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Caterkiller (Darlington, UK)

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Death of an Expert Witness
Death of an Expert Witness
by Baroness P. D. James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rather basic and uninvolving, 25 Nov 2006
I was recommended this by fellow crime fans who regard James as the keeper of the legacy of Christie and Sayers. All I can say is that this is a great disappointment. The story is basic and the two murders in the book are not linked so there is no acceleration is the plot such as in Christie's "Mrs McGinty's Dead". The writing style is pretty bland, the motive's of the key suspects are explained but this takes up about half the book and the whole thing ends rather abruptly. Not one of her finest.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 6, 2009 1:39 PM BST


Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas
by David Mitchell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

8 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars OK, but what's the point?, 7 Oct 2006
This review is from: Cloud Atlas (Paperback)
The key selling point of this book is the overlapping stories intercut with each other. Great idea, the problemis that the stories overlap in a very incidental way, with each prior story having little to do with the following one. It would be more rewarding to read each complete story in turn rather than in the intercut sequence set out in the book, but this would just illustrate that the plotlines are not particularly interesting.


Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew
Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew
by Bernard Hare
Edition: Paperback

12 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One for the bleeding hearts, 25 Aug 2006
Your Dad's long gone, your mum's on heroin and your role model is a borderline alcoholic. Let's face it, your life is pretty screwed up. But none of this is your fault, at least not according to Bernard Hare; you see this is the fault of Society, which has failed you and your whole community. Naturally you want to show your true inner creative side by sniffing glue, impregnating, fighting, or just stealing the property of someone who has worked their whole lives to accumulate a few possessions which you take in an hour, sell, and then drink, smoke or inject the proceeds. When the schools try to teach you, the police try to arrest you, or charities try to house you they are trying to Control you. Resist, before you are subsumed and brainwashed by their evil control mechanisms; it's much better for you to play a few games of chess, shoplift and then fight/impregnate/joyride your way through the rest of the day, all ultimately at the taxpayers expense. Anyone who reads this and starts a bout of hand-wringing about the state of society needs their head examining; the rest of us will just demand the demolition of the Welfare State or the introduction of compulsary sterilisation.


A Lot of Hard Yakka: Triumph and Torment - A County Cricketer's Life
A Lot of Hard Yakka: Triumph and Torment - A County Cricketer's Life
by Simon Hughes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent overview of what happens in "the middle", 9 Jun 2006
The key characteristic of Hughes' book is how cricket has changed since his 1980s-early 90s playing career. His descriptions of the catering at Lords are barely believable with three course lunches (including roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and syrup sponge, washed down by litres of tea; how would Flintoff and co. play after putting away that lot we must wonder. The insights into the team are riveting. These are players in the world's top cricket league yet they have to hold down off-season jobs, and have the constant risk of being "let go" at the end of every season; even when their county grants them a benefit year the player does all of the organising of benefit events! The highlight though was the description of the umpires dismissing batsmen lbw because they couldn't stand the low calibre "banter" between batsman and bowler. If only the same umpire had officiated in Steve Waugh's matches. Excellent stuff.


Letter from America: 1946-2004
Letter from America: 1946-2004
by Alistair Cooke
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.60

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unputdownable summary of the 20th Century, 24 May 2006
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To be blunt: Alistair Cooke's writing is of the highest quality. It surpasses most fiction and non-fiction writings in these terms. The key characteristic of "Letters from America" is that they were meant to be read aloud and so adopt a more authoratative tone than most published writings. Cooke's America is fascinating; it shows what has been forgotten as well as documenting the present. Past luminaries such as HL Mencken, who is now largely forgotten, are described in detail under the assumption that their memory would live forever. The one criticism is that Cooke covers the news with too light a touch. At least in this collection, the civil rights movement, the attrocities of the Johnson and Nixon administrations in Vietnam and Cambodia are only briefly referred to. Apart from that his writing on summers in Long Island, the death of the Kennedies and Clintongate are an absolute pleasure.


Homage to Catalonia (Penguin Modern Classics)
Homage to Catalonia (Penguin Modern Classics)
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Want to know why Franco won?, 21 Mar 2006
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To begin, Orwell's book is captivating. The opening chapter vividly describes the proto-commune of Barcelona with "workers" unrestrainadly testing the boundaries of their new freedom. Then to the front: excrement, minimal rations, one rifle between six soldiers, and at least 500yds too far from the enemy for any meaningful soldiering. As he returns to Barcelona Orwell experiences the chaos of a "socialist" paradise as factionalism breaks out between anarchists, Stalinists, left-wing leftists, right-wing leftists and centerists, each denouncing the other as Franco sympathisers. This culminates in the police arresting messengers carrying military orders to and from the front if they suspect the messenger belongs to the wrong faction, and with no regard to the needs of the war effort. The enigma in this is Orwell. He barely explains why he is in Catalonia, why he enlists in the militia, and records the political infighting with (largely) a detached air (similar to his back-storyless experiences in "Down and Out....") . Although his objectivity is a strength of the book as readers we want to know more about HIM!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 27, 2010 10:52 AM BST


