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The Messenger (Gabriel Allon Book 6)
The Messenger (Gabriel Allon Book 6)
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Gabriel Allon vs Jihad Incorporated, August 4, 2014
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Daniel Silva has written some excellent espionage/covert ops books in the Gabriel Allon series and this is one of his best. Gabriel Allon is one of the most fascinating characters in modern espionage fiction. He operates in two quite distinct worlds, that of a world renowned art restorer and that of a senior operative of Israel's Security Intelligence Service - "the Office". He is a skilled artist in both worlds, one very gentle and the other, while still very skilled, at times can be very violent.

Allon is once again pulled out of retirement with news that jihad bombers may be targeting the Vatican. This sets Gabriel and his team from the Office on a chase to find the mastermind for the bombers, thought to be Ahmed bin Shafiq, a former chief of a clandestine Saudi intelligence unit, who has set up his own "Jihad Incorporated" organisation,. They believe that bin Shafiq has been bankrolled by Saudi billionaire Abdul Aziz al-Bakari, better known just as Zizi, who is known for his expensive tastes especially for his valuable collection of Impressionist paintings.

Gabriel plans to infiltrate Zizi's entourage by using a missing Impressionist painting as bait, and hopefully identify bin Shafiq who has not been seen for years. To do this he needs to find someone to deliver the bait and goes to Adrian Carter, a top CIA operative. for help. Carter is a very old school spook and generates my favourite quote of the book "According to office wits (at the CIA) Carter left chalk marks on the bedpost when he wanted to make love to his wife". Carter finds beautiful and very brave art expert Sarah Bancroft to set the bait.

The action moves from Jerusalem to Rome, Venice, Washington, London, Paris, the Bahamas and back to Rome. In the course of the action Gabriel gets close up and personal to the Pope and the US President.. Silva provides us with explosive endings but in the process creates a future threat to world peace to make sure that Gabriel will not go into permanent retirement.

I revisited this book because it the Kindle version discounted recently for pocket-change. I am glad I did as it is still one of the best of the series and although it is 8 years since it was first published the content hasn't dated.

Sharpe's Trafalgar
Sharpe's Trafalgar
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $9.78

5.0 out of 5 stars A Sharpe adventure on the high seas, August 1, 2014
I am becoming addicted to Bernard Cornwell's superb action-packed historically detailed fictional series about Richard Sharpe, an English foot-soldier in India and the Napoleonic wars at the end of the 18th and start of the 19th Century. This time Sharpe takes to the high seas and at the end of a long voyage home from India gets involved in the Battle of Trafalgar, the largest and bloodiest sea battle of the days of sail.

Richard Sharpe was born and raised in poverty and joined the British army and was sent to serve in India. He quickly made his mark as a Sergeant but was promoted from the ranks to become a commissioned officer for an "act of outstanding bravery" when he saved the life of General Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington). At that time most officers purchased their commissions and looked down at Sharpe as an interloper with no class, and his men don't think he is a proper officer.

Sharpe is on his way back to England from India on "Calliope" an East India Company ship. Fellow passengers are Lord William and beautiful but very aloof Lady Grace Hale. Initially there is little contact between Lady Grace and Sharpe but her fascination with Sharpe's character and persistence (he is a rugged ladies man), Lord William's addiction to laudanum (an opiate) as a sleeping draft and the tedium a long voyage bring them much closer together.

Part way through the voyage the Calliope is hijacked by a French warship, the "Revanant", off Mauritius and the ship is left under the control of a small prize crew. When English man-of-war, the "Pucelle", finds them Sharpe takes control of the ship by cutting the steering ropes. He is reunited with Captain Joel Chase who became a friend in Bombay when Sharpe saved Chase from a very violent encounter with Indian businessmen who swindled both of them.

