This is another great book from Alan Furst, loader with atmosphere and “you are there” feeling about it.
The central focus is a tale of spies and arms trading on the even of World War II. The Spanish Civil war is at its height. Franco is winning, but the Republican forces are struggling on. But they need weapons and other forms of aid.
The central figure in this book is Cristián Ferrar, a Spanish émigré, a lawyer in the Paris office of a prestigious international law firm. He gets involved with a mysterious figure of Max De Lyon who is an arms trader working for the Republican force.
The book is a serious of stories of arms trades which takes the duo from Warsaw to Odessa and Berlin in their business to secure supplies, illegally for the republican forces. On these trips they become involved with a series of mysterious, and shady characters who supply them with guns, oil, bullets etc. These people have little morals or scruples and for some it is all about the money – the cause is irrelevant so long as they get money. It is a dirty grubby business and Furst, like the consummate writer he is deftly brings to life this business and the cost in human lives and money and the cities they go to for their business – from Turkish Brothels to shoveling coal on a stolen Railway train there is the feel of Europe on the even of war.
It is a gripping story and if you are interested in the late 1930’s this is the book for you. Furst does not disappoint. The reader is excellent and adds to the story immeasurably. He gets the voice and tones just right
The story is about what happens to children of privileged parents who attend a prestigious school, School 801, in Moscow. They are brought to school in expensive Western Limousines, The time is 1945 and everyone is eager for the victory parade. The children in school have created a play-acting club devoted to Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. They dress up in period costumes and reenact Onegin’s shooting of Lensky. When they go to attend the victory parade in their period costumes they reenact the shooting but this time there are real bullets and two children are killed. The shooting occurs right after the famous 1945 Victory Parade in Red Square.
There is a mystery but it is never solved – we never do find out who substituted a real pistol for the fake dueling pistols. The story is bases on a real event, but embellished for this is a work of fiction.
The children are taken to Lubyanka prison to be interrogated. During the interrogate the children, through flashbacks, show us the privileged life they left. All their parents were high party apparatchiks and are scrambling to use their party contacts to free their children. We get flashbacks of the parents’ life during the Great War and their wartime romances. Also there are intermittent sections of Stalin’s life and how he views the problems at the school. For like everything in the USSR at this time, Stalin’s approval is necessary.
The book moves forward to 1950 and eventually to 1970 and we see the children as adults with children of their own, some still attending School 801.
At time the books gets quite tedious. The most interesting parts of the book are the interrogations in Lubyanka. I doubt I would every listen to his book again, as I gradually lost interest in the end of the book. The book has too many descriptive passages in it which can often go on far too long. The book is beautifully written and the writer’s portrayal of Soviet life is excellent. It just did not capture my attention for the whole book and I felt it could have been much shorter than it was.
The reader is excellent and it is Simon Prebble's reading which enables the story to move along and lifts the reader over the boring bits.
I found this book very disappointing. I had read the first two books and they were quite good. The first in the series is by far the best.
This book takes place over a 2 day period and deals with recapturing escaped prisoners. One of the escapees is Tailor who was the murderer in the first book of the series, and the other is Jack the Ripper, who has been hidden in an underground cell since his capture. A few prisoners are quickly rounded up but the Tailor and Jack are still on the loose. At the same time that Day and Hammersmith are hunting escaped prisoners, Day's wife is giving birth with the assistance of Dr. Kingsley and his daughter Fiona.
Part of the story takes place in the catacombs of London where Jack has chained Day to the wall. What follows is an overly long conversation between Jack and Day. When Jack leaves, Day miraculously uses his cuff links to unlock his chains and sets off after Jack despite his wounds.
As one would suspect the Tailor heads for Day's house followed by Jack. What follows is lots of gore, a detailed description of Mrs. Day's labor, blood everywhere, Jack carves up the tailor in Jack the Ripper style. Just about then Day and Hammersmith arrive - more mayhem and blood and gore. Finally Mrs. Day's gives birth and we hear about a new mass murderer called The Harvest Man and Jack escapes. This sets the scene for the next book in the series which obviously will have Jack the Ripper and The Harvest Man on the loose.
As I said there is not much plot here - more a short story than a novel. It is padded with monologues, detailed description of giving birth, and carving up victims Jack the Ripper style. There is very little suspense in the story. We know who the bad guys are from the start, so we get lots of blood and gore in detail to pad the book out. I would hardly call this a mystery - it is nowhere near as good as the first two books which were real mysteries.
II had mixed feelings about this book. First I did not like the setting - a mining community. I would have preferred a London Setting. The author uses weather to help provide the atmosphere of the story. Day and Hammersmith have been sent to this village to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a family.
There is aura of the supernatural which to me diminished the mystery part of it. The story itself takes places over a 2 day period. The village itself is sinking into the ground due to all the mining tunnels which extend under all the houses. The people in the village are very superstitious and this superstition plays a major role in the book. Most of the villagers are sick and dying from a mysterious disease. Day and Hammersmith arrive and a spring blizzard sets in which hampers their ability to investigate and on day 2 they can hardly find their way around the village. Also present are two survivors of the US Civil War and their back-story plays a major role in the mystery of disappearing family.
