It is 1648 and Britain is at war with itself. The Royalists are defeated but Parliament is in turmoil, its power weakened by internal discord. Royalism's last hope is Sir Mortimer Shay, a ruthless veteran of decades of intrigue who must rebuild a credible threat to Cromwell's rule, whatever the cost. John Thurloe is a young official in Cromwell's service. Confronted by the extent of the Royalists' secret intelligence network, he will have to fight the true power reaching into every corner of society: the Comptrollerate-General for Scrutiny and Survey.
Robert Wilton has held a variety of posts in the British Ministry of Defence, Foreign Office, and Cabinet Office. He was advisor to the Prime Minister of Kosovo in the lead-up to the country's independence, and has now returned there as a senior international official. He divides his time between Kosovo and Cornwall.
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A difficult listen
No. I might recommend it to read on paper (with a warning about the style) but couldn't recommend it as an audiobook. It's one of the few books that I find doesn't work as a reading despite the best efforts of the very good narrator.
As already explained.
This is my first book read by Cameron Stewart so I cannot compare. However, I think he did a very good job and has a very pleasant reading voice with a good range of accents and tones of voice.
I might read other books about the period but will choose carefully after this experience.
I have had this book in my library for over a year and I have lost count of the number of times I started it and gave up and had to start again. I made myself stick with it and listened to nothing else for two weeks so it was a chore and not enjoyable.
The problem is with the first half, which is so disjointed and all of the characters are so shadowy that I found it impossible to get embroiled. Scene setting and a mysterious tone are all very fine but I missed any form of narrative drive or any character I could fully engage with until 10 hours into the reading. It finally took off when it became clear who the two main characters are and what the thing is that will pitch them against each other. They may be on opposing sides of the civil war but it still needs a specific bone of contention and at last we had it over half way through.
The other thing which makes it a difficult listen, as distinct from a read, is that there are regular quotations from contemporary documents, including the numerical references and the library where they are stored. The eye can skate over the references on the page but they intrude into a reading and destroy the mood of the piece.
I have seen other reviews suggesting that readers who enjoy Hilary Mantel's books may get on better with the style of this book. All I can say is that this did not apply in my case. I would count Wolf Hall amongst my favourite reads and listens of all time but that did not mean I enjoyed this listen. The difference was in the strong character at the heart of Wolf Hall, right from the the opening sentence, which this book lacks.
My overall feeling is that is just too driven by the source documents and the attempt to turn raw information and hints about people iinto a compelling novel has not quite succeeded.
A nice surprise.