It is 1648 and Britain is at war with itself. The Royalists are defeated but Parliament is in turmoil, its power weakened by internal discord. Royalism's last hope is Sir Mortimer Shay, a ruthless veteran of decades of intrigue who must rebuild a credible threat to Cromwell's rule, whatever the cost. John Thurloe is a young official in Cromwell's service. Confronted by the extent of the Royalists' secret intelligence network, he will have to fight the true power reaching into every corner of society: the Comptrollerate-General for Scrutiny and Survey.
Robert Wilton has held a variety of posts in the British Ministry of Defence, Foreign Office, and Cabinet Office. He was advisor to the Prime Minister of Kosovo in the lead-up to the country's independence, and has now returned there as a senior international official. He divides his time between Kosovo and Cornwall.
©2013 Robert Wilton (P)2013 Audible Ltd
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"A difficult listen"
No. I might recommend it to read on paper (with a warning about the style) but couldn't recommend it as an audiobook. It's one of the few books that I find doesn't work as a reading despite the best efforts of the very good narrator.
As already explained.
This is my first book read by Cameron Stewart so I cannot compare. However, I think he did a very good job and has a very pleasant reading voice with a good range of accents and tones of voice.
I might read other books about the period but will choose carefully after this experience.
I have had this book in my library for over a year and I have lost count of the number of times I started it and gave up and had to start again. I made myself stick with it and listened to nothing else for two weeks so it was a chore and not enjoyable.
The problem is with the first half, which is so disjointed and all of the characters are so shadowy that I found it impossible to get embroiled. Scene setting and a mysterious tone are all very fine but I missed any form of narrative drive or any character I could fully engage with until 10 hours into the reading. It finally took off when it became clear who the two main characters are and what the thing is that will pitch them against each other. They may be on opposing sides of the civil war but it still needs a specific bone of contention and at last we had it over half way through.
The other thing which makes it a difficult listen, as distinct from a read, is that there are regular quotations from contemporary documents, including the numerical references and the library where they are stored. The eye can skate over the references on the page but they intrude into a reading and destroy the mood of the piece.
I have seen other reviews suggesting that readers who enjoy Hilary Mantel's books may get on better with the style of this book. All I can say is that this did not apply in my case. I would count Wolf Hall amongst my favourite reads and listens of all time but that did not mean I enjoyed this listen. The difference was in the strong character at the heart of Wolf Hall, right from the the opening sentence, which this book lacks.
My overall feeling is that is just too driven by the source documents and the attempt to turn raw information and hints about people iinto a compelling novel has not quite succeeded.
"A nice surprise."
At first I wasn’t impressed with the reader. I thought he read to slowly and was dull but after a few hours listening I changed my mind. His steady pace suits the complicated plot because the listener needs some time to digest the onion layers of fact and speculation. He has a very clear voice for each character which helps to identify who’s who in a world where half the people are named after English counties.
The story is nice and deep with lots to get your teeth stuck in to. I would recommend it to any one who likes Tinker Taylor solider spy. Or Len Deghton books.
"A confusing book that left me feeling frustrated"
If the author had defined his characters better rather than let several of them morph into each other. The plot and style of writing was far too confusing for an audio book as it doesn't allow you to flick back to review chapters already read.
Sadly not, he try's to write in a style similar to Hilary Mantel buts sadly fails
He didn't , he tried his best with the material given
No not really. I generally enjoy listening to audio books but could not wait to finish this one. The only redeeming quality it had was that I felt the need to finish it rather than feel I'd wasted money
If you like books set during The English Civil War try Bleeding Land by Giles Kristian first
Interesting, entertaining, informative.
Very interesting, I learnt a lot about the civil war without it being dry.
The main characters developed as the story went on.
Well read, would listen to more of his performances.
I have listened to another book by this author and would recommend that as well.
They both give a depth to history and are entertaining. They can be slow in places but definitely are well worth listening to.
"Civil War spies"
It is strange to have a Government Department as protagonist in a series - the Comptrollerate-General for Scrutiny and Survey. In this volume there is the problem of both Royalists and Parliamentarians wanting to have access to such a department. This is beautifully read.
"007 with added swashbuckle"
Loved this, have no idea if the Inspectorate General for Scrutiny and Survey is real but I really hope it is! Convoluted plot, lots of action and great characters. I mostly thought I knew what was going on, turns out I was mostly wrong but everything became clear in the end. Will be listening to this and any others in the series over and over again. Loved it
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