In a very clever literary move Cornwell sets the Pucelle in pursuit of the Revanant ending the chase in Spanish waters at a time when huge opposing fleets from England, and France and Spain, are about to meet in the Battle of Trafalgar. This is where Cornwell excels - authentically researched historical contexts and adrenaline-pumping action-packed description of battles. The reader is right in the centre of the naval battle, with the noise and recoil from broadsides of cannon; the destruction of sails, spars and masts; much bloodshed; sword fights and much bravery. Of course Sharpe is in the centre of it all.

While the book is nearly 400 pages it seemed much shorter because of the page-turning action. I have read that Cornwell has been called "The greatest writer of historical adventures today." I agree and I am already addicted to the Richard Sharpe series and plan to read all 22 of Sharpe's adventures in order whenever I get a spare moment. As I started with #4 in the series I need to go back first and read Sharpe's adventures in India (Sharpe's Tiger, Triumph, and Fortress).

Children of the Revolution: An Inspector Banks Novel (Inspector Banks series Book 21)
Children of the Revolution: An Inspector Banks Novel (Inspector Banks series Book 21)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Another very good UK police procedural, August 1, 2014
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There is a certain comfort in reading another good UK police procedural, and Peter Robinson is definitely one of the masters of the genre. This is a mixture of first-class team police investigations mixed in with a maverick investigation by Inspector Banks.

After 22 books in the series the lead character, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks, is getting older and nearing the normal retirement age of 60. His area commander, Catherine Gervaise, suggests that he has the choice of early retirement or, if he toes the line and controls his maverick tendencies, he might get the nod to become Detective Superintendent and can stay on till 65.

In CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is faced with finding the possible killer of a retired disgraced reclusive academic, Gavin Miller, who is found dead having fallen from a footbridge over a disused railway. There are signs of a struggle pre-mortem, the bridge rails were too high to fall over and Miller has £5,000 in used notes in his pocket. As Miller has been a virtual recluse since his retirement, Banks' team have few initial clues, other than the background to the forced retirement, a small personal drug stash, and his last phone calls to help them with their investigations.

Banks and his team then follow two lines of inquiry, Miller's questionable dismissal 4 years ago from a local academic institution for sexual molestation, and a recent phone call to wealthy and successful author Lady Veronica Chalmers, who says that the call was alumni fundraising and denies any personal knowledge of Miller. There are lies on all sides and Banks soon finds that Lady Veronica's family have very powerful connections and he has to put his career at risk and use his maverick abilities to find out the truth.

As always the story is set in the Yorkshire Dales, a lovely but frequently very wild part of England. Robinson's description of the countryside is especially evocative of the moors, and becks and streams criss-crossing the dales. He gives a marvellous description of a moorland pub with roaring open fire that served "Hot pie in t'oven" which turned out to be "Game Pie" with a warning "Watch out for t'shot" (before a piece of buckshot broke one of his teeth).

This is a very good but not outstanding book by Peter Robinson, a Canadian who was born in Yorkshire. His key character Alan Banks is a real Yorkshire copper who "thrives on circumstance, contradiction, and coincidence" which are the warning signs that he always keeps a lookout for. I will also be on the lookout for the next book in the series because there is still a lot of life left in Inspector Banks.

Not a Drill: A Jack Reacher Short Story (Kindle Single)
Not a Drill: A Jack Reacher Short Story (Kindle Single)
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $1.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Short and a bit silly, July 29, 2014
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Lee Child has written a few novellas as part of promotion for a forthcoming full length Jack Reacher book. On the whole they are useful because they fill in a bit of Reacher's back history. This one is too short to be interesting and doesn't give any new insights into Reacher's character.

Basically it revisits the normal plot line of Reacher's wanderlust travelling the country without a particular destination and accidentally meeting up with people who get him involved in some kind of trouble. This time the trouble is a bit silly and hardly worth the effort of writing the novella. It also made me think that the Reacher wanderlust formula is getting a bit stale and running out of steam.

The only good thing about this e-book is that the promo/preview for the next Reacher adventure only takes up just over 10% of the book, compared with other promos by popular authors that take up a large proportion of the book.

