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Andrew Norman "andrew0410" (Beds, England)
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Hawksmoor (Penguin Decades)
Hawksmoor (Penguin Decades)
by Peter Ackroyd
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very poor, 5 Aug 2012
This is a weird book. Back in the early 18th century Nicholas Dyer is involved in the building of several new churches in London. Somewhat implausibly, he is a practitioner of Pagan/ anti-Christian/black magic type religion, and wants blood sacrifices to sanctify the outwardly Christian churches he is building.
Forward to the twentieth century, and Nicholas Hawksmoor (not introduced until halfway through the book) is a detective with the task of solving a number of murders in or near London churches, very similar to the deaths Dyer was responsible for nearly three centuries earlier. There are various parallels between Dyer and Hawksmoor - the first has Walter Pyne as his assistant, the latter Walter Payne, the former has Mrs Best as his landlady, the latter has a Mrs Best in an adjacent flat, and they pace the same London streets as each other, etc.
The author has clearly done a lot of research and put much ingenuity into the plot construction, but alas, all to very little positive effect. It's clever but rambling, and lacks a satisfying conclusion. Unless unexplained supernatural connections across the centuries appeal to you, this is one to avoid. If this review spares anyone from wasting their time reading this book, I will think the time in putting this review up well spent.


Brian Clough: Nobody Ever Says Thank You: The Biography
Brian Clough: Nobody Ever Says Thank You: The Biography
by Jonathan Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.89

5.0 out of 5 stars The Triumph and the Tragedy, 5 Feb 2012
I am mystified that this book hasn't got better reviews. I have read the author's previous books, Inverting the Pyramid and Anatomy of England, and enjoyed them both: but this is a better book, with a compelling human interest flow to the narrative, a biographical subject of Shakesperian dimensions, blessed with some wondrous talents yet also cursed with perverse and destructive traits.

I can only surmise that whilst the first two books covered territory that few others have trodden, on subjects that Wilson has made distinctively his own specialism (tactical analysis), this biography of Clough, whilst fuller than any of the others on the subject, nonetheless enters a crowded marketplace, and has perhaps received less attention than it deserves as a consequence.

Clough is a fascinating biographical subject, and short of a professional psychiatric analysis, this book offers as gripping a combination of informed narrative and analysis as one could wish for, which kept me turning the pages fast. I sincerely hope that Wilson can find some further football legends in the future to scrutinise with his considerable biographical talents - if he does, I'll certainly be buying again.

Thoroughly recommended.


The Anatomy of England: A History in Ten Matches
The Anatomy of England: A History in Ten Matches
by Jonathan Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.27

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars England dissected, 27 Dec 2010
Insightful and entertaining. If you've enjoyed Wilson's articles in the Guardian or his previous book, Inverting the Pyramid, you will like this.

It could though have been even better - some of the descriptions of key phases in matches (X slipped the ball to Y, who checked back and found Z on the right, etc) are hard to visualise, and the inclusion of some diagrammes would have assisted understanding. Wilson is famous for unravelling the mysteries of tactics, formations, etc (again, some diagrammes would enhance this aspect further) but is also good with character vignettes (e.g. on Alf Ramsey, Graham Taylor, Paul Gascoigne). I look forward to future books and hope he can build on his very considerable achievements thus far.


Our Kind of Traitor
Our Kind of Traitor
by John le Carré
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.19

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing - big spoiler included, 26 Dec 2010
This review is from: Our Kind of Traitor (Hardcover)
Russian criminal money launderer seeks refuge in Britain as Russian bad guys killed his pal and he knows he will be next. He seeks the help of a UK couple he meets on holday in Antigua. They contact UK secret service who agree to help if his information is good enough. They help him escape to somewhere safe in Switzerland, but then delay getting him to the UK. Finally they arrange a plane for him to fly to the UK, but it blows up shortly after take off. The end.

So who did it? What were the repurcussions? What happened to the other characters not killed on the plane? The author doesn't tell us. Very disappointing.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 12, 2011 2:34 PM BST


Edge
Edge
by Jeffery Deaver
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Twist Too Far?, 24 Nov 2010
This review is from: Edge (Hardcover)
My eleventh Deaver book, so perhaps I am getting too familiar with the author's formula. I found it hard to care about the main protagonist, and guess what? Why has the Kessler family to move into protective custody? Not because of the first hypothesis, nor the second, nor the third. In fact, the bad guys weren't after the first family member we thought, nor in fact the second we thought, nor the third...and in the end all is resolved with more twists than a Chubby Checker convention could boast.