My Spin on Cricket
My Spin on Cricket
by Richie Benaud
Edition: Audio CD

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some gems but a bit bland, 24 Jan 2006
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This review is from: My Spin on Cricket (Audio CD)
This audiobook suffers from the fact that it was written prior to the 2005 Ashes series which renders it slightly out of date. Benaud concentrates too much on the distant past of cricket, particularly Australian cricket, so anyone who is both English and born after 1950 is unlikely to find these extracts particularly engrossing. Some of the narrative is of the "that was the finest 8 over spell bowled from the pavilion end at Brisbane under cloud that I can recall" type, which makes it seem like Richie is actually at a live match, not reminicing about one played twenty years ago. The saving grace is Richie's voice: he is truly the vocal embodiment of cricket (with the possible exception of Brian Johnson) it's just a shame that what he has to say is so dull.


The French Revolution
The French Revolution
by Christopher Hibbert
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A real eye-opener to a romanticised period, 13 Jan 2006
This review is from: The French Revolution (Paperback)
This book is a fascinating account of the real forces driving the French Revolution: not huddled masses rising up against a despot but a mixture of lawyers and merchants on the make who were eventually consumed by the monster that they created. The level of violence throughout is unbelievable, mobs, looters, and gangs of self-styled "assassins" roamed free summarily lynching anyone considered an enemy of whichever faction held sway in the government. It is shocking that the Revolution,given the tens of thousands of innocent victims that it claimed is still celebrated today; it is like the Russians celebrating the Gulags,or the British celebrating the anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Each key revolutionary leader, Robespierre, Marat, Danton, are given a brief biography before we learn of their inevitable demise, as infighting, graft, and factionalism destroy the Revolution's goals. An excellent read and a great introduction to the subject.


Mimi and Toutou Go Forth: The Bizarre Battle of Lake Tanganyika
Mimi and Toutou Go Forth: The Bizarre Battle of Lake Tanganyika
by Giles Foden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.19

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK but ends a bit disjointedly, 13 Dec 2005
This is a fascinating study of one of the more obscure aspects of Britain's WW1 campaign. It is an entertaining read describing how a Biritsh expeditionary force led by a commander considered a liability by every other section of the military somehow led his men to complete their objectives, and ultimately to wrest control of Lake Tanganyiki from Germany. The main character, Spicer, is like a comic book Captain Mainwaring, constantly boasting of his hunting and military exploits despite evidence to the contrary, and is eventually recalled to Britain after falling out with Britain's Belgian allies. The actual story of Mimi and Toutou (Spicer's two boats) is well written and engrossing but the book flags badly at the end with an over lengthy chapter on the film "African Queen", which was partly based on the story of Mimi & Toutou, and a tour of the region by the author, both of which would have been better served by a separate book. Still, an easy read and very entertaining.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2008 11:47 AM GMT


Kabul Catastrophe: The Invasion and Retreat 1839-1842 (Prion Lost Treasures)
Kabul Catastrophe: The Invasion and Retreat 1839-1842 (Prion Lost Treasures)
by Patrick Macrory
Edition: Paperback

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jaw-dropping incompetence, 30 Nov 2005
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The most amazing thing about the Retreat from Kabul is how it appears to be a forgotten incident in history. It is easily a catastrophe to be placed alongside the Light Brigade, Rourke's Drift and Gallipoli in the peons of British military disasters. The recent shenanigans in Iraq make this doubley relevant: most powerful nation on Earth invades a Middle Eastern state to enact regime change, with no exit strategy, in the face of a hostile populace. The British venture was doomed from the start: Afghanistan had few natural resources to cater for an invading army, cue inflation and localised starvation wherever they went. As a fighting force they were compromised by each officer bringing with them an average of ten servants each, plus their wives and children. Elementary mistakes were made such as placing their food and armaments store outside of their encampments (otheriwse where would they accomodate all the servants?) where they were easy pickings for marauding Afghan warlords. Military tactics which worked fine at Waterloo simply gave the Afghan guerillas and cavalry a bigger target to aim at, and to top it all they were commanded by a septigenarian in precarious health, who was medically incapable of issuing orders for several days at a time.
All of this is described in excruciating detail, then onto the Retreat during which 16,000 soldiers and hangers on were slaughtered over three days by Afghan snipers, and their wives, servants and Indian sepoys being little more than cannon fodder. Overall this book is engrossing, frightening and unbelievable. The best history book I have read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2008 11:57 AM GMT


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