A Dangerous Fortune
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324 of 329 people found the following review helpful
The author, a masterful storyteller, weaves an intriguing and mesmerizing tapestry of events that surround the wealthy Pilaster banking family in the latter part of nineteenth century England. Its panoramic sweep will hold the reader in its thrall. This complex story tells of the ebb and flow of their individual personal fortunes and the personalities that are to profoundly affect them, for better or worse.
Augusta Pilaster is the scheming, socially conscious, self-appointed matriarch of the family. She is a woman who will stop at nothing to ensure that her reckless and easily manipulated husband, Joseph, and their indolent, dissolute, and lackluster son, Edward, will get and retain control of the Pilaster banking enterprise. Her machiavellian machinations, however, will eventually trigger the downfall of the family's fortune.
Hugh Pilaster, Augusta's nephew by marriage, is the Pilaster who has the brains and work ethic to take the Pilaster banking fortunes to a new level. His Achilles heel is that he seems destined to be attracted to working class women, a chink in his armor that Augusta Pilaster uses to her and her immediate family's advantage. He, too, is Augusta Pilater's unwitting pawn, until the day of reckoning comes.
Micky Miranda is the romantically handsome scion of a wealthy, unscrupulous, and power hungry South American businessman. Micky attended an exclusive school with Edward and Hugh Pilaster, when they were young. While there, tragedy struck when a mysterious swimming "accident" took the life of one of their friends, an event that was to shadow their lives in ways no one could have imagined. Micky Miranda would eventually enter into into a web of complicity with Augusta Pilaster that would impact on the fortunes of both the Miranda and Pilaster families.
This book takes the reader through all strata of English society, from the drawing rooms of the upper classes to the exclusive men's clubs and brothels that cater to exotic appetites. It is a totally engrossing and absorbing tale of love, hatred, and treachery that spans three decades. It is a story that the reader will thoroughly enjoy.
I originally read this book several years ago and enjoyed it so much that I decided to purchase the unabridged audiobook for a road trip. It provided seventeen hours of pure listening pleasure, as the narrator, Michael Page, is absolutely superlative. He manages to imbue each character with its own recognizable voice and personality. I was able to tear myself away from the car only with great difficulty, at times, as I was so engrossed by the story and its telling.
This is a terrific book. Whether one reads it or has it read to them makes no difference, as it is a captivating and wholly entertaining work of well written fiction. Bravo!
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92 of 98 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2001
In my opinion, Ken Follett is one of the better writers working currently, and A DANGEROUS FORTUNE is one of his best books to date. I liked his EYE OF THE NEEDLE and PILLARS OF THE EARTH very much, too, and while I don't think FORTUNE is quite that good, it is still one of the most entertaining books I've read recently. The story is set in England in the latter half of the 19th century, and revolves around the wealthy Pilaster family. The Pilasters are bankers and control the large and powerful Pilaster Bank. As schoolboys, both Edward Pilaster and his cousin Hugh, son of the family black sheep, are involved in the death by drowning of a fellow student. That event is the beginning of 25 years of intrigue, corruption and murder as the fortunes of the Pilasters and those close to them play out. Follett weaves an intricate and fast-paced, if not always surprising, plot around his characters that carries the reader from the mansions of London's rich and powerful, through seedy bordellos, to vile gambling dens.
This is contemporary pulp fiction at its best. The characters have depth and believability and Follett seems to do a good job of evoking the look and feel of the period. The pages roll by quickly and the book is hard to put down. But, if it's so good, why didn't I give it five stars? Generally, I reserve five-star status for books of what I regard to be classic status. Caesar, Tolkien, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter (yeah, I do think Harry Potter will be around for a long time). Maybe Harry Bosch, although I may have gotten carried away, there. This is, after all, pulp fiction and it just doesn't have the depth of the above. It is very entertaining, though, and I think most readers will enjoy it very much. Consider it a strong four plus and give it a look.
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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 1999
Ken Follett writes two kinds of novels: good spy thrillers or good historical novels. This is the latter, a book where the reader is dipped into the subterfuge and manipulation of a major banking company in Victorian England, owned by the Pilaster family who have been haunted by an event which happened at a boarding school years ago. The plot has more twists than a corkscrew as the family's need for money and recognition plunge them into devious playing of Victorian values, ambitious plans and even murder. Hugh Pilaster, the hero of the story, has a kind of Hugh-Grantish confusion about him, even as he fights to keep the love of his life and his position in society, which is at times both endearing and annoying, and we find out more about Victorian brothels than we really want to, but other than that, a brilliant read.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2003
This is the third Follett book I've read in a row. It all started with Pillars of the Earth, the best book I've ever read. I read A placed Called Freedom right after that and enjoyed that alot as well. And I just got finished with A Dangerous Fortune. I can't possibly say enough good things about Ken Follett. Once again, it's the characters that drive the book. He takes you on a journey with these characters through many years of their lives and you get to see how they encounter, react and truimph over adversity. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but this is another 'must read' in my opinion. His characters are varied and colorful and the relationships, from friendship to love, villainy and hatred are so genuine I couldn't help but wish that these people lived at that point in history. A wonderful read that I will no doubt enjoy again in the future.
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82 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2006
I have read a few of Folletts books now. Dangerous Fortune is not the worst Follett that I have read, but neither does it come close to supplanting "Pillars in the Earth" from what I would consider the best of his work.

