No doubt having read the title of this book you will have already tagged it as another Agatha Christie style doppelganger (nothing wrong with that of course). However, the reality could not be more distant.
In Bitter Seeds, Ian Tregillis sends us back to 1939 Britain; a nation at war and about to suffer its worst military defeat in living memory upon the shores of Europe. In this book Ian cleverly interlaces the supernatural with the history of the time, pitting the dark magic of the old empire against weird science of the new.
Too far fetched you think? Not so. I found the tale both convincing and absorbing, and the strong story line had me galloping along towards the final page at a breakneck pace. The backdrops too are atmospheric, the plot lines strong and the characters full of life and interest. I found Bitter Seeds to be a real breath of fresh air, perhaps with subtle aromas of H.P. Lovecraft here and there. I certainly can’t wait to read book two.
So what of the writer? Certainly I had not heard of Ian Tregillis before. However, throughout the book Ian demonstrates great skill. Clever details in a character’s manner are picked out, lending them depth and humanity. Similarly, places are given atmosphere with subtle hits of smell, sound or feel. The net result is a very immersive experience that you are going to want more of.
- Author: Ian Tregillis
I feel for any writer that wishes to introduce a new book based around an SAS operative in the Middle East. Such a book will not lack modern competition and faces the risk of being “just another SAS book”. In The Last Jihadist Bob Shepherd has tried hard to create a new angle for us word hungry readers.
The last Jihadist tells the tale of an SAS soldier who quickly plummets into the less glamorous world of personal protection before heading to Pakistan to avenge a love lost. The setting is one of undercover ops, espionage and political turmoil.
The story starts off well with the mandatory description of an SAS black op. So far, so good! The book then plunges into a world of political unrest in terror riddled Pakistan. The writer introduces such themes as cut throat journalism, terrorist training camps, Middle Eastern culture, clan history, global politics, foreign espionage and Christian crusaders. It is perhaps understandable then that somewhere between pages fifty and one hundred the story gets buried so deep in conspiracy that it never sees the light of day again.
I would also have to say that the piece is not written with as much skill as the reader demands. This can almost be an advantage when the SAS soldier (turned scribe) attempts to portray the gritty and often harrowing exploits of our brave service men and women. However, such plots require earthy end to end simplicity. Here, the poor reader is left with a black and white image of Pakistan in which to place the multitude of rather flat characters. During the whole journey I never really “experienced” a single location or event. Rather I read about them as one might do in a newspaper article.
Finally, I am not in any way an expert on the subject matter of this book. However, one or two of the plot twists felt flawed whilst the ending was instantly forgettable.
So there you have it. This is not a bad book. It simply isn’t a good book either. Perhaps then this is one to leave for when the SAS classics have all been devoured?
- Author: Bob Shepherd
Winston’s war is the first of four books that follow Winston through the war years.
It’s 1938 and the then Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain has pulled off a masterstroke of diplomacy by securing “Peace for our time” thanks to a deal with Adolph Hitler. Whilst Britain celebrates, Winston Churchill MP becomes ever more the villain as he seeks to replace compromise with conflict. Intimately follow an outcast Winston as he defeats both his own internal gremlins and those within the House of Lords to become Britain’s newest Prime Minister. All this, of course, set against the background of Europe, lost in retreat and looking for hope and leadership.
I loved this book. Winston leaps off the page thanks to beautiful characterisation. Churchill is well researched yet embellished with enough “writer’s licence” to give him back his human frailty and depth of thought. Meanwhile key historical events are candidly experienced and explained through a number of interlaced side stories.
If you enjoy a good yarn that will teach you some of the less publicised truths behind Britains entry into WWII then you too will embrace this series of books. On the other hand if you are a strict scholar of 20th Century history then you may find the odd fictional leap of faith unpalatable.
- Author: Michael Dobbs
The truth can be an opiate when woven into a tale and The Long Walk is so much more than a story. It is a tale that illustrates mans infinite capacity for cruelty, courage, deprivation and sacrifice in order to achieve the simplest of tasks – staying alive.
The book follows a young Polish Cavalry officer who is caught up in the Second World War and taken prisoner by the Russians. Interrogated and processed, he is then shipped out in terrible conditions to a labour camp in Siberia. This first part of the book provides a fascinating and humbling window into the cruelty and injustice of Stalin’s Russia.
It is at this point that the book takes off in a different direction. Slavomir describes how he and his accomplices escape the camp and complete an epic journey across some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world. This is a tale not of adventure (although there is some) but of the power of comradeship and hidden capability of men when life comes calling. I was also touched by the humanity of strangers in faraway places.
This is a fabulous book not because it is technically clever or masterfully written (although it pulls you along beautifully) but because it is both humbling and inspiring at the same time.
- Author: Slavomir Rawicz