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Reviews Written by
Matthew Turner "loyalroyal" (Reading, UK)
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The Moses Stone
The Moses Stone
by James Becker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok but not great, 25 Nov. 2009
This review is from: The Moses Stone (Paperback)
Like James Becker's first novel involving British cop Chris Bronson, this is an easy, quick read. There is plenty of action, dead bodies, goodies and badies - all that you'd expect in the religious thriller genre. As for the plot, it is very easy to understand and there are no surprises. It is a standard romp around Morocco, Jerusalem, Qumran, and the final resting place (I won't say where so as not to spoil it), in the hunt for the missing relics. These relics, or the big secret, are certainly important and could have catastrophic implications for the Middle East if this was true instead of fiction. Things are pretty much self-explanatory and take the expected course. Characters remain the same throughout and do not change course - except for one but you can see that coming from the start.

As with the previous book in the series characterisation remains poor with little background. Characters are all rather like cardboard, and the heroes, Chris Bronson and his ex-wife Angela Lewis, need (and deserve) more fleshing out. The stilted relationship between them (Bronson wants to get back with Angela, and she's not too sure) is painful reading and adds nothing to the story. However, Bronson and Angela are agreeable and may pique my interest enough to get any future books to see how they develop. Finally, the action occasionally gets bogged down in scenes where characters discuss or explain things ad infinitum. Becker has clearly done his research but I don't think he needs to put everything into the mouths of his characters. Sometimes it felt as though the characters were giving lectures. As a previous reviewer noted, all the experts seem to be intellectually on par and they all reach the same conclusions at the same time. Angela is not supposed to be an Jewish history expert but seems to know as much as, if it not more, than her superiors.

All in all a cautiously recommended read, and the author's notes at the back are an added bonus.


The First Apostle
The First Apostle
by James Becker
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy Enough Read, 18 Nov. 2009
I found this book to be an easy enough read. It is also a very quick read. Like all books in the religious thriller genre, there is plenty of action, a conspiracy, the badies (typically evil and ultimately stupid) and the evil Catholic Church (well not the Church itself, but people within it). Also, there is the ubiquitous missing scroll or codex that gives the true origin of Christianity, or some other shocking secret. In this case, the author follows the often tread route of the Cathars and their mysterious treasure at Montsegur. I won't add anymore so as to not ruin the story for potential readers. Finally, in common with other similar books, the quest is led by a male-female partnership - in this case Chris Bronson and his ex-wife Angela.

As far as the plot goes, it is reasonably written, mostly well-paced and has frequent action scenes. However, there is not enough characterisation, nor is much information given about the characters, their backgrounds or motives - in particular the protagonist, Chris Bronson, needs more padding out. Bronson is an engaging character whom I would have liked to have seen developed beyond the have-a-go hero type.

A simple enough book to read, there is just about enough here for me to recommend it and for me to want to read the next book by the author.


The Third Reich: A New History
The Third Reich: A New History
by Michael Burleigh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read, 7 Nov. 2009
I found this book to be a thoroughly compelling read, a superb exposition of the Third Reich. This is by no means an easy read, in terms of length, subject matter and the author's pretentious use of language. I was left in no doubt of the horrors of the Third Reich, not only with the Holocaust, but of the eugenics and euthanasia programmes too. Along with the harrowing account of the Holocaust, subjects include the decline of the Weimar Republic - hated by both left and right wing groups, its massive unemployment and inflation problems - collaboration in Europe, the token resistance to Hitler within Germany, and an account of Nazism's turning Germany in to a police, totalitarian state. This is presented as a "New History", and in some way it is, for me at any rate. In discussing the Holocaust, I was previously unaware of Romania's participation in exterminating the Jews, and the horrors on the Eastern Front - the atrocities committed by the SS, Einsatzgruppen, along with Ukrainian partisans and the Soviet Union come to mind. Although people tend to focus on the evils of the Third Reich, it is important to remember that Stalin was as much a murderer as Hitler. Sadly, a common thread through all this is anti-semitism, even among victims of Nazi aggression.

The book's greatest asset, which makes it stand out, is the constant use of primary sources - accounts of Holocaust survivors, children who had escaped "euthanasia", Jewish victims of the Kristallnacht or general persecution. True to form for the historian's role as an impartial observer, Burleigh also includes accounts of their oppressors, not only hard-core Nazis but also those who joined the Nazi party, SS or other organisations, and were not necessarily card-carrying Nazis.