Blackwattle Creek
Blackwattle Creek

4.0 out of 5 stars Another good Charlie Berlin mystery, July 26, 2014
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This review is from: Blackwattle Creek (Kindle Edition)
This is #2 in the excellent Charlie Berlin detective series set in Melbourne from the late 1940's to the present day. In the first of the series, THE DIGGERS' REST HOTEL, Geoffrey McGeachin introduced us to Charlie Berlin, recently returned from WWII where he was a bomber pilot, with traumatic memories of being shot down over Germany and suffering as a POW at the end of the war. He also introduced us to Rebecca, a photographic journalist who later became Charlie's wife.

Roll on a few years and Charlie and Rebecca are a loving couple living in Melbourne with two fine but demanding primary school children. Charlie is still with the police force but he has not progressed as far in the force as he expected due to his independent ways and the effects of continued traumatic memories. Rebecca is still active with her camera and finds the most profitable jobs to top up the tight family budget are weddings, not the top news assignments that she hoped for.

One day Rebecca asks Charlie to help a a recently widowed friend with a problem in his spare time. He soon finds that the problem isn't a minor one when he discovers that her friend's husband had been buried missing a leg. Charlie discovers that funeral parlours all over Melbourne are sending body parts to Black Wattle Creek, a defunct asylum for the criminally insane. Things become dangerous as Charlie investigates, his best friend in the force who has helped him with information is seriously attacked, Charlie is warned off by the Special Branch and his family are threatened. What follows impacts on the contemporary Cold War scares and fears of nuclear war.

My main memory of this book won't be the investigation, carried out in Charlie's inimitable independent style, which is pretty far out and fanciful, but the great evocative picture that Geoffrey McGeachin paints of suburban life in Melbourne in the 1950's, with milk bars; Admiral TV's bought to view the recent Olympic Games; their spec built suburban house with a back yard and chook run, Hills Hoist and outside toilet; fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, and steak and kidney pies; Tom Thumb firecrackers; distrust of recent immigrants ("reffos" and "bloody wogs"); and of course the Aussie Rules grand final.

I have now read #3, #1 and #2 in the series and would rank them in that order - this book ranked at 3.5 stars. The series is well recommended to readers who like a different style of detective novel, especially one set in Melbourne more than 50 years ago.

Tom Clancy Support and Defend (Jack Ryan Jr Series Book 5)
Tom Clancy Support and Defend (Jack Ryan Jr Series Book 5)
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $10.99

15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Should Tom Clancy's work be continued?, July 22, 2014
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Clancy's last three major novels before his death were co-authored with Mark Greaney. For some time Clancy's work had gone off the boil and but IMHO the last two books, THREAT VECTOR and COMMAND AUTHORITY took us back to something nearer to Clancy at his peak, probably because Greaney took a primary role in the collaboration.

I started this book with some trepidation because of the obvious question - can (and should) Mark Greaney carry on the Tom Clancy heritage? Many Clancy fans will think that Greaney has the writing capabilities to continue the tradition, others will think that things should be left to rest and we should remember Tom Clancy at his best with the earlier books in the Jack Ryan series. Your view on this book will be the decider.

The plot of this book is a mini Edward Snowden affair about the leaking of sensitive classified information. Ethan Ross a mid-level staffer for the National Security Council is a bored narcissist lusting for attention. He believes that he can get that attention when he passes what he thinks is minor classified information to a the International Transparency Project, a Wiki Leaks kind of organisation.

Dominic Caruso, member of the 'The Campus', a top secret intelligence agency that works off the books for the U.S. government, is on a training mission to learn Krav Maga martial arts from a former Israel Defence Forces officer, Arik Jacoby, now living in India. Caruso is devastated when he is unable to thwart an attack by Pakistani suicide terrorists which kills his trainer and his family. It soon becomes clear that the attack is linked to a breach of classified digital information showing both Jacoby's status as leader of the Israeli raid on a Gaza flotilla which killed Al-Qassam operatives and that he is currently living in India.

