Sunday, September 20, 2020

Review: The House of Whispers by Laura Purcell

by Laura Purcell
Release Date: June 9th 2020
2020 Penguin Group
Softcover Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0143135531
Genre: Fiction / Gothic
Source: Review copy from publisher
2 / 5 Stars
Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft's family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.
My Thoughts
The House of Whispers, also released as Bone China, is the latest Gothic book by Laura Purcell.  While I enjoyed her previous book, The Silent Companions, I was not a big fan of some of her other work, and this book, despite its sweeping timeline and its eerie setting, left a lot to be desired.  The author tried very hard to convey this eerie atmosphere with the isolated house, the dark secrets, the 'adopted' strange daughter, the mysterious past, and the strange behaviour of its owner, but the whole thing was a mishmash of nothing and I only finished it because I..., and I hesitate to say 'was curious, wanted to see how the author was going to pull it all together.  And I'll be honest in admitting it just didn't work for me.
What I did like: The atmosphere and the writing.  I will admit this author can write really well and create an atmospheric story.  She was able to take a lot of the local folklore and weave it into her story and I did find that part of it quite interesting.  Typically, her work will take this atmosphere and weave it around the tensions and personalities of her characters to create an interesting story line and lots of tension.  However, in this book, the characters were quite weak and I didn't really enjoy the story line as I found it to be quite disjointed and by the midpoint of the book, I was still searching for the whole point of the book.  Dual timelines have never bothered me, but for the life of me, I just couldn't figure out the point of them in this book.  The way it was done left me feeling uncertain as to which person the author wanted me to focus on and therefore, neither story line felt developed.  Personally, I would have focused on Hester, developed her story line, give her a personality, and used that amazing atmosphere to really create something interesting and mysterious.  Unfortunately, the way it was done became a crutch that I just couldn't get through.  
As for the characters, they were definitely under-developed.  I personally didn't like Hester as a character, but if more time had been devoted to her story line, perhaps I would have been able to empathize with her a little bit more.  However, she came across as so needy and selfish, trying to ensure her mistresses really needed her to the point of being obsessive and while I think I was supposed to be sympathetic, it actually turned me right off her character.  While the author described her being strong during a time period where women were not treated equally to men, she certainly didn't come across that way.  Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with a character being unlikable, but there usually is a reason for it, whether through a character's thoughts, deeds, actions, and so on, but there was really nothing given to the reader for her behaviours.
The House of Whispers, as a whole, did not work for me.  I hated the ending simply because the author did not pull all the plot lines together and simply left them creating a disjointed mess at the end.  I don't have a problem with ambiguous endings, however I do have a problem with endings that are left so loose you can't find the threads floating in the wind.  And if you are going to create a spooky atmosphere, you really need to use it and exploit it, not use familiar tropes to do so, especially ones that don't develop the plot or the characters.  As usual however, I always encourage people to read a book and judge it for themselves, and while I am really sad to say it, I think it may be quite a while before I read another book by this author.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Review: The Grim Reader by Kate Carlisle

by Kate Carlisle
Release Date: June 22nd 2020
2020 Berkley/Penguin Publishing House
Kindle Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0451491435
Genre: Fiction / Cozy mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Brooklyn and her new hunky husband, Derek, are excited to be guests at Dharma’s first annual Book Festival. The entire town is involved and Brooklyn’s mom Rebecca is taking charge. In addition to all of her other event related duties, she’s got Brooklyn doing rare book appraisals and is also staging Little Women, the musical to delight the festival goers. If that wasn’t enough, she and Meg—Derek’s mom—will have a booth where they read palms and tarot cards.

Brooklyn couldn’t be prouder of her mom’s do-it-all attitude so when a greedy local businessman who seems intent on destroying Dharma starts harassing Rebecca, Brooklyn is ready to take him down. Rebecca is able to hold her own with the nasty jerk until one of her fellow festival committee members is brutally murdered and the money for the festival seems to have vanished into thin air. 

Things get even more personal when one of Brooklyn’s nearest and dearest is nearly run down in cold blood. Brooklyn and Derek go into attack mode and the pressure is on to catch a spineless killer before they find themselves skipping the festival for a funeral.
My Thoughts
The Grim Reader is the fourteenth instalment in the Bibliophile Mystery series, and I will admit right off the top here that I am so glad that Brooklyn and Derek are back to normal in this one.  I wasn't a big fan of the previous book which made me sad as I have really enjoyed this series; I just felt like there was something off about the two of them as they didn't behave as they normally did and it drove me crazy.  People do not change that much after they get married.  So I was really hoping things were back to normal in this book, and happily, they were.
What I really enjoyed about this book is the setting.  I love Dharma and have always enjoyed every visit Brooklyn has made to this place; there are just so many interesting people to meet and get to know better that I always felt a little cheated when there were only snippets here and there.  So, to have the entire book set in Dharma was wonderful.  And to be there in the midst of planning for a book festival, even better.  
Brooklyn's mother, Rebecca, is in charge of the book festival, and naturally things are far from smooth.  Throw in a rare edition of Little Women, a belligerent wine owner who has ambitions to take over other wineries, a committee member who whines over everything, a committee member who may not be what he seems, and a few other mysteries, and now you have a whole lot of interesting developments happening in a town that will soon be hosting thousands of people.  
The action moved fairly easily, but not all that quickly. I did find it predictable and it was easy to figure out the culprit.  I will admit that I did find Derek and Brooklyn to be a bit 'quiet' in this book and not as much in the centre of things; I mean, Brooklyn didn't even find the body this time.  However, the author has an easy writing style that makes you want to visit Dharma and the people who live there, she makes you care about them.  I have always enjoyed the relationships that have developed over these books and it is always fun to revisit characters who appeared in previous books.
The Grim Reader is very enjoyable, and if you enjoy wine and books then you will definitely enjoy this book.  While you can read this as a standalone, I do recommend that you start from the beginning as the author writes in such a way that assumes you have read the earlier novels.  And while I find the mysteries are getting easier and more predictable, they are still fun and I do enjoy them a lot.  At least they are believable.  And as I've already mentioned, I love the community and the characters in Dharma, so I am happy to see that we will back there again and again.  Looking forward to the next instalment. 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Review: Black Flag by David Ricciardi

by David Ricciardi
Release Date: May 19th 2020
2020 Berkley
Hardcover Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-1984804662
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

After years of relative calm, piracy has returned to the high sea.

But the days of AK-47s and outboard engines are over. The new pirates hit like a SEAL team. Highly trained, and using cutting edge technology, they make sure their victims are never heard from again.

Ships and crews are vanishing at a staggering rate.

As the threat to international shipping grows, U.S. authorities become determined to find the source of this new danger.

Jake Keller has a plan—to lure the pirate mastermind out of hiding by infiltrating his organization—but it’s a dangerous gambit, made more so by Jake's personal involvement with the beautiful heiress to a Greek shipping fortune and an ulterior agenda coming out of CIA headquarters.

As the threats close in from all sides, Jake finds himself faced with a familiar choice: back off, or go on the offensive.
My Thoughts
Black Flag is the third book in the Jake Keller series, and I really enjoy this series as the author puts quite a bit of emphasis on current technology and how it impacts the work CIA analysts and field investigators are doing.  And as I've always enjoyed the personal elements in these novels and the psychological effects being out in the field has on agents, and this author definitely deals with that in his novels, I am able to empathize with the main character, even the so-called 'bad guys'. Jake Keller has grown into one of my favourite characters over these books, and would put him up there with Jason Bourne and Gabriel Allon.

I really enjoy Jake Keller as a main character.  Jake is more of an analyst with years of experience in the military, but tends to rely more on technology.  He is paired with Pickens, who has been in Somalia for years and tends to fit the mould of the old-school type of agent who relies on his connections as well as his personal sources for information.  It was quite interesting to see the dichotomy of the two ways of using information for a common goal, with the understanding that both ways of doing things are still relevant in today's world.  They both have to deal with CIA boss Graves who has his own agenda to push, usually contrary to what is best for those out in the field and Jake often has to make decisions that would get him in a lot of trouble with Ted Graves.  It is not hard to see where these books are heading when it comes to that relationship, and the warnings about how Ted deals with agents who don't listen to orders was pretty loud and clear in this book.  