The reason why this does not get five stars is due to Burleigh's constant use of non-everyday language - I felt this often led to too long sentences, ambiguities in meaning and a sense of "waywardness". I spent half my time, whilst reading the introduction, trying to work out what he was trying to say - complete with a dictionary. The lack of discussion of foreign policy is also a disappointing omission. The Anschluss with Austria and the occupation of the Sudetenland get a brief mention, but I would have liked a chapter on Hitler's foreign policy. After all, foreign policy and the use of force to achieve his aims, was one of Hitler's main preoccupations, so I felt this let the book down a bit.

In conclusion, a recommended read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 7, 2013 5:43 PM BST


City Of Bones
City Of Bones
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, haunting yet compulsive reading, 3 Oct. 2009
This review is from: City Of Bones (Paperback)
This is my second Michael Connelly book I've read and the first involving the LAPD detective Hieronymus Bosch. I have to say that I was not disappointed in this book. The plot may not be easy reading, involving the murder of a young boy back in 1980s, but it is certainly well written and constructed. Unlike in some recent books I have read, the characters here have a personality, foibles and weaknesses. Bosch is clearly a complex man, a brilliant detective with a tragic past - orphaned at an early age and a soldier in the Vietnam War.

I won't go into too much detail with the story, so as not to ruin it for potential readers. Suffice to say it is expertly woven, with plenty of twists and possible suspects. My finger of suspicion kept on changing as each new one came on the scene, and the actual culprit was, for me, the least likely one. Within the plot of the boy's murder we have the tragic life of that boy being abused by his father and sister and his mother leaving him at an early age, Detective Bosch has a brief romantic interest in a "rookie" cop, Julia Brasher and Bosch's attempts to survive in his job after a series of operational mishaps. Above all, I was impressed with the pace and sense of atmosphere (albeit grim and harrowing) in the book.

I certainly recommend this book and look forward to reading more of Michael Connelly's books in general and with Bosch in them in particular.


Sword of God
Sword of God
by Chris Kuzneski
Edition: Paperback

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring and annoying, in equal measure, 20 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Sword of God (Paperback)
I'm in complete agreement with J. D. Whittle on this one, although I made it about half way before putting myself out of my misery and giving up. I don't normally write reviews on books I don't finish, as I feel it is unfair on those reading the review and the author. However, I feel so strongly about this book I'll make an exception. The "humour", such as it is, is terrible, misplaced and childish. The plot, from what I could make of it, was non-existent, derivative and slow - something to do with a sword. In fact I'm so unsure of what the book was about, it was never explained in any detail. By the time I got half way I could fathom no link between Payne and Jones (the main protagonists) investigating a cave full of blood and a missing boy in Korea, and events in Mecca. To be fair, such a link would have been explained in the rest of the book but I had ceased to care.

Payne and Jones have to be two of the most annoying characters in this type of fiction. Unbelievably smart, nothing can beat them, be it terrorists, codes, whatever. They are "too" clever to make them plausible. For a smart man, Jones is equally childish. Like in an earlier book, the author spoon feeds us the story, telling us that something is going to happen, or someone going to die, before it has happened. I want to be surprised, not let into the secret beforehand. Terrible.

Not recommended.


The Boss: The Many Sides of Alex Ferguson
The Boss: The Many Sides of Alex Ferguson
by Michael Crick
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Enough, 13 Sept. 2009
Although I can sympathise with some of the previous reviewers' comments with the author's dry, detached style of writing, I nevertheless found the book to be an interesting and easy read. It is also quick to get through, despite being over 600 pages long. I'm not a Manchester United fan, but I wanted to find out about Alex Ferguson the man and manager - what makes him tick, and why is he so successful. To be fair, Michael Crick provides those answers, even if the "autobiographical" section of the book is a bit lacking. The dominant theme of the book is football, relentless ambition and determination to be the best. Therefore it is probably not surprising that other aspects of Ferguson's personality are barely touched upon. Ferguson comes across as a football addict.

I found out some useful stuff about Ferguson - his background in Govan, his New Labour sympathies, Trade Unionism, his admirable charity work and donations and love of horse racing. He also comes across as an intelligent, bright man, loyal to family and friends, until you cross him. Indeed there is a flip side to Ferguson - his brutal bullying of young players, contradictory attitude over "tapping up" players and use of agents and gambling, the childish boycotts of the press. It is a prime example of the murky world of professional football.

On the football front though I have nothing but admiration for his achievements at Manchester United, and Aberdeen in particular, with whom he briefly overturned the traditional Old Firm hegemony in Scotland. Maybe had he stayed Aberdeen could have permanently challenged Rangers and Celtic. Another regret (from my own biased point of view) is Ferguson's turning down the Spurs job in the mid-1980s.

A recommended read.


