Friday, 25 January 2013

The Eagle has Landed by Jack Higgins – Book Review

(Yes, my skills in photography are quite awful)

Author’s note:

‘At Precisely one o'clock on the morning of Saturday 6 November 1943, Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuhrer of the SS and Chief of State Police, received a simple message. The Eagle has landed. It meant that a small force of German paratroopers were at that moment safely in England and poised to snatch the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, from the Norfolk county house near the sea, where he was spending a quiet weekend. This Book is an attempt to recreate the events surrounding that astonishing exploit.

At least fifty per cent of it is documented historical fact. The reader must decide for himself how much of the rest is a matter of speculation, or fiction...’

‘Now the field of battle is a land of standing corpses; those determined to die will live; those who hope to escape with their lives will die.’ – Wu Ch’i

The Eagle has Landed is a World War II novel written by the British author Jack Higgins. It is the first book featuring Liam Devlin, a recurring character in Higgins’ subsequent novels. A book with total sales of over 50 million is more than sufficient to get anyone interested and my historical fiction being my favourite genre, I became desperate to get my hands on the book. The prologue contains a false document with Jack Higgins visiting a remote village in Norfolk in search of the grave of a certain Charles Gascoigne but ends up finding something far more interesting than what he had come for.  The story is loosely based on the tentative Nazi plan of kidnapping Winston Churchill, as stated by the author himself.

The story begins with the Germans celebrating Otto Skorenzy’s success in bringing Mussolini back. This gets Hitler rather enthusiastic and starts contemplating over a possibility of replicating Otto Skorenzy’s success in abducting Winston Churchill. Hitler delegates the task to Admiral Canaris, the head of Abwehr who is sceptical about the whole thing – orders one of his subordinates, Max Radl, to conduct a feasibility study, to create a record that they did take some effort.

Little did Radl realise that the operation is more than possible, which gets the Reichsfuhrer serious about the whole thing, and decides to keep Canaris in the dark. Churchill was supposed to visit a remote village in Norfolk, where the Germans had an agent who had kept them fully informed. Colonel Kurt Steiner is set to head the mission, who himself doesn’t have a very good past. He is a really loveable character, a person with a strong sense of right and wrong, and in fact, he helped a Jew escape, which made him get into the bad books of his superiors. The reason why Steiner was chosen was for his background, half-American who grew up in London; which would easily enable him to pass through the streets of Norfolk as a native. To assist Steiner and his men, a former IRA man is summoned by the Germans, Liam Devlin, a dangerous man with a very shady past and the sarcasm he maintains throughout the book is quite amazing.

This book was rather different for me, personally, for a fact that I’ve read some World War II novels with protagonists from the Allies but I had not read a similar book with a German protagonist. The plot was amazing, with an interesting idea and extremely well narrated. For a change, I found some sort of significance in a romantic sub-plot between Devlin and a local girl in the Norfolk village, which certainly is a rarity. It also had a good contrast, Devlin and Steiner having totally different personalities, the former, a totally merciless person with no ethics whatsoever and the latter, a very honourable person and highly considerate towards his enemies. So far, especially the Alistair MacLean novels, the soldiers of the Axis powers were shown only as merciless killing machines; but Higgins portrayed the German soldiers in a completely different manner, portraying them as normal humans seems to be a privilege, thanks to the hate campaign from the winners of the war. I also developed a sympathy for Steiner – Higgins’ success for sure, that is, despite the highly despicable operation that he was carrying out, owing to the way in which he carried out his mission, I felt that he didn’t deserve to die, either in action or at the hands of his own men, for failing his mission, and I’m sure that I’m not the only person who has stumbled upon this thought.

But on the flipside, I found one, and that was highly significant, that is, the false document with which it began. Higgins found a grave, yes, but not of Charles Gascoigne but of Kurt Steiner and his thirteen men killed in action. This meant that whatever happens, the reader knows that they’re all eventually going to die, thereby, removing the essential element of a thriller, which is suspense, in the first few pages.

