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Edward Hahn has commented on (160) products.

Winter in Madrid by C J Sansom
Winter in Madrid

Edward Hahn, June 5, 2015

I have become fascinated with the Spanish Civil War. Anyone who shares that interest should read this book. It is one of the best novels about the war, I have run across.

The Spanish Civil War was basically fought between a polyglot collection of leftists who had overthrown the monarchy and replaced it with a republic and the rebels, mostly fascists and monarchists, who launched their uprising from Morocco led by Generalissimo Franco. Both Germany and Italy supported the rebels with military weaponry and "advisors". Since none of the European democracies would help the Republicans, Russia stepped in and not too long afterwards began to run things in a Stalinist manner. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. The Spanish people were victimized by both sides.

Eventually Franco's forces won and took over a mostly destroyed country. When WW II started, Great Britain thought it was crucial to keep Spain out of the war on the Axis side. All of which brings us to "Winter in Madrid".

The main protagonist, Harry Brett, is sent to Spain as a translator/spy after being wounded at Dunkirk. Harry's job is to find out what an old schoolmate, Sandy Forsyth, is up to in support of the Spanish government. All he knows is that it has something to do with a gold discovery which could lessen England's leverage over Spain.

Harry has another connection to Spain in that another schoolmate, Bernie Piper, died fighting the Fascists. As Harry begins his assignment, he's surprised to learn that Red Cross Nurse, Barbara Clare, is living with Forsyth even though she was at one time madly in love with Bernie.

Things get more and more complicated from there as the story unfolds and the characters and the reader are confronted with surprise after surprise.

Sansom is meticulous with his description of the time, His characters are believable and well drawn. The plot strains credulity in spots but overall kept me engaged and eager to discover what was going to happen next. I appreciated the epilog which did not tie everything up in a neat little bow but rather continued to reflect the ambiguity of both the characters and the times.

I enjoyed reading this book immensely and recommend it highly.
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Wings of Fire #1: Wings of Fire by Charles Todd
Wings of Fire #1: Wings of Fire

Edward Hahn, May 26, 2015

This is #2 in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series. I finished #1 few months ago and was so impressed, I've acquired a number of volumes and plan to read them intermittently over the next year or so. I've never been a big fan of so-called British mysteries but I do like these stories, perhaps because of the characters, especially Rutledge.

Rutledge, a veteran of World War One survived the war, but is haunted by his experiences, including being buried alive in a German artillery barrage. He also hears the voice of one of his men, a Scot named Hamish, who he had been forced to put in front of a firing squad because of Hamish's unwillingness to lead a suicidal advance. Hamish is a constant companion in his head telling him things he often does not want to hear. They argue, sometimes out loud which can be disconcerting to the people around Rutledge - a WW I version of PTSD.

"Wings of Fire" is the title of a poetry book written by a critically acclaimed, virtual recluse, Olivia Marlowe. Writing under the pseudonym of O.A. Manning, she is mistaken for a man because she does such a good job of capturing the Hell that is combat and the passion of love expressed in "Wings of Fire".

Olivia and her half brother Nicholas are found dead in what is assumed to be an apparent suicide. When another family member breaks his neck falling down the stairs, questions are raised by another relative Rachel Cheney, Rutledge is sent to determine what really happened.

The plot then unfolds as Rutledge discovers the tragic history of the family in which a number of people have died under tragic circumstances. He becomes convinced that all of the deaths were murders. He takes it on himself to unravel the tangled family history in the face of opposition from the local authorities and most of the citizens of the nearby town.

Rutledge, who could be seen as being an obsessive-compulsive cannot abide an unsolved mystery and persists in his inquiries until the truth comes out in a very satisfying, exciting conclusion.

While this book can certainly stand on its own, the first book in the series, "A Test of Wills," was helpful to have read as it does an excellent job of describing Rutledge's syndrome and the history of his relationship with Hamish.

I certainly can recommend this book.
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The Godfather of Kathmandu. John Burdett by John Burdett
The Godfather of Kathmandu. John Burdett

Edward Hahn, May 15, 2015

A totally delightful, almost transcendent, addition to the John Burdett series of crime/mystery books featuring Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a Royal Thai Police detective.

