Lenin’s Roller Coaster by David Downing

Lenin's Roller Coaster (Jack McColl, #3)Lenin’s Roller Coaster by David Downing

Lenin’s Rollercoaster
This is the third instalment Jack McColl and Caitlin Hanley series written by David Downing. The preceding volumes One Man’s Flag  and Jack of Spies set the tone but are not required reading .This time the protagonist are in Russia after the fall of the short-lived Kerensky government. The Bolsheviks under Lenin have come to power. There are however many factions who are fighting each other within Russia. Some want peace with the Germans others want to fight on. The supporters of the Czar the White Russians want the old order restored. This forms the backdrop to the adventures of Jack McColl and Caitlin Hanley.
The background really highlight a time when there as optimism and the thought that the Russian revolution would yield a utopian workers’ paradise. As the story progresses the idyll is slipping away. The Bolsheviks execute the Czar and his family and the state security apparatus is emerging. The terror that follows the spring of hope is more than just rumour. Our heroes Jack and Caitlin are traversing the Russian landscape separately he a spy she a journalist. Narrow escapes and shady characters are the order of the day. Their adventures are always crisscrossing but separate. In some ways it is two stories in one. A wonderful way to have glimpse of this turbulent time in history.

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The Shadow District by Arnaldur Indriðason

The Shadow DistrictThe Shadow District by Arnaldur Indriðason
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Shadow Killer is new series by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason set during he allied occupation of Iceland during World War II. Indridason previous series revolved around a rather melancholic detective called Erlendur who was tormented by his brother’s disappearance in a storm when they were boys. The setting for the Erlendur series was contemporary. So the new series is a change of pace with a historical setting.
I have read a bit of Icelandic history that pointed to a degree of tension between the locals and the occupying forces during World War II. This forms the backdrop to this novel. The Shadow Killer sees Flóvent, Reykjavík’s sole detective, joined by the young military policeman Thorson. Flóvent is an Icelander whereas Thorson was raised in Canada by Icelandic parents.
The murder is intriguing and points to a variety where the initial clue is an American service revolver. This draws in the military which means there is lots of tension. Flóvent and Thorson are both neophyte homicide detectives. Red herrings abounds make it an enjoyable read. This is the first of the series translated into English and I am looking forward to more.

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The Other Side of Silence (Bernie Gunther, #11)

The Other Side of Silence (Bernie Gunther, #11)The Other Side of Silence by Philip Kerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Other side of Silence is the 11th Bernie Gunther novel by Philip Kerr. I have read all in order and I must say that all have been enjoyable. I admire the way Kerr keeps the narrative rolling forward. Bernie Gunther’s past keeps catching up with him in different ways. There is always a nod to his Kripo past and his wartime service. Those who have been along for the journey will know that the latter always causes him grief.
We find our hero Bernie Gunther working in a hotel on the French Rivera in 1956. It is all spies and blackmail in this instalment. A cleverly crafted tale involving W Somerset Maugham, MI6 and the STASI. However, Bernie’s past with the NAZI’s casts a shadow over his current position a discreet hotel concierge.
There is intrigue a plenty up and down the Riviera and Bernie finds himself falling for a woman. Bernie usually falls in the arms of a woman or is fondly remembering a liaison with another.

I am an unabashed fan of this series and can only wait to read the next instalment Prussian Blue.

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Russian Roulette: A Deadly Game: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin’s Global Plot

Russian Roulette: A Deadly Game: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global PlotRussian Roulette: A Deadly Game: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin’s Global Plot by Giles Milton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This slim easy to read volume is all about the foundations of formalised overseas spying by the British. I heard the author being interviewed on radio and this piqued my interest. It’s an intriguing story about resourceful individuals who in some cases gave their lives. Some of it reads like the old Boys Own adventures. Much of the detail is still classified but through a quirk of history some of the files are now under Indian jurisdiction and accessible.
This is certainly a testament to the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction. Livings undercover for months, keeping one step ahead of the Russian secret police are just some of the exploits of these remarkable individuals. The complicated and tenuous courier links to get information back to Britain are astounding.
A great way to learn something about the early days of the Soviet union and how permeable the Iron curtain was in those early days.