I had been searching for this book for a really long time. Two years, at least, I found every other book of Higgins except this one, and I even failed in an online order with the money eventually getting refunded. Finally, I found a very old edition in a library, after a really long wait and I’ve got to say this; it was certainly worth the wait! The only painful part of this whole experience was that I had to return the book. I’d conclude my review; I was in half a mind to award this a nine, but a thriller without an element of suspense is not something that could be ignored. That pulls my rating down to eight.

Rating – 8/10

Have a nice day,


Saturday, 19 January 2013

Borgen: Season 2 by Adam Price – Review

This is the review of the second season of the Danish political drama, Borgen by Adam Price. Although I feel that there wasn't much continuity in the episodes of the first season of Borgen, I'd still recommend you to not watch the second season unless you've watched the first. The review of the first season is available here.

The first episode of season 2 is eleven months after the end of season, which means Birgitte Nyborg has nearly completed 2 years of her term. A lot of changes have taken place. Kasper gets into a new relationship and Katrine, after quitting TV1, is now working under Michael Laugesen for The Express. Birgitte Nyborg is separated from Philip but the couple haven't gone through the divorce procedure yet.

The first thing I liked about season two was the continuity, it isn't the easy to pick a random episode and watch, unlike season 1. Season 2, was more within the government – problems within a parties putting the entire coalition into turmoil and also, covered some larger issues / events, such as the Somali pirate issue (which unfortunately was only in the background). My personal favourite, however, was the two episodes focusing on the problem in Kharun (a fictional African state, similar to Sudan) with Denmark presiding over the negotiations between the North Kharun and South Kharun. Another positive thing about season two is the fact that Birgitte was actually put under a lot of pressure in her job, forcing her to take some decisions going against the policy of her party. In season two, Birgitte has completed her transformation as an absolutely callous politician (but for her stance on Afghanistan). The second episode, on appointment of an EU representative, could've been done better, the choice being good, its narration wasn't good enough.

Moreover, season 2 ended on a high note, making me eager to watch the third season but I wasn't so desperate for the second season after I was done with the first. Considering the depth of the series and its abstract theme, it is not possible to do an elaborate review without giving away some unintended spoilers (not that Borgen is a thriller) and I'd conclude season two's review here. In my opinion, season 2 was better than season 1 on nearly all aspects and hence, I'd give it a higher rating than season 1.

Rating – 8/10

Have a nice day,

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Forbrydelsen (The Killing): Season 3 by Søren Sveistrup - Review

This is the review of the third and final season of the Danish television series, Forbrydelsen. In case you haven't watched the second season, click here to read the review of the second season. If you're yet to start watching Forbrydelsen, don't move on to the subsequent paragraphs – the review of the first season is available here.

I believe sufficient warning has been given and now, I'd get into the review, right away. Lund has completed 25 years of service and wants to move into a sundry desk job in the police department. But then, there is an event, several Latvian sailors have been murdered in the Danish ship, Medea. However, Lund is least interested in the case until Mathias Borch, a member of the PET (Danish special branch) gets Lund into the case and incidentally, Borch was Lund's first love. Unlike the other two seasons of Forbrydelsen, here, the police don't initially investigate a murder but the kidnapping of Emilie Zeuthen, the daughter of Robert Zeuthen, the chairman of the most influential company in Denmark, Zeeland, which also incidentally owns the ship, Medea. However, the police are forced to look into an old case regarding the murder of Louise Hjelby, a twelve year old orphan, a case which is somehow related to the kidnapping. Like the other two seasons, this season too, has a political sub-plot, with the elections round the corner, the incumbent prime minister, Kristian Kamper and the leader of opposition, Anders Ussing are willing to do anything to get into power.

Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl), Asbjørn Juncker (Sigurd Holmen le Dous) and Mathias Borch (Nikolaj Lie Kaas)

There are several positives in this third and final season of Forbrydelsen. For starters, it has patched up the mistake in the second season, that is, the political sub-plot is connected to the main plot, that is, kidnapping of Emilie Zeuthen. I also liked the choice of the financial crisis as the background, which affects everyone around, particularly some of the characters in this season. For those who loved Forbrydelsen's first season for the complications in Lund's personal life and her job, the focus is back, with Lund being a to-be grandmother in a few more days and at the same time, she gets into a relationship with Mathias Borch. Nearly every character in this season is filled with problems: Robert Zeuthen's ex-wife screams at him all the time, the board of his company tries to backstab him by relocating the company's operations to Asia; the incumbent prime minister Kristian Kamper has his whole party against him, has no idea on who to trust; Lennart Brix, Lund's chief is under extreme pressure and for a change, he supports Lund throughout and with all this, the case still moves on.

However, while some might praise such events, I always feel that too much focus on the personal lives of the characters in a crime story is digression and in my opinion, this season could have been halved had it not been for all those. I felt several events popped up out of nowhere, changing the entire facts of the case. Moreover, I also felt that it is nearly impossible for a young boy to write down nearly all licence plate numbers that came into his town in Jutland – which became a crucial document for the police. I read in Wikipedia before the release of season three that it is going to be about crimes in the financial circle which got me really excited but it seemingly is only an ordinary crime committed on a person who happens to be in the financial circle. Moreover, regarding the political angle of the story, I was quite disappointed that the politicians from the previous seasons were completely ignored. I thought since it involved national politics, Thomas Buch might have a more significant role in this series.  

To summarise, there was nothing so special about the third season, except for the fact that it is the last one and Sarah Lund is never going to come again. It wasn't too bad either, I liked the investigations, the various twists although in most cases, there is no way that such events could've been predicted by the viewer. I also felt that it had a fine ending, leaving some of the ends to be filled by the viewer. I'd give a rating of six, for the final season.

Rating – 6/10

Have a nice day,


Monday, 14 January 2013

Borgen: Season 1 by Adam Price – Review

Borgen is a Danish political drama written by Adam Price and produced by DR. After Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, finally I found a political series’ synopsis which could grab my attention but unlike the above mentioned series, Borgen is far from humour. It is translated as Government in several subtitle files though; the literal translation is just Castle and Borgen just happens to be the nickname of the Christiansborg Palace, the Danish Parliament (also includes the Prime Minister’s office and the Supreme Court).

With the elections being round the corner, the story concentrates on the Moderate Party a left oriented so called centrist party, a relatively small party led by Birgitte Nyborg Christensen. Birgitte is a middle aged woman, married and a mother of two. She is very strong on her principles and doesn’t go beyond them even if doing such an act can potentially make her a prime minister.

The other lead character in the story is Birgitte Nyborg’s spin doctor, Kasper Juul, extremely talented and effective, professionally but his personal life is a disaster, mainly because of his highly secretive nature, not many know much about his past. Giving a lead role to Kasper inevitably leads to Katrine Fønsmark, a journalist for TV1, becoming an important character. A workaholic journalist and more than that, Kasper’s ex-girlfriend, who had mainly split because of his nature but nevertheless, Katrine is still the only person who Kasper loves. 

Hanne Holm (Benedikte Hansen), Katrine Fønsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), Bent Sejrø (Lars Knutzon) , Michael Laugesen (Peter Mygind), BIRGITTE NYBORG (Sidse Babett Knudsen), Kaspet Juul (Pilou Asbæk), Philip Christensen (Mikael Birkkjær), Torben Friis (Søren Malling) - Format: character name(actor/actress' name); from left to right.

Coming to the story, the all party debate on election eve ends up as a disaster for both, the incumbent Prime Minister Lars Hesselboe and also, the Leader of Opposition Michael Laugesen and their loss ends up as Birgitte Nyborg’s gain. Moderate party end up doubling their number of seats, paving way for Birgitte Nyborg to lead a coalition and become Denmark’s first female prime minister (incidentally, Denmark got its first woman for the job months after Birgitte Nyborg took office). The story concentrates on various issues, handles one issue per episode. It effectively focuses on how a prime minister changes after coming to power, the problems faced by her, both at the workplace and also at home.

I loved the way how the gradual change in Birgitte Nyborg’s personality was portrayed, as a woman so strong on ethics till she comes into power and gives them up the moment she comes into power. For instance, she sacked Kasper on the election eve for doing something what he was expressly told to not do and immediately after coming to power, she starts saying things like, ‘we can’t think of what is right or what is wrong when it comes to the question of survival  in the government’ and also, eventually even rehires Kasper. The story also had three dimensions to it, the political side of it, which is the crux of the drama but with it, there is also the other side, the media – with focus on Katrine Fønsmark and her colleagues at TV1 and the last dimension being the lives of the lead characters outside their profession. Moreover, the choice of events / issues were good, in the episode, all relevant and contemporary events, such as the Greenland problem, a state visit, surveillance on a politician, problems within the three party coalition among several others. 

On the other side, what I strongly felt was that Birgitte Nyborg, in any dire situation, somehow manages to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Yes, I do agree that in some cases, she did negotiate very well but, in several other cases, in an absolutely no hope situation, she gets some input with which she manages to suppress the ones who are attacking her. Only on very rare occasions, she was forced into decisions which she didn’t want to take. Effectively, she could’ve been given the title Saint Birgitte, since; even the most efficient and committed leaders have committed blunders during the tenure but I couldn’t observe anything so significant from Birgitte Nyborg. Besides Birgitte Nyborg, the extreme focus on Katrine Fønsmark’s personal life and her infatuations were extremely boring and was in fact, a hindrance to the flow. Besides that, I also wasn’t particularly pleased about the lack of continuity in the episodes and the author, decided to stick on to his unwritten rule of his one event per episode whereas I felt some of those were concluded in a rather abrupt manner and the author could’ve considered extending the same to the next episode.

 I found some of the aspects rather weird or even illogical. First, I’ve hardly seen anyone giving up power, especially political power after having tasted it, but, in Michael Laugesen’s case, after a cock up, he completely quit politics and became standard civilian, working for a newspaper. Moreover, in my country of residence, even if a sundry MP moves around, leave alone the Prime Minister, the entire traffic is blocked, with a minimum of eight police cars surrounding the politician’s car but in Borgen, the incumbent Prime Minister has no security personnel stationed around her place of residence nor does a police fleet keep her on guard wherever she goes. It does sound rather illogical but if that is the reality, then hats off to little Denmark.

Those who enjoy a politics, in my opinion, would surely enjoy Borgen. As far as the rating is concerned, for the concept and the choice of events, I’d give Borgen a seven and shall go no further, considering the negatives which can’t be ignored. The second season of Borgen would certainly be something to watch out for, and it’d be interesting to see if it manages to please me as much as the first, if not more.

Rating - 7/10

Have a nice day,


Friday, 11 January 2013

Forbrydelsen (The Killing) - Season 2 by Søren Sveistrup – Review

This is the review of the second season of the Danish crime drama written by Søren Sveistrup, Forbrydelsen. If you haven't watched the first season, I recommend you to not continue any further and the review of the previous season is available here and whatever I’ve stated in my previous review regarding how I review a drama applies to this review as well. 

Ulrik Strange (Mikael Birkkjær) and Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl)

Getting back to the review, the second season starts with the murder of a lawyer, Anne Dragsøhlm, who worked as a legal adviser to the Danish army. After Jan Meyer’s demise and the sacking of Lund from the homicide department, the chief Lennart Brix gets a new subordinate, Ulrik Strange. Meanwhile, Sarah Lund’s union with her boyfriend Bengt Rosling fails and she is back in Denmark, as part of the Passport police in Gedser, southern Denmark. Brix drafts Sarah back into the homicide department and from her side, although she was initially reluctant, she eventually overcomes her dilemma and decides to investigate the case along with Ulrik Strange. As the series progresses, the murders similar to that of Dragshølm keep taking place – a serial killer is on the run. 

Similar to the first season, there was also a political sub-plot – but from local politics, it moved on to national politics, with the newly appointed Justice Minister, Thomas Buch,  being the lead in the sub-plot, who is put in a situation which forces him to open a can of worms. Then there is Jens Peter Raben, a suspended military officer who is now in a psychiatric ward over mental issues and Raben, in some way has links to the murdered.

I don’t think I can give any further details on the plot without spoiling the same. Coming to the story, it was good, to say the least. Murders all over the place, and also, these murders also had political impact. Lund-Strange combination too, was really good, for a change, Lund could actually cooperate with somebody and if I have to say something good about Strange, I think he is the only one who was never annoyed by any of Lund’s antics and supported her throughout. Adding more on the characters, my favourite addition was the Justice Minister Thomas Buch – who, despite not being a lawyer, was doing a good job, did not care about losing his post for doing the right thing and also, his rhetoric was really good and though I don’t understand more than ten words in Danish, I loved the way in which he expressed himself and one the whole, Buch was by far the best addition to the series (only as a character). The story also added dimensions, military protocol, and the war in Afghanistan among several things. I love crime stories which are to the point, without much digressions or needless sub-plots and Season 2 of Forbrydelsen’s score certainly increases on my scoreline, for such reasons. 

From what I’ve read, season two is strongly criticised for several reasons; that Lund was loved because of the complex nature of her character, her workaholic personality, personal issues and problems at work but in season two, she didn’t have any personal or professional problems. Moreover, the next bone of contention was that the personal aspect of a murder was completely ignored, that is, there was no focus on the families of the bereaved. The last one was the size being halved, compared to the twenty episodes of the previous season.

However, I never understood the reason for such strong criticism. The first, regarding Sarah Lund being compromised, I felt that Lund was the same as before, ever so confident, ever so assertive and moreover, for me as a viewer, I enjoyed seeing Lund having someone as cooperative (unlike Jan Meyer) as Ulrik Strange as her partner.  The next being the personal aspects of a murder, that is a reasonable criticism although, it wouldn’t have been practically possible to do such a thing when the number of people murdered is so high in number. Instead, even the impact of Jens’ absence on the Raben family was portrayed quite well, which I think compensates for the lack of counterparts to the Birk Larsen family. Regarding the size, it was quite a relief – considering that the first season, beyond a certain point, was dragging on and on for no particular reason.

However, I’d not say that Season 2 of Forbrydelsen was perfect, far from it, with its own flaws. The first being, although I praised Thomas Buch, as a character in the story, I however felt that his presence and in fact, the entire political aspect of it to be quite redundant. The politicians were hardly a part of the whole police investigation and unlike Troels Hartmann, Thomas Buch meets Sarah Lund only once, that too for less than ten seconds and it was in not in any way connected with the investigation. The political side of the story was a plain repeat of the first series and Sveistrup unnecessarily followed a template, that is, write a crime story, and somehow link it to Danish politics. On a light note, Lund wearing her famous Faroese jumper in the deserts of Afghanistan completely went over the top. It is nearly impossible for a writer to cover up everything and there were loose ends, some blatant ones but much less, as compared to the first season.

I’d conclude this review by rating this series and for rating crime stories; I’ve a rough checklist which I shall be stating below. The story was good, satisfying the primary requirement, with minimal deviations and had a good set of characters, adding flavour to the story. Moreover, the more important aspects of a crime story are the interesting twists and turns, red-herrings which it definitely had and finally the most important of all, a fitting end, which Forbrydelsen’s second season didn’t lack, either. On the whole, I’d give this an eight on ten.

Have a nice day,


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