The US Government starts a huge witch hunt led by the FBI to find who has leaked the information. Ross goes to his ITP contacts for help when the FBI suspect that he was involved. They persuade him to access more very sensitive classified espionage information to use as leverage against possible criminal charges for leaking classified information.

From then on everything seems to go wrong for Ross when he goes to the Venezuelan embassy for asylum using some of the information for protection. They take him to Panama where the chase becomes more hectic and improbable with the FBI, the Israeli's, the Venezuelans, as the Panamanians involved, as well as undercover Hamas and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard agents. Last but not least, the Russian SAS and the US Army join the fray in earnest to get their hands on the valuable information. Surprisingly the CIA and Al Qaeda don't get part of the action this time.

Caruso also gets involved in the chase almost on his own, like a Don Quixote, with a beautiful medically trained female transportation director Adara Sherman acting as his Sancho Panza. With some help from the Campus, Caruso attempts to track down Ross almost single handed, using scuba equipment and a motorbike instead of a horse, plus of course a satellite phone. As Alice said "Curiouser and curiouser!"

What is my answer to the question I posed earlier? While Greany may have the writing skills to create adrenaline-packed action, it is too over-the-top and unbelievable to qualify to take over the Clancy banner. It was difficult for me to give this book more than a 2.5 star rating, but I did round it up to 3 stars. While this will be the last "Tom Clancy" book that I will want to read, I hope that Greaney continues to write successful books on his own account.

My thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for providing an Advanced Reading Copy of this book for my honest review.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 4, 2014 7:49 AM PDT

A Man Called Ove: A Novel
A Man Called Ove: A Novel
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $10.99

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing feel-good story, July 21, 2014
This is a gem of a feel-good debut novel about A MAN CALLED OVE by Swedish author and blogger Fredrik Backman. It will make you laugh and make you cry and you will remember Ove for a long time.

Some would call Ove a curmudgeon, a lovely word meaning a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person. His wife called him the most inflexible man in the world - he borders on being obsessive compulsive but is generally a grumpy man who doesn't tolerate fools and likes things to be done that way he wants them. While many think that he is just a rude and grumpy man, at heart you will find out that he is one of the kindest persons you will ever know.

Ove is a 59 years old widower who has just been arbitrarily retired after 30 years in the same job. His world now revolves around his home and neighbourhood housing complex where he rules the roost making sure that all local rules and regulations are followed. He is very lonely since his wife died, he quarrelled with his best friend and neighbour years ago and rarely has contact with his neighbours.

Ove's world is one of anger and sadness. One day a new neighbour accidentally flattens Ove's mailbox driving in an area where vehicles are prohibited. This starts a very amusing, heartwarming and frequently very sad story as Ove's rigidly structured world is disrupted by unexpected friendship from Parvaneh, a vivacious small and very pregnant Iranian woman who has moved in next door with her Swedish husband Patrick and two girls. Parvaneh is perhaps the only person who can take on Ove directly and win, and starts to change his life for the better.

We also go back to how Ove met his vivacious and loving wife Sonja who was the direct opposite of Ove. At a critical time in her life she said to him "We can busy ourselves with living or dying, Ove. We have to move on." Now a widower Ove is struggling to move on.

This is one of the best feel-good stories I have read for some time and it gets a place in my best books for 2014. I strongly recommend it to someone who wants to read something different that will hit at your heart. If you are emotionally affected by books I strongly suggest keeping a box of tissues handy.

My thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for a copy of this book for review.

Watching You (Joe O'Loughlin Book 7)
Watching You (Joe O'Loughlin Book 7)
Offered by Hachette Book Group
Price: $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Psychological thriller at its best, July 20, 2014
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Michael Robotham is one of the best authors of psychological thrillers on the planet, and this is undoubtedly one of his best. Key elements in a good psychological thriller are to weave a chilling story and to leave you guessing to the very end - Robotham does that in spades.

