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Kirstine

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-06-18

A superb dissection of the English legal system

I found this a riveting account of the strengths and weaknesses of the English legal system in criminal cases. The author writes with verve and passion that kept me gripped throughout. He charts the history of how English law has evolved over the centuries and how it differs from that in other countries before dissecting the failures in how it operates in the 21st century.

While many things are to be lauded about English Law in practice it is abundantly clear from this book that excessive financial cuts are undermining justice. It is a telling statistic, that the cost of giving the over 75s free TV licences costs more than the funds allocated to run the Crown Prosecution Service. The latter creaking under the weight of too much work and too few people to do it so that justice is compromised. Cuts to the police and legal aid budgets mean that trials are not adequately prepared. Cynical politicians, who respond to populist opinion fuelled by the gutter press calculate that they can cut the justice budget to the bone without losing votes. The popular view of fat-cat lawyers obviously does not apply to those toiling in criminal cases.

The author gives chilling examples of people wrongly accused of a crime who don’t qualify for legal aid (a facility greatly curtailed by recent governments) who even when found innocent are left massively out of pocket with no redress. Even worse are those wrongly convicted, often spending many years in prison, who eventually are shown to be innocent but don’t qualify for any compensation as penny-pinching governments made the criteria to be eligible for compensation so stringent that few receive any redress.

I greatly enjoyed this book but was left depressed by the spectre of even more miscarriages of justice occurring owing to sub-standard trial preparation.

The narrator is excellent and injects the text with the justifiable outrage felt by the author.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-06-18

Informative, entertaining but also depressing

This is a lively account of this BBC journalist’s experiences of working in the USA. He describes the many differences between the UK and USA in attitudes to social issues such as abortion; the huge divergence in support for gun ownership between the countries; and the far greater influence of religion on the political scene in the US. As a political journalist he writes much about the recent presidential election and makes no secret of his low option of Donald Trump and the latter’s shameless use of the Twitter to promulgate a multitude of prejudices and falsehoods. What I found depressing is the gullibility of the general public in lapping up the all the false news, no matter how preposterous, much of it aimed at Hilary Clinton. It’s a sad fact of modern life that the internet, though wonderful in many ways, is also the vehicle for duping the public.

The author narrates his own book with verve.



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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 30-05-18

My funy bone wasn't tickled

To my surprise I did not find these stories as funny or entertaining as I expected. I had enjoyed the 1960s series with Ian Carmichael and Denis Price and also the the reincarnation in the early 80s with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. Maybe it is the zeitgeist of the present time but over--privileged fools and scoundrels getting away with their japes reminds me too much of the present UK government to be funny.

The narrator is excellent.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-05-18

Thank goodness a return to previous high standard!

I've been disappointed by the recent DCI Grace books as they had ceased to be engaging detective novels as they were slowed down by stuff repeated from previous novels, had over elaborate descriptions of clothes and decor and worst of all lengthy diversions into sugary descriptions of his relationship with new wife, Cleo, that bordered on nauseating. So I’m pleased to report that with the present novel all this has changed and the author has returned to his earlier form and created a pacy story that kept me gripped throughout, though I would have liked Grace’s long-time close colleague, Glenn Branson, to have figured more and Grace’s boss, Cassian Pewe, to be less of an unbelievable caricature.

The narrator does an excellent job

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 24-05-18

Good but not his best novel

This book is certainly worth listening to, but I didn't find it as engaging as many of the author's other novels. Maybe because I'm not that keen on stories with supernatural elements as figure in this book. I also thought the story was slow to get going but Michel Kitchen's fine dramatizing of the novel kept me listening. The narrative did become more pacy in later chapters.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 17-05-18

A tour de force of historical fiction

This is an epic sweep of over 2000 years of British history brought to life by following the lives of fictional families across the generations. I enjoyed every one of the over 48 hours of recording narrated with verve and skill by Andrew Wincott whose voice will be familiar to those who listen to the Archers as he plays Adam Macy.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-05-18

More twist & turns than a corkscrew

I’ve enjoyed most of the authors books over the years and have a vague recollection that I listened to this book on audio tapes over 20 years ago. One of the few benefits of my ageing memory is that I’d forgotten the story and so could be taken again on this rollercoaster of skullduggery as two fortune hunters get caught up in an intrigue of epic proportions. Twists and turns in the plot abound intermingled with an imaginative speculation as to the real cause of the First World War.

