The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth

 

Description: Veteran Forsyth (The Day of the Jackal) shows once again he’s a master of the political thriller by taking a simple but completely original idea and turning it into a compelling story. The unnamed Obama-like U.S. president, disgusted by the horrors wrought by illegal drug trafficking, decides to bring the entire weight and resources of the federal government against the international cocaine trade. He first declares drug traders and their cartels to be terrorists, subjecting them to new and extensive legal procedures, then he brings in ex-CIA director Paul Devereaux to head the team that will implement the effort. Devereaux, known as the Cobra from his operations days, is old school–smart, ruthless, unrelenting, and bestowed by the president with free rein to call in any arm of the government. Forsyth lays out how it would all work, and readers will follow eagerly along, always thinking, yes, why don’t they do this in real life? The answer to that question lies at the heart of this forceful, suspenseful, intelligent novel.

Didn’t capture my undivided attention; it was on in the background and that was where the bland content let it stay.

5* The Day of the Jackal
4* The Odessa File
3* The Fourth Protocol
3* The Dogs of War
4* The Devil’s Alternative
2* The Afghan
2* The Cobra
3* The Kill List
5* The Shepherd

The Captain and the Enemy by Graham Greene

 

Description: Victor Baxter is a young boy when a secretive stranger known simply as “the Captain” takes him from his boarding school to live in London. Victor becomes the surrogate son and companion of a woman named Liza, who renames him “Jim” and depends on him for any news about the world outside their door. Raised in these odd yet touching circumstances, Jim is never quite sure of Liza’s relationship to the Captain, who is often away on mysterious errands. It is not until Jim reaches manhood that he confronts the Captain and learns the shocking truth about the man, his allegiances, and the nature of love.

Read by Kenneth Branagh

I see there are many luke-warm reviews and ratings on this, yet I thought the writing exquisite, as always, and the story suspenseful. Not much longer than novella length, ‘The Captain and the Enemy’ is easily done and dusted in a day; be warned though, it does become rather absurd in the final part.

Who, or what, is King Kong.

3 strong wins at backgammon.

3* The Quiet American
4* The End of the Affair
3* Our Man in Havana
4* Brighton Rock
4* Travels With My Aunt
3* The Third Man
4* The Human Factor
4* A Burnt Out Case
4* Monsignor Quixote
3* The Captain and the Enemy
CR This Gun for Hire

The Thief Taker by C.S. Quinn

 

Description: The year is 1665. Black Death ravages London. A killer stalks the streets in a plague doctor’s hood and mask.

When a girl is gruesomely murdered, thief taker Charlie Tuesday reluctantly agrees to take on the case. But the horrific remains tell him this is no isolated death. The killer’s mad appetites are part of a master plan that could destroy London – and reveal the dark secrets of Charlie’s own past.

Now the thief taker must find this murderous mastermind before the plague obliterates the evidence street by street. This terrifying pursuit will take Charlie deep into the black underbelly of old London, where alchemy, witchcraft and blood-spells collide.

In a city drowned in darkness, death could be the most powerful magic of all.

Opening: London, 1665
In the year of the Black Death London is a city of half-timbered houses and dark towers. In the narrow backstreets, astrologists predict the future, and alchemists conjure wonders. Traitors’ heads line London Bridge, where witches sell potions, and gamesters turn cards. The river flowing beneath lands a daily cargo of smuggler gangs and pirates.

Loved this from the very start: it is gory, graphic and dead gruesome. Many gizzard for dinner scenes so I suppose this is not for the squeamish, and the murdering hulk is terrifying so this is not for the shiverers either. Rest assured though, it is not a horror fic by any stretch of the imagination. The Thief Taker for all its grisly subject is written in a very upbeat fashion. I would loath to call it YA because lots of people have a very prejudiced mindset when it comes to that shelf. It is a highly enjoyable piece of hist-fic fluff.

Holborn Bridge: 1831 Drawn by Tho. H. Shepherd. Engraved by M. Woolnoth.

What a debut, and ike Oliver Twist, I’m asking for more of Charlie Tuesday. Three point five plague hoods rounded up for the sites that do not operate on half ratings.

Endorsed by my Peter James: ‘Quinn is a brilliant new talent!’
Images from the book

The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn, Petra Couvee

4 of 5 stars bookshelves: radio-4, summer-2014, biography, nonfiction, poetry, fradio, published-2014, slavic, politics, history, books-about-books-and-book-shops, spies

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from June 20 to July 11, 2014

 

BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b048jflr

Description: Thanks to the superb David Lean film, Doctor Zhivago is known to millions. However, few know the full story of the publication (or non-publication) of the novel. For this revelatory and fascinating tale, Peter Finn and Petra Couvée obtained previously classified CIA documents that shed light on an unknown aspect of one of the 20th-century’s greatest books.

