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review 2017-07-25 18:34
A STORY OF LIFE UNDER THE TIGHTENING YOKE OF NAZI OPPRESSION (France, 1941)
A Hero in France - Alan Furst

A HERO IN FRANCE” is a story set during the early months of the German Occupation of France during the Second World War.     It is centered around a Frenchman with the nom de guerre “Mathieu” who has cast off the trappings of his previous life in Paris to join the ranks of the Resistance.   Mathieu is in his early 40s, fairly fit, resourceful, tough, determined, yet not without charm and a knack for making friends in the most interesting places.     Unlike most French people, who at this stage of the war (the novel begins in a wintry, melancholic Paris in March 1941) were largely resigned to the defeat France had suffered at the hands of the Third Reich in June 1940, Mathieu is determined to fight the Germans any way he can.   To this end, he has been part of a network that has formed a pipeline between the Occupied Zone and Vichy France, spiriting downed RAF (Royal Air Force) flyers out of France into Spain, where they would be repatriated back to the UK.  

 

Resistance activities had started off on a very small scale from late 1940.   But as the months wore on, the Germans began to show their impatience and frustration from their efforts to discourage random acts of vandalism, the occasional murder of a German officer, and sabotage.   Thus, a police inspector from Hamburg was enlisted by Berlin to go to Paris (as a temporary major in the Feldgendarmerie, the German Army Military Police) and see what he could do to break up the Resistance pipeline of which Mathieu is an instrumental part.  

 

What I like about an Alan Furst novel is his knack for evoking the atmosphere of German-occupied Europe and creating a set of characters who struggle to survive, endure, and fight the Nazi yoke.   Anyone who wants to lose him/herself in a taut, well-told story rich with cinematic overtones, look no further.   “A HERO IN FRANCE” is the novel for you.

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review 2017-06-16 14:45
A little dry but worth reading
Sunken Gold: A Story of World War I Espionage and the Greatest Treasure Salvage in History - Joseph A. Williams

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

 

                Joseph A Williams’ book isn’t so much a chronicle of a sinking, but a history of a salvage mission.  The best parts of the book are the ones that describe the development of diving technology.  It also illuminates a lesser known story about WWI.  The writing is a bit dry when moving beyond driving, but the use of background material does keep the reader interested.

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review 2017-06-14 09:35
The Midnight Swimmer - Edward Wilson

Edward Wilson has again crafted an engaging, well-paced, and thrilling novel that brings back William Catesby, a sentimental yet coldly efficient agent in Britain's MI-6. Shuttling from West Germany to London, to Havana, and onward to Washington between October 1960 and the final week of October 1962 (when the world was on the brink of nuclear war), Catesby is given a thankless, yet vital task. That is, to make clandestine contacts and "offer Moscow a secret deal to break the deadlock" between it and Washington. One of the observations he makes during his service in Havana is the following: "The most interesting aspect of international relations wasn’t the conflict between enemies, but the conflicts between allies. You only had to go to an embassy cocktail party to see those conflicts in the flesh. It was easier for Western diplos to talk to the Russians than to talk to each other."

 

Cross, double-cross, love, the clear and present threat of war balanced against the preciousness of peace . Taken together, all these elements faithfully evoke the spirit of the early 1960s. Wilson has this uncanny skill for blending in fiction with history that will have the reader wondering how much more there may have been to the Cold War beyond what is the common narrative surrounding it today. Read "THE MIDNIGHT SWIMMER" and be amazed.

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review 2017-05-04 19:08
Carpe Diem / Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Carpe Diem - Steve Miller,Sharon Lee

On the run from assassins, Val Con yos'Phelium and Miri Robertson are stranded on a distant planet and must learn to trust each other if they're going to survive and learn to love each other if they're going to heal the dark wounds of their past.

 

Carpe Diem picks up where Agent of Change left off, continuing the story of Miri Robertson and Val Con yos’Phelium. There’s good action, interspersed with more character development, both of which entertained me.

Lee & Miller have created some memorable aliens—I hope at some point to get more info about the Yxtrang, the race that everyone seems to fear & dread. I love The Clutch, the giant sapient turtles who view humanity rather like Tolkien’s Ents—we are hasty, but interesting. Of them, Edger, Val Con’s friend & adopted brother, steals every scene in which he appears!

And of course, we get more insight into Liad itself and Val Can’s family, who form the nucleus of this series. I find myself intrigued by the way that family works on Liad—and how this family is definitely different. Not only have they accepted Terrans into the fold, but they seem to be more genuinely fond of one another that other Liadan families. They also seem to have a predilection for life-mating, making the whole system of contract marriage that prevails on Liad a bit difficult for them.

Actually, I can see this series as an ancestor to the urban fantasy genre that I so enjoy today—it introduces the idea that fantasy and science fiction can contain a romantic story. Plus, the whole life-mate idea seems to be a predecessor of the mate-bond found in works like Mercy Thompson or Sarah J. Maas’s Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Book 256 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project. Looking forward to Plan B to get the next installment of the tale.

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review 2017-04-25 18:26
Spook Street / Mick Herron
Spook Street (Slough House) - Mick Herron

A shakeup at MI5 and a terrorist attack on British soil set in motion clandestine machinery known to few modern spies. David Cartwright isn't a modern spy, however; he's legend and a bonafide Cold War hero. He's also in his dotage and losing his mind to Alzheimer's. His stories of -stotes- hiding in the bushes, following his every move have been dismissed by friends and family for years. Cartwright may be losing track of reality but he's certain about one thing: Old spooks don't go quietly and neither do the secrets they keep.

 

Mick Herron has really hit his stride with the fourth book in the Slough House series! River Cartwright is an inspired creation, grandson of an admired British “spook” (that’s a spy to you & me) who has been sabotaged during a training exercise by a frenemy and ended up in Slough House, the place where failed spies go to be punished for their sins.

There’s been a bombing of a shopping centre, plus River is starting to worry about his grandfather’s mental state. He has the same concerns that everyone has about relatives with dementia, plus the added concern that his grandfather may indeed shoot someone who comes to the door, believing that they are out to get him. That spy-paranoia doesn’t just go away just because he is losing his grip on every-day life.

As per usual, Herron provides a complex plot, with plenty of twists & turns to keep the reader on their toes. There are interesting revelations from the past, political machinations of the most vicious & devious kinds, and Herron isn’t afraid to sacrifice a person or two along the way. The ending is also skillfull—I was given enough resolution to satisfy, while still left with enough loose threads that I am happily anticipating the next installment. Well played!

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