No Ordinary Conference

30 12 2017

Munich by Robert Harris

 

 

September 1938. Hitler is determined to start a war. Chamberlain is desperate to preserve the peace. The issue is to be decided in a city that will forever afterwards be notorious for what takes place there. Munich.

As Chamberlain’s plane judders over the Channel and the Führer’s train steams relentlessly south from Berlin, two young men travel with secrets of their own.

Hugh Legat is one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries; Paul Hartmann a German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler resistance. Great friends at Oxford before Hitler came to power, they haven’t seen one another since they were last in Munich six years earlier. Now, as the future of Europe hangs in the balance, their paths are destined to cross again.

When the stakes are this high, who are you willing to betray? Your friends, your family, your country or your conscience?

Yet another gripping tale from Robert Harris. Must admit to my historical knowledge of this period being a little sketchy at best but Harris does an excellent job of providing a ton of period detail within  a compelling narrative which portrays the leading figures extremely convincingly and not unsympathetically in at least some cases. Great stuff.

four stars

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A funny thing happened on the way to Uni…

23 12 2017

True Crime on Campus

by someone or other

 

Students, staff and visitors often do the strangest things. From zombie apocalypse and unexplained beeping incidents to Quidditch and scrabble accidents it really is all kicking off on campus.

Pigeons, tigers, ninja turtles and a tarantula are all involved and there is much strange behaviour and many unfortunate events.

Staff, students and anyone interested in what really happens outside the university lecture room will enjoy these very real examples of True Crime on Campus.

 

I’ve been publishing True Crime on Campus since 2010 under the banner of Registrarism at Wonkhe.  Over this time many hundreds of bizarre, unfortunate, inexplicable and just plain weird campus crime reports have appeared. Now the very best of them are collected in an exciting book. It’s full of this kind of thing:

You can buy the book here, via the University’s online shop, confident that half of any profits from the sale will be given to support the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Nottingham. You can also now buy it on Amazon if you prefer.

Go on, you know it makes sense. Look at all these reviews:

 

The Guardian thought it was a great Christmas gift and it got a recommendation in the Times Higher too as well as on the University’s news pages. The Nottingham Post also liked it:

 

And obviously it gets from me although it is possible I am not wholly unbiased.

 





Murder most East Anglian

16 12 2017

 

It is 1937 and disillusioned Spanish Civil War veteran Stephen Sefton is stony broke. So when he sees a mysterious advertisement for a job where ‘intelligence is essential’, he applies.

Thus begins Sefton’s association with Professor Swanton Morley, an omnivorous intellect. Morley’s latest project is a history of traditional England, with a guide to every county.

They start in Norfolk, but when the vicar of Blakeney is found hanging from his church’s bellrope, Morley and Sefton find themselves drawn into a rather more fiendish plot. Did the Reverend really take his own life, or was it – murder?

Beginning a thrilling new detective series, ‘The Norfolk Mystery’ is the first of The County Guides. A must-read for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, every county is a crime scene, and with 39 counties in store there’ll be plenty of murder, mystery and mayhem to confound and entertain you for years to come.

It’s very much pitched as Miss Marple meets Sherlock Holmes and certainly embraces elements of both with a largely entertaining mix of highbrow banter and murder. Irritating in some parts, fun in others it was certainly distinctive. Not sure I’m ready for part 2 in the series, let alone another 38.

 





They call it progress

9 12 2017

Sovereign by C J Sansom

 

 

Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to attend an extravagant submission of his rebellious subjects in York.

Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as assisting with legal work processing petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission for the Archbishop Cranmer – to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator being returned to London for interrogation.

But the murder of a local glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle but to the royal family itself. And when Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret papers which could threaten the Tudor throne, a chain of events unfolds that will lead to Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age . . .

This, the third in the Shardlake series, is another entertaining and fast-moving tale which really does feel like it captures the mood of the times. Like its predecessors it is really sharp and well-written and, despite at some points feeling like a sort of Wolf Hall spin off, is well worth a read.





Guess that’s why they call it the blue

2 12 2017

Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe

Porterhouse College is world renowned for its gastronomic excellence, the arrogance of its Fellows, its academic mediocrity and the social cache it confers on the athletic sons of country families. Sir Godber Evans, ex-Cabinet Minister and the new Master, is determined to change all this. Spurred on by his politically angular wife, Lady Mary, he challenges the established order and provokes the wrath of the Dean, the Senior Tutor, the Bursar and, most intransigent of all, Skullion the Head Porter – with hilarious and catastrophic results.

It is all a bit over the top but one of the most entertaining campus novels of the last half century. Every satiric angle you could imagine in relation to a fictional Cambridge college is covered here in great style. Whilst some of the humour is a bit dated (and, perhaps inevitably, sexist) it is nevertheless a galloping read well worth it, as is the TV adaptation (which was, I think, scripted by Malcolm Bradbury and includes an unforgettable David Jason performance).

four stars

 








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