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4.2 out of 5 stars22
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 12 May 2015
I was looking forward to this book as it seemed to have a very interesting premise: a series of murders is committed in an historical setting - the siege of Cadiz in 1811. Unfortunately the book is a bit of a struggle to get through and the ending is very disappointing and is no reward to the reader who has made their way through 560 pages.

What I didn’t like
• There is far too much technical detail about explosives and nautical terms – I started to glaze over
• It is painful and boring to see the author strain to try to compare the murders to a game of chess – and he fails to convince
• There is nonsense about smells and vortexes and discussions about various scientists and historical authors which are hard to follow to the lay reader and they add nothing to the story
• It is too long – and there were a few proofing issues that shouldn’t be there.
• The murder resolution was very weak. After investing so much time in reading the book I expected much more and an explanation rather than just more scientific mumbo-jumbo

What I did like
• The three main characters (the policeman, business lady and the sea captain) were interesting and I wanted to know more about them
• The detail about everyday life in the town at the time
• The unlikely, but doomed, romance
If the author had stuck with these and had a proper investigation and resolution to the murders it would have been a very interesting read.

Overall – disappointing.
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on 2 July 2014
I couldn't wait to read this book. I've read and enjoyed a number of Pérez-Reverte's novels. I love history and I love Spain. Cádiz is one of my favourite cities. Yet, even though it's won the CWA International Dagger, it didn't really work for me.

The book follows a number of characters caught up in the siege of Cádiz. They are all somehow affected by the conflict, from a French officer tasked with bombing the city into submission, to a wealthy woman shipowner who is trying to maintain her family's business. One of the main characters is a detective, Tizón, who is confronted by a horrific series of crimes - young women who are found horribly murdered, always apparently at the site of a recent bombing.

It is the crime element of the story which I found most problematic. This book feels like an intriguing piece of social history with a rather silly murder plot tacked on. Tizón agonises about the murders. There are no clues but that is probably because he doesn't actually investigate the crimes. His superiors have decided to keep the crimes secret for fear they will inflame the besieged city. Presumably a city at war would be shocked by the idea of people getting killed.

The murderer has a strange fascination for Tizón. Inevitably there is a young girl in his past. He wonders if there is some affinity between him and the murderer. He is so obsessed that he muses repeatedly about the crimes in a coffee house with his intellectual companion, and resorts to extended metaphors about chess. Then it gets a bit sillier.

The other difficulty I had is the extensive technical detail which is included. If you are intrigued by the differences between mortars and howitzers, nineteenth-century continental measuring systems and calculating trajectories during windy conditions, this is the book for you. If that's not technical enough, try the nautical sections of the book. Even the translator acknowledges he had to turn to a maritime historian for assistance. Of course these details give authenticity, but they trip up the general reader and make it hard to feel involved in the story.

The book is at its best when it focuses on the everyday. Cádiz is a magical city, and Cádiz under siege is portrayed as a fascinating mix, earthy and ethereal, principled and pragmatic. Each of the main characters has different means and motivation for making it through the siege, from simple survival to conviction to intellectual curiosity. The book offers great insights into the social and political culture of the time, and the roles of the various governments and factions. Just a shame about the crime.
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on 16 June 2014
I enjoyed reading this and got immersed in the time, place and situation Perez-Reverte portrays. The four central characters are nicely developed and the author has clearly done his research. His debt to Cadiz and to those who helped his research comes through in his writing. The ending has been criticised here and it is a tad tame given what goes before, and that leads to my main criticism of the novel - it's 560 pages and given it's content it would have benefited from a good editor. Perez-Reverte tends to revisit plot, places and characters, and consequently overworks them. He loves writing. It's overly strong on narrative too, the 'tell' outreaching the 'show', but his characters and places are nevertheless solid. I admire him for the work and craft he's put into the novel, I'm glad I read it and did enjoy the book, but perhaps a shorter word count would give it more impact.
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on 2 December 2013
A good feel for the city of Cadiz and the period.Alternating the viewpoint betrween the convincingly amoral detective and the introverted French artilleryman gives depth and balance.
Neither the psychological/clairvoyance dimension, or the eventual culprit (who is woefully short on motive), very believable, but that doesn't detract from making it a good read.As often, the mis-en-scene is much better than the story.
Added to my knowledge of the period, the warfare techniques and the environs of Cadiz. I hope more of his books will make it onto Kindle in translation!
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on 26 October 2013
Perez Reverte is a fantastic novelist. The Siege is an interesting addition to the other books he has written. (It is a whodunit in much the same vein as The Flanders Panel).

