I don’t know precisely what I expected when I bought this book - perhaps the story of an investigation involving different approaches with the British and American methods at odds creating some tension, perhaps conflict between the supervisory government branches of the FBI and Scotland Yard, perhaps something else. What I did not expect is what I got. One dimensional characters who belong in comic books, not in written novels.
We are asked to believe a lot in this book. We have a Scotland Yard investigator who ignores the orders of his superiors with impunity, who has logical and investigative leaps that would make Sherlock Holmes look like a beginner and who apparently can read minds, an FBI agent who can look at a room after a crime has been committed and know what happened and how the crime took place and various other assorted investigators who can break into secure computer facilities without any trouble, sophisticated criminals who don’t bother to secure their computer information and miraculous escapes from bullets, explosions and the like. It is a wonder that, with all of the talents of the investigators in this book, the crime was not solved by the third paragraph.
This story might make a good comic book or, as I believe they are now called, a decent graphic novel, but I cannot recommend it as a serious or even light criminal novel.
I picked this book up as a Daily Deal and found, much to my surprise, that there was an interesting plot with good writing and very well done narration. Ex-FBI agent must find the history of a mysterious book by following clues hidden in a mysterious poem. It might sound familiar, but what make this plot different are what the mysterious book is, when it was written, what information it contains and how that information could possibly have been known when the book was written. That is what makes the plot both intriguing and worth following.
The writing is quite good and the plot (or at least the object for the search) is unique and about a quarter of the way through I was interested enough to look up other books by this author thinking that they might also be entertaining light reading. My first disappointment was finding that this is actually the second book in a series (the first, on Audible, is Secret Of The Seventh Son), although it is not marked as such on Audible, and the entire plot of the previous book is described as the characters in this book go through the process of finding the information they are seeking. Once you have read this book you will almost certainly have no interest in the previous book since all of the mystery will be gone. And, because finding the secret is the core of interest my feeling is that the previous book would have been more interesting than this one.
The second disappointment is that the main character, a seasoned, although retired, FBI agent, suddenly starts doing stupid things. While I do not wish to give any of the plot away it seems clear that an ex-FBI agent should know better than to talk on open phones when he believes that he is being followed by government agents who will do anything to stop him. It could not have been more odd if he had hung signs in the windows saying what he just found and what he was going to do next. The concept was so strange that I really lost interest from the second or third (of tenth) time he acted like a naive civilian.
Still, the plot is unique (or, at least, unique-ish) because of the contents of the book, the writing is good and the narration is first class. Still, had I the chance to do it over again, I would have read the first book in the series first since the telling of the events of the first book in the second lets some of the air out of the suspense.
So, a decent read with those two caveats.
When I reviewed the first book in this series I said that I wondered why I enjoyed it so much and decided that it was because of the wonderful character development along with an interesting and believable storyline. The second book in the series introduced new characters but the essential “whole-ness” of the story and of the characters remained with the new characters integrating seamlessly into the narrative and with one of them becoming a new main character. As with the first two books most of the story was character development and storyline, not battles.
The last book in the series picks up at the cliff-hanger of the end of the second book and is fully the equal of the other two books in the series in all of those particulars that made the first two books such a great pleasure to listen to. The characters are three dimensional and real, the story introduces us to the aliens and to their society as well as to some of the seamier side of humanity, all of the events that occur are reasonable and I found the story so enjoyable that I was reluctant to listen to too much at a time because I did not want to reach the end.
I have listened to quite a few first and second books in a series in this genre but few have been as interesting and none has enticed me into the story as much as this one. Somewhere after the finishing the second book in the series I started to look for other books by the same author feeling that if he could do this well with this series perhaps another series by him would be well worth listening to. I loved this trilogy and I ended up caring about the people, glad for their triumphs and sorry for their failures. The characters and society of the book are British with all of the traditions of the Royal Navy and, for me, that just added to the overall flavor and taste of the book.
All three books were narrated by Ralph Lister who did a consistently good job. Names and pronunciations were constant throughout all three books which added to the pleasure of listening. Highly recommended for anyone interested in stories of first contact, human and alien understanding and misunderstanding and of the unfortunate results of mistaken actions.