I had several problems with the author's development of the plot. I found some of the plots a little implausible. It seems bizarre in the middle of this spring snowstorm in an out of the way village that day's wife stops over for a few hours. I found it odd that Day and Hammersmith had arranged for Dr. Kingsley to join them - no real reason for his coming except the author needed his presence for the plot. In parts the plot seemed forced and the failure of the locals to find the missing family is odd, considering where they were found, although Hammersmith easily figures out where they are.
Most of the murders have already taken place by the time Day and Hammersmith arrive and in one case the body is never found and the person is hardly missed. The other deaths which occur when the detectives are in the village can not be classified as murder but more violent deaths in the presence of the detectives.
The end of the book of course has a fast moving Hollywood style disaster ending. The weight of the Snow from the blizzard causes cataclysmic sinking of the village which helps provide the resolution of the mystery as trees fall on buildings, the Railway Station is upended -- but the train is still able to arrive and take the detectives back to London.
This is a fairly fast paced mystery which will provide the reader with plenty of thrills. But I found some of the plot contrivances way too artificial and overall I did not think this was your typical mystery in the way the first book in the series was. Too much of this story is overlaid with an aura of the supernatural, which I do not like. Also the various plot contrivances made the whole books seem more like the script of one of those Hollywood Mega Disaster movies than a real mystery.
This could have been a good book, but it isn't. It has an excellent plot. The plot is great but the way the writer presents it, is tedious beyond belief.
The books goes off on tangents. At a dinner table, the most minute and trivial conversation is presented in detail, even when it has nothing to do with the story. The author includes quite a lot of detail about music and composers of the era which may not be to everyone's taste. For every little incident, it seems we get a long back story. And most tedious of all we are treated to the detective, Preiss, thoughts at great lengths and to his private life and loves at even great length. I got really sick of Preiss and his girl friend - they took up too much time in the book.
The narrator was not bad, but he had such poor material to work with, that at time he just seemed to drone on.
This is a great series. It has good story, well plotted mystery and on top of that it is very humorous. The reader, Graham Thorpe, adds so much to the book. He does the voices so well and gives each one its own character.
Of course the star is Detective Inspector Hardcastle who bring so much wit to the series as he deals with his subordinates and intimidates all around him, especially the person he is interviewing. He never lets their title or position stand in his way.
In this book Hardcastle is dealing with the murder of one of his constables. As he intestigates it turnes out the constable was NOT the target, but rather the lady next door. This lady claims to be a widow but as the body count continues, it turns out she is not a widow, but more of a "good time girl" who loves men in uniform. Unravelling this mystery takes Hardcastle to the corridors of power. A great book. All too short! I can't stop listening to one once I start.
This is an outstanding book. I have read or listened to all of Charles Todd's books and I found this one the best plotted of all. It kept me guessing right to the end. Even when I though I knew who the murderer was, Todd pulled one out of the hat with a big surprise at the end when you found out who the murderer was.
One thing I did notice was that Hamish was not such a big presence as he has been in the earlier book - whether Inspector Rutledge is getting over the events or Hamish didn't really fit in - but in any case he wasn't as ubiquitous as in the earlier books. In a way I am rather glad to see less of Hamish.
As in all his books you get to see another part of England – this time the Fen country, as it was in 1920, and the small villages there. In post World War I getting around in the Fens was dangerous. Dense fogs would roll in, the roads were not well marked and often little better than dirt road. Inspector Rutledge begins his investigation by getting lost and almost having a motor accident.
As always Charles Todd paints a picture of 1920 England: with farms, small villages, market day and places where everyone knows everyone else. He has the gift to take the listener back in time to a long-ago England.
What brings Rutledge to the Fen Country is two murders a week apart of two very important figures -- one a distinguished War veteran, and the other a local man standing for parliament. One is killed at Ely Cathedral, the other nearby while preparing to give a campaign speech. They seem unrelated but it is only at the end we see how they are tied together.
Much of the books is spend in actual detecting -- Rutledge going to different places and talking to many people to try and find out what connects the two murders. The only clue he picks up early on it that the murders were committed by an excellent shot, most probably a sniper. Many people are interviewed by Rutledge and local constables but nothing seems to fit. The roots of the crime go back to before the war and it is only when Rutledge gets as off-hand request from a local doctor, the he finally gets on track.
He only finally fits the pieces together when he travels back to London to interview the sister of one of the victims -- between London and Ely and trip to Mausoleum do all the pieces finally fit into place. This book keeps you guessing up to the very end.
Having Simon Prebble read this book, makes it all that much better. Simon is one of the most outstanding narrators in the business and I know I will enjoy the book that much more when he is the narrator. He is the perfect narrator for the series!!
