Flakking off from The Guns of August, this is an account of the twelve days preceding the outbreak of WWI. Using acerbic vignettes and generally allowing his ""actors"" to make his points for him, Thomson avoids a larger study in favor of retaining the vigor of the events. Aside from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne, WWI was all primed to go off by itself. Leapfrogging from Berlin demonstrations to St. Petersburg riots, from Vienna to Budapest, and from the British Foreign Secretary out fly-fishing to a murder trial in Paris, he casually sidelights the innocent activities of Einstein, Joseph Conrad, Henry James and other figures. The final, disquieting vision is of Power intent on self-destruction. Thomson's method has the advantage of a visual aid: you see it happen.