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Posts Tagged ‘conspiracy’

In 1981, in Moscow’s Gorky Park, three bodies are uncovered as the winter snow thaws and Police Chief Investigator Arkady Renko reluctantly takes the case and attempts to solve the triple murder.

It rapidly becomes apparent that nothing is as it seems, and Arkady can never be sure of who to trust, either professionally or personally. The possibility of betrayal is ever present and Arkady realises that the investigation may end up costing him his life.

Well! I am not entirely sure what to make of this book. It’s a classic and I can see why. The plotting is intricate and the characterisation, especially of Arkady is very well done. Being set during the Cold War does date it, especially when it comes to relations between Russia and America, which is an important factor in this story, but that’s fine. It’s a novel set at a very defined point in the history between two countries and as it was also written in 1981, it feels authentic.

However, while the writing draws you in, it’s definitely a twisty tale which requires concentration. At one point I wished I had started taking notes, because I did have to sometimes go back a few pages and remind myself of what had taken place. So it’s not the easiest read in terms of plot, but the prose itself is a delight. If this genre is your kind of thing, I would recommend you check this out.

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Amok was originally published in German, but has been translated and turned into this audio dramatisation, featuring – amongst others – Adrian Lester and Natasha McElhone.

The story opens with Jan May, an esteemed psychologist, waiting for his girlfriend Leonie to arrive for dinner. Tonight is the night he is going to propose but then he receives a panicked phone call from her telling him that “they” are going to tell him she has died, and not to believe “them.” Almost instantly, a policeman appears at his door and tells him that Leonie has died in a traffic accident.

Several months later, Jan takes a radio presenter and several visitors to the radio station hostage, and takes over the programme. He says that he will be phoning a random member of the public each hour and if they do not answer with the correct slogan, he will shoot a hostage dead.

Meanwhile, police negotiator Ira Samin has decided that today is the day she is going to kill herself. Unable to get over her eldest daughter’s suicide for Ira blames herself, and distraught because her younger daughter won’t speak to her, Ira sees nothing to live for. But when Jan May says that she is the only negotiator he is prepared to deal with, her plans to kill herself are put on hold. She has to negotiate with him live on air and this  includes discussing her dead daughter and revealing intimate secrets. He demands that she finds out the truth about Leonie, otherwise all of the hostages will die.

Although that sounds like a detailed synopsis, all of the above happens early on in the story – as Ira delves deeper into the mystery surrounding Leonie, she discovers the truth at the same time as the listener.

This is the second audio dramatisation I have listened to, and I do enjoy them; in this case the cast, which includes the aforementioned Adrian Lester and Natasha McElhone, as well as other stalwarts of theatre and television such as Rafe Spall, Brendan Coyle and Peter Firth, were all excellent. The narrator who joined the seams together was Robert Glenister, who can also always be relied upon to put in a solid performance.

While the production held my attention, particularly in the first half, the story did get somewhat convoluted and far fetched in the second half, and relied heavily on coincidence. I would have preferred a straightforward hostage drama, rather than the machinations that transpired. Nonetheless, this was still an entertaining production and I would listen to other dramatisations of Fitzek’s work.

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As the title suggests, this is journalist Jon Ronson’s account of his time spent with different extremists, including Omar Bakri, outspoken American radio show host Alex Jones, David Icke, Thom Robb (a KKK leader, who is trying to improve the KKK’s public image), and others.  While Ronson remains generally respectful of each person, and tries to remain somewhat neutral, his opinions do occasionally filter through.

It is difficult to read about what some of these people believe without squirming, or becoming angry, but what most of them have in common is a conviction that the world is being run by a secret elite group, who decide who will be president and prime minister of various countries, amongst other things. While their claims smack of the ridiculous, there were a couple of scenes which did give me pause for wonder – just who WAS trailing Ronson in Portugal?  And the final chapter was almost unbelievable.  Except that it was believable (and the events apparently captured on videotape).

Ronson writes with (much-needed) patience and wry humour, and is a likeable narrator.  The book is humorous, but he seems to laugh at the situations, rather than the people he is spending time with.  I admire him being able to stick it out.  Some of the people he was spending time with were so objectionable in their beliefs that I think I would have jacked it in much sooner!

I enjoyed his style of writing, and will definitely be reading more by this author.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This is the second book in the Cornelius Quaint series, and the events follow straight on from where the first book ends (there is a brief recap of the events in The Equivoque Principle – the first book – for anybody who has not read it).

Cornelius has left most of his beloved circus family behind, to travel to Egypt accompanied only by Madame Destine, the circus fortune teller and faithful friend of Quaint.  In Egypt, Quaint has to stop a plan masterminded by the Hades Consortium to poison the River Nile and cause death to countless Egyptians.  Along the way, he encounters desert thieves, has to deal people who are determined to kill him by any means necessary, and deal with long buried secrets which resurface.

Just as in The Equivoque Principle, this is an enjoyable romp, full of surprising twists and turns – a situation could turn on it’s head very rapidly! –  and like Quaint himself, the reader is never entirely sure who can be trusted.  Our hero is again full of witty quips and smart asides, and I found myself rooting for him all the way through.  He and Madame Destine actually find themselves separated for a large portion of the story, and the opportunity is taken for both characters to be explored further.  (This was particularly welcome to me in the case of Destine, as she was the one character I found hard to warm to in The Equivoque Principle; I liked her a lot more when reading this book).

Initially I did think that I would miss some of the characters from Quaint’s circus troupe, who he takes his leave of in the first few chapters.  I especially hoped that his valet Butter might go to Egypt with him, but he was tasked with running the circus in Quaint’s absence.  However, I actually realised about halfway through the book that I was not missing these characters at all, due to the new characters that were introduced in this book.

The plot is outlandish at times, but I think this must have been entirely intentional – as with the previous book, the book does not take itself too seriously and I don’t think the reader should either. It is simply a rip-roaring and highly enjoyable adventure story, which made me smile.  A wonderful bit of escapism – go enjoy:)

(I would like to thank the author for arranging for this book to be sent to me for review.  Darren Craske’s website can be found here.)

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