Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Fulcrum Files
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on March 22, 2012
All Ben Clayton wants to do is take to the Atlantic Ocean and America as engineer on board the yacht `Windflower', and it looks as though this dream is about to become reality, when - in a scene as memorable as the opening chapter of Ian McEwan's Enduring Love - a shocking accident changes everything. Clayton suddenly finds himself drawn into an increasingly complex tale of murder, politics and espionage.

Having read and reviewed both of Mark Chisnell's previous novels, The Defector and The Wrecking Crew, I was surprised and curious that he had chosen this time to write an historical thriller, based on real events. But he carries it off with great assuredness.

In the English boatyards around Hamble and The Solent pre-World War 2, there is more concern with class divisions than the seemingly unlikely prospect of another war. Yet beyond the upper-class gambling clubs and expensive racing yachts; beyond the struggles and hand-to-mouth existence of the striking fishermen, other forces are at work. When the action moves to Germany, Munich is painted as fashionable, vibrant and alive, but the bonhomie of the beer halls is undermined by the chilling presence of uniformed Gestapo on the streets. It is to the writer's credit that despite the reader's knowledge of the historical outcome, there is still, through Clayton's eyes, the sense of a moment in time: where such things have not yet come to pass.

As ever with a Mark Chisnell novel, we are treated to his pre-occupations with psychology, philosophy, and of course, sailing. The moral dilemma this time is represented by the conflict Clayton faces given his commitment as an avowed pacifist, when pitted against the enormity of the potential threat that looms. And there is a thrilling chase, starting off by train and overland that, as other reviewers have said, is reminiscent of John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps, before taking to the sea, in an open homage to Erskine Childers' The Riddle of the Sands.

I have compared his previous novels to `Boy's Own adventures', so am delighted to say that this time Chisnell gives central roles to not just one, but two female characters, and that both are convincingly portrayed. There is feisty, loyal Lucy, who sails boats and is naturally beguiling even when kitted out as a deckhand in an oversized seaman's jacket; and by contrast, the sophisticated, seductive and mysterious Anna. Clayton is a social maverick, who easily straddles the divide between fisherman's daughter Lucy and upper-class Anna, but which way will he fall when the romantic chips are down? Overall, there is a maturity to Chisnell's writing in this novel; for alongside the intrigue and the fast-paced action, there are some very credible and alluring scenes of tenderness.

As such, this may well be his best novel so far.
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on February 8, 2012
The Fulcrum Files combines several of my own interests: European history, boat design and sailing, and the Riddle of the Sands. Best of all it's spiced up with a few love interests and a murder mystery. The action is fast-paced, the writing is tight, and the characters are so believable and fresh you'll wish you could share a drink with them. This may well be one of the best books I read this year. Highly recommended.
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The unlikely hero of this complex (and rather long) spy thriller is a young engineer who just wants to build a better sailboat and live peacefully with the love of his life until the closing credits of happily ever after. Unfortunately for him, his dream becomes quite a bit more complicated when a tragic event overturns his life plan, pushing him way beyond his comfort zone and into the pre-stages of WWII.

While trying to uncover the truth about the aforementioned tragic event, he finds himself caught between the obligations of his job and loyalty to his friends, and is even forced to deny the woman he loves.

An unexpected business trip to Germany in the company of a mysterious femme fatale leads to further problems on all fronts, and soon he's fighting harder than he ever did in the boxing rings of his youth. As can be expected from the "Fulcrum" part of the title, he gets landed (involuntarily) with a pivotal role in determining the outcome of an inevitable war.

This novel has something for everybody - intrigue, politics, action, romance - even geography, history and sailing. The hero? Well, he's not your suave superman by any means, and even though you'll want to thump him upside his head for his lack of finesse, you'll still be rooting for him in the end.

Amanda Richards, September 18, 2012
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on February 3, 2012
Chisnell's third thriller is another that's impossible to put down, with an intricate plot, superb characterisation and unexpected twists that maintain suspense - and surprise - right to the end.
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Mark Chisnell's THE FULCRUM FILES opens in 1922 when the young English boxer, Ben Clayton, snatches victory from the jaws of defeat by knocking out - and severely injuring - his ring opponent. Guilt ridden, Ben turns to pacifism as his life's guiding philosophy.

Fast forward to 1936.