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Masaryk Station (John Russell, #6)

Masaryk Station (John Russell, #6)Masaryk Station by David Downing

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is sadly the last in the John Russell Effi Koenen series. I have read then all in order. In fact Zoo Station the first in this series got me started on WW 2 based fiction.
I didn’t realise that it was the end until I read the authors wrap up on the last page. I had felt the story was losing direction a few times. However true to form it ties together in the last few pages. Jon Russell and Effi have over the series survived the Nazis, the Americans and the Soviets. Downing does touch on what must be one of the many great tragedies of the Europe in the twentieth century. Eastern Europe having survived the Nazis was overrun by communism.
As always John Russell is busy playing off both sides. But what is different in Masaryk Station is that he is trying to deal himself, Effi and their adopted daughter out of the game.
It’s a bit like leaving old friends at the train station as you head off. Looking forward to the Jack of Spies perhaps the beginning of a new series of adventures with David Downing.

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One month with android

I have been playing with my Google nexus 7 for about a month now. I have just discovered sliding around the keyboard without taking my finger off very much. It means that I can type faster than the old hunt and peck method.
I am very happy with android as it does most of what I can do iOS. There  are  some  familiar apps like Facebook and twitter. However not all apps are available on both iOS and android.   I say this because my experience is mostly with the apple app store I discovered the imbalance.  Since i started with the Google play store I have have seen a difference in the style and number of apps. However if you can’t find the exact same app there is always something similar.
The “play store” has itself been updated to a newer and clearer format in the short time that I have been using it. Don’t much like the name but I guess that will become accustomed to it.
So far so good.

The Holy Thief (Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev #1) by William Ryan

The Holy Thief. William RyanThe Holy Thief. William Ryan by William Ryan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Holy Thief by William Ryan is the first in series with the central character Captain Korolev. I bought the book from a discount bookstore on a recent interstate trip only $8 and I got my monies worth. The story is set in the Soviet Union in 1936, with the backdrop of the Stalinist regime. The story is peppered with references to denunciations and betrayal. Students of the period will be well aware of the purges and repressions that occurred during the bloody reign of Stalin.
Captain Korolev is an ordinary policeman if there is such a thing in a totalitarian state. However after a particularly brutal murder in an old church the case becomes political. Korolev is caught between his own department and the NKVD, the precursor to the infamous KGB.
The author has managed to create a sense of the suspicion that must have permeated muscovite population during the period. I am encouraged to read more ion this series.

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Lehrter Station (John Russell #5)

Lehrter StationLehrter Station by David Downing

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lehret Station is the 5th instalment of the John Russell and Effie Koenen Series. Author David Downing really creates an environment that makes you feel that you have stepped back in time. This story is post world war 2 and focuses the personal hardships are exposed. Food shortages, accommodation struggles and finding lost friends and relatives are the prevailing themes of this story. This provides a real sense of the confusion and dislocation in past war Europe. It makes the whole enterprise of war seem futile ultimately nobody wins.
John Russell the English journalist with an American passport has sold his soul over to nearly all the spy agencies. There is now more than one ferryman to pay, he struggles to play one side off against the other to save his and Effie’s skin. All this takes place in a crumbled and bombed out Berlin.
The occupying forces and their various zones add to the complexity of post war Berlin. As always a good yarn and a fascinating read. I have the next instalment Masaryk Station on order!

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The Savage Altar (Rebecka Martinsson #1) by Åsa Larsson

The Savage AltarThe Savage Altar by Åsa Larsson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this in June 2010 and is part of my transfer of reading from the Now Reading plugin to Goodreads

The Savage Altar is the first in a series by Swedish author Åsa Larsson featuring a lawyer Rebecka Martinsson as the main character. The story sees her drawn back to the community where she grew up. There are old relationships that are rekindled and refreshed. It is a tale of power and corruption centering on the modern evangelical churches and human frailty. Continue reading “The Savage Altar (Rebecka Martinsson #1) by Åsa Larsson”

Prague Fatale (Bernard Gunther, #8)

Prague Fatale (Bernard Gunther, #8)Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Prague Fatale Phillip Kerr dips in and out of his protagonists’ life. There is not an obvious chronology to the novels. However this rather cleverly deals with the finite landscape that the novels occupy.
This book arrived literally as I had completed the previous instalment Field Gray. The setting, Prague, is more constrained than the previous and as such the range of  characters is reduced.
This instalment has Bernie Gunther in the service of Reinhardt Heydrich, a feared member of the Nazi elite. Continue reading “Prague Fatale (Bernard Gunther, #8)”