller #3) by David Young

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Excellent and compelling crime novel with the added bonus of being set in the former East Germany.

This is episode 3 of this fascinating police procedural, however each book works as a standalone.

What sets it apart from others is the unusual location, combined with the ideology, bureaucracy and secrecy that Oberleutnant Karin Müller and her team have to deal with

In this story Müller has been promoted to run a serious crimes unit and quickly has a difficult case on the border with Poland.

This story lives up to its title, showing a darker side of the GDR that challenges Karin’s belief in the GDR and her personal loyalties as well as the looming influence of the Stasi blocking enquiries and influencing the investigation. There’s various different timelines at play here, so you need to keep your wits about you, but I found this a real page turner.

David Young knows East Germany well. There’s some great details that would appear insignificant to many not familiar with the period or the politics. As a result the book portrays a fascinating landscape where David Young’s research captures well the feel (and the smell!) of 1970’s East Germany. It’s well worth reading his notes at the end about how the book developed and his research.

However, it’s worth not losing sight that it’s also a great crime novel with a richly detailed and complex female lead. According to David he’s contracted for another two books and I’m very much looking forward to the further adventures of Karin Müller.

If you like police procedurals, strong female characters, along with an Orwellian landscape then I recommend this.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but was not required to write a positive review.

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 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.

Review of The Wall Between by Jesper Bugge Kold

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A gripping and moving story of the former East Germany.

Andreas lives in Copenhagen and receives a letter informing him that his father who he has never met has been stabbed to death in Berlin, and that he has inherited his flat. Keen to understand more about the father that his mother wouldn’t speak of he travels to Berlin to discover more.

Jesper Bugge Kold combines multiple timelines and characters to produce a brilliant story of the GDR, the Stasi and relationships. This book reminded somewhat of the film “Life of Others” and anyone who liked the film or is interested to the former East Germany should read this.

It’s tautly written but with some almost cinematic descriptions of Berlin. I found it an absolute page turner and read it within a day which is unusual for me.

Highly recommended.

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

Review of The War in the West:: A New History: Volume 2: The Allies Fight Back 1941-43 (New History Vol 2) by James Holland

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James Holland again has avoided repetition of previous accounts of this period and delivered a fascinating and thought provoking book that covers not just the political, but also the economic and social aspects.

I did find this volume flowed a little less smoothly than the previous, but despite that there’s much to get your teeth into. Holland argues convincingly that Nazi Germany was a busted flush by 1941 without the resources or a clear plan of how to continue the war over such a vast geographical area with a German army built for short campaigns close to the Fatherland.

Again he has unearthed some never before seen personal accounts that really add to our knowledge. For example some rarely heard voices of the Italian Army in North Africa.

This is a thought provoking book that challenges many preconceptions about the war and comes to some controversial conclusions.

Recommended.

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 “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.