Ben is now a structural engineer recently employed by Supermarine Aviation Works, Ltd., a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrongs Aircraft, Ltd. A keen amateur sailor since his college days, Clayton and his best friend, mentor, and fellow engineer, Stanley Arbethwaite, are now working to equip the racing yacht Windflower, owned by Supermarine executive Harold Dunwood, with a revolutionary mast made of duraluminum, one of the earliest types of hardened aluminum alloys. But Harold is killed in a freak accident while rigging the mast. Ben comes to believe that his friend was murdered. But why? And by whom?

Ben's investigation into Stanley's death is the central plot of the novel told against a background of a reemerging and bellicose Nazi Germany, a divided England (appeasement versus national rearmament for war), and the development of the famed Spitfire warplane.

THE FULCRUM FILES is part murder whodunit and part espionage tale with a love interest thrown in (for the female readership?).

The book contains an excess character or two and at least one superfluous subplot that stretched out the storyline and should perhaps have been left on the cutting room floor. Indeed, it isn't until Ben finds himself in Germany about two-thirds of the way through that the plot really thickens. I wish there had been less about the yachting and (much) more about the development of the Spitfire, but that's only my personal preference. (The author's penchant, based on his writing history, is for the sailing of small boats, so I get it.) Moreover, I just never found Ben to be a compelling hero. However, the ending does include a surprise character twist that added a nice touch to the whole.

THE FULCRUM FILES was above average to the extent that it engaged my interest enough such that I wanted to finish, but not so much that I couldn't put it down to take care of more mundane responsibilities. That, to me, is the definition of a four-star read in the fiction genre.

The author's previous two thrillers, The Defector and The Wrecking Crew, are eminently worth acquiring and reading.
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VINE VOICEon July 26, 2012
I have this acquaintance (I'd call her a friend, but I think that's slightly overstating) that is obsessed with puzzles. She has an entire room in her home dedicated to them. She has the roll up mat meant for easy travel and the finishing spray to ensure that her completed beauties remain intact and full of glory. She frames them and hangs them on the wall. Like I said...she is obsessed. So one day I asked her, "What is it about puzzles that you love so much?" Her response (much like her puzzles) was incredibly drawn out and detailed, so I'll spare you the exact details, but the overall conclusion was that she "loved to see chaos come together." Eloquent...is it not? That the entire reason for her hours of mindless rearranging was to add order where there once was none.

Now, I'm still not a fan of puzzles. I'll do one every five or six years, but the thought of it taking over my kitchen table for a month while I try to squeeze in a new part every four or five days makes my skin crawl. Instead, I prefer the scattered chaos of books, and this week it was Mark Chisnell's historical thriller "The Fulcrum Files."

"The young Ben Clayton was one of Britain's brightest boxing prospects, until the day he slammed a left hook into a fragile chin. Sickened by the consequences he turned away from the ring, found solace in the arms of the beautiful Lucy Kirk and looked for new challenges.

On the 7th March 1936, after almost two decades of peace in Europe, Hitler ordered the German Army back into the Rhineland. It was a direct challenge to Britain and France. Still unnerved by the toll of the Great War, the politicians dithered. The French Army stayed in its barracks, while the aristocratic British elite looked on from their country retreats.

History teetered on a knife edge, but the spymasters were busy.

Just one man could make the difference between war and peace, victory or defeat. And that man was Ben Clayton. Thrown into the maelstrom of plot and counter-plot, into a world of murder, spies and traitors, Ben must battle not just to survive, but to protect all that he loves and holds most dear."

If I was to tell you that I liked this book right out of the box, I'd be lying. It's quite the opposite in fact. I wasn't happy with it at all. While I can knock most books out in a few hours (or at the very most a day) it took me more than two weeks to gulp down Chisnell's 407 page throwback to the 30's. Why? Because it read like a 10k piece puzzle that (until 50%) was nothing but scattered plot points and confusing references. Was it a book about boats? (Which we know -in no small part to Mark's book "The Defector"- he is well versed in.) Was it about politics? Spies? War? There were so many people with so many thoughts floating around that the significance of them all was lost on me. (Who knows...maybe I'm just slow.) Was the writing "bad?" Of course not. Chisnell is nothing if not well spoken. It was just a tremendous amount of information to take in.