The story here is about a banking family, the Pilasters, and a lifetime of events that stem from a drowning when all of the protagonists are children in school. The reason I am only giving this book three stars is that the entire arc of the story follows a predictable and weary plot line. Follett introduces his evil side of the family lorded over by the contemptable Augusta Pilaster and never gives the reader a single instance in which to understand their motives. Follett builds up Augusta, her son, and others as idiots and shallow and you know that they will bring ruin on the family somewhere down the line. On the other hand, Hugh Pilaster and his side of the family are set up as puritan saints. The whole book is very black and white, good and bad.

Other than the lack of other than a superficial development in the clash between sides of the family, Follett does not flesh out his characters very well. If you were to read a Russo book like Nobodies Fool and then were to pick up Dangerous Fortune the characters would relate to each other like the garden of Eden against the Mojave Desert.

I have been slaming this book pretty hard. I think that it deserves it too. Follett was sort of phoning this one in. I would not ever recomend it to anyone, though I would with his book 'Pillars...' All of that aside it was not a total disaster and managed to keep me entertained for quite a while. So you wont be unsatisfied with 'Fortune' if you are a Follett fan.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2005
Let me preface my review with the following statement. This is not normally my kind of book. Much more at home with a detective murder mystery or enchanting fantasy book, it was by pure luck I decided to read this book.

Without a doubt, this is the best book I've read in years. The author does an excellent job of letting you understand what it was like in the 1800's, without slowing down the plot or tuning into a documentary.

The characters were extremely well fleshed out. The "villians" were indeed bad, but you're left with an understanding and appreciation for them.

Unlike some books where you just know everything will end up okay, this book isn't afraid to make good characters face the fire. I won't give away of the ending except to say it was satisfying and realistic.

Overall, I can't recommend this book enough, especially if it's not the normal genre of book you would read.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 16, 1999
One of the most engrossing novels I have read. The "feel" of the 19th Century, forbidden romance, money and character are weaved together in a book I couldn't wait to get to each night. Don't start it if you have to get up early the next morning!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2002
This was a terrific read and one of those "couldn't put down" books.The Pilasters are a great London banking family whose wealth seems to be limitless.Hugh Pilaster,son of one of the junior branches of the family, witnesses the drowning of one of his schoolmates-an event which leads to the domination of the main Pilaster heir by an unscrupulous school friend, son of an infamous South American dictator.This book is a fascinating glimpse into the life of merchant bankers in Victorian England and that of their wives and families and shows how just one small event of years past can bring down an entire banking dynasty. Another interesting facet of life at that time is the difference between the outward display of decency and morality and the total decadence of life in the brothels and drug dens which were frequented by the so-called gentlemen of that era.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2005
"A dangerous fortune" is a typical Follett book: set in a historical context, a plot involving murder and money, with many characters, usually divided between the good ones and the bad ones. The bad ones are more interesting, they have power, they have money, and the good ones, though poor, are always correct and faithful to their traditional beliefs. Between "The pillars of Earth" and "Night over water" this formula suited Follett's plots very well, and he gathererd many constant readers around the world. "A dangerous fortune" is one formulaic book, though it doesn't mean it is bad. On the contrary, it's the usual Follett, thrilling, well written and full of good moments. But it's far from the author's best.

The center of the story is the Pillaster family, traditional bankers - but not yet noble - of the London society at the second half of the nineteenth century. Hugh is the talented young Pillaster, but he's sort of a black sheep of the family. Edward and his mother Augusta, the book's arch-villain, spend the whole book trying to get control of the family bank, while Edward's friend Micky Miranda, a south-american from a ficticious country very similar to Colombia is always trying to make Edward lend him the bank's money in order to achieve a coup d'etat at home. And Hugh must prevent all of that from happening, of course. Throw in lots of love interests, four or five murders, a couple of sex-scenes - also usual in Follett's books - and you begin to get an initial idea of what this book is about.

As I've already said, "A dangerous fortune" is not a bad book, far from that. If you are kew to Follett's work, don't be afraid to try this one: it's not a flopper like "The third twin" or "Hammer of Edden". But for Follett's long-time readers this one will bring nothing new. It seems like a compilation of what the author had already put in his previous books. Even so, it's an above-average thriller.

Grade 8.2/10
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2012
This is one that Follett should have left in his brain.

I can't wait for it to be over (I am on the last 20 pages)so I'm writing this prematurely but if I made it this far,I have done you the favor of telling you to give it a pass, go read something else.

Maybe a made for TV movie on the Lifetime channel, which is about the worst review statement I can write.

He covers all the current popular culture and sexual topics but lesbianism. So he's 90% of the way to completing "The Formula", for what publishers think will sell their books, and from reading the NYX weekly book reviews top 15, they're apparently right.

How far from, "The Eye of tne Needle", has he fallen????.....

.....he's underground. Superfluous descriptions that look to me like fillers ---as if he is paid per word written--- and ignoring what could have been good stories in the gaps in the timelines(like Hugh leaving for New York for 5 years), faulty character traits (how Hugh is unable to assume certain things that one of his caliber should easily conclude).

Without giving away anything he does convey a sense of what life was like on the streets of London, and some decent history tidbits.

I wish I could have been his editor.

This goes into the hopper of books that have taken up too many hours of my 5 score and ten. I based my decision to read it on so many positive reviews. Although this singular review won't balance it out much, one has to start somewhere.
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