A most enjoyable book admirably narrated by Bill Wallis.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 28-04-18

Obscure but fascinating part of Scottish history

Despite having, in the past lived, in the Scottish Borders for 30 years I had not heard of the Debatable Lands, so found this book interesting and informative. It’s a highly detailed account of the author’s historical research into the topic started after moving from Oxford to live in a remote location in what was the Debatable Lands.

I imagine the book has maps and lists of historical dates so it helps to have an atlas or Ordnance Survey map to hand. Wikipedia has a useful entry with a map.

The Debatable Lands comprised a small lozenge-shaped piece of land about 10miles long by 4 miles wide on the England/Scotland Border situated a bit North of Carlisle and West of the A7. If you visit Scotland coming up the M6 the A7 is the route through Hawick to Edinburgh. It was an area of conflict for many centuries: sometimes among warring families and sometimes between the two adjacent countries. Its history is mixed in with the exploits of the Border Reivers and the establishment of the Riding of the Marshes: the latter still performed as part of annual jollifications in a number of Border towns.

The book also has some Roman history and some interesting historical detective work by the author on the Arthurian Legend as to whether it is entirely a myth or not. Southern Scotland has many names with Arthur in the title, including Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

The author reviews the Scottish Independence Referendum coloured by the history of Southern Scotland and notes that the people nearest to England were more in favour of staying in the Union than any of the other areas of mainland Scotland: rather like the paradox of prejudice against immigrants being less in areas with more immigrants.

I enjoyed the book and the voice of Saul Reichlin, who made valiant efforts at various accents and pronunciations of Scots dialect words.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 25-04-18

An engrossing story of an eventful life

The author seems to be drawn to create central characters with whom one feels little sympathy and Delia/Cordelia is no exception. As I found with her previous book, Unravelling Oliver, the story starts with a dramatic prologue that presages what happens later, but then, for quite a few chapters the pace slackens and the back-story is revealed. At first I thought this was going to be more like an Edna O’Brian novel about the life of a spirited young Irish girl, however, it soon develops in something much darker as Delia evolves from being adored daughter of a doting father into Cordelia the ruthless manipulator of men. She is blessed, and cursed, by being exceptionally beautiful. Soon she leaves a trail of destruction of other people’s lives as the story gets more engrossing and event is piled upon event. Although she is in many ways utterly cold-hearted and selfish I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her at times as she copes with the ups and downs of her extraordinary life. A story of a plucky survivor with a final dramatic and unexpected ending.

Most of the story is ably carried by the voice of Delia, but other narrators add the perspective of the other characters.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 21-04-18

Vintage Goddard: full of gripping twists and turns

I’ve listened to or read virtually all of Robert Goddard’s many books, including the present book at least 25 years ago listening on numerous cassette tapes (thank goodness for digital downloads!), but had forgotten the story and so could enjoy again this utterly gripping tale with many twist and turns as historian Martin Radford delves into the mystery of the fall from grace in 1910 of Edwin Straffort, a cabinet minister in Asquith’s government. A fall compounded by the inexplicable and sudden rejection by his fiancée. It’s a compelling story that I couldn’t stop listening to eager to find out what would happen next in this mix of historical fact mixed with imaginative fiction.

Goddard not only creates engrossing stories but also writes well and is very well-served in this recording by the Paul Shelley’s exemplary narration that brought characters alive with distinctive voices.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful