Philip Wiebkin

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Munich

Summary: 
This is a wonderful and gripping piece of historical fiction set in 1938 Europe during the time of the Munich Crisis. Hugh Legat, a rising star of the British diplomatic service, serves at 10 Downing Street as a private secretary to the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain; and Paul von Hartmann who is on the staff of the German Foreign Office, who is secretly a member of the anti-Hitler resistance. The two men were friends at Oxford in the 1920s, but have not been in contact since. Their language skills are vital to the Prime Minister and the Fuhrer, respectively and so they meet in Munich. Set against the background of actual historical events, Robert Harris tells a story that is certainly a fascinating, engaging, and ultimately thought- provoking. Whether Chamberlain was a truly astute politician and negotiator for peace, or a weak, misguided leader, naïve in his attempts to find peace with Germany, clearly remains open to debate. However, if the real events that occurred in 1938 are even remotely like those described in this book, I have to admit have much more sympathy for Neville Chamberlain. A must-read for anyone interested in this time.

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Brief Answers to the Big Questions

Summary: 
This is Stephen Hawking's final gift to us, a book in which he answers some of the big questions facing this world. Will humanity survive? Should we colonize space? Does God exist? ​​Hawking addresses these and other issues in this wide-ranging, passionately argued book. Anyone who reads this book will draw their own conclusions, but the message I came away with, was that he is optimistic over the fate of the human race, with science playing an integral part. A thoroughly thought-provoking book, that has to be read more than once to appreciate the thoughts of one of the most brilliant minds seen in history.

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Sacred Britannia:Gods and Rituals in Roman Britain from Caesar to Constantine

Summary: 
Sacred Britannia is an excellent academic book on religion in Roman Britain. I learnt a lot the gods and rituals of those times and it the writing is easy to take. However I was not fond of the speculation and which I felt went a little to far. Worth reading for a glimpse of a very different world in a country that I am very familiar with.

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The Generals

Summary: 
The second in the quartet of novels focusing on two giants of European history, Wellington and Napoleon begins with Arthur Wellesly (later Wellington) and Napoleon Bonaparte making their mark as men of military prowess. Wellesley, as commander of the 33rd Regiment of Foot, is sent to India, where his skill and bravery make a remarkable impression on his superiors. Napoleon's role as commander of the Army of Italy leads to success in battle and rapid political progress. By 1804, the time has come for Wellesly to stand against Napoleon in the confrontation that lies ahead, for Napoleon has established himself as Emperor, and has his sights set on conquering all of Europe. Another epic tome, this is a joy to read, easily moving from Wellesley to Napoleon, slowly bringing their paths together in a totally absorbing account. Will move to the next, once I've caught my breath!!

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War of the Wolf

Summary: 
In this chapter of the epic Saxon Tales series, Uhtred has regained his family’s fortress. However, peace is elusive, under threat from both an old enemy and a new foe. The old enemy comes from Wessex where there is a struggle to determine who will be the next king. The new foe is Sköll, a Norseman, who wishes to be King of Northumbria, leading an army of wolf-warriors, men who fight half-crazed in the belief that they are indeed wolves. Uhtred begins to believe he is cursed, must fend off one enemy while he tries to destroy the other. The author again does not disappoint, with a riveting account of adventure, courage, treachery, loss, and battle that he describes so brilliantly. This tale continues and I hate to have to wait for the next installment. Uhtred is destined to play a role in the fate of England's quest to become a unified nation under rule of the King of Wessex, whoever that turns out to be!!

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Eye of the Storm

Summary: 
The first in the Sean Dillon series is a fast-paced tale of espionage and terrorism. Allies in the IRA, Sean Dillon and Martin Brosnam have gone different ways. Now Dillon is a terrorist for hire, a master of disguise employed by Saddam Hussein. Brosnan is the one man who knows Dillon’s strengths and weaknesses. They are playing the deadliest game of their lives-- game that ends with Iraq’s attempted mortar attack on the British war cabinet at 10 Downing Street. Jack Higgins has crafted a wonderfully readable tale, that prevents you from putting the book down until you have reached the last page!

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Portrait of a Spy

Summary: 
Eleventh in the Gabriel Allon series finds Gabriel and his wife, Chiara, in London, visiting a gallery in St. James’s to authenticate a newly discovered painting by Titian,when a pair of deadly bombings in Paris and Copenhagen mar this autumn day. And while walking toward Covent Garden, Gabriel notices a man he believes is about to carry out a third attack. Before Gabriel can draw his weapon, he is knocked to the pavement and can only watch as the nightmare unfolds. Gabriel returns to his isolated cottage on the cliffs of Cornwall, until a summons brings him to Washington and he is drawn into a confrontation with the new face of global terror--an American-born cleric in Yemen to whom Allah has granted “a beautiful and seductive tongue.” Once a paid CIA asset, the mastermind is plotting a new wave of attacks. To destroy this network of death , Gabriel must reach into his violent past moving at a breathtaking pace from Washington to London to the climax in the Saudi desert. This is an extremely entertaining, but sobering book to read with an ending that defies description. Five Stars!!!

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The Looking Glass War

Summary: 
This is unlike any of LeCarre's books I have read before-- a plot devoid of unexpected twists and turns, daring chases, thrilling fight scenes. Instead it focuses on rivalry between two intelligence units and planned action in South Germany. It would have been an easy job for the Circus: a can of film couriered from Helsinki to London. In the past the Circus handled all things political, while the Department dealt with matters military, but the Department has been dead since the War, its resources siphoned away. Now, one of their agents is dead, and vital evidence verifying the presence of Soviet missiles near the West German border is gone. John Avery is the Department's younger member and its last hope. Avery must infiltrate the East and restore his masters' former glory. John le Carré depicts a hopeless, grey world; reality in which man is just a pawn in the other’s game and promises are easily broken: totally depressing, but thoroughly absorbing. Again, he brilliantly doesn't spell out the ending, but you just know in your mind it's the worst possible outcome. I was emotionally spent after I had finished this book....Just brilliant!!!!!!

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The Eagle Has Flown

Summary: 
The last in the Liam Devlin series continues the story of the first book The Eagle Had Landed. Paratroop officer Steiner survived "Operation Eagle", and is now a POW somewhere in London. Himmler wants him back, ordering his top espionage agents to take charge of the perilous rescue mission. IRA assassin Liam Devlin, who is hiding out in the bars of Lisbon, playing piano, is persuaded to return to Britain in an attempt to effect the escape of German soldier Kurt Steiner from the Tower of London and return with him to Berlin. One more time Jack Higgins provides us with a fantastic tale of action and death, with sufficient twists and turns to keep the reader turning the page until the very end. A thoroughly riveting read..........

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A Red Herring Without Mustard

Summary: 
This is yet another charming and delightfully amusing tale featuring the clever and unflappable eleven-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce. This precocious young chemist with an amazing knowledge of poisons always finds herself in the midst of murders and other misdeeds in the hamlet of Bishop's Lacey. This mystery begins with a Gypsy fortune-teller, a missing baby, and a corpse in Flavia's own backyard. All the while Flavia sorts through all the red herrings to solve these crimes, she delights in exacting revenge on her two hateful sisters, Feely (Ophelia) and Daffy (Daphne). I thoroughly enjoy reading these lighthearted tales of mayhem and revenge. Flavia is hilarious!

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