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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

OSS Operation Black Mail One Woman's Covert War Against the Imperial Japanese Army by Ann Todd Naval Institute Press

Elizabeth P. McIntosh was a leading figure in the realm of black propaganda, using various forms of media to destroy the enemy's morale and persuade him to surrender. This included compiling false newspapers, radio programmes,and changing letters and postcards. One of 'Donovan's Dreamers' of creatives and propagandists, she was the acting head of an operational branch in the East. She worked in India, China and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

Here Todd not only tells Elizabeth's story, but she informs us about the little-known, but hugely important role of OSS in the East, in a tale full of colourful characters, such as Paul Child (Julia's husband) and Jane Foster, who led a tragic life.  She also fills the book with the vivid atmosphere of the East, and she has a thorough knowledge of the history. I would like to read more books by her.

I received this free ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Marie Antoinette's Confidante The Rise and Fall of the Princesse de Lamballe by Geri Walton Pen & Sword

The Princesse de Lamballe was the most wonderful friend. She stuck with the doomed Queen through thick and thin, even paying the supreme sacrifice. Sweet and angelic with golden hair, the Princess liked a quiet life and didn't want to join in the Queen's love for playing games and her friendships with some frivolous aristocrats. Her main rivalry for the Queen's friendship was with the Princesse de Polignac, but when Marie-Antoinette wanted a more sensible, loyal companion, she turned back to the lovely Lamballe.

This is a very detailed and sympathetic biography of the Princess, but I thought that Geri Walton was a bit hard on the Queen at times. I also found the account of Madame Lamballe's death extremely graphic, but it had to be included.  The bloodthirsty French Revolution is also difficult to read about.

This is a must-read for anyone who likes reading about French royalty.

I received this free ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Friday, May 08, 2020

A Schoolmaster's War Harry Ree - A British Agent in the French Resistance by Jonathan Ree Yale University Press, London

Harry Rees takes you right into the thick of the French Resistance with his vivid writings in his diary and his charming tales for young people.  Although he was a pacifist, he reluctantly changed his mind to join the SOE. He is very self-deprecating, arguing that his French wasn't very fluent and that he made a lot of mistakes. However, he certainly had extremely quick wits, because he kept evading the Gestapo even though he was in danger of being betrayed quite often.

Although his job was to commit acts of sabotage, shoot collaborators or train the maquis, he had peaceful interludes in Switzerland occasionally, where he relaxed a bit and he had the time to read. He appears to have been a very wise man, so his thoughts on the war and the books he read are just as interesting as his descriptions of the Resistance.

I received this free ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Castle Skull by John Dickson Carr Poisoned Pen Press

When the acclaimed detective Bencolin and his young assistant Jeff Marles are invited by financier D'Aunay to investigate the mysterious murder of the malovolent magician Maleger and his beneficiary Allison, they find themselves in a strange and creepy situation, surrounded by odd characters who are all suspects. One of the murders took place in a house above the Rhine called Castle Skull, a huge castle-like place built in the shape of a skull with its own moat and battlements. Bencolin and Marles have to find out whether the magician staged his own death, and who threw the actor Allison off the building.

John Dickson Carr really ramps up the Gothic horrors in this novel with its mysterious events, old legends, gruesome murders and nasty characters. At one stage, Bencolin and Marles travel across the Rhine in a terrific storm to explore the atmospheric house in the middle of the night. Poor Marles has to cope with a lot, and it doesn't help that he is attracted to young 'flapper' type Sally who is engaged, and seemingly telling lies. 

I prefer cosy mysteries and the plot became rather elaborate in the end, although very clever and difficult to guess. John Dickson Carr's writing is probably too creepy and gruesome for me, and I didn't like one of the characters hiding her Australian origins (although I realise that it was often done in those days).

I received this ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.