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) was a highly successful poet and translator in Russia before he penned his first novel. In 1956, while he was living in Peredelkino, a writer’s colony created by Stalin, he sent the novel to one of Russia’s most esteemed journals, Novy Mir, but it was rejected because it was deemed anti-Soviet.

Pasternak felt Doctor Zhivago was his greatest work and wanted it widely read; however, since 1929, no Russian author had broken the rule against foreign publication without approval from the authorities. When the opportunity to publish the book in Italy came along, the manuscript was smuggled into Milan and published in 1957. In 1958, the CIA’s books program printed a special Russian-language edition and secretly distributed it in the Vatican’s pavilion at the World’s Fair in Brussels. Copies began turning up in Russia, and additional copies were given to students, tourists, diplomats, even Russian truck drivers and sailors, to smuggle into the Soviet Union. This represented one of the first efforts by the CIA to leverage books as instruments of political warfare. The book’s growing popularity infuriated the Soviet government, and when Pasternak won the Nobel Prize in 1958, he had to decline it–had he accepted it, he could never return home. –Tom Lavoie, former publisher

1/5 Pasternak’s poetry is receiving rave reviews, and the Soviet leadership soon takes note.

2/5 Pasternak begins an affair with Olga Ivinskaya, which proves a dangerous move.

3/5 The Russian-language manuscript of Dr Zhivago arrives at CIA headquarters.

4/5 Illicit copies of Dr Zhivago are in great demand at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.

5/5 Pasternak is awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize in Literature but is forced to renounce it.

A rating of four Nobel medals

Bond On Bond: Reflections on 50 years of James Bond Movies by Roger Moore

bookshelves: summer-2014, autobiography-memoir, biography, books-about-books-and-book-shops, nonfiction, published-2012, spies, giftee, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, tbr-busting-2014

Read on June 29, 2014


Read by Roger Moore, his smug, smirkable self!

Description: The Bond movies remain the longest continually running film series in movie history, and 2012 marks its fiftieth anniversary. While there have been other actors that have taken on the coveted role of James Bond, one of the most renowned and beloved 007s, is the charming and charismatic Sir Roger Moore, KBE. To celebrate these films and their cultural heritage, Roger Moore has written a book that features all the Bond movies, along with a wonderfully witty account of his own involvement in them. From the girls to the villains, the cars to the cocktails, the gadgets, locations and everything else, this beautiful book is illustrated with hundreds of iconic images from all the films plus many previously unseen photos from the Bond archive. This is the ultimate James Bond book, written by the ultimate insider, with all the affection and good humor he brought to the role. It is the perfect gift for all fans of these much loved films.

So bad; not even funny bad. The only thing this had going for it was that it was short at 04:48:29. Just the one 007 rating.

Into a Raging Blaze Andreas Norman

bookshelves: spring-2014, e-book, sweden, translation, published-2013, net-galley, afr-egypt, politics, spies

Read from April 22 to 29, 2014

 

Quercus Books. Originally published as ‘En rasande eld in 2013.

Description:

Carina Dymek is on a fast track for promotion at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when she is approached by a stranger and given a USB stick containing a report to circulate in her department. Unwittingly, she delivers a time bomb of classified information that sends her career up in flames and puts her on the radar of the security service, Säpo.

Tasked with investigating how Dymek gained access to the confidential report, the formidable Bente Jensen of Säpo is quietly approached by the British MI6, who have an undisclosed interest in the leak. She finds out that Dymek’s boyfriend is an Egyptian Swedish national. But it’s MI6 who link his family to an extreme faction within the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. The case explodes into an international manhunt. Liaising with the ruthless MI6, Bente uncovers the secretive plans contained in that leaked report: plans for an omnipotent Europe-wide Intelligence Service. Forces hone in on Dymek, while Bente begins to suspect she is a red herring caught in a far wider net: one in which social media is abused for intelligence and civil rights are sacrificed to national security.

Andreas Norman, a former Swedish Ministry official, has written an explosive expose of Anglo-American spying and surveillance on European civilians in the name of counter-terrorism. This dizzying thriller anticipated the Edward Snowden revelations and rocked Sweden on publication.

Dedication: To Anna K

Opening: The man came out of the entrance to the EU Commission, went around the building and started to walk down Archimedisstraat. Dark hair, grey suit and a blue shirt. For a moment he disappeared out of sight.

It’s a shame that political novels can be become outdated pretty fast and that is the sad fact for this Andreas Norman thriller. Since he penned this, Snowden blew the whistle, and those sections about Ukraine in general, and Crimea in particular do not look so clever.

The writing is competent and the main storyline was suspenseful and scary, even nail-biting at times; it was hard not to feel sorry for Carina as everything was aginst her. Solid three star.