Most of the action took place in Somalia, and although I know a little bit about the political situation in that part of the world, there is a lot that I didn't know so I appreciated the information the author shared.  It is obvious he spent a lot of time researching the area, the government, and the political events happening there.  He also spent a lot of time setting up the backstory, making sure the reader understood the political situation as well as the political implications of Jake's interference without making it mundane or boring.  

The plot moves rather quickly, and the author is adept at weaving a quick story with good explanations so the reader understand the political situation and the characters.  And there was a lot going on, from piracy to warlords to arms dealers to betrayal and the usual political intrigue in the CIA.  

Black Flag was a complex and fast-paced story that I enjoyed very much.  The plot moved rather quickly and there were plenty of twists and turns that made it interesting.  I really liked the personal element though, as I like to feel empathy for characters that I read about and like to see some character development.  This one was much more plot-driven than character driven so I am hoping to see a bit more character development in future books.  All in all, a fun, suspenseful read, and I am definitely looking forward to the next book in this series. 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Review: Muzzled by David Rosenfelt

by David Rosenfelt
Release Date: July 7th 2020
2020 Minotaur Books
Hardcover Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250257116
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Andy's friend Beth has found a stray that seems to have belonged to a murder victim--in fact, the man and two of his colleagues died in an explosion a few weeks ago. But when the murdered man contacts Beth, asking for his dog back, Andy knows there must be more to the story. The man claims his life is in danger, and that's why he disappeared. As much as Andy doesn't want to get involved--anything to avoid a new case--he can't help but come to the rescue of a man who'd risk everything, even his life, to reunite with his dog.
My Thoughts
Muzzled is the next book in the Andy Carpenter series, and while this was a fun, entertaining book, I did find it incredibly predictable and it didn't have that usual wit and sarcasm that you would expect from this author.  Perhaps, as this is the twenty-first book in this series, it needs something to shake up the series a little bit, or maybe to shake up Andy just a little bit as I felt it was a bit flat compared to his previous books.  It's not to say that it wasn't enjoyable, it just wasn't as much fun as his previous books.

First of all, look at that cover!!! Isn't it amazing? I would have picked up this book, even if I was not familiar with this series, based off that cover alone.  Personally, I think it's a great marketing technique to have a dog featured on the front cover of a murder/mystery novel, especially one that does feature canines so much.  

I love Andy as a character; his sarcastic sense of humour is enjoyable and I love how he pokes fun at himself in this self-deprecating sort of way.  However, he can be downright serious and focused when he needs to be which is why he has earned a reputation as a lethal defense attorney whom a lot of people fear and loathe in equal measure.  It's really hard to reconcile the humourous laid-back Andy though, with the sharp attorney as it almost seems like he has this split personality.  

I have read every single one of these books, and while they are easy reads, they typically are full of twists and turns.  I didn't find that to be the case with this one.  I thought it was lacklustre and predictable.  That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, but not as much as I normally enjoy these books.  I commend the author for trying to do something involving possible pharmacological fraud and the local mafia, but it didn't quite work . I just thought it wasn't as compelling as normal.

Muzzled is always a fun read if you enjoy dogs.  The author, David Rosenfelt, runs a dog rescue foundation and has rescued over 4000 dogs, and I like how he incorporates his knowledge into his books; he uses very subtle techniques to initiate people into the world of dog rescue and adoption.  I would read these books just for that knowledge.  However, I did feel like the mystery in this one fell a bit flat, so maybe Andy and company need a bit of a shakeup in the next book which is due in October.  Will I read the next one? Yes, definitely.  It's like comfort food, I will never miss one of these books; even if this one didn't quite reach the mark, the others were really good. 


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Review: Revolver Road by Christi Daugherty

by Christi Daugherty
Release Date: March 10th 2020
2020 Minotaur Books
Hardcover Edition; 293 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250235886
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publsiher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Even in the chill of February, no place touches Harper McClain’s heart like Savannah. She should be walking beneath the historic city’s towering oaks, surrounded by graceful mansions. Instead, she’s hiding miles away on Tybee Island after a mysterious voice on the phone warned her that someone wanted her dead. The call was too specific to ignore. The caller knew everything about her. But that was months ago, and she’s getting tired of being scared.