The Venetian Betrayal: Book 3 (Cotton Malone)
The Venetian Betrayal: Book 3 (Cotton Malone)
by Steve Berry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A good, entertaining read, 5 Sept. 2009
After the disappointment of my last Steve Berry novel, The Alexandria Link, I was pleased that in this, Cotton Malone's third outing, Steve Berry is back on form with this entertaining, pacy read. As with all Berry novels, there is plenty of pace, action and bodies galore, enough to satisfy any thriller fan. There is also political intrigue mixed with the quest for Alexander the Great's lost tomb, the Central Asian Federation's Supreme Minister Irina Zovastina's quest for world dominance (as a latter-day Alexander) and her desire to save her dying ex-lover from AIDS, and the murky Venetian League's greed to monopolize trade in the emerging Federation. The League's leading member, Enrico Vincenti, is also important to the plot as head of a medical firm that could have found the cure for AIDS. Other reviewers have done an excellent job in outlining the plot so I won't repeat them here. Suffice to say that there is plenty going on, but unlike in The Alexandria Link, in this novel it all works perfectly and every sub-plot has a bearing on the overall plot.

However, I would agree with Dragonfish's review below in that the final section of the book is not as strong as the rest, and the plot slightly loses it's way. Some of the characters, notably Zovastina and Cassiopeia Vitt, also seem to make illogical decisions that don't make sense. Indeed Vitt's actions and character made her one of the most selfish, and annoying, protagonists. I won't say what they are as to not ruin the story. Dragonfish is wrong though in that Glasgow appears nowhere in this book. Zovastina's head of the Sacred Band, Viktor Tomas, is also a strange character and some of his actions, particularly why and how he did them, are not explained fully. His changing of allegiance was also confusing, yet exciting.

In conclusion I enjoyed the novel and would recommend this.


Henry I (The Yale English Monarchs Series)
Henry I (The Yale English Monarchs Series)
by C Warren Hollister
Edition: Paperback
Price: £25.00

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent account of Henry I, 15 Aug. 2009
This is a thoroughly enjoyable study of Henry I. It is both scholarly and highly readable at the same time, which is no mean achievement.

Hollister not only provides the biographical details of Henry I, but also firmly puts him the political background of post-Conquest England, and studies his relations with his magnates and the church (especially the Investiture controversy and Henry's patronage of Cluniac monasticism), as well as the growth of royal administration and centralisation (witnessed by the 1130 Pipe Roll). Henry comes across as a highly intelligent, pragmatic and firm - but also fair and loyal, even forgiving in some cases - ruler.

Unfortunately Hollister died before completing the book but the final three chapters are completed by Amanda Clark Frost based on Hollister's notes and previous thoughts on the topics at hand. For me, the most enjoyable and intriguing chapter was the chapter one, which discusses the sources available to the study of Henry I - such as Orderic Vitalis, William of Malmesbury, William of Jumieges and Henry of Huntingdon amongst many others. Hollister discusses the advantages and pitfalls of the sources, including unfortunately lost or incomplete manuscripts.

In conclusion, this is highly recommendable as a readable and authoritative account of Henry I.


Deception Point
Deception Point
by Dan Brown
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It was ok, 8 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Deception Point (Paperback)
This was an ok read. It had a few gripping moments. The most intriguing and interesting parts were the political machinations of Senator Sedgwick Sexton and his presidential rival. The "deception" or secret, such as it was, was not that believable or exciting, and the plot became a standard thriller.


Centurion (Eagles of the Empire 8)
Centurion (Eagles of the Empire 8)
by Simon Scarrow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best in the Eagle series but a must-read, 7 Jun. 2009
You may think my review title a bit of a contradiction, and you'd be right. This Eighth book in Simon Scarrow's excellent Eagle series was a bit disappointing for me, but being an avid follower of Cato and Macro this is essential reading too.

Like all the books in the series, Scarrow's descriptions of battles and violence remains superb in this book, and is his greatest asset as a writer. In fact it his battle scenes that make me a Scarrow fan. There is plenty of fighting in this book, and it is this that saves it from a lower mark.

Unfortunately, I found that there was little or no plot, just a straight-forward struggle to save Palmyra and her king, Vabathus, from the Palmyrene prince Artaxes and his Parthian allies. There was little political machination or intrigue, and the attempt to put some romance into Cato's life, with the ambassador's daughter Julia, seemed too forced and struggled with awkward prose. I found the book to be a little flat and it lacked the excitement of previous instalments of the Eagle series.

Despite this though I remain a huge Simon Scarrow fan and look forward to the next book in the series. I just hope the next book has more twists and turns than this one, and that Macro and Cato rejoin the legions rather than serve with the Second Illyrian cohort.

Recommended for fans of the series.


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