Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Historical Espionage BURKE IN IRELAND by @TomCW99

Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Noelle has been reading Burke In Ireland by Tom Williams.

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I was given a copy of this book for a fair and honest review for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

This is the fifth book in the James Burke series by this author. I haven’t read the previous four but I had no problems – the book is fine as a standalone.

In the late eighteenth century, with England seemingly beset on all sides, the War Office needs agents to spy for them and James Burke isn’t given a choice. It’s no business for a gentleman, but Burke is half-gentleman, half soldier and well suited to the job of spying. The four prior books haven’t been written in chronological order but when Burke is posted to Argentina, he is introduced to the world of espionage.  He has also been to the Iberian Peninsula, to Egypt and to Paris, after Napoleon is exiled to Elba. Burke in Ireland is Burke’s first real introduction to the practice of espionage, and the author admits that this is a dark book compared to the previous four, which have Burke on the side of the angels and the villain getting his just desserts in the end.

England needs spies everywhere, and Burke is a chameleon. So he is sent in 1793 to Ireland, which is a hotbed of Irish Nationalists. Burke must discover which of these men are plotting with the French to bring down English rule and/or planning for an uprising. Burke fits right into Dublin society operating smoothly between different strata and discovers it’s easy to identify the Nationalists. Getting to those who do more than just talk about Irish independence is another matter, and Burke manages to ingratiate himself with a member of the Irish elite who provides him with an ‘in’ to those he is seeking. Along the way, he turns in the names of a number of minor spies, who are sent to jail, tried, and hung, if their offences are serious enough. Burke struggles with his moral ambiguity, since the English were treating the Irish badly at that time – trials are rigged, Catholics tortured. Nevertheless, he finally decides that the safety of England trumps all, despite the ongoing tension that he will be discovered and possibly killed.

His “in’ is Patrick Geraghty, a well-to-do Dubliner who, after some time accepts Burke as a true Nationalist with Jacobin leanings. Geraghty is a huge man with an air of menace who drinks prodigiously and lets things slip while in an inebriated state. His beautiful daughter, named Siobhan, captures Burke’s attention and the couple become affectionate. Geraghty approves their relationship but his wife does not, despite the fact her husband beats her regularly. Thus Geraghty becomes the real villain, and the plot he arranges to spirit a true Nationalist out of the country, with the encouragement of Burke, becomes a dangerous and tortuous journey for everyone involved, not the least of which is Burke himself.

James Burke was a real person, but his story is entirely fictitious. But many of the characters in incidents cited in this book are historically accurate. The Alien Office which sent Burke to Ireland was real and became Britain’s first semi-official intelligence operation, a forerunner to MI5 and MI6. Wolfe Tone, Willam Drennan, Whitley Stokes, and Joseph Pollock were all true Irish Nationalists. Two men (Jackson and Cockayne) were spies for France and England, respectively. Archibold Rowan, a main character, was imprisoned in Newgate for sedition and libel but made an escape to France, his account of which is wrapped into Burke’s story.

In short, I found this book full of tension and historically fascinating, especially given my knowledge of Ireland’s “troubles” many years later and my experiences in that country (which I love). The descriptions of life in Dublin, especially the pub scenes, Newgate prison, and general society were vivid. The characters were very finely described and can be visualized by the reader. The web of spies in Dublin at the time is both brilliantly presented and nearly overwhelming in its detail. Clearly, the author did a lot of research for this book, and I loved being educated.

Burke in Ireland is not a light book to read, and to a reader looking for high tension and colorful conflicts on every page, it might seem dry. But it does what the author intended. I recommend it strongly to aficionados of historical novels and of Ireland’s history in particular.

Desc 1

1793 and James Burke is under cover in Ireland, spying on Irish Nationalists. His objective: to discover any plots to conspire with the French to bring down English rule in Dublin.
Dublin is full of plotters. Finding them is easy. Staying alive is not as straightforward.
A tale of spying, love and death against the background of the early struggle for Irish independence.

It’s real history but not how you learned it at school.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #WW2 #Thriller The Berlin Affair by @DavidBoyle1958

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs at

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Berlin Affair by David Boyle



3.5 stars

This is a novella length story; I wondered if such a plot could be fitted into a novella, and if there would be a lack of detail, but it is well structured and fits nicely into the shorter length.

