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on 4 January 2014
I had the pleasure of staying at the Taj nearly 5 years after the terror attacks so was immediately drawn to this book. The first thing to say is that the research appears to have been incredibly extensive spanning the backgrounds of the terrorists and victims alike, the historic, political and cultural contexts of the terrorist groups, Pakistan and India, along with the intimate workings of the Taj itself, and of course extensive interviews with many of those involved. This creates a convincing and compelling narrative. Yet, despite that, this is not an exhaustive history, it focuses on events at the Taj, with only brief explanations of what happened at the other locations attacked. Similarly, it tells the personal stories of relatively few of the hundreds drawn into the maelstrom. For me that made it so much the better, a report on every detail of the attacks was not what I wanted (and apparently has never been produced, not even by the Indian authorities), but the sampling of events to provide a complete picture of the whole and the timelines in which they unwound is brilliantly done and, along with the RIP section at the end, provides a fitting record and tribute to the victims. The means by which young men were drawn to the call of jihad is covered objectively. The way in which innocent people, ranging from lowly hotel staff to the super-rich, found themselves plunged in moments from their routine working life or enjoyment of pleasurable activities in the Taj, including a wedding reception, into absolute terror, sometimes drawn out over days, is chilling and horrific. The stories of heroism on the part of hotel customers, especially the staff, and some police are incredible and uplifting. The book gives a clear image of the authorities' failure, they turned a blind eye to warnings, they were grossly under-prepared, they were pathetically armed, they were sluggish, bureaucratic and inefficient in their response. It would be easy to condemn, but one has to remember cultural, historic and economic perspectives. I found this book utterly compelling, entirely readable, utterly horrific, but at times uplifting. There seems little hope that we will see the end of such events in the immediate future, but we can only hope some of the lessons will be learned and that such events pass each of us by. I cannot recommend this book enough.
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on 14 November 2013
Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott Phillips have pulled together thousands of hours of research, experience in the subcontinent and the testimony of well placed contacts to deliver possibly the defining account of the 2008 siege of Mumbai's Taj Hotel. It is brilliantly constructed, in the round, describing the same event from myriad points if view. Their description of the bravery of the hotel's Indian staff is as inspiring as the incompetence and venality of local politicians is dismaying.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 November 2013
The Siege by Adrian Levy & Cathy Scott-Clark - a searing account of the 2005 terrorist attacks at Mumbai's famous Taj Hotel.
On 26th November 2008 the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai is besieged by Pakistani Islamists, armed with explosives and machine guns.
For three days, guests and staff of the hotel are trapped as the terrorists run amok.
On 29th November commandos launch Operation Black Tornado. The world holds its breath.

The first thing that struck me was how well researched this book was. Starting with the "Dramatis personae" giving an overview of the people involved and a brief background, including guests, staff and the terrorists themselves, I was immediately right at the heart of the matter - I wanted to find out what happened to all of them. Leading on with a bit of background of the events leading up to the terror attacks, and some information on the hotel, you were left feeling slightly off kilter while you waited for what you knew was coming..

The second thing that struck me was how much this book read as if it was a Thriller - a fast paced one at that - I often had to stop for a moment and remind myself, especially in the more violent moments, that these people were REAL. Everything I was reading actually happened - it was a sobering thought and one that compelled me to read ever onwards. I read this in two days, such was my inability to leave it before I knew the outcome. I had zero knowledge of these events before opening this account - such is the beauty of the writing I now feel almost as if I were there - or at the very least had friends who were.

This is a soundbite in a way - a little of my own research tells me that there was a lot more to the terror attacks on Mumbai in 2008 quite apart from the events at the Taj - I feel that I absolutely want to know more. If anyone knows of any other books that tackle this subject well, I would be very interested to hear about them.

I'm not sure what else I can say really - I can't speak to characterisation because these are not characters they are human beings who suffered at the hands of other human beings - that very fact makes this a must read. I would highly recommend that you give it a go.

At the end, I read every name in the "RIP" section and shed a tear for those people I had never known, and never WOULD have known had they lived.

Thank you to Catherine at Penguin for tracking down a copy of this book for me.
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on 8 December 2013
Well written book, that took me through the journey of those 3 days really well. Description was vivid and engaging. Must read for anyone interested in what happened in those 3 days..

Book focused on Taj attack mostly. The other attacks in Oberoi etc. were touched upon. However, only superficial...

Book demonstrated how citizens stepped up and helped each other, especially the Taj hotel staff. While some police and security personnel stepped up, overall they were quite incompetent. There wasn't much of a fight back. And that was mostly because of the Mumbai Police Chief Gafoor. His indifference and stubborn stand is shocking.

It is sad that the great city of Mumbai doesn't get the security cover it deserves. And that too after several repeated attacks. And only another attack will tell whether those in charge have learnt any lessons...It is really sad to see how impotent the response to the attack has been. Once the NSG stepped in, they took quick action.

Why did it take close to 40 hours to bring them on??? The book doesn't answer that question compreensively...If anything that is the short coming of the book...The book focuses on the events in Taj.
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on 19 November 2013
Searching investigation of the murderous assault by Pakistan's security establishment and its arm's length terrorist outfits against Mumbai, its innocent civilians and foreign visitors. It begins with a moving account of the lives of ordinary people working in Mumbai's Taj, who were mercilessly cut down in the name of God, but actually controlled by cynical officers of the Pakistani State. Occasionally marred by glib commonplaces about the political context, but still eloquent and brilliant.
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on 26 November 2013
this is an incredible book that has captured the fear, violence and mayhem of the tragedy at the Taj and across Mumbai. The writers have clearly made pedantic research not only of the events of those terrible days but also of the months leading up to them. This book is also very well written and will doubtless be referred to to for years to come as the definitive description of what happened in Mumbai. This cries out to be made into a film.
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on 17 October 2014
This book is a brilliant account of the atrocities which happened in Bombay and it made me shudder as I could have been in any of those places when it happened, in fact we had been in Leopold's three weeks before it happened as I used to live in Goa with my Tibetan wife who had family all over India so we used to travel through Bombay maybe six times a year and we used to stop in the Hotel which is only about four or five doors from Leopold's and always went in there for a drink but we used to eat at "Alps" which is down the road next to Leopold's which leads to the Taj and the Gateway. We had been in Bombay only about 3 or 4 weeks before this tragedy happened and I just think " it could so easily have been us". But it's a very accurate rendition of events in India on that fateful day when so many innocent lives were lost.
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on 24 October 2014
It's so easy to get a reports of victims and witnesses of tragedy and make their stories into a book. But Scott-Clark and Levy are follow terrorists to find out who pull the trigger of Mumbai tragedy, and explain motivations and training of 10 brainwashed assassins.

I wish that Scott & Levy will do follow up story about Lashkar - the real villain behind the "Siege"
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on 31 March 2014
I loved this book. I remember being obsessed by the Mumbai shootings and watching the news avidly. This book brings it back to life and explains everything so well but also factually. I read it in about 4 days and was hooked, albeit frightened again for what could be a situation that anyone of us can find ourselves in. I thoroughly recommend it.
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on 1 February 2014
One of the best account of the events of the period. Having watched the whole siege, live on Indian Channels, and also having visited the location before and after the event, it was easy for me to place and put the pieces together. Very well narrated by the authors.
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