Aug 17, 2017

Secret Agent - Book Review

I express my gratitude to Net galley for providing me a copy for reading and reviewing of this fantastic treasure trove of information on SOE (Special Operations Executive) brought into force by the then England Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1940, the main aims of SOE is to intent on sabotage and subversion behind enemy lines, to spark revolt, and undermine Hitler's Europe from within, prevent enemy reinforcements reaching the beachhead by road, rail and air, the disruption of enemy signals communications in and behind the battle area, attacks on enemy air personnel and aircraft, the disorganisation of enemy rear services by the spreading of rumours and counter-sabotage.

After explaining in detail about the initiation of SOE from the scratch, the author David Stafford narration of events one by one is super fast and it was like watching a war documentary. The book is full of stories which concentrates mostly on the agents of SOE's activities in occupied Europe.

The agents of SOE were trained in shooting, unarmed combat, handling explosives, wireless-transmission, camouflage and more, they been taught how to face interrogation if get caught.

Not only sending agents for sabotaging they took much care in the dress also, one person who worked in the dress department tells about the alterations needed for German and British dress the seams, the enormous difference between the side seams, the shape of the cuffs, the difference in position of the button hole on the under collar. They also forged documents, money and made new notes to appear as used one.


Lysander, this plane helped for dropping and returning agents of SOE, the additional fuel tank in the bottom resemble a missile carrier (picture courtesy flying legends website)

At the beginning sending of agents into German occupied country was not easy as they were not airdropped, they have to been transported in small boats and ships. As the success rate of SOE increased the expected importance was given.

SOE peaked in size at the time of the D-Day landings when some 10,000 men and 3000 women worked for it around the globe. Of these half the men and perhaps a hundred of the women had also served as secret agents behind enemy lines or in neutral countries.

Some of the activities of SOE's are given much importance such as taking over of one Italian and one German ship in neutral territory, agents of SOE (Knut Haukelid, Fredrick Kayser, Kasper Idland, Hans Storhaug and Brig Stromsheim) coup at the heavy water plant in southern Norway there by delaying progress in German research on the atomic bomb, the operation in destroying the via duct in Gorgopotamos and adventures of the secret agent Pierre Lalande and worth mentioning.

The author has pointed out the mistakes done by SOE in sending messages which were intersected by the Germans and one full chapter is about the worst mistake of SOE, Englandspiel the name coined by the Germans.

The book is full of heroism, I recommend this to the world war II buffs and also the number of pages is under 300 and can be finished in one sitting.

Aug 8, 2017

Third Class In Indian Railways - Book Review

Third Class in Indian Railways is the essays and letters written by Mahatma Gandhi in the year 1917. The six essays are :

1.       Third class in Indian Railways
2.      Vernaculars as Media of Instruction
3.      Swadeshi
4.      Ahimsa
5.       The Moral basis of Co-operation
6.      National Dress

Not much have changed about the hygienic condition in the railways. Gandhi mentions about bribes given by the passengers and their behaviour. He finally asks that the fares paid by third class passengers were not offered even 1/10th of what the first class passengers enjoy.

Apart from other essays I liked Ahimsa, Swadeshi, the moral basis of Co-opreation and the National Dress (his dress been mocked by Irwin) the fitting reply he had given.


I like to quote from his book:

I do not believe that religion has nothing to do with politics. The latter divorced from religion is like a corpse only fit to be buried. (Swadeshi)

We, the educated classes, have received our education through a foreign tongue. We have therefore not reacted upon the masses. We want to represent the masses, but we fail. (Swadeshi)

Well, India is a country of nonsense. It is nonsensical to parch one's throat with thirst when a kindly Mahomedan is ready to offer pure water to drink. And yet thousands of Hindus would rather die of thirst than drink water from a Mahomedan household. (Swadeshi)

There is a verse in the Bhagavad Gita, which, freely rendered, means, masses follow the classes. (Swadeshi)

Our Shastras seem to teach that a man who really practises Ahimsa in its fullness has the world at his feet; he so affects his surroundings that even the snakes and other venomous reptiles do him no harm. This is said to have been the experience of St. Francis of Assisi. (Ahimsa)

Ahimsa requires deliberate self-suffering, not a deliberate injuring of the supposed wrong-doer. (Ahimsa)

I believe that our copying of the European dress is a sign of our degradation, humiliation and our weakness..( Reply to Mr. Irwin's criticism of his dress in the Pioneer)

Aug 4, 2017

Dirk Pitt Series

Last week I went to Chennai Book Fair 2017 and purchased couple of books from Clive Cussler to Ben McIntyre. Below is the list of Clive Cussler books on Dirk Pitt series.