The plot in this case is very complicated, involving Karmic fate, the search for enlightenment, drugs, Thai corruption, the Asian gem trade, inexplicable murders and Tibetan Independence all held together by a self-deprecating sense of humor on Sonchai's part.

The book is aimed at the foreign (farang) reader directly as Sonchai narrates his journey in the first person. Sonchai, the half Thai/half American son of a former prostitute and current brothel owner, constantly struggles to balance his spiritual Buddhism with his life-long debt to the unremittingly corrupt Colonel Vikorn, who wants Sonchai to be his consigliere, ala "The Godfather".

Having lived 20 years in Asia and having spent much time in Thailand, I can say that the descriptions of Bangkok and its environs including Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy are accurate and real. In this story Sonchai also visits Nepal and Hong Kong and here too Burdett captures the essence of these places.

The plot is wonderfully inventive and complicated which kept me wondering what's next and often being surprised when it was revealed. Somehow, through it all and in spite of his continuing confusion Sonchai manages to solve a murder, broker a huge drug deal, reach a new level of consciousness, and help Tibetan refugees work to frustrate their Chinese occupiers. Sounds unbelievable and maybe it is but while immersed in the story I was just swept along as the plots unfolded and was completely satisfied with the conclusion.

While the story stands on it's own, I would recommend reading "Bangkok 8", the first book in the series before reading this, number 4. However, no matter what, I unreservedly recommend this delightfully absorbing novel.
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Edge of Eternity: Book Three of the Century Trilogy (Century Trilogy) by Ken Follett
Edge of Eternity: Book Three of the Century Trilogy (Century Trilogy)

Edward Hahn, May 14, 2015

What a disappointment! I liked the first two books in the series very much. I struggled to finish this 1100 page monster and managed to do so by speed reading the first line of paragraphs in spots and scanning some of the dialogue between characters I didn't care about.

I expected a follow-up to some of the characters introduced in the first two volumes but instead got a steady diet of the next generation and not a clue as to what happened to others.

I have no idea what Follett was trying to do here except maybe finish what he'd started. In his dedication to getting us to the Fall of Communism he skips over huge chunks of history that had to impact the characters he's writing about.

I haven't seen so many stereotypes since I stopped reading pulp fiction magazines in the 50s. I'm afraid his political views were also overly reflected in the way he treats the major political figures of the day. Basically trashing Nixon (deserved), Reagan, (not so deserved) and George H.W. Bush (not deserved at all). To give him credit he doesn't shy away from criticizing the Kennedy's and Johnson but hardly mentions Carter and totally ignores the Iranian revolution.

This is the first Follett book I haven't liked. I hope it's the last.
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(2 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)



Mount Dragon by Douglas Preston
Mount Dragon

Edward Hahn, May 7, 2015

I Don't know how I missed this one. Except for the slightly dated technological stuff it was a great read. As with any Preston/Child novel, the reader must suspend their disbelief. Once that is out of the way, the authors have a sure hand when it comes to ratcheting up the suspense. It's not necessarily twists and turns so much as putting the characters in life threatening circumstances and prolonging resolution of the danger.

The plot here involves a scientist, Guy Carson, who is working a scut job under a jealous supervisor when he is asked by GeneDyne CEO and founder, Brent Scopes, to take over a very important project at the GeneDyne facility, near Mount Dragon, in a remote arid section of New Mexico. Guy’s new assignment is to genetically manipulate a very deadly virus so that it will inoculate people against the flu forever. Carson works in a Level 5 facility, with protective biohazard suits and extensive decontamination procedures. His assistant, Susana Cabeza de Vaca, is very feisty and sarcastic. At some point, as you can imagine, there is an accident which throws the entire facility into chaos. Simultaneously, Guy’s onetime college professor, Charles Levine (Brent Scopes’ most vocal enemy) manages to contact him. Guy and Susana discover that there are many secrets about, not only their project, but others before they got there. The plot unfolds from there as events in both New Mexico and GeneDyne headquarters in Boston work to a climax.

I was somewhat surprised that the authors could produce such an entertaining story in this, their second book together. I highly recommend it.
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