RaveThe Guardian (UK)...[an] excoriating analysis of the City of London’s effect on our economy ... Coming seven years after [Shaxson\'s] groundbreaking Treasure Islands, which told the story of Britain’s tax havens, this new book broadens his assault on the foundations of the modern globalised financial system ... The Finance Curseis a radical, urgent and important manifesto for improving our country, starting from where Britain actually is – a wide-open, highly vulnerable economy utterly transformed by our finance industry – rather than where our major parties would like it to be, whether they’re harking back to the 1950s or to the 1890s. This argument should not really be party political, but it challenges the decades-long thrust of British politics, and winning it will require a hard fight. If we don’t want to go the way of the USSR, however, it’s a fight we need to have.
RaveThe Observer (UK)[Gordievsky\'s] story has been told before, not least by himself in the autobiography he wrote in retirement in Britain, but it has found its ideal chronicler in this exceptionally rewarding book by Ben Macintyre. Over the past decade, from his breakout success with Agent Zigzag to his biography of Kim Philby...Macintyre has built an entirely justified reputation for his true spy thrillers. Those books were good, but this one’s better. In fact, it feels a little like he has been waiting all the time to tell us about Gordievsky, since this story is so much bigger than those he has told before ... Macintyre’s prose is elegant and enlivened with occasional asides that are eminently quotable, as well as inevitable nods to the classics of the spy genre, above all John le Carré ... The Spy and the Traitor...is in no doubt that Gordievsky was serving a cause that was just and correct...His decision to hand the KGB’s secrets over to Britain was a \'righteous betrayal\' ...
Moscow did not see things that way of course and Gordievsky, who is living somewhere in the suburbs, remains under sentence of death. The attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, another Russian who spied for Britain, in Salisbury earlier this year, gives this book an unexpected contemporary relevance. We are back in an age of tensions between the west and the Kremlin and we need people such as Gordievsky just as much as ever.
RaveThe Observer (UK)This is a golden age for spy biographies. Almost every month there is another fascinating portrait of an agent who fought or supported one of the great totalitarian philosophies of the 20th century. I think it is fair to say, though, that no matter how many of those stories get told, none will be as absolutely belief-beggaring as that of Richard Sorge ... Owen Matthews has tremendous fun with Sorge’s life, which is so packed with incident as to be barely credible ... magnificently written ... Stalin didn’t deserve Sorge, and these poor women deserved far better than Sorge too. An Impeccable Spy is packed with humour and insight and all served up with a rare lightness of touch. Ben Macintyre and John le Carré fans alike will find themselves very much at home.
PositiveThe GuardianWhat does the life of an Ottoman-born ethnic Armenian oil tycoon have to teach us about the modern world? Quite a lot, it turns out, judging by this fascinating biography of Calouste Gulbenkian ... Conlin had access to the foundation’s archives, which did not give up their secrets without a fight. Some of Gulbenkian’s early correspondence was in Ottoman Turkish, a language no longer spoken, and written in Armenian characters, an alphabet few people know. Decoding all this, and making sense of the worlds that Gulbenkian moved in, is a remarkable feat of scholarship. Mr Five Per Cent is written precisely, with flashes of dry humour, and Conlin wears the depth of his research lightly.
PanThe New York Times Book ReviewThe story Stent relates about the contrast between the American and Russian approaches to the Middle East is particularly telling ... Sadly, however, the book’s usefulness is marred by maddening small errors ... such inaccuracies make it hard to know how much faith to place in these less familiar sections. Still, that is not the primary problem with Stent’s book. The picture she draws of the Kremlin’s foreign policy is consistent, but she never delves into the domestic motivations behind it. We have much description of what Putin is doing...but scant insight as to why. And this failure to engage with Moscow’s internal dynamics means that she misses an essential aspect of what the Russian elite is up to ... There is a pressing need for greater understanding of the nature of those interests, and the assumptions underpinning Kremlin policy. This book is sadly not the one to provide it.
MixedThe GuardianThe much repeated and optimistic tale that plants and animals are thriving in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl is, in Brown’s telling, essentially false ... There is no redemption in Brown’s book ... She is at her best when she delves into remote archives, detailing the health problems that village children suffered, and the government’s refusal to take them seriously ... sometimes polemical, sometimes scientific; it also at times resembles a travel book. The facts she uncovers are devastating – particularly the statistics on infections, cancer, eye disease, anaemia and other conditions – and her writing is full of passion, but perhaps it needs more calculation to get its argument across. It asks a lot of questions, but does not provide enough answers.
PositiveThe GuardianMacintyre’s prose is elegant and enlivened with occasional asides that are eminently quotable, as well as inevitable nods to the classics of the spy genre, above all John le Carré (one spy is \'Our Man in Copenhagen\'), but there is a key difference between the old master and Macintyre. Le Carré’s cold war novels are full of an amoral bleakness; both sides are so worn down by the cold war that there is little if any difference between them. The Spy and the Traitor, however, is in no doubt that Gordievsky was serving a cause that was just and correct with \'an adamantine, unshakable conviction that what he was doing was unequivocally right.\' His decision to hand the KGB’s secrets over to Britain was a \'righteous betrayal\' ... We are back in an age of tensions between the west and the Kremlin and we need people such as Gordievsky just as much as ever.
RaveThe GuardianWe are already aware of the story of how the world economy was destroyed by the collision of bankers’ urge to lend money with home-owners’ desire to borrow it, but Tooze’s account is masterful. He takes us inside the fear and disbelief that accompanied the great freezing of the credit on which the banks depended ... His narrative then swoops off around the world, focusing on the three great power blocs in the global economy: the US, the EU and China ... Tooze’s history is a description, not a prescription: he doesn’t give us suggestions for how the world could be better managed, he just lays out the depth of the disaster ... This book...is indispensable reading for anyone who wants to understand the past, in order to build a better future.