1. Poseidon's Arrow (Dirk Pitt #22)From the blurb



It is the greatest advance in American defense technology in decades — an attack submarine capable of incredible underwater speeds. Nothing else in any other nation’s naval arsenal even comes close. There is only one problem: A key element of the prototype is missing — and the man who developed it is dead.

At the same time, ships have started vanishing mid-ocean, usually never to be found again, but when they are, sometimes bodies are found aboard . . . burned to a crisp.What is going on? And what does it have to do with an Italian submarine that itself disappeared in 1943, lost at sea? Or was she?

It is up to NUMA director Dirk Pitt and his team, aided by a beautiful NCIS agent and by Pitt’s children, marine engineer Dirk and oceanographer Summer, to go on a desperate international chase to find the truth, from Washington to Mexico, Idaho to Panama. What they discover at the end of it is a much, much greater threat than even they imagined.

If they don’t succeed in their mission, the world as they know it might end up a very different place — and not a pleasant one.

Filled with breathtaking suspense and extraordinary imagination, Poseidon’s Arrow is further proof that when it comes to adventure writing, nobody beats Clive Cussler.


2. Raise the Titanic! (Dirk Pitt #4)
My review.


My third outing with Dirk Pitt adventures.

The story begins with an insane person who locks himself in the vault of drowning RMS Titanic. Then the story opens to present day in Russian territory Novaya Zemlya as mineralogist Dr.Koplin discovers that the only Byzanium ore mine has been completely mined years. This Byzanium ore is needed for the US top secret Sicilian project. While returning back to his hide out he was shot by Russian, a figure emerges from the snow and saves him, yes, he is our hero, death-defying adventurer and deep sea expert Dirk Pitt.

Through Dr.Koplin's statement the Byzanium ore has been mined by Coloradan miners who were hired by Societe des Mines De Lorraine (French government) Back tracking the mining operation they come to know that though they were working for the French, one of the miners Joshua Hayes Brewster who was persuaded by United States, tries to hand over the ore. But the French government comes to know this fact and trails them, 7 out of 8 miners were killed before the ore was transported to Southampton harbour in April 1912. And the ore did not reached US soil and also they did not know the whereabouts of Brewster.

The ore rests in the bottom of Atlantic ocean inside the Titanic. The President approaches NUMA (National Underwater Marine Agency) to raise the Titanic. And the team successfully finds the sunken Titanic. At the same time Russian leaders comes to know about the secret project and the Byzanium ore. They send their best man Captain Prevlov with a mission either to sabotage the operation or get hold the Byzanium ore.

Dirk Pitt team raises the Titanic and finds out mole in his team. As the Titanic is tugged to New York port, an intense storm hinders their progress. Meanwhile the Titanic is captured by Captain Prevlov.

Did Dirk Pitt took Titanic to New York? Did he saved his team from Captain Prevlov? The answers are in the remaining chapters of the book.

A superb, fast paced thriller from Clive Cussler. I liked this story than Trojan Odyssey. Lot of characters from 1912 to the present day. The story has couple of sub plots, one is about the marital life of Gene Seagram and Dana. Second sub plot is the classic cold war espionage of Captain Prevlov and Lieutenant Pavel Marganin. And the third is the President of United States. The character Pitt is very intelligent and daring adventurer, his knowledge and approach saves the day.

Raising of Titanic and the ship completing his maiden voyage after several years, these emotional chapters gave me goose bumps.

Thank you Clive Cussler for a fantastic novel, I enjoyed reading the book.


