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Derrick

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Magisterial, engrossing, powerful

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-04-20

A 40 hour book which only goes as far as the man's senatorial election at the age of 32 seems excessive, and I challenge anyone not to be daunted by this book. But in reality, it is wonderful. I came to it from a podcast by modern political academic David Runciman, describing Caro's biography of Johnson as the "politicians' favourite biography, citing Micheal Howard as one such fan.

With that recommendation I tried it, albeit with some trepidation. I should not have worried. This book deserves its reputation. Caro's research is not burdensome, but worn lightly and enables him to bring a lost age to life, painting rich, colourful landscapes of the land and people. There are heroes, cowards and villains. Great figures of America history move through the story continually, but the real value is just the way Caro brings this time into vivid, detailed reality.

At the centre is, of course, Lyndon Johnson. His meteoric rise is masterfully described. One really feels that he is brought to life, with texture, depth and credibility. Is he an attractive character? Absolutely not. Is he compelling? Completely. I started wondering if I would finish it. I ended up wishing it could be longer.

This is a great biography.

1 person found this helpful

Cheaply produced and thin on content

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-04-19

There are a huge number of people who love the Sherlock stories (me amongst them) and so there will be lots of interest in a series that reveals the back story on his development. This is not it. Apart from some vacuous gushing over Conan-Doyle's nightshirt, the rest of the content are some bland platitudes from actor Bill Patterson and a cosy chat with two of Doyle's descendants. I am searching my mind as to whether I learned anything at all about Sherlock from this.

If this had not been free, I would have sent it back.

11 people found this helpful

Bleak adventure

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-02-19

I came to this having read The Child Thief, which I enjoyed a lot. There are quite a few similarities with that predecessor: a troubled hero with a dark past travelling across a bleak, Revolutionary Soviet landscape, the pursuit by and of a faceless but terrifying enemy. In some ways there are too many similarities for my taste, but nonetheless this is a pacy, often old-fashioned adventure story. I almost think it is better than The Child Thief.

The author describes a brutal time in early Soviet history, but the descriptions of atrocity are kept to a minimum in favour of a traditional chase adventure. There is enough mystery and suspense to satisfy, and the denouement is not too contrived (as I felt maybe the end of previous book had been).

It is superbly performed by Nigel Carrington.

Taut, well-constructed thriller

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-02-19

I enjoyed this. I came to it after listening to the first two books in this series and the same qualities were here too. This is well-constructed, with a tense story which does not have to rely upon implausible coincidences or a bashy-crashy superhero to make it work. There are some great set-pieces and a solid, evenly paced narrative, superbly rendered by Adam Sims.

If I have one criticism, it is that this is very like the other two stories; Prof Tom Wilde follows the trail of some suspicious murders, uncovers the dastardly plot to do something splashy, rides his trusty Rudge motorbike recklessly through the Cambridgeshire countryside and saves the day, some genuinely unpleasant acts by the bad guy to eliminate any residual support, followed by a reckoning with the Prof. Am I being churlish? Isn't that the plot of every thriller? Maybe, but at the end of this audiobook, Rory Clements shares his thoughts about the period he writes about and promises to read every review. So, dear Rory, please don't let this wonderful series, so well-written, become "samey" too soon?

2 people found this helpful

Fascinating

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 19-01-19

I came to this having listened to the much longer "Rise and kill first" by the same author, an investigative journalist from Israel. This is a well-told, immersive story about a one-time Mossad "suoer-spy" and his fall from grace. Far from glamourising the man or the agency, this is a wonderfully drawn portrait of a complex man in a story which seems plucked straight from the grey-shaded world of John Le Carre.

All too short, it is well-told, well-voiced and fascinating.

1 person found this helpful

Fascinating, enlightening and shocking

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 19-01-19

I started this book a little sceptical as the author concedes the secrecy of the Mossad, but claims to have gained unparalleled unofficial insight through interviews with multiple Mossad agents across the period from 1948 till today. As the book continues with some remarkable stories, I started checking the internet alongside listening to the book. I have to say I found all of the stories that I checked to be corroborated by other sources.

As to the book itself, it is a fascinating and enthralling tale of decades of assassination covering not just Mossad, but the entirety of Israel's intelligence community. The narrative rattles along and I was surprised when I realised this book is 26 hours long.

