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The Perfect Prey: The fall of ABN Amro, or: what went wrong in the banking industry by Smit, Jeroen (2010) Paperback
The Perfect Prey: The fall of ABN Amro, or: what went wrong in the banking industry by Smit, Jeroen (2010) Paperback
by Jeroen Smit
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars AN EXHAUSTIVE ACCOUNT, 28 April 2014
I was curious to discover what caused Lloyds TSB, long regarded as a bastion of good banking practices and conservatism, to have to go cap in hand and scrounge rescue money off the British taxpayer. It was put about in the media, that it's financial problems emanated from the ill-advised, hurried, and poorly investigated purchase of The Royal Bank of Scotland, headed by the now disgraced Fred Goodwin, which was stuffed full with way more than it's fair share of highly hazardous barely risk assessed mainly property loans, and a disastrous investment in the Dutch financial group, ABN Amro.

This investment cost over 17 times its book value based on profits which were an illusion - they simply weren't there, and soon after purchase when the illusory bubble burst, RBS had to scrabble together the largest rights issue in British Corporate History, underwritten by the British government after which RBS was dumped into the lap of Lloyds.

'The Perfect Prey' was purchased in a desire to find out what problems were in ABN Amro, that were not picked up on when it was purchased, that almost immediately imploded after acquisition. This book based on over 120 conversations with the most important people involved , allows the author Jeroen Smit to reconstruct the downfall of a Dutch institution, a bank whose rotten core was so disguised by paper profits of billions every year.

What this book does not give an explanation of, is why at the time due diligence was being conducted prior to purchase, the phalanx of eye wateringly expensive Investment Bankers, Accountants, Lawyers and other 'on the gravy train' advisors, did not spot the fraud that abounded in the accounts on a massive scale.

There are some particularly detailed and revealing profiles of the senior executives, foremost being that of Rijkman Groenink, the CEO, which portrays a man driven and obsessed with personal advancement and internal corporate domination. His self-delusion leading to complete self-denial over his pivotal role in the financial downfall of ABN Amro, perhaps explains the mantra of corporate responsibility evasion and deviousness that seemed to permeate the entire company especially as reflected in its financial results.

A meticulously compiled account, but a lot more intricate detail than I was looking for, making it somewhat slow reading - at least for me. I would imagine that for somebody working in or closely involved with ABN Amro during the period covered, would find the book of great interest, but for an outsider a bit heavy going.


Neon Bright Plastic Unisex Reading Glasses (2.50, Neon Blue&Green)
Neon Bright Plastic Unisex Reading Glasses (2.50, Neon Blue&Green)
Offered by GoOpticians
Price: £12.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars LENS DURABILITY SUSPECT, 14 April 2014
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Very distinctive design, in attractively contrasting blue and light green. Very comfortable to wear.

However, and with only normal usage one lens 'blistered' and a segment of glass broke away, leaving the vision through that lens blurred. Up until then I was very pleased with these reading glasses, taking a high place in my growing collection, which I rotate on a daily basis resulting in each pair getting used fairly infrequently.

However much I liked the frames, the fragility of the lenses in the face of normal and gentle usage, precludes me from giving an hearty endorsement of this product.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 15, 2014 4:29 PM BST


Greenwich Village Stories
Greenwich Village Stories
by Judith Stonehil
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.56

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MULTI-DIMENSIONAL PORTRAIT OF THE VILLAGE, 13 April 2014
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If ever a book showed the warmth, character, ambiance, earthiness, mystique, creativity, and sheer exuberance of a community, then this is it!

A collection of vignettes from an assortment of past and present residents of Greenwich Village, from many varied personal perspectives and relating to a fairly wide period of time, cumulatively carves out a picture seemingly in relief of this famous area of Manhattan.