Her only escape is her work at the newspaper, where the hottest story in town is the disappearance of Xavier Rayne. The singer had a hit album on his hands, and was about to go on tour, but then he walked out of his beachfront home and vanished. The police believe he drowned, but Harper suspects his disappearance may be more ominous than that. Something doesn’t feel right about it.

His bandmates and actress girlfriend say he’s run away before. They expect him to come home. Until a body washes up with two bullet holes in it. Now everyone in Rayne’s life is a suspect. As Harper digs deeper into the case, though, the threats against her own life return. The phone call she received was very real. A killer from her past is coming for her.

Now she must solve two murders, or end up dying on Revolver Road…
My Thoughts
Revolver Road is the third book in the Harper McClain series and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I haven't read the first two books in this series, but I didn't feel like I was missing too much as the author gave a credible job at fleshing the important background information needed for the reader without giving away any plot points from previous books.  And while the actual mystery was flimsy, at best, I did enjoy Harper's personality and her interactions with a variety of unique and interesting characters which made the read fun.  

I really enjoyed Harper as a main character and liked her spunky personality.  A lot of the story revolves around her personal life and the choices she has made, and while I didn't fully understand the relationship she had with a couple of people simply because I had not read the previous books, the complexity of Harper's decisions and choices she has to make were clear.  

There were actually two mysteries going on simultaneously in this book, a current one featuring the death of a musician and one reaching way back into Harper's past.  I think sometimes an author chews off more than they should when there are multiple story lines as one almost becomes an annoyance, as in the case of the musician which was a rather weak and boring story line.  I couldn't figure out why exactly the other band members would trust Harper when they wouldn't even speak to any other journalist.  What made her so trustworthy?  No reasons given, just that she was there first.  Very flimsy, and no, the reader just won't always accept that it happens.  I thought it was weak so I am sure others would too. And it was quite easy to figure out who did what as well.

The other story line featuring her mom was way more interesting and the ending was quite fun to read.  I would have preferred the whole book to be about that mystery.  I think if the author had focused on one or the other, there may have been a lot more meat to the story lines and I definitely preferred this one over the other. 

The author's writing style is very descriptive, and having visited the area, I could definitely picture the setting in my mind.  The author easily draws the reader into the story and sets up a very atmospheric story.  

Revolver Road is a quick, interesting read and I enjoyed the main character very much.  I did think one of the story lines was a bit flimsy, but I definitely liked the descriptive writing style and enjoyed the secondary characters.  If you are looking for a quick, easy read, then this one is for you.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Review: The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons

by Jenn Lyons 
Release Date: October 29th 2019
2019 Tor Books
Hardcover Edition; 589 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250175533
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publsiher
3.5 / 5 Stars
Kihrin D'Mon is a wanted man.

Since he destroyed the Stone of Shackles and set demons free across Quur, he has been on the run from the wrath of an entire empire. His attempt to escape brings him into the path of Janel Theranon, a mysterious Joratese woman who claims to know Kihrin.

Janel's plea for help pits Kihrin against all manner of dangers: a secret rebellion, a dragon capable of destroying an entire city, and Kihrin's old enemy, the wizard Relos Var.

Janel believes that Relos Var possesses one of the most powerful artifacts in the world―the Cornerstone called the Name of All Things. And if Janel is right, then there may be nothing in the world that can stop Relos Var from getting what he wants.

And what he wants is Kihrin D'Mon. 

My Thoughts
The Name of All Things is the second book is A Chorus of Dragons series, and I enjoyed it quite a bit more than the first book simply because I thought it flowed a lot better. Furthermore, I think I got used to the writing style and picked up a lot more quickly on the way it was written to it was quite easy to follow; and I enjoyed the sarcasm and humour of the comments as well.  What I didn't particularly like was the way it was organized from book to book which I will explain.

