Book Review: Fatherland by Robert Harris

FatherlandFatherland by Robert Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an excellent book!

The version that I read was a twentieth anniversary edition of Robert Harris’s breakthrough novel. In the forward, he explains how the concept of a work of fiction based on a world in which Germany had prevailed as victors in WWII. It came to him, in the eighties, when he was researching for a non-fiction book about Hitler’s forged diaries. Consequently there is a lot of factual basis to the story. But it was written almost by accident.

Fatherland is enacted in the sixties. This is so that many of the principal characters of the Third Reich, including Adolph Hitler himself, could realistically still be living. The crimes which are being investigated by Xavier March, an ex U-boat commander turned detective, occur during the build up to Hitler’s 75th birthday celebrations in Berlin. There is a great deal of animosity between the criminal investigation branch of the police force, and the Gestapo. The state is based on fear. People are still grassing on their fellow citizens, and even family, for capital crimes such as homosexuality and expressing anti-state sentiments.

When Zavi is called on to investigate the discovery of a body on the shore of the Havel lake, life quickly becomes dangerous for him. The victim is a very senior public figure. The Gestapo become involved, and order the criminal investigator to back off. Smelling a huge rat, Zavi ignores the order, to his peril.

The descriptions of post war, triumphalist Berlin, with its monstrous statues which out-do anything ever seen in any other European capital city by a long way, reminds me of Caucescu’s Bucharest of the eighties. It could so easily have become reality in sixties Berlin.

There is even a reference to the Nazi state frowning on the student rapture which greets a band from Liverpool, in the British colony of the Reich!

Needless to say, Investigator March continues to dig a deeper and deeper hole for himself. The enormity of the events which lay behind the initial murder, and subsequent horrors, builds the tension and grips the reader.

Harris’s imagination and creativity verge on genius. This is truly a thriller. Read it!

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Book Review: Dirty Filthy Rich Boys by Laurelin Page

Dirty Filthy Rich Boys (Dirty Duet, #0.5)Dirty Filthy Rich Boys by Laurelin Paige
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this little story, which acts as an enticing introduction to the series. It certainly achieves its goal in making me want to read on into the first real instalment.

The characters are quickly built and the reader begins to understand them and gain empathies.

At the end, there is a glimpse of Dirty Filthy Rich Men, which takes us ten years on from the end of this book.

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Book Review: The IX by Andrew P Weston

The IX  (The IX #1)The IX by Andrew P. Weston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a quite amazing story and is a great read, although my view is that it is a bit long. I would have preferred it to be compressed into about 400 pages.

The concept of bringing combatants and brains from various eras of Earth’s history to save the planet Arden, on the opposite side of the galaxy, from the invasion of the “Horde.” The horde appear to be an almost limitless force of suicidal beings, who are driven by telepathy and have psyche which is completely contrary to anything human.

The convergence of the best of military strategies and tactics, even from factions who were sworn enemies back in the Earthly eras is very interesting. The simplest and most ancient strategies, tactics and tools often prove to be better than modern or futuristic methods.

For me, the story really picked up its pace as soon as we gained visibility of the minds of the Horde. From that point on, there was high tension from every viewpoint right up until the end. I can’t say much more than that without creating spoilers.

I recommend this book to all lovers of fantasy and sci-fi, although you will need some stamina to get through it.

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Book Review: Toys by James Patterson

ToysToys by James Patterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The unrelenting pace of the first person narrative of this story, plus the incentive to finish it and return the book to the second-hand stand of the hotel rather than add to my baggage weight, meant that I read the 448 pages in a little over a day.

Hays Baker literally runs at four times the speed of Usain Bolt, who is only human after all. You’ll understand that little joke when you’ve read the first few paragraphs.

There are lots of twists and turns, right up until the last page. It is skillfully written, employing a tactic that was told to me by novelist Sue Moorcroft: leave each chapter with a cliff-hanger. It worked for me. I had to read on.

It’s a good story, and uniquely creative as far as I know. Perhaps somebody will contradict me on that one. I don’t really care as I enjoyed it and I wouldn’t hesitate to highly recommend it.

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The Positive Shop

Last Saturday, I hired a car from Kefalos and did a bit of touring with my wife, Joy.

After a brief, three hour, stop at Kardemena to catch up with a couple of Joy’s friends who were staying there, we made our way up to the lofty village of Zia. The place is packed with souvenir shops and restaurants. We enjoyed some very tasty homemade lemonade with mint at the lower of the two Sunset Tavernas. Both are owned by the same family.

As we climbed further towards the top of the village, I was delighted to come across The Positive Shop. It wasn’t open, so I don’t know what I would have found inside, but it brought immediate thoughts of several of my inspirational friends from both the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and the Annual Bloggers Bash. You all know who you are. Thanks for your inspirations and I hope that you enjoy the views.

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Dinner in Kefalos

On vacation in Kefalos on the island of Kos, there was always a struggle to decide where to eat and what to eat. One evening, I was sitting in Maria’s Bar, listening to the usual conversations. I used the time to write te following, which some might consider to be poetry. I know that my attempts at poetry are pathetic, but it amused me at the time and I hope that it manages to raise a few chuckles amongst my blog followers.


 

Dinner in Kefalos

Wherever we go, there’s always a groan.

Then there’s a moan,

Followed by yet another groan.

Has the spinach pie got cheese in it?

Cheese in the spinach pie?

Yes.

Yes.

I won’t like that then.

Do the prwns in the prawn cocktail need peeling?

Yes. They are very fresh.

Oh! I won’t like that then.

How about trying our pasta?

I’ve had carbonara the last two nights,

So I don’t want that!

How about spaghetti?

Bolognese?

Yes.

It wasn’t much good last night.

But that was in a different restaurant.

Try it here.

No! I won’t like that!

Groan, Moan. Groan.

I might like English steak, but….

… it’s got an egg on top.

Well, order it without the egg.

No! I wouldn’t like that!

Perhaps I’ll have cheese pie for starters.

What?!

That’s like spinach pie without the spinach!

Yeah! I’ll have that!

Then I’ll have English steak without the egg.

May I have English steak without the egg,

But with extra mushrooms and onions?

Yes.

Great! I’m going to have spinach pie followed by sea bream.

That’s decided then.

Just promis not to moan or groan.

Our dinners were served.

Mine was excellent.

How was yours?

There was too much cheese in the cheese pie,

And he never asked me how I wanted my steak cooked.

Was it cooked well?

Yes. It was well done, but that’s not the point!

Moan. Groan. Moan.

And I’m not sure that there were extra mushrooms!

Moan. Groan. Moan.

Mine was delicious.

Especially as it was washed down with half a carafe of house red.

No moan, groan, moan from me!

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