Ryan skillfully builds and sustains interest through a narrative that grows increasingly convoluted.



A ripping real-life yarn of espionage and daring that also inspired Ken Follett’s novel Hornet Flight (2002).

Shortly before feisty 89-year-old Thomas Sneum died in 2007, British journalist Ryan tracked down the former pilot and elicited his amazing story of spying for British Intelligence in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Sneum grew up on the island of Fanoe, off the West coast. In April 1940, he was a 22-year-old flight lieutenant, furious that his superiors had refused to engage the mighty Luftwaffe as the Germans rolled into Denmark. Vowing to help the British, Sneum was careful to ingratiate himself with the occupiers. When a Nazi officer responded to his questions about a mysterious installation the Germans were building on Fanoe by boasting of “special technology” that could spot aircraft from far away, Sneum didn’t realize it was radar (then a little-known innovation), but he did guess it was a dangerous new tool. When he got to the British Legation outside Stockholm with this information, the naval attaché suggested he return to Fanoe and take photographs of it. Sneum not only got the photos, he insisted on flying them to England himself. With the help of his friend and co-pilot Kjeld Pedersen, he refurbished a beat-up Havilland Hornet Moth and took it on a hare-brained flight across the North Sea. Ryan’s depiction of this six-hour odyssey is studded with jaw-dropping facts: To refuel, for example, Sneum had to walk out on the wing while airborne. The author also crafts a convincing description of his subject as a scrappy, immodest, slightly oily charmer. The SIS sent him back to Denmark to learn more about the Germans’ boasts of a “super-bomb,” and he transmitted information by radio with the help of Danish Resistance engineer Duus Hansen. However, Sneum’s berth within Britain’s complicated intelligence network was always uneasy. He became fatally entangled in interdepartmental rivalries, and his allegiances were eventually called into question.

Ryan skillfully builds and sustains interest through a narrative that grows increasingly convoluted.

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-60239-710-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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


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

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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