Crossposted:
WordPress
Booklikes
LeafMark
Librarything
aNobii

Pascali’s Island

bookshelves: film-only, spring-2014, booker-longlist, published-1980, lit-richer, turkish-and-or-ottoman-root, archaeology, greece, spies, filthy-lucre, mental-health, period-piece, historical-fiction

Read from April 06 to 07, 2014

Description: The year is 1908, the place, a small Greek island in the declining days of the crumbling Ottoman Empire. For twenty years Basil Pascali has spied on the people of his small community and secretly reported on their activities to the authorities in Constantinople. Although his reports are never acknowledged, never acted upon, he has received regular payment for his work. Now he fears that the villagers have found him out and he becomes engulfed in paranoia. In the midst of his panic, a charming Englishman arrives on the island claiming to be an archaeologist, and charms his way into the heart of the woman for whom Pascali pines. A complex game is played out between the two where cunning and betrayal may come to haunt them both. Pascali’s Island was made into a feature film starring Ben Kingsley and Helen Mirren.

Just short of 2 x 1 hour in length, you can watch Ben Kingsley, Charles Dance and Helen Mirren in action here

5* Sacred Hunger
5* Morality Play
4* Stone Virgin
WL The Quality of Mercy
4* Pascali’s Island
3* The Hide

Soft Targets by Stephen Poliakoff

bookshelves: film-only, play-dramatisation, published-1984, under-10-ratings, spring-2014, suicide, slavic, spies, cold-war

Read from April 07 to 08, 2014


Description from cream tv: Entertaining and sumptuously bizarre look at upper-middle-class English life from Stephen Poliakoff, seen through the eyes of minor Soviet official Alexei Varyov (Ian Holm). Living quietly by himself in a west London compound with other Russian journalists and civil servants, Alexei’s rather humdrum life of typing up Time Out-style articles for the Soviet press, with a side-line in posting videotapes of British TV to Russian broadcasters made from the twin VCRs in his flat, is livened up with a hefty dose of Cold War paranoia.

While sending some tapes of Top of the Pops abroad on an Aeroflot charter flight, he’s accosted at Heathrow by upper crust, impetuous foreign office agent Harman (Nigel Havers) who, after a rather showy demonstration of the reasons he was, entirely coincidentally, at the airport, drags Alexei off in his car to the early Sunday morning remains of a party at a Hampstead flat, where two young women Frances (Celia Gregory) and Celia (Helen Mirren), as well as assorted hangers-on including Rupert Everett, regard the nervous Russian with a mixture of suspicion and condescension.

Helen Mirren
Ian Holm
Nigel Havers

A disappointing number from Poliakoff’s oeuvre: a something-of-a-nothing, star-studded and polished production for BBC’s ‘Play for Today’ series. In later interviews Mirren was rather embarassed at her overt exhibition of how far her elocution lessons had progressed, and it was jarringly noticeable in this play.

Watch Here

3* Shooting the Past
2* Soft Targets
4* She’s Been Away
4* Playing with Trains
3* A Real Summer
WL Joe’s Palace
WL Capturing Mary

History of London Prisons. Geoffrey Howse by Geoffrey Howse

bookshelves: e-book, spring-2014, tbr-busting-2014, published-2012, nonfiction, london, history, britain-england, architecture, bullies, casual-violence, dip-in-now-and-again, execution, eye-scorcher, gorefest, gulp, lifestyles-deathstyles, medical-eew, mental-health, newtome-author, nutty-nuut, ouch, plague-disease, recreational-homicide, religion, revenge, spies, tragedy, true-grime, under-10-ratings

Read from April 04 to 08, 2014

 

Description: London has had more prisons than any other British city. The City’s ‘gates’ once contained prisons but probably the most notorious of all was Newgate, which stood for over 700 years. The eleventh century Tower of London was used as a prison for a variety of high profile prisoners from Sir Thomas More to the Krays. Discover the background of a variety of historic places of incarceration such as The Clink, the Kings Bench Prison; and debtors prisons such as the Fleet Prison and the Marshalsea. ‘Lost’ prisons such as the Gatehouse in Westminster, Millbank Penitentiary, Surrey County Gaol in Horsemonger Row, The House of Detention, Coldbath Fields Prison and Tothill Fields Prison are also described in detail; as are more familiar gaols: Holloway, Pentonville, Brixton, Wandsworth and Wormwood Scrubs. In his A History of Londons Prisons Geoffrey Howse delves not only into the intricate web of historical facts detailing the origins of the capitals prisons but also includes fascinating detail concerning the day-to-day life of prisoners – from the highly born to the most despicable human specimens imaginable – as well as those less fortunate individuals who found themselves through no fault of their own ‘in the clink’, some soon becoming clients of the hangman or executioner.