That said (and puzzle references aside. Kinda.) Once the "course" of the book was finally set, I was hooked. Just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore this amazing, fast paced story emerged before my very eyes and I couldn't put it down. All those crazy distracting (off color) pieces finally came together and made sense! The characters (Ben and Anna mostly - which is impressive considering Anna wasn't a lead in this story) evolved into two very full bodied characters that exhibited qualities only those with first hand knowledge of the pain of the era could muster, and they did so with such causal dialogue that it didn't feel forced but matter of fact. Add to that the range of action this duo (well...all the characters actually) was forced to navigate through and what you have is just another shining example of why Chisnell is an indie name to keep your eyes on.

I will go on record as saying this isn't the "easiest" read on the planet, it is chock-full of twists, turns and espionage, so if you are a person that likes to read for the frivolous enjoyment of it, you might want to steer clear. "The Fulcrum Files" takes focus, and more importantly a love of history to enjoy. But if you are a person that loves a good challenge when it comes to their literature. Go ahead...it might just surprise you too.

Happy reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: When the world says, "Give up," Hope whispers, "Try it one more time." Sometimes you just need to stick with it to see if it goes anywhere.
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on September 3, 2012
A freebie I acquired in mid April and started reading, and somehow got about a third of the way through it and stopped. So, as part of my resolve to wade through the bunch of free (or near free) books I have started but never finished, I started reading it again. I managed to read another third of it before just giving up on it.

It is the story of Ben Clayton. A boxer who in 1922 seriously injures another fighter in the ring and so loses interest in boxing.

We pick up his story in 1936. He is now working as a structural engineer at an aircraft factory. The factory owner (Harold Dunwood) also owns a racing yacht. A fellow engineer (Stanley) at the aircraft factory dies on the yacht while they are installing a new mast the two engineers designed. Ben rooms with Stanley and his wife.

It turns out that the accident might not have been an accident.

It also turns out that a friend of Dunwoods is a homosexual. A British intelligent agent (also a Dunwood friend) blackmails the friend into helping out against a pacifist group he is part of.

Ben discovers Stanley is broke and way behind on his bills, possibly because of gambling debts.

It gets more convoluted as Ben investigates Stanley's death to the point where I just lost interest.

I was very hopeful I would like the book as it had a bunch of what appear to be legit 4 and 5 star reviews, which is what convinced me to give it a shot in the first place, but it just got so convoluted that I lost interest. YMMV.
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on March 29, 2012
In inter-war Britain forces are at work either trying to prevent or prepare for a second world war. Ben Clayton is more interested in sailing and fisherman's daughter Lucy. When an apparent accident kills his friend Ben is plunged into a world of intrigue, plots and counter-plots. As a sworn pacifist he doesn't even want to be involved with the production of warplanes like the Spitfire, but events force him to rethink his position. His beliefs aren't the only thing under threat, as his relationship with Lucy is threatened by the seductive Anna.

This novel is primarily a spy thriller but for me it was much enhanced by the historical element. I found the writing so evocative of the period. I could picture the people and their dress and it captured the tensions, including class divisions, of the time. When the story moved to Germany I found some of the narrative chilling and very tense, and I read on keen to get to the bottom of the tale. I found the author's note about certain facts that pertain to the story fascinating. They were facts I weren't aware of and often it's the stories like those that bring history to life for me. Sailing also plays an important part, and is a recurring and interesting theme in Mark's novels (no great surprise if you read his author biog)

Ben is a very empathetic character. His life looks to be heading in exactly the direction he wanted, but he rapidly finds it all unraveling and unwittingly becomes a key to the course of the future. The strength of his beliefs has alienated his parents and he doesn't seem to fit within any particular class, and now he finds himself pulled from all angles. It's impossible not to be on his side. Lucy is also an attractive character and the polar opposite of slick, glamorous Anna. There are some very interesting dynamics among the various characters and while there is a lot going on it wasn't hard to follow the twists and turns, and unlike some spy stories I didn't find myself scratching my head trying to figure out what I had missed at the end.

This was a really enjoyable read and for me it cast a new light on the run up to World War II. The writing is fluid and allows the story to move on at a good pace. This was quite a departure from The Defector, by the same author, but Mark Chisnell's books are very welcome on my kindle.
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on February 3, 2012
The usual excellent intricate plot and well drawn characters. The big difference is the era in which the action takes place. Superb research pays off as he paints a realistic political backdrop to the fast paced action. His best yet
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on October 13, 2013
i love the brit thrillers. like a cheap trip to the u.k. this one is written to flow. not overly
emphasizing the political and civil liberties abuses, as it might. but it makes you think
of them. good plot; you can dance to it.

bob
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