(YA) Flakking off from The Guns of August, this account of the twelve days preceding the outbreak of WWI displays how existentially disparate activities contributed to one catastrophe. 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. Even the press extolled the virtues of war and welcomed the holocaust. 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 (Mme. Caillaux, the ex-Prime Minister's wife, had shot the editor of Figaro six times for printing her love letters), Thomson builds his picture while casually sidelighting the innocent activities of Einstein, Joseph Conrad, young Trotsky, 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.