Opening: The original function of the Tower of London, built for William I (William the Conqueror) and completed in 1097, was to act as a power base for the King within the City of London itself.

When I first went to the Big School, Kay, my bestie, brought to school a book she had pinched off her dad about implements of torture. Hidden in her satchel she would flash me diagrams, pull a grimmace, then laugh wildly and flick through some more. It is a fact: older children and newish teenagers love this the way young children love the horror of fairytales.

This book has aspects of that ‘can’t bear to watch but can’t look away’ mesmerism. Coming to this I see there is only one other rating here on grramazon, and that is a 5* too.

I still think it is sad/unjust about Raleigh.

Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims

bookshelves: currently-reading, first-in-series, newtome-author, net-galley, published-2014, winter-20132014, wars-of-the-roses, medieval5c-16c, historical-fiction, war, series, e-book, adventure, religion, plague-disease, seven-seas, superstitions, britain-england, pirates-smugglers-wreckers, france, betrayal, medical-eew, revenge, spies, travel

Read from February 12 to 20, 2014

ARC received with thanks from Net Galley and Random House UK, Cornerstone in exchange for an honest review.

Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick One of the Yorkist leaders in the Wars of the Roses, he was instrumental in the deposition of two kings, a fact which later earned him his epithet of “Kingmaker” to later generations. (wiki sourced)

Description: February, 1460: in the bitter dawn of a winter’s morning a young nun is caught outside her priory walls by a corrupt knight and his vicious retinue.

In the fight that follows, she is rescued by a young monk and the knight is defeated. But the consequences are far-reaching, and Thomas and Katherine are expelled from their religious Orders and forced to flee across a land caught in the throes of one of the most savage and bloody civil wars in history: the Wars of the Roses.

Their flight will take them across the Narrow Sea to Calais where Thomas picks up his warbow, and trains alongside the Yorkist forces. Katherine, now dressed as a man, hones her talents for observation and healing both on and off the fields of battle. And all around them, friends and enemies fight and die as the future Yorkist monarch, Edward, Earl of March, and his adviser the Earl of Warwick, later to become known as the Kingmaker, prepare to do bloody battle.

Encompassing the battles of Northampton, Mortimer’s Cross and finally the great slaughter of Towton, this is war as experienced not by the highborn nobles of the land but by ordinary men and women who do their best just to stay alive. Filled with strong, sympathetic characters, this is a must-read series for all who like their fiction action-packed, heroic and utterly believable.

Dedication: To Karen, with all my love

Opening is February 1460: The Dean comes for him during the Second Repose, when the night is at its darkest. He brings with him a rush light and a quarterstaff and wakes him with a heavy prod.
‘Up now, Brother Thomas,’ he says. ‘The Prior’s asking for you.’

Epic adventuring that had me hooked by page 52. In the time-honoured way of honest reviewing I shall point out the things that stopped this excellent story from being the 5* this read really deserves:

-The present tense prose: didn’t bother me at all once I was into the story but it will not appeal to some of my reading pals.

-That carrot ending: this really is a turn-off to many a reader and could be the kiss of death for a series. We don’t want to have it taken for granted by the author that we will buy into the next installment.

-Some secondary characters were barely fleshed out: I’m especially looking at a giant of a man who comes across as cartoon thug.

I loved this story, non-stop action featuring a lovely pair of modest but surprising heroes and that is all I can say for the moment as this is not due to be published until April. To I recommend it? Oh yes, the best adventure novel I have read in quite a while.

A word on Scrofula, sourced by The Science Museum:

In the Middle Ages it was believed in England and France that a touch from royalty could heal skin disease known as scrofula or the ‘king’s evil’. Scrofula was usually a swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck caused by tuberculosis. The practice began with King Edward the Confessor in England (1003/4-1066) and Philip I (1052-1108) in France.

Subsequent English and French kings were thought to have inherited this ‘royal touch’, which was supposed to show that their right to rule was God-given. In grand ceremonies, kings touched hundreds of people afflicted by scrofula. They received special gold coins called ‘touchpieces’ which they often treated as amulets.

By the late 1400s it was believed that you could also be cured by touching a type of coin called an angel, which had been touched by the monarch. After angels ceased to be minted in the 1620s the same effect was said to be achieved by touching a gold medallion embossed much like the old coin.

Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset (26 January 1436 – 15 May 1464) was an important Lancastrian military commander during the English Wars of the Roses. He is sometimes numbered the 2nd Duke of Somerset, since the title was re-created for his father after his uncle died. He also held the subsidiary titles of 5th Earl of Somerset, 2nd Marquess of Dorset and 2nd Earl of Dorset.Source

Kidwelly Castle

EXTRAS: You too can watch Dating in the Middle Ages

Crossposted:
WordPress
Booklikes
LeafMark
Librarything
aNobii