For those who are fortunate to know Greenwich well, to those who are thinking about visiting, even to those who may never aspire to visit, this book is an absolute gem, and a fine example of how to capture the authentic feel and atmosphere of an area through personal experiences, and deeply felt affections for this unique quarter of New York City.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2014 11:20 PM BST


The Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank That Runs the World: The Inside Story of the Central Bankers' Secret Bank
The Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank That Runs the World: The Inside Story of the Central Bankers' Secret Bank
by Adam LeBor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WILL IT EVER GET OVER IT'S IGNOBLE START?, 10 April 2014
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The author Adam Lebor's account of the establishment in 1930 of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) exposes it's shocking and unforgivable willingness to become Adolph Hitler's financial conduit and facilitator, enabling the pillaging of invaded states Gold and Currency Reserves.

As thoroughly researched that the book so well demonstrates with the detailed history of BIS, no real clue is given as to the reason why the then Governor of the Bank of England, Montagu Norman should form such a dubious alliance and deep friendship with Hjalmar Schacht, a fanatical supporter of Hitler and the Nazi Party who served Hitler as President of the central state bank Reichsbank, and as Minister of Economics. It was this 'alliance' that was instrumental in BIS's formation and because of the unaccountable way it had been set up, it allowed the BIS to plunge into the murky world of giving assistance to a state that carried out such illegal, and barbarous acts against great swathes of humanity. It was unforgivable.

After the war, and with widespread alarm at the role played by BIS as an adjunct to the Nazi Party, the Breton Woods Conference in 1944 decided that the BIS should be done away with, and yet somehow with much behind the scenes manoeuvring surprisingly involving John Maynard Keynes, the BIS was allowed to carry on.

Since when, in order to obfuscate the past and to buff up it's image, BIS has 'morphed' into a hybrid mutation as the banker to Central Banks around the world, a self-acclaimed expert in the capital and liquidity ratios held by the commercial banking industry, and some fee earning financial regulatory and monitoring services. However, despite representing and deriving it's not inconsiderable income from Central Banks which are owned indirectly by billions of taxpayers worldwide, it hangs on to the veil of secrecy and almost total unaccountability that was adroitly inveigled by the founding fathers Messrs Montagu and Schacht. On the plus side BIS has an enviable reputation for lavishly entertaining the relative handful of the elite financiers and politicians given admittance to it's architecturally gauche offices in Basel.

A very interesting and yet startling book, particularly the early years of BIS. Whether the BIS will ever be able to shake off it's image as 'Banker to The Gestapo' is doubtful other than through the passing of many more years and authors like Adam Lebor not publishing more books on the subject.


No Title Available

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ATTRACTIVE BUT A LITTLE DELICATE, 16 Feb 2014
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My first pair of 'I Need You' glasses that have felt a little fragile. I have 3 or 4 pairs of this brand which whilst very fashionable in a clean cut simplistic way do feel robust, and do not engender nervousness when being worn.

Let me immediately say that the design of these glasses is really attractive and the colour as well. As the price is somewhat lower than others in this manufacturers range then I suppose I should not be surprised that something had to give - in this case the strength of the frames. Because they are so good to look at then I shall certainly wear them until and if they break.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 26, 2014 3:52 PM GMT


Locked In
Locked In
by Kerry Wilkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A GOOD START, 16 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Locked In (Paperback)
A murder thriller in the basic tradition of uncomplicated jargon particularly of the specialist forensic variety which makes 'Locked In' an easy read. It is Kerry Wilkinson's first 'stab' (sorry about that) at a novel and not a bad one at that.

It introduces Detective Sergeant Jessica Daniel, a newly promoted crime fighter who is thrown into the deep end of the criminal cesspit with her first murder case. At first she seems a little overwhelmed with her challenge, becoming very stressed, resulting of lapses into profane language and very harsh put downs and terse comebacks of all and sundry.

It goes without saying that all comes good by the end of the book with a successful result.

A very promising debut novel and the emergence of a potential successful and endearing character in DS Jessica Daniel. An easy to read book, quite gripping, and uncomplicated but lacking the compelling readability that authors such as Michael Robotham instills in his readers. But this could well come as Kerry Wilkinson's work progresses.


