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Found 10 results

  1. Like Munich, Robert Harris has taken real life events, added a dollop of fictional characters, put them into a tight time frame and crafted them all into a thriller. This time it's about the efforts to destroy the launching pads for the V2 rockets which were deadly, disastrous for morale and impossible to shoot down in the air, unlike the V1s. Funnily enough though there are books and programmes made about the V1s or doodlebugs and the raids on Pennemunde to bomb the launch pads there isn't much about V2s. I found it absolutely fascinating and read it straight through, it doesn't have a strictly linear plot line which might annoy some people and follows the fictional Dr Rudi Graf near the Hague, chief engineer at the launch site and friend of von Braun who actually developed the V2, from the early 1930s and the beginning of the rocket's developement and Kay Caton-Walsh, a WAAF officer, one of a team of female mathematicians who are trying to plot where the rockets are being launched from so the RAF can launch a raid. The two don't meet though their stories intertwine. Robert Harris wrote this in 14 weeks during lockdown and I feel that the speed of his writing shows in places, this book lacks the richness of detail and character that made Conclave, Munich and especially An Officer and A Spy such exceptional reads but even so it's still very good indeed.
  2. It's a brave author who decides to wrtie a thriller about the election of a pope. After all the action is largely limited to a group of elderly men being locked away until they can agree which of them is going to be supreme pontiff. They are allowed no contact with the outside so it's hard to move things along with a little bit of extra infrmation coming in and changing things. Robert Harris nearly pulls it off. He's very good at pacing his books, There is some tension as front-runners for the election drop out in one way or another, one or two mysterious things going on, a completely unknown cardinal turns up at the last mment and it become's apparent that the recently deceased pope had a prvate agenda of his own. Ultimately it fails to satisfy though, I felt that the cardinal who was elected to bepope was firstly a huge cop- out, secndly disticntly rpedicatable and thirdly not very believeable. I don't regret reading it, the backgrund info about how popes are elected was fascinating and it was a page turner, it's just it's not one to look back on and savour.
  3. In 1895, Alfred Dreyfus, a French army captain and a jew from Alsace was convicted of spying for the Germans and sent to Devil's Island for life. The gradual realisation that the wrong man had been convicted and that the Army and the French authorities were steadfastly refusing to consider that Dreyfus might be innocent became a scandal that rocked the French establishment, revealed the deep seam of anti-semitism in all levels of French society, caused suicides, halted careers and toppled governments. No spoilers there - it's history and any of us who studied late nineteenth century European history will have touched, albeit briefly on the Dreyfus case. The story unfolds in the words of Colonel Georges Picquart, the new head of one of the army intelligence departments who got his post, ironically enough, for how well he observed Dreyfus's trial, who though he initially believes completely in Dreyfus's guilt begins to realise that he cannot be a spy. But his superiors won't listen to him and Picquard, who has his own fair share of anti-semitism and doesn't actually like Dreyfus either (he taught him in military school) is driven by his sense of justice to risk everything, his career, his and his friends' reputations, even coming close to losing his life while he fights to establish Dreyfus's innosense - a battle that lasts years. This really is a cracking good read, which zipped along like a thriller - despite me knowing what happened in the end, and is one of those exceptional works of historical fiction that seem to open a window on a previous age. It also seems uncomfortably close to home in many ways, if you didn't believe that conspiracies can develop you will after reading this and you also might get a nasty feeling that it wouldn't be so difficult for another Dreyfus-sort of case to happen . Very highly recommended. .
  4. It's September 1938 and Europe appears to be about to be dragged into a war by Hitler less than 20 years since the end of the Great War that killed millions. Neville Chamberlain, desperate to maintain peace, hastens to Munich to try and bring about some form of settlement. We all know what happened at Munich and there aren't many surprises in this book, Robert Harris sticks closely to the facts and, as far as I can tell, only has two invented characters, Legatt , one of Chamberlain's private secretaries and Hartmann, a minor German aristocrat and diplomat who is part of the highly secret antiHitler faction. Legatt and Hartmann were friends at Oxford. Hartmann is trying to involve Legatt in plans to destabilse Hitler which introduces a nice element of tension but where Robert Harris really excells is in his skill in setting a scene. You really feel that you're there in London, collecting your gasmasks, terrified that war is about to be declared or one of the many who stayed inside when Hitler ordered a massive parade of military stregth in Berlin, silently indicating opposition to the idea of war. He presents Chamberlain as an honourable, thoughtful man who knows that war is probably inevitable sometime but wants to delay it as long as possible, for many reasons, not the least being that his memeories of the last, terrible war are so vivid. If you enjoy books that open a window on the past I'd reccommend this. Harris says that one of the joys of writing fiction is that he can embellish in ways that non-fiction writers can't - such as putting in a scene after the settlement is agreed where Chamberlain is greeted by ecstatically cheering crowds outside his hotel in Munich - all fact - and Harris has a band striking up with The Lambeth Walk.
  5. Berlin, 1964. In the days leading up to Adolf Hitler's 75th birthday celebrations, a body with its foot cut off is fished out of a lake. The case is assigned to Xavier March, a senior investigator in the Kripo police force, and his bumbling partner Max Jaeger. This is not, as you might have guessed already, the Berlin of 50 years ago as you might remember it, for in Fatherland, which Harris debuted with in 1992, the Nazis emerged victorious from the Second World War. The Greater German Reich now extends from Spain to Russia, with the Soviet Union a fraction of its true size. The Germans are locked in a Cold War with the United States but, in a major diplomatic coup, the incumbent US President Joesph Kennedy (JFK's father) is about to visit Berlin. The case proves to be politically sensitive. The body is that of Josef Buhler, who proves to have links to several other recent deaths of senior Nazis. Consequently, the Gestapo become interested and a turf war between they and the Kripo ensues. March, not a good Party man, is distrusted even by his 10-year old son and Hitler Youth member Pili. Initially, Buhler seems to have been involved in fraud with the other dead men, siphoning money into a Swiss bank account - the Swiss have retained their neutrality in this world - and March is, with some reluctance by his bosses, granted permission to travel to Zurich to investigate, alongside American investigative journalist Charlotte "Charlie" Maguire. As both investigate, the fraud appears to be a cover for something much darker which I won't tell you about here or I will spoil the novel's climax. Harris has meticulously realized his alternate world, but manages to keep the story moving swiftly along without becoming bogged down in describing it. This is a Germany obsessed with paranoia and rank where you are nobody without a uniform and justice is meted out brutally and arbitrarily, not least to March himself. It has, of course, been racially purified as the Nazis would have wished. March discovers the photo of a Jewish family who had previously owned his apartment but all he knows of them and their fellow Jews is that they have been "shipped East". All in all, this is a highly efficient and readable thriller, although the concept behind it is hardly a novel one - sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick's excellent The Man in the High Castle covered similar ground almost 50 years ago, as, more recently, has CJ Sansom's Dominion.
  6. I've been meaning to read this since it was published. Picked it up Sunday and virtually could not put it down. The story of a ghostwriter who is asked to write (well rewrite as it turned out) the autobiography of a former Prime Minister of Great Britain. The original manuscript was researched and written by one of the PMs, Adam Lang's, former colleagues who mysteriously disappeared from a ferry and is found on a beach at Martha's Vinyard in America. Suicide? Perhaps. As the ghostwriter delves deeper into the personality, life and history of Adam Lang the waters get muddier and muddier. There are many twists and turns and Harris is his usual, briilliant self setting scene and character as the mystery unfolds. I found this a compelling read. It was almost impossible not to see Tony Blair at Adam Lang whilst reading this though, if only for the fact that all the political history covered happened to a great extent during his tenure of office.
  7. Imperium - Robert Harris I've enjoyed all of Robert Harris' books up until this one. Set in the world of Roman politics, this novel follows the rise of Cicero through the political ranks, as told by his secretary. I can remember Harris being widely interviewed when the hardback came out talking about the wide ranging research he had done and I was looking forward to being transported back into a fascinating period in history. I confess that I've abandoned this book at page 70, mostly because I wasn't gripped by the story but also because I was finding all of the characters with their unwieldly names hard to manage. It's back on the shelf for the time being, but I need someone to convince me that I should give it another go, otherwise, it's off to greenmetropolis. P.S. Not sure if this is the right place for this thread, but Pompei, his last book, is here.
  8. "Engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the aqueduct which brings water to a quarter of a million people. His predecessor has disappeared. When a crisis strikes the Augusta's main line, Attilus discovers that there are forces which even the Roman Empire can't control." I had read Robert Harris's earlier novels and enjoyed them (even Archangel) and so looked forward to reading this one when offered the chance. I have to say I didn't enjoy it. I'm sure I should have. The story idea was a good one and the plot worked but there was something missing. It just didn't engage me the way it should have.
  9. A sweltering week in late August. Where better to enjoy the last days of summer than on the beautiful Bay of Naples? But even as Rome's richest citizens relax in their villas around Pompeii and Herculaneum, there are ominous warnings that something is going wrong. Wells and springs are failing, a man has disappeared, and now the greatest aqueduct in the world - the mighty Aqua Augusta - has suddenly ceased to flow-Through the eyes of four characters - a young engineer, an adolescent girl, a corrupt millionaire and an elderly scientist - Robert Harris brilliantly recreates a luxurious world on the brink of destruction. <iframe width="120" height="243" scrolling="no" frameborder=0 src="http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=bookgrouponli-21&l=st1&search=Pompeii%20Robert%20Harris&mode=books-uk&p=31&o=2&f=ifr&bg1=C6E7DE&lc1=082984&lt1=_blank"> <table border='0' cellpadding='0' cellspacing='0' width='120' height='243'><tr><td><A HREF='http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/redirect-home/bookgrouponli-21' target=_blank ><img src="http://images-eu.amazon.com/images/G/02/associates/recommends/default_120x243.gif" width=120 height=243 border="0" access=regular></a></td></tr></table></iframe>
  10. Was anyone else disappointed to the point of not bothering to read past page 100 with this book? Down Pompeii!
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