There are a number of things that struck me. First is the sheer scale of this activity, well told with a good sense of how successive generations of operatives found reason to dispense with what many would see as "the rule of law". Second are the intimate links between the intelligence community with senior government; many Prime Ministers having served within these very same units earlier in their lives.

My over-riding impression, though, was Bergman's careful charting of this much-vaunted force losing any sense of moral compass. In recent times, Bergman describes how even senior retired officers, including one Mossad chief, feel its ruthless approach has become counter-productive. David becomes Goliath. That is not to say that he shies away from describing the appalling terrorist acts of the PLO, Black September and the rest, nor the very real threat from Arab countries and in more recent times, from Iran. But as one listens to the descriptions of discussions within Mossad and with politicians, it is fascinating to see how moral considerations are eroded until hardly recognised at all. Fascinating, enthralling, but appalling and sad.

One reviewer has talked about the author "having an agenda". I was intrigued as to what this might be, but for me, at least, it is less an "agenda" and more of an inevitable conclusion if one accepts the analysis that this book contains.

3 people found this helpful

Fascinating story of some well-loved characters

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 19-12-18

Adam Roche has cornered the market in telling interesting and lesser known backstories to famous Hollywood films and stars. For Brits of a certain age who grew up with Basil Rathbone as "their" Holmes, this will be a fascinating narrative, straddling the stories of the actors but also the films in Roche's usual engaging style. The level of detail is great and prompted me to revisit a couple of the films.

OK, it is frothy and a bit sentimental at times, but this is essentially a nostalgia gig. Some of the background music; heavy on poignant piano solos or romantic strings can be a bit tedious, but not overly obtrusive.

One thing that a number of reviewers of Adam Roche's output comment upon is his intonation/accent. Whilst clearly British, I think the narrator tries for a slightly "posher" English accent than he actually has; maybe to appeal to a US audience. Certainly he describes things like the film censors in a way that assumes an understanding of the US system. As a consequence, he stretches some of his vowels in a way which is plainly forced to an British ear. Again, I found that a mild distraction as opposed to a material issue.

All in all, a great listen on an obscure but very engaging subject.

3 people found this helpful

Thunderbirds for grown-ups

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 21-11-18

I came to this having read and thoroughly enjoyed Lunnon-Wood's 'military quartet'. This is a rather different beast. Whereas those are fairly well-grounded tales with a strong sense of realism, this is more of a fantasy tale. Whereas his other works outclass the fantasy techno-thrillers of other (often US) writers, this nestles very much in that field. A secret but hugely powerful organisation bent on nuclear disarmament builds a hypersonic plane armed with lasers years ahead of its time and uses it to coerce and encourage the world to nuclear disarmament. The comparisons with 'Thunderbirds' and International Rescue are hard to avoid. There are no visible puppet strings, but if there are such things in an audiobook, then they are here.

It is OK, if that is your thing. Another reviewer speaks of this being an emotional listen. It is true that all of Lunnon-Wood's other novels have a healthy dollop of sentimentality in them. This is no exception. In those other cases, it is grounded in a solid, strong and believable story. Here, it is much more comic-strip and, for me at least, rather less engaging as a result.

1 person found this helpful

Great nostalgia

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-11-18

I remember Friday nights on BBC2 as a kid when there was a double bill of these films. I loved that. This is wonderful nostalgia and genuinely informative about the context of these films. The narrator and presumably author is a bit strained. I suspect this is in service of a US audience. There is a presumption when describing censors that it is US-centric, so the forced posh English accent is part of the proposition. The reality is that the vowels don't work to any English accent that I have ever known, but might work for a US audience. But that is a minor grumble; this is entertainting stuff.

Too convoluted for its own good

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-11-18

This starts really well, and I love the timeshift between the modern day and WWII, but it goes downhill for me from then. Any spy thriller needs to be complex and full of false trails, but this goes beyond the sustainable and just ends up being silly and a bit tedious. The plot stumbles into an impenetrable tangle at the climax, but you just go with it because trying to map out the 'how and the why' is not worth going back instead of just slogging to the end.

I did stay to the finish, but checked the time quite a lot to see whether I would.

It is wonderfully performed by a trio of readers; they do a fine job, but I wish they had better material.

16 people found this helpful