A colorful history, but overly ambitious, often disorienting and not entirely convincing.

THE ENTITY

FIVE CENTURIES OF SECRET VATICAN ESPIONAGE

Dense, exhaustive account of espionage and intrigue directed by and against the Vatican, from 1566 to the present.

Madrid-based TV correspondent Frattini, who has published several Spanish-language nonfiction titles, presents a dizzying history that would have been more effective on a smaller scale. As written, this hectic, whirlwind account races through five centuries and a seemingly endless list of names, dates and characters without allowing the many dramatic vignettes to fully take hold. Astonishing tales abound along the way, starting with the creation of the Vatican’s spy service, originally called the Holy Alliance, by Pope Pius V, who wanted to overthrow England’s Protestant Queen Elizabeth I and place Catholic Mary Stuart on her throne. The author claims that the Holy Alliance later spawned its own counterespionage wing and a “hit squad” that assassinated numerous perceived enemies of the Church. Not all of these assertions are convincing, or well documented—Frattini routinely cites rumors and speculation as plausible facts—but they certainly make for curious reading. The author finds the hand of Vatican spies throughout the royal courts of Europe, the war rooms of major combatants in both world wars, the boardrooms of corrupt money-laundering bankers and the halls of spy services from the CIA to Mossad. According to Frattini, Vatican agents have done everything from helping Nazi war criminals flee to South America after World War II to thwarting the assassination of Golda Meir by terrorists in 1973. In one anecdote, he recounts how the Holy Alliance stymied a plot in 1881 to steal the remains of Pope Pius IX. Indeed, for all the intrigue allegedly perpetrated by the Vatican, Frattini notes that the Pope was equally the target of espionage. For centuries, the halls of the Vatican were rife with spies, especially during times of war, when the Vatican’s neutrality, or lack thereof, was of major concern to belligerents.

A colorful history, but overly ambitious, often disorienting and not entirely convincing.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-37594-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

more