Ice-Watch Gents Watch Classic Collection CS.PK.B.P.10
Ice-Watch Gents Watch Classic Collection CS.PK.B.P.10

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PINK IS THE NEW BLACK!, 16 Feb 2014
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Not only for little girls, and the archetypical portrayal of males with a leaning towards effeminacy but for anybody, men and women alike who like to project a polychrome appearance as opposed to a 'grey' spectral image. The shade of pink on this watch is an eye catching, vibrant shade which stands out well on the wrists.

Gone are the 'only one watch' days, with more and more people collecting a range in different styles and colours to compliment their apparel and accessories such as glasses.

And as a timepiece this watch keeps good time, and is very good value for money.


Sycamore Row
Sycamore Row
by John Grisham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.58

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT SURPRISING......., 15 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Sycamore Row (Hardcover)
.......that another story featuring charismatic legal beaver Jake Brigance slugging it out in that famous courthouse in Clanton in a fiercely controversial trial that blows open the old racial tensions and forcibly cause Ford County to confront and face up to its tortured history, will become a best seller. It is as certain as mortality, England not winning The World Cup in Brazil, and paying taxes.

Involving exactly the right ingredients for a blockbuster - wealthy old man dying of lung cancer hangs himself ( you'll never guess where......a Sycamore tree!) but not before leaving his fortune in a new handwritten note to his black maid which really angers his adult children. And you've got it....it paves the way for what this splendid author John Grisham is a master at, a legal fisticuffs that is ultimately dramatically fought out in a courtroom.

An assured and exciting thriller which showcases Mr Grisham's unique ability to create the most compelling of characters.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 17, 2014 10:14 PM BST


Tapas on the Ramblas: A Russell Quant Mystery (Russell Quant Mysteries)
Tapas on the Ramblas: A Russell Quant Mystery (Russell Quant Mysteries)
by Anthony Bidulka
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.68

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE, 15 Feb 2014
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The potential is there in the plot. A very rich and powerful woman, matriarch of her family clan, is convinced that one of her relations is intent on murdering her. So she hires private detective Russell Quant to search out the rotten apple in the barrel. To facilitate the outing of the potential murderer the woman arranges a family reunion aboard a luxury cruise liner as it tours the exotic ports of the Mediterranean where the early smooth sailing soon descends into revealing a family simmering with rage and greed.

You would think that the scene is set for a fast paced, intriguing, smouldering story that will keep the reader riveted to the book and not want to put it down but it didn't happen for me which was a bit of a disappointment considering the excellent early build up of the plot. I found the pace somewhat sedentary which was out of kilter with the story framework which promised more.

This author shows much potential in his build up of a plot and I hope that subsequent novels are able to exploit this very valuable attribute and provide a more energetic and exciting tempo.


The Wreckage
The Wreckage
by Michael Robotham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IN TRUE ROBOTHAM STYLE......., 15 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Wreckage (Paperback)
......absolutely packed with intrigue, suspense, interesting and verging on a tad exaggerated characters, and a storyline that turns, twists, jack-knives, forks and after a few chapters may lead the reader to wonder if it will be possible to ultimately weave all the strands together into a coherent conclusion. Rest assured all is well as usual the master storyteller does get it all together albeit with leaving you guessing until the bitter end.

It's ex-cop Vincent Ruiz, and psychologist Joe O'Loughlin joined by a motley collection of petty criminals (grifters as referred to in the book), journalist Luca Terracini, UN Auditor Daniela Garner, a missing banker in London and his very pregnant wife, Elizabeth North determined to find him and clear his name convinced he has been made a scapegoat. Oh that's by no means all, there is also a psychotic assassin called "The Courier" that you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. Where would an adventure thriller be without a psychotic nutter assassin?

Michael Robotham is unique in the world of this genre of non-fiction and this book is a very good example of his narrative craftsmanship.


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