George Marshall, as Chief Of Staff of the US Army during World War 2, was central to the planning, coordination and scheduling of the activities of not only the US military but also, in coordination with the British General Staff, to that of the British and, having read a great deal on the war, I was interested in knowing more about both him and his actions prior to, during and after the war. In particular I was interested in knowing how he, a relatively little known officer in the early 1930s, came to be picked as Army Chief Of Staff over his colleagues, more information about his reputed “little black book” listing the names of those officers he thought both competent and incompetent, his relationship with the British Army General Staff and the Russian political leadership and his actions as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense after the war. Having read a great deal on the war itself I was familiar with most of his actions during the war and was thus more interested in the periods immediately preceding and following the war.
General Marshall’s life and early military career are covered, although not in much detail. Marshall’s life was full considering his rise through the military, his actions to prepare the US for the war, his actives during the war and his public life after the war and this book, at only 15 1/2 hours, is really too short to give much detail. Eisenhower’s recent biography is more than 28 hours, McArthur’s more than 31 hours, William Manchester’s 3 volume Churchill biography is more than 130 hours and FDR’s is more than 32 hours. By comparison this is a short biography and so can not cover much in detail.
In particular I was disappointed in the book's coverage of the period prior to US entry into the war since it did not go into much detail and I did not get most of my questions answered. The book is more complete in its coverage of General Marshall’s actions during the war and very informative about his actions as Secretary of State and of Defense and gives a great deal of information on his thoughts and actions during the Berlin Airlift, the declaration of independence of Israel, the start of the Korean War and other important events.
Although some of the details in the book are inaccurate or, at least, misleading (General McArthur was ordered out of the Philippines by the President, he did not “abandon” his men, Hitler had no treaty obligation to declare war on the US after Pearl Harbor and I have never seen any other author speak of the French Foreign Legion soldiers as being 2nd or 3rd class troops. John Keegan, in his book on World War 2, refers to them as some of the few first class troops in the Western armies.) I generally found the book to be interesting, if a bit short of detail. Some parts, like the discussions of his family and life long friends, were reasonably complete. Other parts, like his rise through the officer ranks, his interactions with those he later appointed to high position and why he rose in rank so quickly in the late 1930s left a great deal to be desired.
So, in general, I found the coverage of the book to be spotty. Marshall’s early Army life is not covered in much detail, there is a great deal of detail about his participation in World War 2, but that coverage is mostly duplicated in any book covering US participation in the war and his time serving as Secretary of State and, later, of Defense, covers his participation in highly public events and was very informative. Johnny Heller’s narration is adequate although his gravelly voice is, at times, a bit annoying. On the whole 3.5 stars.
I bought this based on my fond memories of the Ellery Queen mysteries on TV. I always thought they were intelligently written, reasonably well scripted and smartly done and hoped that the books would be the same.
There were two things that struck me about this book in particular. One was that the language and social attitudes were very dated with both words and ideas that are now considered at the very least archaic if not something worse. The second is that the mystery itself was as well constructed as I remembered the TV shows to be with all of the needed hints provided along with a lot of red herrings. All in all it was fun although at times a bit tiring trying to deal with the old language.
While I was able to guess what was going on and who, in general, was the villain, the mystery was deep enough to make me stop and think about who it might be for some time before I came to a reasonable conclusion.
The book is well read and I enjoyed it, but I do not believe I will buy any more. One was enough to satisfy my curiosity.
Although I read a lot of histories I try to not read anything written by someone who is highly political unless I believe that sufficient time has passed to allow passions to cool so that I can get a reasonable view of the events and the reasons for those events. So, although I knew Mr Perlstein was, as one article said, A Man Of The Left, I decided that the 40 or so years that had passed since the events covered by his book was surely enough that I would not be reading some political screed or hit book. Shame on me for making that assumption.
I was both an adult and paying attention during the 1970s and it became clear to me fairly quickly that Mr Perlstein’s views of this period were highly partisan and the world he described seemed to quiver with the highly charged emotions of the period in spite of the passage of years.
In the author’s view:
1) those captured POWs who tried to prevent their use by the North Vietnamese for propaganda and chose to resist the torture they suffered are referred to with the derogatory term “spit and polish” soldiers. Among others this apparently includes John McCain who was tortured so badly that he can no longer raise his arms above his head,
2) Richard Nixon had no right to try to manage the optics of the POW’s return. This seems like an odd view since all modern Presidents try to control the optics of everything surrounding their term in office,
3) parents who are concerned about what their children are taught in Public Schools are fit subjects to be mocked. In the author’s view parent’s religious views are worthy of derision,
4) Ronald Reagan, who grew up with an alcoholic father, but managed to survive the experience and form a positive view of the world needed a psychiatrist to convince him how wrong he was in that view. In my experience children who survive that sort of childhood and have learned to be positive are called optimists and are to be admired, not mocked with the phrase “everything always works out in the end - gloriously”. Indeed, that phrase is used throughout the book as the author’s signature comment concerning Ronald Reagan.