First of all, I truly did enjoy the plot and the characters in this book.  It wasn't quite as confusing as the first book simply because I was familiar with the way it was written and understood who the narrator was from the beginning while it took me a lot longer to figure that out in the first book.  The novel had a lot of action scenes, twists and turns, all nicely spaced out throughout the book, so I enjoyed the pacing.  It was nice to come back to the inn to catch up with Kihrin and other at the beginning of every chapter to catch your breath while at the same time, furthering the story. 

The characters in this book were quite interesting and I developed a huge liking for Qown who is currently my favourite character.  There were a couple of things that he did that were quite surprising and I am looking forward to seeing his character develop and grow throughout the series.  

The magic system developed throughout this book and I got a better understanding of how things worked in this world which I definitely found interesting.  I could have done with a bit less of the sexual orientation stuff as I don't think that was necessary to really have to keep explaining it; there are some things that should be left to the reader to figure out and just go with it.  I, personally, never really cared about that as long as the story is interesting.  

Now this brings me to where I had some issues.  One of the biggest disappointments was learning the story wasn't continuing, but that we were going back in time and learning about Janel. I wonder if this could have been written in a different format where there were dual story lines about Kihrin and Janel rather than two story lines about Kihrin in the first book.  I didn't dislike the format, but I didn't really like the fact that Kihrin was reduced to such a minor role in this book and Talon was completely missing.  I understand that there is a lot going on, but the format kind of put me off a little bit.

The Name of All Things was definitely a more interesting book, and I thought the pacing and action sequences were just right.  And while I was frustrated that Kihrin and Tyentso were reduced to minor roles in this one, I did find Janel, Qown, Relos Var, and other characters to be quite intriguing, and I am curious as to what happens next.  I have very mixed feelings regarding Relos Var and I always enjoy it when an author can make me feel sympathy for a character who is supposed to be a villain.  I am definitely looking forward to reading The Memory of Souls

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

by Simone St. James
Release Date: February 18th 2020
2020 Berkley
Kindle Edition; 327 Pages
ISBN: 978-0440000174
ASIN: B0751K42R2
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher
3 / 5 Stars
Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn't right at the Sun Down, and before long she's determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…
My Thoughts
The Sun Down Motel wasn't a bad book by any stretch of the imagination, but I did find it predictable, and I didn't really find it all that creepy, to be honest.  I guess the real issue I had with this book is that there was really no meat or guts to the story as most of it was so strongly based on the paranormal element that the mystery just kind of fell flat. 

The story is told from both Carly and Vivian's POV and this is sort of where the author lost me.  And if you read my reviews, you know that I am a fan of alternating POVs, but I think it sort of backfired in this case.  Vivian was a busybody, sticking her nose where it didn't belong, chasing this person whom she thought was a serial killer just because she had a 'gut instinct' about him, badgering the police.  And don't even get me talking about the police response to Vivian's disappearance and all of the conspiracy theories.  It's not that I didn't like Vivian as a character, I did, but as the story progressed, she was kind of annoying in this pestering sort of way, putting her nose in business that really wasn't her concern, and she caused all sorts of problems for people because of it.  I mean, wasn't what she did stalking?  I wish the author had come up with a slightly better way to get her story across than that. 

Carly was a bit more interesting, and I related to her a bit more.  Anyone who has this to say about libraries is a friend forever: "Libraries were my places. I was that girl who maxed out her library card every week, starting with The Hobbit and The Witch of Blackbird Pond and moving up from there. I could kill an hour by wandering into an unfamiliar part of the Dewey Decimal System and checking it out." (p102). Oh, boy, can I relate!!! The biggest problem with the story lines though, is that they overlapped, and were quite similar.  By the time I was halfway through, I was getting a bit bored and I had to push through to the end.  
While I typically enjoy this author's writing a lot more as her writing style is fun and interesting, this one felt more like one of those horror movies where you yell at the silly characters who goes outside to check on that noise and ends up dead.  There were some ghosts I just didn't see the purpose for while others showed up, and it became more interesting, only for it to go nowhere, or back to another alternating POV,  I just couldn't figure out why the author had her characters do some of the things they did, and one of them was a police officer.  It just didn't make sense to me.
I realize that lots of people loved this book and that is fine, but unfortunately, this was not my favourite book by this author.  I did really like some parts of it, but on the other hand, really disliked other parts of it.  The book was easy to read, it was spooky, it had all the elements of a good story, but I had no interest in the main characters and thought some of the things they did were silly, and the alternating story lines bogged down the plot.  While I would normally recommend a book, I think this one I would leave up to the reader to see as I am in the minority on this one.  Happy reading everyone!!