Marnie Logan is having a terrible life. Her second husband Daniel disappeared a year ago and she is left to bring up 2 children, a young boy, Elijah, with developmental problems from celiac disease and a teenage girl, Zoe, from her first marriage. There has been absolutely no sign of Daniel, no bank account or credit card transactions and the police can find no trace of him - he has disappeared into thin air. Because she doesn't have proof of death she can't access his bank accounts or £300,000 life insurance.

Daniel was a gambling addict and left her with a large debt to a disreputable character, Patrick Henessy, with a contract making Marnie equally liable for the debt. Henessy won't write off the debt and her only recourse is to work for his escort agency to pay it off. When she refuses to service a client her handler Niall Quinn beats her up. What is particularly scary is that Quinn later turns up the next day in the local canal with his throat cut and the police question her because she was the last one known to have seen him alive.

Following her depression following Daniel's death she has been consulting her neighbour, psychologist Joe O'Loughlin. She doesn't tell him everything about her difficult childhood or that from time to time she feels that she is being watched.

At last Marnie finds a way to access Daniel's personal effects from his office and finds a red book that he was creating for her birthday with her life story told through her family, friends and acquaintances. Jo and his friend retired detective Vincent Ruiz help Marnie to follow the leads in the book, and the scary part is that some more people associated with Marnie also start to get hurt.

Robotham writes a chilling and disturbing story about Marnie's life, interleaved with observations from someone who has been following Marnie for years. Slowly he gives us clues and then reveals the answers but he leaves one of the questions unanswered even on the last page. Well done Michael Rowbotham, you have eclipsed all of your excellent previous psychological thrillers.

Now we wait for the release of Life or Death in a few days time. Rowbotham says "It's my tenth novel and one that I feel I was destined to write." Many of you may not be aware that while all of his novels are set in the United Kingdom, Michael Rowbotham is an Australian author who lives near Sydney's Northern Beaches.

The Heist: A Novel (Gabriel Allon Book 14)
The Heist: A Novel (Gabriel Allon Book 14)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $13.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great Gabriel Allon adventure, July 17, 2014
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Daniel Silva is one of the best political/espionage thriller writers around and this is the 14th adventure featuring Gabriel Allon. By this time most writers are finding it difficult to find different plots but this action-packed story is as current as today's news headlines about the Middle East at the end of the Arab Spring.

Gabriel Allon is one of the most fascinating characters in modern espionage fiction. He operates in two quite distinct worlds, that of a world renowned art restorer and that of a senior operative of Israel's Security Intelligence Service - "the Office". He is a skilled artist in both worlds, one very gentle and the other, while still very skilled, at times can be very violent.

Gabriel is living in Venice and is having one of his rare times of contentment, restoring a notable artwork and his beautiful wife Chiara (also an operative) is expecting twins. During this peace he is also pondering his future when in a year he is committed to become head of the Office.

"Not peace, though; for this restorer, peace was only the period between the last war and the such as the restorer never allowed themselves to be seduced by the notion that peace would ever be possible."

His peace is disturbed by a visit from General Ferrari of the Italian Art Squad with a clever proposition with terms he couldn't refuse. Ferrari asks Gabriel to help him investigate the torture and murder of Jack Bradshaw, a former British diplomat, and art collector and help him track down stolen art, especially the holy grail, an altarpiece by Caravaggio that has been missing for decades. What Gabriel doesn't realise is that this will not only send him into the dark world of stolen art and forgery and but ultimately on the money trail of the finances of a Middle East dictator which will involve the Office in one of its most unusual cases.

Returning readers may find the story starts slowly as as Gabriel collects together a fascinating team of specialists from both sides of the fence that he has worked with in the past to help him. Silva introduces each character quickly and effectively making it easy for the first reader to follow but also helping others to remember the characters from other adventures.

