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The Boy in the River: A shocking true story of ritual murder and sacrifice in the heart of London
The Boy in the River: A shocking true story of ritual murder and sacrifice in the heart of London
Price: 3.66

5.0 out of 5 stars A book to be remembered, 25 Aug 2013
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It goes without saying this is not a book for the faint hearted nor those looking for light entertainment. The cases are described in far more brutal, unrelenting detail than you have read in the newspapers; it is that detail that makes you understand the utter drive of hardened police officers to deliver convictions. Adam, the boy whose torso was recovered from the River Thames, is not the only case detailed here. The other cases described are primarily UK based with most located in London.

Through this well written book, Dr Richard Hoskins takes us from his happy times in the Congo marked by devastating personal tragedy whilst living under the rule of an autocratic dictator and contrasts it with the Congo many years later, free of the dictator but with a disintegrating social fabric providing a void for new churches to fill using their corrupted fusion of Christianity with a brutalised version of previously benign traditional beliefs. The Congo that he used to know is not the one in which he is almost killed years later.

When Adam is pulled from the river the Police come to him seeking guidance in a belief system which seems so alien. Dr Hoskin's personal story run's parallel with the cases he provides help on, fighting to maintain his sanity and marriage in the face of the case reports he must read and interpret for the benefit of Police and Courts to make sure all understand this is not an Africa problem steeped in tradition but a terrible corruption by a minority in recent years of a faith that has lasted hundreds of years with the victims being dreadfully abused before, in the most extreme, death.


Battle for Bluebell - The 43-year battle to extend the Bluebell Railway (Illustrated)
Battle for Bluebell - The 43-year battle to extend the Bluebell Railway (Illustrated)
Price: 3.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It just doesn't gel, 27 Jun 2013
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I spotted this book and snapped it up as the successful completion of the Bluebell Railway's extension to East Grinstead was sure to make for an interesting and engaging book.

No. I got through about two thirds of it before giving up. There are some nice pictures through the text but the text, for the most part, is articles drawn from "Bluebell News" over the years mixed in with text written in the present time. The result for me for me just didn't gel. All the information about the extension project is there its just I feel it could of been be so much better presented.


Secrets of the Conqueror: The Untold Story of Britain's Most Famous Submarine
Secrets of the Conqueror: The Untold Story of Britain's Most Famous Submarine
Price: 5.39

5.0 out of 5 stars The whole story - for now, 25 Jun 2013
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HMS Conqueror's name will forever be indelibly linked with the sinking of the Argentine cruiser Belgrano during the 1982 Falkland's War. This part of the story is dealt with very clearly and contains some new pieces of information in a long part of the book.

Unlike other reviewers I found the following part covering Tam Dalyell's dogged pursuit of the MoD for information and Clive Ponting's crisis of conscience leading to the leak a fascinating insight into the machinations of Government and their willingness, taking the book at its word, to blacken the name of one RN officer to further their ends. This part of the book is more autobiographical as this is a part of the story Stuart Prebble was directly involved in.

From there we then move on to the prize nugget, revealing the existence of Operation Barmaid. In truth there seemed to be as many pages given over to the fight to have the outline information about Operation Barmaid released as there is about the successful capture of a Soviet towed sonar array without letting on to the Soviets that it had indeed been stolen. The details of the operation and the equipment involved is at best sketchy but you come away with the distinct impression of a terribly difficult operation performed flawlessly.

The last we hear of the stonlen sonar array it is loaded into a US aircraft and taken to America never to be heard from again in the following pages with no follow on as it must be assumed the technical analysis remains classified. In between everything else there is background information on the Russian spies in the UK & US leaking secrets that improved the quietness of Russian submarine.

All in all I found this to be a well rounded book although, by way of its subject matter, it is almost certainly an incomplete story. At the end Stuart gives his own theory on what happened to the missing log books - believable as the theory is it may well be a long time before we find out the truth. If ever.


Spies Beneath Berlin
Spies Beneath Berlin
Price: 3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A plan so audacious it works, 25 Jun 2013
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The British had first come up with the idea of tapping into the Soviet's military phone calls in occupied Vienna, carved up by the WW2 allies in the same way as Berlin was for a much longer time. They realised that a number of the phone lines carrying top secret Soviet phone calls were carried on telephone lines that physically ran through the British sector of Vienna.