3. Havana Storm (Dirk Pitt #23)
From the blurb


While investigating a toxic outbreak in the Caribbean Sea that may ultimately threaten the United States, Pitt unwittingly becomes involved in something even more dangerous—a post-Castro power struggle for the control of Cuba. Meanwhile, Pitt’s children, marine engineer Dirk and oceanographer Summer, are on an investigation of their own, chasing an Aztec stone that may reveal the whereabouts of a vast historical Aztec treasure. The problem is, that stone was believed to have been destroyed on the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898, which brings them both to Cuba as well—and squarely into harm’s way. The three of them have been in desperate situations before . . . but perhaps never quite as dire as the one facing them now.
4. Black Wind (Dirk Pitt #18)
From the blurb



Dirk Pitt teams up with his children to find two WWII Japanese subs that went down armed with a devastating payload: a new biological virus.

Jul 28, 2017

The Lodger - Book Review

The author Marie Belloc Lowndes
 
 
The Book Cover

I have to thank my friend Leah who recommended this book. The novel is mystery and psychological thriller, written by Marie Belloc and the story is turned into Hitchcock directed silent film "The Lodger". Since I liked Hitchcock movies, I bought this kindle edition.

The story is Mr.Bunting and his wife Ellen have a lodge and they are in a desperate need of money to survive. The arrival of Mr.Sleuth as a lodger first appears to be a blessing for the Buntings but later it turns out to be a curse because series of murders occur as intoxicated women are killed by a lanky man carrying a brown bag. 

An image from the movie "The Lodger" courtesy you tube website

The description of the murderer makes Mrs.Bunting to consider that the lodger should be the serial killer. As the days roll by, Mr.Bunting also comes to the conclusion that their eccentric lodger is the murderer. Is their opinion right? Or the arrival of Mr.Sleuth and murders are just a coincidence?

A superb psychological thriller the author narration conveys our own thoughts, especially Mrs.Bunting, a woman who is very clear headed and having a good memory. There are less number of characters in the novel, recurring characters are Mrs.Bunting, the Lodger, Mr.Bunting, Joe Chandler (attached to the detective section of the Metropolitan Police) and Daisy, daughter of Mr.Bunting. Apart from the main story each character have their own problems and conflicts.

Of all these characters the Lodger and Mrs. Bunting captured my attention. At the end I felt pity for them, the sleep deprived Mrs.Buntings, her contemplation, her inability to share her thoughts are worth mentioning, the highlight is that her attentive observation on her lodger from his sneaking out from his room in mid night and return. The author has used a powerful statement to show how pathetic her condition is, "She lay thinking and listening –listening and thinking".

I liked to quote one line from the novel:

"Any ordeal is far less terrifying far easier to meet with courage, when it is repeated, that is even a milder experience which is entirely novel".

Highly recommended for those who like mystery thrillers. After reading this it is best to watch Hitchcock's version of "The Lodger".

Jul 23, 2017

Deep Six - Book Review

My 9th outing with Dirk Pitt adventures.

Clive Cussler the master storyteller, this is yet another feather to his cap. I was awestruck by his skill of interweaving various sub plots in the story. 



The novel starts in the year 1966, with Arta Casilighio the teller of Beverly-Wilshire bank steals 120000 dollars and hatches a plan to escape from San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand in a cargo ship, but she was killed by Korean seamen.

Another sub story, in Augustine Island, Alaska a poison leak in sea kills many, the nature of the agent is that it is absorbed through skin which turns out to be a deadly biological weapon, called Nerve Agent S. Years back the nerve agent was to be buried in desert, however some of the containers disappeared.

NUMA is asked to find out the source of the poison. Working along with Dr.Julie Mendoza, Pitt finds out the sunken ship and all the containers of Nerve Agent S. But unexpected eruption of the volcano tilts the ship and accidentally kills Julie.

Through the help of Alhambra Iron and Boiler Company and St. Julien Perlmutter, Pitt comes to know the ship Pilottown name has been changed several times and that the San Marino, the Belle Chasse and the Pilottown are indeed one and the same ship. The ownership points to Bougainville Maritime Lines, ruled by 89 year old Madame Min Koryo Bougainville.

