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A. Hunter (Merstham, Surrey United Kingdom)
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Hatred and Contempt
Hatred and Contempt
by Peter Rawlinson
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Did the ex-Cabinet Minister previously betray the Royalist Serb partisans to Tito? Will this libel case uncover the truth?, 26 Jun 2014
This review is from: Hatred and Contempt (Hardcover)
When a impoverished former Royal Yugoslav army officer publically contradicts the memoirs of a peer of the realm, accusing him of cowardice and treachery of 50 years previously, only a libel action is considered adequate to clear his name. But it isn't that simple and Lord Rawlinson weaves a cunning legal plot that keeps the reader in suspense. The issue as to who - or what - led the Allies to switch support from the royalist partisans to the communist ones in Yugoslavia in 1943, is contentious still. So the author did well to avoid ending up with a libel case himself (anyone interested in the true players of the time should google Sir Tommy Macpherson and Sir Fitzroy Maclean). The style is not dissimilar from Lord Archer's. The characters are well drawn, the pace good and, yes, there is a twist or two to end with. It's more than 20 years since it was published but it still reads well.


Highwayman: Ironside
Highwayman: Ironside
Price: £1.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shortened, rather than short, story, 1 Jan 2014
I thoroughly enjoy the Stryker novels with their evocative prose and coherent plots that are well grounded in the period. And this starts off in similar vein, but then slips into an increasingly less credible series of events, as if the author changed his mind as to what to do with the earlier material. Still, it's priced right for it's size and thus OK for brief commuter reading.


The Secret Rooms: A castle filled with intrigue, a plotting duchess and a mysterious death
The Secret Rooms: A castle filled with intrigue, a plotting duchess and a mysterious death
by Catherine Bailey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Trapped by one's class, 28 Dec 2013
It says a lot of the present duke that he was prepared to let this story of his grandfather, and indeed great grandparents, be published. The author delved deep into the family papers to uncover the turning points of their lives against the backdrop of the First World War, and a fascinating read it is. She writes well - I expected no less after her earlier Black Diamonds book - and keeps the reader wondering what the next chapter will reveal. It is a detective story: She is obviously intelligent enough to have guessed the likely reasons but carefully eliminates the other possibilities before substantiating the true ones, always with first hand material. That can seem laboured at times, but she thus gives a real insight into the attitudes and mores of the ruling class of the time, shocking by today's standards, certainly, but not entirely surprising (I came across very similar behaviour of a member of the nobility during the Crimean War). It is well worth reading, not least for the light it sheds on some of the senior British commanders in the early stages of that Great War.


The Perfect English Spy: Sir Dick White and the Secret War, 1935-90
The Perfect English Spy: Sir Dick White and the Secret War, 1935-90
by Tom Bower
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A "safe pair of hands" at the helm?, 23 Dec 2013
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A very interesting, well researched, biography. More a civil servant than a spy and more balanced than perfect, Sir Dick White presided over the secret services at a crucial period, possibly the most crucial period, when the focus was necessarily imperial, had to switch from fighting fascism to fighting Communism, from handling mavericks in the field to coping with the pressure of politicians of very different hues. It is not an uncritical biography and the shadow of Burgess, Maclean et al stretches across his career. Yet he was trusted by a variety of governments in a way that suggests there was more to him than mere bland governance. I didn't expect an "M" of the Ian Fleming novels, but I felt there must have been more grit to his character than he appears to have evidenced. Perhaps his degree of discretion left his biographer guessing as much as his foes.


Conquer or Die: Wellington's Veterans and the Liberation of the New World
Conquer or Die: Wellington's Veterans and the Liberation of the New World
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Unblinkered spotlight on our mercenaries' support of Bolivar's campaigns, 23 Dec 2013
Mercenaries tend to bear the brunt of the fighting, display the widest variety of attributes - good and bad - and are carefully expunged from the later histories of the wars that they helped bring to a conclusion. The British soldiers (largely Irish, but also including elements from the King's German Legion) who shipped over to modern day Venezuela to help Bolivar's ambitious goal to evict the Spanish from the whole area North of Brazil were no different. Clearly well researched, the tale focuses on those campaigns for which the author found most first hand accounts. As a result one is left with a fluent story of bravery and cowardice, of privation and brutality tinged with the occasional bit of gallantry and solidarity. It is highly readable and left me with a wish to know a little more about Bolivar himself, the merchants who financed him, and indeed the Spanish foe who must have felt as wanted and as doomed to failure as the French in Algeria, and who have suffered the same fate of being quietly forgotten as much as the mercenaries who defeated them. A note of caution: If you get the Kindle edition, make certain you have map of this part of Latin America to hand.


Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz
Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz
by Thomas Harding
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.60

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable story of how a final solution was served on the main agent of the Final Solution, 25 Sep 2013
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This is a highly readable account of two Germans of much the same age: one who had to flee his privileged Berlin background and become immersed in a new country, culture and language; the other who rose from a more humble provincial background to be responsible for one of the most efficient extermination camps of all. That the former became responsible for bringing the latter to justice makes a fascinating story in itself, but the author, nephew of the hunter, has done a brilliant job of exploring the attitudes and motives of each, while keeping them firmly rooted in the events and influences of the time. The result is a more individual view of how Nazi Germany escalated it's attack on its own Jewish countrymen to the 'final solution' of mass murder, and the hasty rush in the immediate aftermath to bring the perpetrators to justice. It also explains how ground-breaking the Nurenburg trials were. The paradox is how Hess wrote up his story prior to his execution while Hanns generally refused to talk about it for the rest of his life.
This is a well researched and readable biographical study that is also a fine tribute to the author's uncle.


Red Runs the Helmand
Red Runs the Helmand
by Patrick Mercer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars First rate & highly evocative of the period, 1 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Red Runs the Helmand (Paperback)
The story is based on the battle of Mainwand, Afganistan, in 1880 and stands on its own - you don't need to have read the two two previous books of the trilogy to enjoy this fully - and I would say this one is better than the others. There is a Kipling-like understanding of the military mind of all ranks and indeed of the Indian Army of the time that brings the characters and location alive. A lesser author would have chosen one of the more victorious episodes of the period but I suspect Mercer deliberately wants to draw some comparison with current events in that province. As a result, the lead role has to be more rounded than an all-conquering Sharpe or Mathew Hervey, and Mercer manages that with Brig. Gen. Morgan. If I have any quibble, it is his derogatory characterisation of the most senior officers - especially Roberts, which I view as unwarranted - which detracts from the tale somewhat. Nevertheless, a thoroughly good read.


The Quality of Mercy
The Quality of Mercy
Price: £3.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent characterisation of key moments in Britain's abolitionist movement, 19 Feb 2013
Each character in this deftly crafted plot comes across as a realistic representative of his sort, from the classic C18th landed gentry to the itinerant needy fiddler, from the lawyer-with-a cause to the self-made entrepreneur, each person is as fascinating as I've come to expect of this author. Local background - especially the early coal mines - are equally well described. The disparate parts of the plot come together neatly to make a most satisfying read. The only reason I don't give it the full 5 stars is the standard wording to the effect it bears no ressemblance to real people or events, which is patently absurd, given the similar case of the Zong massacre and the landmark Somersett's case. It would have been fair to give Granville Sharp his due. Still, it is a brilliant dramatisation and thoroughly recommended as a good read.


Into the Valley of Death (Harry Ryder 1)
Into the Valley of Death (Harry Ryder 1)
by A L Berridge
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.76

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant thriller built around one who does ask the reason why, 21 Dec 2012
Having enjoyed the Chevalier de Roland novels, I was expecting the author's foray into a better known conflict to be in much the same vein. But no, this is a massive step better: The characters are more three dimensional and, while the Flemish band of acolytes attached to that earlier hero are all survivors, here the hero's comrades suffer the same casualty rate as would be expected in the Crimea, and are replaced in a way that reflects a more natural development. The story is gripping, the prose excellent and, despite using Tennyson's evocative phrase as a title, avoids making a truly courageous series of engagements unduly romantic. I have read some of the author's sources and appreciate the accuracy and detail she wraps around her thriller. For it is a thriller with a dangerously effective villain to be unmasked, and not a documentary. Yet it beautifully captures the attitudes and conditions of the various ranks of a long untested English army, without simply copying the views of, say, The Times' William Russell, or as depicted in Tony Richardson's film of Mrs Duberly's Journal. If you buy the Kindle version, make sure you separately download a map of the relevant battlefields. Certainly one of the best books I've read recently and I only hope further exploits of Harry Ryder can be as ably told.


Hawk Quest
Hawk Quest
Price: £4.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable Norse yarn, 18 Sep 2012
This review is from: Hawk Quest (Kindle Edition)
A splendid action-packed saga (in the tradition of Jason & the Argonauts, but more credible!) with a good mix of characters, some more roundly depicted than others. The period is obviously well researched and the author's love of hawking shows in his fascinating depiction of this aspect of the story. My only disappointment is that I personally feel we could have been spared the debate in the last few pages without detracting from the enjoyment of the story as a whole.


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