This book shows once again the depth of Daniel Silva's research and understanding of the of the dangerous world of the Middle East. Fans of Gabriel Allon will not be disappointed but will probably be surprised to see a softening as he contemplates fatherhood and the responsibilities to come. While the characters and the modus operandi are a similar to previous adventures and could be considered a bit predictable by some, this contemporary tale is probably one of the most complex, puzzling, nail biting, and exciting with an ending that is hard to predict. 4.5 stars.

With impending fatherhood and Gabriel due to take over the helm of the Office, I will certainly be looking forward to the the next book in the series.

The Catch: A Novel (Vanessa Michael Munroe Series Book 4)
The Catch: A Novel (Vanessa Michael Munroe Series Book 4)
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $9.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vanessa "Michael" Munroe at her/his best, July 15, 2014
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This is #4 in Taylor Stevens' excellent series about Vanessa "Michael" Munroe, one of the most complex, violent but compelling characters in modern adrenaline-filled action packed adventure fiction. This is probably one of the best in the series and may make it into my list of best reads for 2014.

To understand this book you really need to know more about "Michael". In her early life in east Africa, Vanessa "Michael" Munroe experienced extreme violence which has left her with demons but with violent survival skills second to none. She is a polyglot who speaks many languages and quickly picks up others, is extremely intelligent and has an almost eidetic memory. Michael is tall and slim and can become androgynous, changing her sex to survive in different environments, especially where females are treated as second class citizens.

IMHO Michael's complex and dangerous character eclipses that of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander. I also think she has many of the self preservation instincts of Maya, (aka Jet) Russell Blake's kick-a** ex Mossad female protagonist.

After the stresses of the "THE DOLL MAKER" when she survives kidnapping by a notorious and viscous sex trafficker, Michael looks for a place for time-out. While others would choose popular holiday destinations, Michael chooses Djibouti near the Horn of Africa, next to war torn Somalia in the south. For six months Djibouti provides her with a comforting chaos that only a person brought up in the Third World would understand. To mould into the local culture Michael lives as a man, learns the local languages and maneuvers himself into a group of white security mercenaries helping them to negotiate the language, customs and intricacies of the local community. When one of the group is injured the leader of the group invites her to join them on guard duty on a ship sailing through Pirate Alley towards Mombasa.

Not long into the voyage Michael discovers that the ship is running guns and shortly afterwards the ship is attacked by pirates off the Somali coast. During the attack her colleagues are captured but Munroe escapes, taking the injured captain with her to Mombasa in one of the attackers' boats. It soon becomes clear to her that while the pirates have captured the boat for ransom, they were really after the Captain. Michael hides him in a small private hospital while she works out her next move.

She decides that the best way forward is to hijack the ship from the pirates to release her colleagues and put pressure on negotiations with the unknown parties who are seeking the Captain. To do this Michael has to merge into the local community, learn Swahili and explore the dark world of investment in piracy and the intricacies of Third World "hawaladar" for investment and money transfers. This becomes harder when she is attacked and seriously injured by local thugs hired to find the Captain.

This time Stevens allows us to see Michael's vulnerability and capacity to operate in an environment when things seem to be out of her control. This is high-octane stuff that is not for the faint hearted. In contrast to many thriller writers Stevens writes long sentences with multiple actions, but they work well to push the action along and keep you in the picture. This time the action may be slightly less over-the-top than her previous books but for once she shows us a more human side to Michael, but also a determination that never wavers.

Taylor Stevens has a very different background to most successful thriller writers. She grew up in a cult commune and forced to beg in the streets for the cult. Her education was deliberately limited. Her success in escaping that background and becoming a successful published author is mindboggling.

Before reading this book I would recommend that you should read a excellent novella THE VESSEL released to promote this book. This will give those who have never read any books in the series an insight into the complex character of Vanessa "Michael" Munroe. It will also give those who read THE DOLL more information about how Michael had took her revenge on the "man with the dog".

While there are a few blips in the plot that concerned me, overall this is top quality high octane stuff and is highly recommended to discerning followers of action adventure thrillers.

My thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book for my review.

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