Sub plot number 3, the President of the United States, Vice President Margolin, President Pro Temp-ore Marcus Larimer and Speaker of the House Alan Moran were abducted from Presidential yacht and mind controlled by a psychologist Aleksei Lugovoy in a secret lab, a part of plot of Soviet Union and Min Koryo.

Meanwhile Paul Suvorov a KGB officer misunderstands the mind control plan and tries to release, but he takes only Alan Moran and Marcus Larimer to a Russian cruise ship Leonid Andreyev. There Pitt's love interest Loren Smith who happens to be in the cruiser sees Moran and Larimer, she informs to her secretary.

She notifies Pitt. And Pitt along with Al Giordino disguises as a couples enters the cruise ship, but the ship was detonated many were killed. Pitt, Al and Loren tries to board nearby boat. As Moran and Loren boards, Pitt was attacked by Lee Tong, the grandson of Min Koryo and he takes Loren with him.

The President under mind control returns to White House, rules as a Dictator. The Congress tries to impeach. Pitt not fully recovered through help from Yaeger and Perlmutter finds out the secret lab and tries their best to save the United States, Vice President and Loren Smith.

How he accomplished is told in the final chapters. 

My artwork of Dirk Pitt on board Stonewall Jackson. Pitt attired in turtle neck sweater and holding a violin case.

I like to quote some of Pitt's one liners:

1. What in hell are these? Giordino mumbled, emerging from the cobwebs.

Welcome gifts from the sanitation department. (When hood and gloves given to wear for protection against nerve agent S)

2. Deducing the murderer in an Agatha Christie novel is kindergarten stuff compared to finding a lost derelict under hundreds of square miles of water. Sometimes you get lucky early. Most of the time you don't. (Pitt's poetic response to Dover on finding the shipwreck)

3. No one in the world is immune from curiosity. (Pitt asking to release news about finding of two ship wrecks instead of one)

4. What was that all about? Giordino inquired. My travel agent Pitt answered, pretending to be nonchalant. (Pitt's answer to Loren's Secretary Sally on finding Loren Smith in Leonid Andreyev cruise ship)

5. Y' all play the violin when ya fly? Hogan asked curiously.
Soothes my fear of height, Pitt replied. (Colt Thompson sub machine gun carried by Pitt in a violin case)

6. Nice place you have here, came a voice from the doorway. but your elevator is out of order.

You! he gasped. Pitts face tired, haggard and dark with beard stubble lit up in a smile.

Lee Tong Bougainville. What a coincidence. You're alive!

A trite observation. (Climax dialog between Pitt and Lee Tong)

7. Happen to know Lee Tong Bougainville personally, said Emmett. He is a respected business executive who donates heavily to political campaigns. So does the Mafia and every charlatan who's out to milk the government money machine, said Pitt icily.

8. Why have you pursued my grandmother and me, Mr.Pitt? he demanded, stalling. Why have you set out to wreck Bougainville Maritime?

That's like Hitler asked why the Allies invaded Europe. In my case, you were responsible for the death of a friend.

9. Sal Casio? she asked. With his daughter. And Min Koryo Bougainville? In hell. (Pitt answers to Loren in the end)

A penthouse suite, he corrected her. And who's going to pay for this opulent interlude? Pitt looked down at her in mock astonishment. Why the government, of course. Who else? (Pitt answers to Loren in the end)

Jul 15, 2017

Bully Boy Blue - Book Review

I did not read the blurb as I already read his fabulous psychological thriller White is the coldest colour and this novella "Bully Boy Blue". Kathy is dominated by his husband the bully boy Mike Connors, who is also a Police Inspector. Everyone including her mother and friends believes Mike's version of Kathy, that she is suffering from a mental breakdown after a miscarriage. Now Kathy finds that she is pregnant again she wants to save her baby and get rid of Mike Connors once and for all, did she escaped from the clutches of her husband and how she did will reveal the last chapters of the novella. The ending is superb. 


The story is packed with abuse and violence and some will not like. The story is very tense and in some places we will wish/pray for her deliverance.