Monday, August 17, 2020

Review: Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation by Steve Vogel

Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage OperationBetrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation
by Steve Vogel
Release Date: September 24th 2019
2019 Custom House
Kindle Edtion; 544 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062449627
Genre: Non-Fiction / Cold War / Espionage
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Its code name was “Operation Gold,” a wildly audacious CIA plan to construct a clandestine tunnel into East Berlin to tap into critical KGB and Soviet military telecommunication lines. The tunnel, crossing the border between the American and Soviet sectors, would have to be 1,500 feet (the length of the Empire State Building) with state-of-the-art equipment, built and operated literally under the feet of their Cold War adversaries. Success would provide the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service access to a vast treasure of intelligence. Exposure might spark a dangerous confrontation with the Soviets. Yet as the Allies were burrowing into the German soil, a traitor, code-named Agent Diamond by his Soviet handlers, was burrowing into the operation itself. . .

Betrayal in Berlin is Steve Vogel’s heart pounding account of the operation. He vividly recreates post-war Berlin, a scarred, shadowy snake pit with thousands of spies and innumerable cover stories. It is also the most vivid account of George Blake, perhaps the most damaging mole of the Cold War. Drawing upon years of archival research, secret documents, and rare interviews with Blake himself, Vogel has crafted a true-life spy story as thrilling as the novels of John le CarrĂ© and Len Deighton.

My Thoughts
Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation was a fascinating inside look at one of the most daring espionage tunnels to be built in Berlin when events after the Second World War changed politics in the world forever.  With communism taking hold in the east, tensions mounted and the west needed some information to guide their movements during some very tense situations, but little information was coming out of Russia.  Berlin became a fertile ground for spies and the development of espionage networks and the recruitment of thousands began.  I found this book to be thoughtful and insightful and enjoyed the many hours of research that went into every aspect of it. 

First of all, if you are looking for a book about George Blake, this is not the book for you, and I could recommend other books for you to read instead.   The reason I was so interested in this book is that I wanted the step by step detailing on the Berlin tunnel and what went wrong, and that is exactly what I got.  I was fascinated by the descriptions of the details that went into building it and the coordination of effort that it took from the architects to the engineers to the translators.  I wanted the nitty-gritty of the operation and this was it.  However, I am a history teacher and very familiar with politics during this time period as well as the various players so I do think that helped a lot.

Let's face it, the Cold War was a very stressful time for everyone involved, but gosh, there are a lot of interesting stories that are coming out of this time period, and so much has come to light in recent years.  Spies, gadgets and devices used, codes, operations, and so much more have been revealed to the public as secret documents have been made available and researchers are tapping into these resources to shed light on some interesting moments in time.  And while George Blake certainly played a vital role in the destruction of the Berlin Tunnel, the Americans and the British were still able to gain valuable information from its use.  The author used his research and writing skills to explain a complicated story that was interesting, and although I knew the outcomes of some of the Russian spies, I still held my breath as I read about their demises.  I especially like how the author just lays things out for you and lets you come to your own conclusions, but reminds you time and time again that these men spend their lives deceiving others and are perhaps not so trustworthy and to take their accounts with a grain of salt, so to speak.  It's a very subtle warning to be careful when you read interviews with Blake, Philby, and some of the others.  

Betrayal in Berlin was less a story about George Blake than it was a comprehensive account of an espionage project doomed from the very beginning, but still managed to provide some good information to the West despite what happened.  Some interesting information provided on some very fascinating people during this time period: Eisenhower, Blake, Dulles, and hundreds of others are mentioned.  The author is quite skilled at explaining the different story lines of the all the people involved and bringing it all back together so it makes sense.  Even if you have limited knowledge of this time period, you would enjoy this book as the author explains things very well, but you do have to be patient.  There is a lot of stuff to go through and a lot of things that went into this operation.  I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this author.