After that moment of clarity the book recounts it was a simple matter to tunnel into the telephone cables from non-descript houses, taps at the exchange were out of the question due to the number of spies operated by both sides.

Then the American's independently had the same idea after which the British let them in on the secret of how long they had been eavesdropping. With the Americans thinking on a far grander scale something very audacious is dreamt up - tunneling across into the Soviet sector of Berlin in order to tap into telephone lines the Soviets thought secure.

And so a treasure trove of raw intelligence is gathered allowing the spies to deduce the Soviets were not hell bent on invading Western Europe and so allowing them to put their political masters at greater ease.

The book also tells us what came out much later - the Soviets had known for a large part of the Berlin tunnel's operating life that it was there; a fact disclosed to them by the British spy Guy Burgess. With that revealed a part of the book then deals with the quality of the intelligence recovered, was it high grade because the Soviets had to continue using the phone lines for fear of inadvertently unmasking Guy Burgess or was the information actually a very elaborate hoax on the Soviet's part.

This is a book with much intrigue which is probably now a near complete story enriched by the passage of time allowing more information to be declassified.


Fatally Flawed - The Quest to be Deepest (2nd Edition)
Fatally Flawed - The Quest to be Deepest (2nd Edition)
Price: 2.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Oh my goodness; That's deep, very deep, 25 Jun 2013
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Verna van Schaik envelops us in the darkness of a world far beyond recreational SCUBA diving limits were extra seconds on the bottom add to many extra minutes of decompression on the way back to the surface.

In the world of technical diving, that is diving using mixtureas containing Helium, Verna was something unique, a woman that wanted to play the men at their own game but without recourse to special allowances being made for her gender.

Her target becomes the women's depth record which she sets in a cave at 221 metres (the men's record is 330 metres - as deep as The Shard in London is tall!). Her book takes us through all the difficulties - technical, medical and her standing within the dive club she is a member of until eventually she does it in between times taking part in other notable events including the recovery of two diver's bodies who had both pushed exceptionally deep and crossed the narrow safety margin in force at such diving extremes.

There are very few people who will read this book and come anywhere close to what she has achieved, but for the rest of us back on dry land she inspires, demonstrating if you want something bad enough you can achieve it through all kinds of adversity and challenges.


The Afghan Wars: History in an Hour
The Afghan Wars: History in an Hour
Price: 0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Afghani's Hostility to Foreigners, 18 Jun 2013
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An hour invested in this book rewards you with an overview of Afghan's brutal history over the last 200 years beginning with being the unwilling 19th Century game board hosting "The Great Game" on which British and Russian opponents vied for influence by diplomacy and recourse to military means.

The book recounts how the British twice invaded and twice they were eventually repulsed at a terrible cost in lives on both sides with both sides complicit in atrocities. In once case the retreating British column lost 3000 people in a matter of a couple of days.

The book takes us through the 20th Century with various factions, tribes and other nation states riding on the ebb and flow of fortune, assassination and set piece battles in Afghanistan. The book concludes with the US Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden yet we all know there is far more history to come with the (planned) exit of most foreign forces over the next couple of years. The question is; will the next step be a cut and paste copy of the time after the Soviet's withdrawal? An updated version of this book several years from now will provide the answer - this really is history in the making and in terrible danger of repeating previous episodes at the expense of the Afghan civilians.

The book is made up of three main sections; a narrative history, biographies of the key players and a chronology of events. The pictures are a decent quality and do not pixelate when enlarged.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2014 6:47 PM BST


Night Raid: The True Story of the First Victorious British Para Raid of WWII
Night Raid: The True Story of the First Victorious British Para Raid of WWII
Price: 4.35

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy history, 18 May 2013
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The battle at Bruneval lasted a few short hours yet was an instrumental part of the eventual allied victory; the stolen German radar the Paras brought back giving British scientists key information they needed to blind German radar to turn the air war in RAF Bomber Command's favour.

The Bruneval raid is something that is well known in the distinguished history of the Parachute Regiment but what this book illuminates is just how important the scientific results of the mission were, along with the captured Luftwaffe operator, to the British understanding of German air defence. There are some gems of information in this well-paced book, such as how the very precise manufacturer's labels on the component parts allowed the allies to understand were German radars were manufactured and then how many units the factories were capable of producing to show what Bomber Command was up against.