These are but a few examples of the world view of this book and I could, but will not, list more but will only say that I found this book to be so partisan that I was only able to finish the first half. I had come across so many snide comments, half-truths and twisted facts that I was no longer able to continue trying to get through it. However, in fairness, I should mention that part of this book covers the entire Watergate scandal from its first notice in the news to the resignation of Richard Nixon and that coverage was complete and engrossing. It seems a shame that Mr Perlstein was unable to disassociate his dislike of Ronald Reagan from his writing of this book and description of the events leading to the fall of Richard Nixon and the rise of Ronald Reagan.
The book is well narrated but even Mr de Vries cannot rescue this book. While I gave the narration 5 stars the best I felt I could rate this book was 3 stars, given its extreme partisanship. If you believe that Ronald Reagan was duplicitous, untrustworthy and an empty suit and that the 60% of the voting population that gave him their vote for his second term were made up of ignorant and bigoted people, then this is your book. Otherwise, not so much.
When I finished this book I wondered why I enjoyed it so much. There are none of those common sci-fi gimmicks - no time travel, no super heros, no mind control, no super computers bent on wrecking havoc on the world. Instead what we have is a group of normal men and women assigned to an aging and obsolescent space ship who are thrust into the breach to try to hit back at an alien invasion. All of the characters are flawed in one way or another, one an alcoholic old Captain, one a promotion seeking aristocrat, one a reserve flying office with a dysfunctional family and so on. Basically a cross-section of humanity - real people with real problems.
And that seems to be the key to what makes this book so engrossing. The character development in this book is just wonderful. All of the characters are fighting their own real-life demons and trying to function as a crew, trying to devise a strategy to defeat the aliens or, at least, to come home alive. This story, of people and how they are dealing with life and death decisions, makes this book so engrossing that when I finished I regretted that I did not already have the second volume to continue the story.
The author is British, the ship and crew are British, as is the narrator and his performance is the only issue I had with this book. While the narrator’s voice is relatively easy to understand he has a tendency to raise and lower his speaking voice enough that I found the volume had to be relatively high to hear parts of the book while other parts, sometimes only separated by a couple of seconds, were then too loud to hear comfortably without the volume being turned back down. So, great book, good, but not great, narration. Now, on to part 2 …
This book had all of the elements of a good yarn. An “end of the world as we know it” nuclear war, good guys, bad guys and the struggle to survive the horror. It should have been a good listening experience but somehow fell through badly enough that I had to struggle to finish the book.
Perhaps I have read too many of this kind of book and have become jaded, but I just never really cared about the characters or what happened to them. In addition the story line was fairly predictable with the main bad guy showing up early in the story and the reader knowing, without any doubt, that he was going to be trouble for the main characters in the end. I never got the feeling that the main character was real, that his family was real or that any of the situations were real. When thinking about “end of the world” novels I usually end up comparing them to wonderful books like Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer and William Forstchen’s One Second After and, for me, this book just did not measure up.
The narration was mostly flat but not terrible, but Mr Snow did not have a great story to work with. All in all, a disappointment for me.
Lynne Olson has given us a very interesting and comprehensive study of the political “conversation” that went on in the US in the last couple of years prior to America’s entry into World War II. Her book takes us behind both the scenes and the public face of the organizations involved in trying to influence political opinion and decisions in the US and the story has all of the interest of current events. The main characters in the story are not only the high political figures in the US, Britain and Germany but also important figures in the US and foreign military, the US press and the general public. She describes in great detail the efforts both to drag the US into the war and the efforts of those opposed, not only to US entry into the war, but also to US help for Britain prior to Pearl Harbor.
The current myth concerning the run-up to the entry of the US into World War II is that Franklin Roosevelt led the US into understanding the need to help the British and his leadership in providing that help. Ms Olsons books shows a very different President - one extremely reluctant to get ahead of public opinion, making promises about help and then doing nothing to implement those promises, telling people he would do one thing and then changing his mind and always, always looking at the public polls before taking any actions. This book shows a President being dragged into providing help by the public which was always far ahead of him. This is not a new view of the pre-war years and Joseph Lash, in his 1975 book Roosevelt and Churchill, made the same point. But it is a point worth repeating because the facts belie the myth. This is not an anti-Roosevelt book and Ms Olson is anything but a conservative author but this book will be uncomfortable for some readers.
