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

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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:
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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