The raid itself takes up around a third of the book, the rest of it flies round the training for the raid, bringing the Navy, Army and Air Force resources together, how intelligence about German troop strengths in Bruneval was discovered and the development of British radar led by Sir Robert Watson Watt along with developments in Europe. The last part of the book then deals post-raid with how the information gleaned was then used to Bomber Command's advantage.

One of the final paragraphs of the book has Sir Robert Watson Watt speeding down a US highway and being stopped by a policeman. Realising he was caught by a radar speed gun he bemoans to, the no doubt surprised, policeman that he'd never of invented it if he knew that it would be used like that!

The Kindle edition has photographs and readable maps.


Titanic: A Very Brief History
Titanic: A Very Brief History
Price: 1.93

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good detail hidden in badly written text, 10 Mar 2013
You would have thought it unlikely another book on the Titanic is required but this book is part of a series that presents history in bite sized chunks to engage casual readers on subjects that would otherwise only be covered by 300 page books.

The detail within the book is good with background interest on Titanic's sister ships and their mishaps, although there is no mention of Olympic sinking the Nantucket lightship or the Titanic disaster's spooky similarity to the 1898 novel about the fictitious Titan. There is mention of Violet Jessop and her association with all three sister ships but nothing of the enquiry under Lord Mersey and the improvements in safety at sea which came about as a result of the disaster save for a passing mention of the SOLAS regulations. Technical points contained in the text are frequently not explained such as SOLAS, triple expansion or steam turbine. It is easy enough to find out with a quick Wikipedia search but the point of this type of book is to present everything succinctly to the reader.

It is the quality of the text and proof reading that badly lets this book down. Olympia is substituted for Olympic, the text talks about passengers failing to pitch up (to board the ship), there is a reference to rudders (there was only one), some of the maths converting costs then to costs today seems to be out, "Dedicated train trips were listed from Paris and London that would cart passengers ..." is hardly good English, "it was later found that when the ship hit the iceberg the first six cabins were totally flooded" should surely read compartments instead of cabins, "the doors of the compartments had automatic doors" and other gems.

In short, if poorly written text is your equivalent of fingers being dragged down a blackboard then you may want to cover your ears whilst reading this book.

With all the above in mind I'd recommend the rival Titanic: History in an Hour which, as my review states, has its faults but is better written.


The Falklands War: A Very Brief History
The Falklands War: A Very Brief History

2.0 out of 5 stars Accurate chronology but terrible text, 10 Mar 2013
Having read quite a few Falkland's War books there doesn't seem to be anything historically wrong with this book. Inevitably in this kind of short history format things get missed out but some of them are very big things, I don't recall much mention of the hospital at Ajax bay and the loss of ships is only briefly touched upon.

It is the quality of the text that badly lets it down. The story just doesn't flow and contains out of place words were it seems a thesaurus and/or spell checker has got carried away. For example Mount Harrier is mentioned twice instead of the correct Mount Harriet and the Army fly Westland South helicopters when it should be Westland Scouts.


Doves of Fire
Doves of Fire
Price: 4.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Frontline fire fighting and the mental toll, 24 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Doves of Fire (Kindle Edition)
This is one of those short books that stays with you for a long time afterward such is it's content. This is not a book for the faint hearted as the casualty descriptions, as in Neil Broadbent's Reflections of Fire, are unflinching in their description, such as approaching a bus with a dead person trapped underneath and describing the 20 foot long streak of blood and flesh left behind on the road's surface.

London Fire Brigade has seen its share of misery over the years which inevitably takes a toll on the fire fighters involved. And so it is with Terry as towards the end of his career his mental health starts to deteriorate and he is taken off frontline duties and turns his attention to fire prevention and educating schools. Hardly any surprise when he describes the horror of working through the wreckage at the Moorgate tube disaster to name just one incident. It is almost as if his mental problems creep up on him as a surprise, even though he had seen mental health haunting colleagues around him such as going to one incident in the docks with a crew member who becomes jumpy only to realise that the crew member was a survivor of the Dudgeon's Wharf disaster and the current incident is quite similar.

I would like to of read more about Terry's post fire brigade involvement with the mental health charity as it is almost glossed over in a few pages at the end of the book whilst hinting at the same time there is a huge story in its own right to be told of coming to terms with what he had dealt with in a working life dedicated to the London Fire Brigade.

Read this book and think about making a donation to the Fire Fighter's Charity.


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