Xanthe Schneider from Cincinatti arrives in Cambridge as a student, six months before the outbreak of World War Two.  During her childhood, she was endowed with a love of and talent for crosswords by her father, and, in England, during the ‘phoney war’ of the first eight months following September 3rd, 1939, she gets to know the mysterious Ralph Lancing, a code cracking enthusiast.  Then Ralph disappears, and Xanthe is approached by war officials to take part in the world of British espionage.

One thing I liked about this was the portrayal of the England at the time; it’s very well done, but subtly, and it came over, to me, a bit like a black and white film.  I also liked that Boyle has used real life characters, such as Goebbels, and I felt Xanthe’s growing fear; the atmosphere of menace certainly worked.  Sometimes I felt the choice of words was a little odd, and I wasn’t always sure about the way in which, for instance, a naval commander spoke to Xanthe, a woman he had only just met.

This is a good read for the historical detail in itself, and it is well plotted; an undemanding, enjoyable book with which to curl up for an afternoon.

Book Description

Summer, 1940.

American Xanthe Schneider finds herself catapulted into the world of British espionage, and is sent into the heart of Nazi Germany: Berlin.
Her task? To find out whether Ralph Lancing-Price – a former government minister she had known briefly in London – is a patriot or traitor.
And what of the code he talked about so abstrusely? Using her guise as an American correspondent, Xanthe sets out to find him. But not all is what it seems. Xanthe soon becomes drawn into a web of intrigue involving a project entitled “Enigma” – and she also unexpectedly falls in love.
As the weeks go by, and Germany begins to mobilise its armies, Xanthe has to question who she can trust – and how she can survive?

About the author

David Boyle

David Boyle is the author of Blondel’s Song: The capture, imprisonment and ransom of Richard the Lionheart, and a series of books about history, social change and the future. His book Authenticity: Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for Real Life helped put the search for authenticity on the agenda as a social phenomenon. The Tyranny of Numbers and The Sum of Our Discontent predicted the backlash against the government’s target culture. Funny Money launched the time banks movement in the UK.

David is an associate of the new economics foundation, the pioneering think-tank in London, and has been at the heart of the effort to introduce time banks to Britain as a critical element of public service reform – since when the movement has grown to more than 100 projects in the UK.

He is also the founder of the London Time Bank network and co-founder of Time Banks UK. He writes about the future of volunteering, cities and business.

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RAPTOR by Stephen Phillips #WW1 spy #Thriller @uk_sf_writer

RaptorRaptor by Stephen Phillips
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Raptor is a WW1 historical novel and opens in 1915 with the second battle of Ypres. Edgar Smythe is is an engineer, yet he finds himself deep within the fighting, ending up gassed and wounded.

Returning to England to recuperate, Edgar and his family lodge in Folkestone. He needs the help of his sister until his eyesight returns. As a pair they are approached by Colonel Cockerill and asked to join a secret investigation team who are searching for intelligence leaks at the frontline.

Edgar and Agatha undergo espionage training and are then sent to France posing as American journalists. Their forged American passports allow them to cross the enemy line and head to Brussels for clues, but they are picked up by the Germans. Held captive, Edgar is tortured until a daring rescue plan is mounted.

A cat and mouse adventure back and forth across Europe follows as the pair try to return to England, first with a hostage and then alone, but the elusive “Raptor” still evades exposure. They return to their French base and prepare to flush out their quarry with the help of friends.

I like reading war adventures, but for me they need to be full of tension and the horrors of battle. I need the writing to make me believe that the situations were raw and filled with fear and anxiety, but I felt this lacked both emotion and suspense. I believe the storyline, in this book, would benefit from slimming and sharpening to capture the harsh realities and desperation that war caused amongst those involved.

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Book Description

On the first day of the Second Battle of Ypres, a young officer receives life changing injuries. But the war has not finished with him. On repatriation to the Kent coast at Folkestone, he and his sister become involved in the ‘Great Game’ of espionage and counter espionage. Sent to the continent to try and find a traitor within the British ranks, they quickly find themselves on the wrong side of the front line, chased by the head of German intelligence, a distant cousin who has designs on the sister which are inconsistent with his role. 

Chased across Europe, they eventually gather sufficient information to be able to identify the traitor, known to the enemy as Raptor. But that is where their troubles begin …

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