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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 5 November 2006
I was a big fan of Boyne's last book The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and while this is a very different type of story it's just as good a read one of those books than turns round in all sorts of directions until the end. I couldnt put it down. Is there to be a sequel? It feels like there should be. Highly recomended.
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This is not the kind of book I would usually bother with, but having named his The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas as my book of the year for 2007 I thought I would investigate.
This is very different. An historical murder thriller set around London of 1936 it has a number of plots and sub plots surrounding the abdication of Edward VIII and his affair with Wallace Simpson.

Boyne is a skilful writer and it has to be said that this is an enjoyable read as long as you take it with the proverbial pinch of salt. It features the breakdown of family relations and the corruption of politics amongst other matters as socialites, judges and a variety of other characters turn to crime and plot murders in order to achieve their own aims.

Much of it is contrived and at times the plot is sadly leaden but there are as many plusses as minuses.
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on 7 November 2012
I received this book from Black Swan through Book Geeks and rated it 4.5 stars.

When his uncle dies, Owen Montignac is convinced that he stands to inherit the extensive estate. After all, it is a Montignac tradition that only males inherit, and with Owen's only surviving cousin being Stella there is no doubt about what will be found in the will. Except that his uncle does manage to surprise Owen. Stella inherits everything with Owen getting absolutely nothing.
To say that Owen is disappointed would be a gross understatement. After all, his father was the older brother and should have been in charge of the estate. The fact that he was disowned by Owen's grandfather doesn't change anything in the young man's mind, and neither does the fact that his uncle took him in after his parents died when he was only five. But Owen has bigger problems than just the injustice he is facing; he owns a small fortune in gambling debts to a very dangerous man and unless he can come up with a way to repay the full amount in seven months he may well find himself in mortal danger.
The year is 1936 and while Owen is facing the personal tragedy his life has turned into, the rest of England is mesmerised by what is going on with their new King and the American woman he has fallen in love with. When the King's and Owen's dilemmas find each other an evil and dangerous plot is executed; a plot which may well mean a shameful death for an innocent young man.

Let me start by saying that this is a very well written book. John Boyne has a way with words that makes his characters come alive on the page. But more than that, this story is written in such a way that the pages almost turn themselves. There is always something happening, and even the moments and characters which at first seem to have little or nothing to do with the plot suddenly turnout to be pivotal to the story. It is only very slowly that the reader finds out the full extend of what is going on in this book, and even when it seems that the full story has been revealed, there are one or two further shocks in store.

This in an ingenious and rather horrifying story. It is proof of just how accomplished an author John Boyne is that he manages to write a book with a completely despicable main character without alienating the reader. In fact I found myself fascinated by Owen Montignac. This character was so delusional, so full of himself and so good at justifying his evil deeds that at times I was tempted to believe he wasn't bad at all. And just when I had convinced myself that Owen was indeed pure evil, there would be a small action through which he redeemed himself a little bit.

If you're the sort of reader who likes the good being rewarded while the bad get their just desserts, this probably isn't the book for you. Evil triumphs and drags innocent bystanders down as it goes. Those who are evil make fascinating characters though, and the way the various plots tie together is ingenious. What makes this a real chiller of a story is the fact that it is so very easy to imagine something like this happening. The lengths people are prepared to go to in order to get what they think they are entitled to are unimaginable and all that happens in this book is just about convincing enough to make it realistic.

For me this was a fascinating historical novel by an author who has yet to disappoint me.
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on 12 November 2008
Owen Montignac, is a man under pressure. He has run up gambling debts to the tune of £40,000, and has to pay up the money by Christmas...or else face the consequences. When is rich uncle passes away, he assumes his financial problems will be solved. However, he is in for a shock when the will is read, and has to come up with an extreme plan to raise the money to pay his debt.

Set during the abdiction crisis of 1936, I found this novel an enjoyable read. The characterisation was very good, and I felt the author and had a 'feel' for the times. I particluarly liked the way the abdication crisis, the big story of that year, was neatly woven into the plot.
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on 1 August 2015
Really enjoy the style of writing. Previous read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and thought that was an amazing book. I didn't realise John Boyne had written so many others but now I'm a convert! A very interesting idea to weave the main story around the impending abdication of Edward VIII. Some brilliant characters and a cleverly twisted plot, making use of the royal crisis to manipulate and murder!
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on 28 December 2015
This is a long novel that takes time to get going, but from about halfway through it becomes a real page turner.
Owen Montignac, manager of a contemporary art gallery in London, has run up large gambling debts which he has until Christmas to pay off else meet with a slow and painful death at the hands of the casino owner's henchman.

When Owen's Uncle Peter dies he sees this as the solution. He's the only male heir to a country estate that passes down the male line. To Owen's surprise Peter has left everything to his daughter Stella, Owen's cousin. The ruthless Owen has to find other ways to pay off his debts.

The novel is set in 1936 against a backdrop of Edward VIII's abdication. Parts of the tale are a little implausible but the fact that bad guys get away with bad things is all too real! (Not that Owen sees himself as bad). Brilliant characterisation sets this novel apart, as well as a good feel for the period that allows one to ignore some of the anomalies and slightly less credible aspects of the plot.
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on 12 April 2012
This is a stumbling attempt to contextualise a crime against the backdrop of Edward VIII's abdication. The plot is leaden, to say the least, but also the author has been far less than rigorous in his use of language and overall research. For instance, at one point, the character Stella uses the term 'sexist' which was not invented until 1965, and he also does not understand the meaning of the adjective 'disinterested'. Add to that his belief that one has to study for a Master of Arts degree from Cambridge, his appalling geographical knowledge of London (one certainly would not walk in high-heeled shoes from Oxford Street to a law firm's chambers) and the sheer failure to capture the impatient mood of Britain in 1936 and this book becomes a resounding failure.
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on 4 March 2013
What tosh! The author thinks judges had discretion over whether to sentence murderers to death; that barristers were called Mr Justice this & Mr Justice that; that Prince Albert (died 1861) was a prime suspect in the Ripper murders (1888); and that boys start at Eton at the age of 7. These are only a few of the howlers in this book.

Ludicrous plot too. Stanley Baldwin hands over responsibility for the abdication crisis to 5 lawyers, who are to decide by a majority vote whether the king should stay. One of them wants him off the throne because he hopes, without any apparent reason, the new king will make him Lord Chancellor. So he has a random individual battered to death, frames the son of one of the other lawyers for the murder & then tells the father he'll get him off (provided the father votes the right way) by promising some unspecified goodies to the trial judge (assuming the Lord Chancellor strategy works out) if he doesn't pass the death sentence.

One of the worst books I've ever read.
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on 21 June 2015
I read it to the end because I needed to see how it finished so from that perspective the book was a success but the characters in the book were not credible which made me angry throughout
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on 31 May 2014
If you love John Boyne books this does not disappoint. Well worth the reading time. Leaves you thinking about it for a few days afterwards.
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