Clever, yes. Believable? Not remotely, but then none of Deaver's books are - in line withthe vast majority of crime thrillers. Entertaining - yes, if you're in the right mood. We await Deaver's take on James Bond with interest - expect Blofeld to turn out to be a good guy, and M and Q to be working for the other side.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 22, 2011 4:35 PM BST


Mystic River
Mystic River
by Dennis Lehane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dreary and depressing, 19 Nov 2010
This review is from: Mystic River (Paperback)
This is a drawn out tale with little in the way of excitement, just a dreadful inevitability that awful things are going to happen. It's certainly not a thriller, and neither is it escapism. I'm not convinced it's realistic either, despite the abundance of foul langauge. Not what I was hoping for, and I'm deterred from trying any of this author's other works


Winter: A Berlin Family, 1899-1945
Winter: A Berlin Family, 1899-1945
by Len Deighton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite as good as other reviewers think, 15 Aug 2009
Len Deighton has a deep historical understanding of this period and this comes out very well in his book. I agree with those reviewers who comment on his insight into the development of Nazism and its rise to power. However, I also think the book as a novel is over ambitious. Although over 500 pages long, there is so much ground to cover that it feels a little sketchy and disjointed in places, and the depth of characterisation is limited. There are better histories and better novels: as a hybrid of the two this is good but flawed.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 10, 2011 11:19 AM GMT


Oil! (There Will Be Blood)
Oil! (There Will Be Blood)
by Upton Sinclair
Edition: Paperback

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very different to the film, 5 April 2008
Rather than being about Daniel Plainfield and to a lesser extent his "son" HW, the book is told mainly from the perspective of "Bunny" Ross, the actual son of oilman J Arnold Ross. There are very significant roles for two of the Watkins brothers: Eli the Pentecostal preacher, corrupt as in the film, but more believable here to those who know something of Pentecostalism in 1920s California (some of the material clearly influenced by the career of Aimee Semple Macpherson); and a very prominent role for Paul, the politically committed union activist who ultimately becomes a communist, and has a profound influence on "Bunny".

Why three stars? Well, for me three stars means averagely good, four stars is for significantly better than average and only the truly exceptional should get five stars. There is much to admire and enjoy here, but it was written in 1926, and the author's advocacy of socialism/communism, with his enthusiasm for communist Russia seems hopelessly naive and misplaced, given what we have known for many decades now. Human greed is an evil thing, and the capitalist beast needs taming, but communism proved a worse system than America in the 1920s in virtually every respect.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 14, 2008 1:20 PM BST


Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Random thoughts, 5 Sep 2007
Some good stuff in here, but I was irritated by the author's display of his own cleverness, and I didn't think the material very well organised. The best bits for me were about how humans are often quite poor in dealing with probability, but if you want a more in depth and enlightening discussion of why this is so from an evolutionary psychology perspective, I recommend Steven Pinker's "How the Mind Works".


Margaret Thatcher: Iron Lady v.2: Iron Lady Vol 2
Margaret Thatcher: Iron Lady v.2: Iron Lady Vol 2
by John Campbell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.47

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb political biography, 10 Aug 2004
Having read The Grocer's Daughter (Campbell's first volume on Mrs T) I had to get the second volume - and my expectations were exceeded. I started reading with a strange mixture of interest and reluctance, thinking the subject matter worthwhile but likely to be rather familiar. But Campbell's study is compelling reading, which gave me many fresh insights. One strength of his as a professional biographer is that his work possesses an objectivity and even handedness which is not to be found in the several accounts put into the public arena by Mrs T herself and other members of her governments.
Has any other post WW2 PM had such a profound impact on British society as Mrs T? "No.No.No!" Campbell's verdict is that her impact was both for better and for worse, careful though he is to state that a longer perspective is yet needed before a balanced judgment can be formed on all aspects of her reign.
Quite superb political biography. I don't know what he will turn his attention to next, but I hope that Campbell will be around in fifteen years or so to write the definitive biography of Tony Blair.


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