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2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 25 books toward her goal of 175 books.

Book Review: All the King’s Soldiers by John Anthony Miller

A few weeks ago, I introduced you to author John Anthony Miller, who shared his thoughts on writing, history, and writing history. He did that by talking about the context in which he created his latest tale of historical fiction, All the King’s Soldiers. I was finally able to get to it (my To Be Read/Reviewed list is unbelievable lately!), and am pleased to share my review.

Here’s the summary:
LISBON, 1940: With Europe in turmoil and France falling, British agent Taylor Hartridge obtains the Nazi invasion plans for Britain. He suspects a double agent in the Lisbon Embassy and insists on taking the plans to London, but is murdered before his departure, the plans stolen. London analyst Simon Cole arrives in Lisbon, woefully unprepared but willing and determined, pitted against a German spy called the Chameleon, a master of disguise. Racing to recover the plans before the invasion is launched, Cole hunts for Hartridge’s killer while exposing the double agent in Lisbon—even if it’s the woman he loves.

With that as an opening, coupled with the interview in August, I was – needless to say – highly intrigued. I’d heard good things about the author, and he came recommended by a publicist for whom I have great respect. Plus, I’m a huge fan of history and spy stories, and love a good “woefully unprepared but willing and determined” hero, so I dug in with great gusto. I quite enjoyed it, but found it more of a historical novel than a true spy story/mystery – even though there are clearly elements of both throughout the story. The blurb seems to suggest that it is more of the latter – indeed, I was getting a bit frustrated when the strong mystery/spy/suspense opening slowed up to layer in the history. Then I settled in and enjoyed the history, and found my overall reading to be much more pleasurable as a result.

World War Two is not one of my go-to time periods; still, I always enjoy learning something new, and because I know less about this era than others, there are usually tremendous opportunities for learning as a result. I had no idea what a hotbed of international intrigue Lisbon/Portugal was in the 1940s! Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve spent much time considering Portugal at all – I know there were brief periods in which it was a powerhouse (exploration, role in European politics), but for the most part, I was not all that familiar with the country’s history. I certainly didn’t realize what a significant position it held in the geopolitical balancing act that was the European theater in WWII. The portions of the book that explained this role were very interesting to me. One of Miller’s great strengths, which differentiates him from others who have written similar books in my mind, is his interest in establishing the nuance of procedure behind the politics, and his discussions of the role of Lisbon as a tournament ground for diplomats (both official and unofficial) are prime examples.

My review copy was graciously provided by the author.

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