This book has everything - mystery, interesting characters, political and social history, juxtaposition of obscene wealth and obscene poverty, the family at the centre of the story and the players who enter and leave the scene are all fascinating. And it is all true! The narration is masterful: Gareth Armstrong's voice and pace are a perfect match for the tale, and his different tones and accents for the different characters are a welcome added dimension. I bought Black Diamonds after enjoying Catherine Bailey's, 'The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery'. I would find it hard to choose between the two, both top reads!
This is a sympathetic recounting of a bright and promising young man's struggle, his mother's misguided attempts to do the best for him, and a controlling (or out-of-control) church. The sad story unfolds to its almost inevitable tragic end where everyone loses - heartbreaking, but well worth reading.
On every measure this true crime gets five stars - I couldn't put it down. No need to say more!
I am in awe of Ken Perenyi's talent. With no training in art, art history, chemistry, or anything else related to creating a forgery and getting it past the experts, he fooled a lot of people for a long time before they caught up with him. Without a hint of guilt or remorse, he gleefully recounts episode after episode of getting away with a monumental con with a pocket full of big money. With so much practical talent, and an obvious talent for befriending very influential people, I wonder why he didn't choose a conventional career instead of betraying trust and ripping people off. I did read elsewhere about his adopting a girl from Africa which is worth looking up on the internet - perhaps he omitted it from this book so as not to tarnish his image as a conscience-free operator. I must say I learned about artists I had never heard of and took great pleasure in looking at their work, if only via internet images. Apart from a few mispronunciations of artists' names, Dan Butler does a fine job narrating.
This is a well written biography of a little known woman. In detailing Miss Coutts' life, Edna Healey inevitably details the conventions which placed limits on what women could do. In almost all of her charitable works, Miss Coutts relied upon or had recourse to men - perhaps if she had been male she would not have remained a shadowy figure in the history of Victorian England. Nonetheless, she was a compassionate and determined women who was a pioneer in concern for the poor and much of her fortune went towards improving their lot in life. Her friendship with Charles Dickens shed new light (for me) on his work for the poor. In some ways Miss Coutts' life was typical of the life of a well-off Victorian woman - at-homes, continental travel, health cures, and this does become slightly monotonous, but there is a parade of famous characters who regularly brighten the scene. If the social round and charitable works see your interest flagging a little, push on because there is quite a surprise toward the end.
I was thoroughly enjoying Anna Bentinck's narration, pleasant voice, pleasant accent, UNTIL, it appears, she read several chapters while suffering a heavy cold. The stuffed-up nasal voice was just horrible, I had to force myself to keep listening. Thankfully she recovered but it did spoil my enjoyment of this book.
This is a book both for beginners and for those who have already read a reasonable amount of WWII and Nazi history. As well as being a portrait of Hitler, it provides an overview of the main events of Germany history from WWI until May 1945. Laurence Rees' clever tactic of using Hitler's charisma as the central theme provides a different perspective from the usual biographical and war history works. In examining Hitler's rising popularity, Rees reveals much about the man and offers several inter-connected explanations for Hitler's ability to draw people in and to convert doubters to his point of view. He also devotes some time to people who did not fall under Hitler's spell and those who plotted to kill him. Rees goes on to document the decline of Hitler's power to influence as the direction of the war turns and Germany moves ever closer to defeat. The book is well written and Rees' central argument is well presented. Michael Jayston is a very competent narrator and his voice and presentation are perfect for the material.
I have two views of this book. I found it engrossing and couldn't wait to get back to it each time I had to take a break. The insight into the worlds of the upper and lower classes and the political and motor racing worlds of the early 1900s, and famous characters of the period, all make an interesting backdrop. And the family interactions are interesting too, with the mystery keeping the reader's attention. Neate paces her investigation and discoveries well so interest is maintained throughout.
On the other hand, in the end many burning questions remain unanswered or unsatisfactorily addressed. Why did nobody in the family take a stand during their much-loved mother's last illness? Why did they allow 'step-father' to bar them from even visiting their mother on so many occasions, and from being alone with her? Could they do nothing to stop him spending ridiculous amounts of their mother's money? Why did nobody confront him? Why mention his sexual assaults several times with no follow up at all? What was the last word on the burial? Why did we hear so little about her eventual contact with her father? Did anything happen to the professionals who behaved so unprofessionally? This aspect of the book, after suspense sustained for ten or so hours, is very disappointing. Despite all this, I would still recommend the book because I found it a compelling read.
BUT, the book is badly let down by the narrator. Her voice and accent are very pleasant, but she mis-pronounces SO many words, she really is not suitable for the task. Her accent suggests that English is her native language, so there is no excuse for mispronouncing English words.
This is a must read for anyone who is interested in WWII or who just likes a ripping and suspenseful spy story. I agree with all positive comments below. The book is beautifully written, with the occasional sardonic observation to bring a smile to your lips. The narration is perfect in every way. My only reservation has also been mentioned below - it can be difficult to keep track of the various players in audio format, but I found that with each switch between characters I quickly remembered what they were up to, so I don't consider it a reason not to read the book in audio. And listening to Michael Tudor Barnes is a treat not to be missed. I was left with just one question - could the Germans really have been THAT inept? Apparently so!
Christine Granville was a fascinating and captivating woman (at least to the men who knew her), but her outstanding characteristics were patriotism, courage, and determination. Her courage was amazing: some of her exploits had me on the edge of my seat and she narrowly escaped with her life several times, as well as saving the lives of many others. She attracted the loyalty of the men to whom she was close both in her private life and undercover work (with much overlap between the two), so much so that much of her story remained hidden until Clare Mulley conducted the painstaking research which forms the basis of this book. The Spy who Loved is interesting from the beginning to the sad end and, as well as detailing Christine's extraordinary life, it presents a lot of information about Poland, undercover operations, relationships during wartime, sexism in that era, and what happened to secret agents after the war. Maggie Mash is a very competent reader and does a fine job with this book.
This is the fascinating story of double agent Juan Pujol García, an enterprising and courageous man who succeeded in making the Nazis believe that he was running a large network of pro-Nazi agents in the UK. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the Allied war effort was the part he played in deceiving the Nazis about the location of the Normandy landings in 1944. His wife's role in having him believed and accepted as a spy was equally enterprising and courageous, although she has no role after that and is painted as a liability after she joins Juan in the UK. After finishing the book I went to the internet to see photos of Juan and was surprised to find additional and sometimes contradictory information. Nonetheless, the story stands as a rivetting spy story and well worth reading. Max Roll does an excellent job with the narration.
Philip Carlo has structured this book in a most effective way - three parts, with an epilogue. Part 1 recounts the sequence of Ramirez's dreadful crimes and the victims and their families; Part 2 is the story of the Stalker himself and his family; followed by Part 3, the story of the trial. The epilogue features an interview with Ramirez. The book held my interest from start to finish, but I found the interview frustrating because Carlo didn't ask Ramirez the thing I most wanted to know: how Ramirez would have felt if someone had done to his mother or sister what he had done to his victims. The story of Ramirez's life does suggest that despite his God-fearing, hard-working, law-abiding parents, there were a lot of negative influences on his childhood and teen years which can be seen as contributing to the monster he became. In the end, I was left wondering whether anyone or anything could have, at any point in Ramirez's life prior to these crimes, steered him away from the course he took. The narrator does a great job, he is good with accents and voices, and has just the right voice for true crime.
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