The tableau that the book covers include many of those involved in the “conversation” - Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Harold Ickes, Burton Wheeler, Hamilton Fish, Gerald Nye, John McCormick, Frank Knox, Henry Stimson, George Marshall, Hap Arnold, Lord Lothian, Albert Wedemeyer, Joachim von Ribbentrop, J Edgar Hoover, William Donovan, William Stevenson, Charles Lindbergh and many others - and the story of their efforts to draw the US into the war, keep the US out of the war or try to straddle a middle course during the turbulent times, forms the core of the book and thus provides an extraordinarily helpful addition to understanding the period prior to US entry into the war. While there may not be much that is new here, the book is unique in that its subject is not the war nor the efforts to provide help to the allies, but rather the political and social arguments that took place leading up to the war that ended up providing that help. In that, this book provides a great service to understanding the period and hence the decisions.
The book also serves to dispel other existing myths. America First was founded by young student leftists, not by conservative politicians. Lindbergh was against US entry into the war because he believed we were unprepared, would likely be defeated and would lose our liberties at home. He was not a Nazi sympathizer nor did he want them to win. General Wedemeyer was not the officer who leaked the Victory Program papers to the Senate isolationist. And others.
Robert Fass’ narration is well done, although a bit show, and I did not hear any production problems with the recording. I did, however, have to play the book at 1.25 x speed to avoid the slow pace of speech. Once that was done the book flowed well with no problems.
This book is volume 4 in the 11 volume Story of Civilization by Will (and later Ariel) Durant. It covers the approximately 750 years from the fall of Rome through the very beginnings of the Renaissance in the areas encompassing Eastern and Western Europe (including Russia), the Middle East and Northern Africa. It does not cover events in eastern Asia (China, India, Mongolia and other related areas) although it is clear about the influence of those regions on the development of what we now think of as Western Civilization.
The book is very long (the Audible version is more than 61 hours in length) and the breadth of things covered is simply staggering including the early development of Christianity, early Judaic and Islamic civilizations, the Byzantine world, Feudalism, Chivalry, the Crusades, the development of the Catholic Church, the regional structuring of Eastern and Western Europe into what are now the counties of Europe, the influence of Jewish and Islamic culture on Western culture, the rise of Papal power over secular, the Medieval philosophers, the reopening of education to the populace and the rise of what Mr Durant refers to as the Era of Reason. Along the way we are treated to a virtual smorgasbord of information.
Here we learn the origin of many of our common use English words (for example, dollar, grocer, credit, debit, cash, wedding, Latin Quarter and many, many more), we meet the saint and sinners of The Dark Ages, the origins of Medieval banking, the origins of some current city names and a wealth of other information. Along the way we not only are presented with new information but often we find that much that we already knew was wrong. For me, one of the very instructive parts of the book was the description of Feudal Society and here I learned that much that is current common knowledge about the rights and obligations of Barons, Knights, merchants and serfs was, in fact, wrong. Here also we see how and why Feudalism lost its hold on Europe and how the cities and the merchants grabbed and held power, slowing reducing the influence and power of the Feudal Lords, including the monarchs.
While I personally found parts of the book hard to get through I found other parts simply fascinating and often found myself listening to this book with the same interest and zeal as I might listen to a best selling thriller. Some stories, like that of Abelard and Heloise, simply break the heart. Others, like that of Dante, are inspiring and often humorous and the most important thing I learned from this book is that things were often not as I thought them to be. This book, written more than 60 years ago, was like a breath of fresh air clearing out the cobwebs of misinformation I had stored in my mind.
The book is narrated by Stefan Rudnicki and I was at first disappointed that it was not narrated by Grover Gardner, as the previous volume was. However Mr Rudnicki did a wonderful job and, because parts of the book are in Latin, German and Italian (with translations into English), I found myself appreciative that Mr Rudnicki was able to speak the languages in question so well. His voice and pronunciation seemed to perfectly fit the material.
In summary this volume is simply wonderful and, although you may find parts boring, as I did, you will likely find parts enthralling and very, very informative. If you have an interest in the period which we sometimes refer to as the Dark Ages (and which Mr Durant makes clear was really a bridge into the Renaissance) you should not go wrong with this book.
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