With the summer in full swing, and if we get a chance to read, something light and not too taxing on the brain usually comes to mind. However there are a couple of nonfiction books that read like thrillers and I would like to recommend them to those who want something fast paced with plenty of intrigue thrown in.
This is a gripping story covering the closing stages of the American Civil War and the subsequent assassination of Abraham Lincoln. For openers the battle scenes chronicle nightmare experiences which are suspenseful and very graphic. Robert E. Lee’s character is well defined and Lincoln’s forgiving qualities in hoping to build a new nation for all leads us to the realisation of his very fine character and belief in reconciliation.
As the narrative unfolds and the war has come to an end we are drawn in to follow the very intricate plot by the perfidious, racialistic few who plan the killing of the President. There is a proliferation of signs and attempted explanations of the existing hatred by the assassins, the intensity of which accelerates with every chapter.
There are a few historical inaccuracies, reference to the Oval Office being one. It was only built forty years after Lincoln’s death. However these insignificant inclusions do not detract from a well-researched era on the whole and again a very exciting rendering of this period piece.
Booth, the actual assassin is portrayed in detail, his wealth, charismatic character and acting ability make it hard to understand such inbred hatred which was his eventual downfall. Mary Surratt is one of the tragic, unwitting accomplices, who we can only sympathise with.
I took this book home on a friend’s recommendation not really intending to read it having read extensively on the subject before. However on a rainy day I decided to give it a try and after the first few chapters I was hooked.
This is an engrossing account of the rise of the oligarchs in post perestroika Russia. This intriguing true exposition that reads like a modern day thriller, is filled with political maneuvering, murder, corruption and the amassing of billions of dollars in wealth.
The pivotal character is Boris Berezovsky, a clever mathematician who rises in power and affluence by creating a fortune in the automobile, reselling business. The narrative revolves around his rise and subsequent fall and his complete misunderstanding of the manipulative Putin, who is not only ruthless but lacks any kind of moral judgement. Even though Berezovsky is also ruthless in his endeavors to make money, the author has managed to cleverly lure us in to liking this character in some ways and to sympathize with him at times.
The plot also entails the very famous murder of Alexander Litivenko among others along the way. Of course most of us are familiar with the story of Litivenko, the ex FSB agent, who after trying to expose Putin and his corruption with the help of Berzovsky, was forced to flee to England. Here he became the first person to be assassinated by nuclear means, polonium. His prolonged death and suffering which took weeks remains indelibly imprinted in the minds of most who followed his tragic demise.
At times the story is choppy and made up of a number of vignettes but they do at a point come together. The characters are very fleshed out and their private thoughts seem somewhat hypothetical, however this is still a good, fast paced thrilling read with an interesting look at behind the scenes of the Russian political and economic structure.
On a lighter note as Monty Python would say “And now for something completely different”