This book has just about everything: a man hunt for a vicious murderer; a central war theme; a romance; believable and likeable baddies; good action scenes; a lot of interesting and stretching ideas (such as calculating "probabilities"); a well written and fast paced story; an ending that can not be guessed (or, more correctly, a series of endings to the different stories of the interlinked individuals).

Nothing is given to you on a plate. The identity of the murderer would escape most, if not all, readers. (You do meet the murderer - which isn't a plot spoiler, because you'll never guess it!)

Arturo Perez Reverte has turned out some excellent books (especially The Flanders Panel, The Painter of Battles, The Dumas Club and The Fencing Master) and this ranks highly with all of them. This is an intelligent, interesting and easily read book - buy it with confidence!
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on 12 February 2014
This is a great book with a complex plot but a bit spoilt because the ending a bit weak and leaves a couple of gaps.
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on 6 December 2014
I have read every book Arturo Perez Reverte has published. This one continues the trend noticeable in the last books of the Alatriste series: Arturo is getting old, verbose and repetitive. This book would be better covering half the number of pages. On top of this he shares the arrogance of believing he can thump his nose on his simpleton readers by weaving an over-complicated story which ends in a whimper and fizzles like a deflated hot-air ballon with other super intellectual, elitist authors like Umberto Eco.
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on 14 October 2013
This novel is both a vivid reconstruction of an episode in the Peninsular war - the siege of Cadiz - and also an intriguing and brutal detective story. Highly recommended
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I don't think that there are many writers better at describing battle action and its aftermath than the Spanish writer Arturo Perez-Reverte. The author's mystery stories are equally well written and original. His background as a journalist equips him with the gift of observation and a straightforward writing style that is not overburdened with metaphors, adjectives/adverbs, etc. All of this skill comes to bear in "Siege", a story of a somewhat obscure moment in the Peninsular War that was something of a sideshow in Napoleon's attempt to conquer the whole of Europe.

By 1811, the French controlled a good chunk of Iberia, with the Spanish loyalists and their British allies holding on to a few coastal cities and isolated inland areas. Cadiz, at the extreme southwest corner of Spain was the most notable holdout against the French and hosted the Spanish government-in-exile. In the year 1811, while the ancient city was besieged by the French on land and sea, a series of gruesome murders begins, and the crimes increasingly appear to be connected to the placement of the French shelling of Cadiz's neighborhoods.

On the trail of the serial killer, is the city's chief of police--ruthless in his policing methods and angered by his inability of stop the murders. While the killings continue, Cadiz's role as a maritime center continues and the story recounts some skillfully told sea battles--another of author Perez-Reverte's fortes.

While there is enormous detail about artillery, metaphysics and 19th Century commerce crammed into this novel, it is a rich stew of history, compelling characters and policing that lives up to this writer's well-earned reputation as one of the most original storytellers in historic fiction and mystery genres currently active.
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on 8 January 2014
Perez-Reverte is one of my favourite authors and I was not disappointed with The Siege.

The novel is a murder mystery set in Cádiz in 1811 while the city was under siege by Napoleon's army. Given the geographic and historic setting of the story the reader is treated to historical detail, an exposé on Cádiz high society of the time, detail of seafaring and seafarers on which the wealth and very existence of Cádiz depended, explanations of the politics behind the Spanish constitution developed in 1812, and the methods employed by the local police to extract information from suspects.

Not only does the author present material from the Spanish side, but the reader is also introduced to soldiers in the French Army, particularly the local commander of the artillery units bombarding the besieged city from across the bay.

The stark contrast between how the rich and poor fared during the siege is clearly demonstrated as we are introduced to people of all social backgrounds and of varied destinies.

I enjoyed this book for the historical detail I gained from it, the overview of society of the time, and for the strong characterisation that is typical of Perez-Reverte's books.

The circumstances of the story necessitate a degree of brutal realities and this is not a book for the squeamish. There are parts that may upset or sadden some readers.
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