If you like stories about the supernatural you will love this book, if you think you are getting a mystery story set in 19th Century with Jack the Ripper thrown in - you will be very disappointed. The book focuses on another set of real murders of the same period: The Thames Torso Murders, also called the Embankment murders. These murders, however, were overshadowed by Jack the Ripper and have never really entered into stories about the period as Jack the Ripper did, like those of Jack the Ripper they were never solved.
The Author uses real people from the period, chiefly Dr. Thomas Bond, who was the police surgeon at the time. He is the main character in the book. While Dr. Bond does give some description of the Ripper Murders and the Ripper victims, his real focus is on the Torso Murders.
The Torso murders took place between 1887-1889. Torsos of young women were washing up along the Thames embankment. The bodies were headless and their limbs were hacked off. The limbs were found separately packaged, also washing up along the Thames. These murders were never solved, and since the heads were missing, the victims were never identified.
This sounds like the start of a really good book - but alas it is not, at least for me. Yes it is very atmospheric in describing the London of the period. But I am not a fan of the supernatural and the author attributes the Torso murders to a man who has been "taken over" by a supernatural being. So a lot of the book is consumed not with the mystery, but of finding the individual who was taken over by this supernatural being and when did it happen.
The writing style does not lend itself to a smooth, flowing story. The author uses several different characters to tell the story, although Thomas Bond is the main figure. The chapters in the book alternate between the point of view of different characters -- some written in the first person, other in the third person, and chapters which are newspapers accounts of the crimes. Also the book does not flow chronologically - but tends to skip around between 1887 and 1889, depending on the POV of the character in the chapter. The listener will need to pay close attention to the chapter titles in order to follow this book, as the date is always given as part of the chapter heading.
The Narration is excellent and helps carry the reader along through the story. However, the narrator cannot overcome the long periods of boredom as we explore a character’s thoughts and internal musings. Again if you like supernatural/fantasy mysteries you will love this book. I did not.
This has to be one of the most boring and tedious espionage books I have listened to. Only the narrator saves it. The plot sounds fairly exciting. The main character, Leon, acts as a part time courier for am official, Tommy, at the British Embassy. The opening scene is exciting. Leon is at the docks awaiting a boat which is brining a Romanian defector with USSR/KGB secrets for the Americans. Gun fire erupts and Leon kills his assailant only to discover that he has killed the Brit from whom he has worked as an occasional courier. Obviously Tommy was a double agent.
The balance of the books deals with Leon trying to discover who Tommy really worked for, and trying to see that the Romanian is delivered to the American. Unfortunately this exciting sounding plot is revealed not by action, but by long and often boring conversation with a large number of people Leon meets at parties, at the Embassy, etc.
Combined with this story are the flashbacks about Leon’s life and marriage in pre-war Berlin to Anna, who as the result of traumatic accident now lies in a coma in a nursing home. Leon faithfully goes to see here and hold long conversations with here about what he is doing and what his plans are.
For a little spice, he has an affair with Kay Bishop, an embassy wife, whose husband is murdered. Suspicion falls on Leon. Again most of this is revealed through long conversation. I skipped a lot of the part about his relationship with Kay – he spent one night with here in a hotel room and the conversations they had goes on for several hours on the audio book. I skipped it. There is just too much tedious conversation like that to make the book an entertaining read.
Although it has an exciting plot on paper, the author’s method of development may have a limited appeal. The author know Turkey and Istanbul very well, but even when he goes to a location we get a description of the location not in a word picture, bur rather with a long drawn-out conversation or worse monologues with flash backs about going to the location with Anna.
If you can tolerate a book whose plot development is done mostly with long conversations with a variety of characters and very little action, you may like this book.. But the author is no Eric Ambler or Alan Furst.
This is probably the worst Gordianus mystery I have read. It takes place during the civil war between Pompey and Caesar and deals with the flight of Pompey from Brundisium.
I found it quite boring in places. First of all this is not really a mystery. The murder which starts the book is immediately solvable and thus the murder is unimportant. The real mystery, which we don't learn much about until the end of the book, is whether Meto is in a plot to assassinate Caesar.
What consumes the bulk of the book is the tale of Gordianus traveling to Brundisium and getting inside Pompey’s camp. Along the way he has Tiro, Cicero's Scribe, as a travelling companion and he stops at Cicero's villa to talk to him. There is the obligatory attack on the Appian Way by bandits and the capture of the travelers by Mark Antony.
Gordianus is most concerned of finding his son Meto in Caesar's camp but he gets no chance to talk to him. He must get to Pompey's camp to save his son-in-law Davus, and then escape from Pompey's clutches and return to Rome. Pompey’s escape from Brundisium is probably the most interesting part of the whole book.
Personally I have always been lukewarm about Gordianus as a detective. I always thought the best book was "Murder on the Appian Way". Gordianus is a little too much of a goody two shoes to fit into the Roman world. He pales by comparison with Caecilius Metellus in SPQR. However, if you like Gordianus you will probably like this book.
The narrator is not too bad but certainly better than Scott Brick in the earlier books. However, he is not in the class win Simon Vance or other notable narrators.
Report Inappropriate Content