Review: Nemesis by Rory Clements

Nemesis by Rory Clements (UK edition)

In a great English house, a young woman offers herself to one of the most powerful and influential figures in the land – but this is no ordinary seduction. She plans to ensure his death . . .

On holiday in France, Professir Tom Wilde discovers his brilliant student Marcus Marfield, who disappeared two years earlier to fight in Spain, imprisoned in a camp near the Pyrenees. Wilde secures his release just as German tanks roll into Poland.

Meanwhile, a U-boat sinks the liner Athenia in the Atlantic. Many – including Americans – are drowned. The Nazis claim Churchill blew up the ship to blame Germany and lure America into the war.

As the various strands of an international conspiracy begin to unwind, Tom Wilde will find himself in great personal danger. For just who is Marcus Marfield? And where does his loyalty lie?

Series: Tom Wilde, 3
Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Zaffre (24th January 2019)
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 stars)

Nemesis is the third book in Rory Clements fantastic Tom Wilde series. I hadn’t realised this book was out until I stumbled across it during the London Bookshop Crawl back in January. The story begins with Tom Wilde on holiday in France, where he discovers an old student of his imprisoned in a camp near the Pyrenees.  Of course Wilde cannot leave him there, so he cuts his holiday short to return with his ex-student back to England just as things start to gear up for war. With the war looming ever closer on the horizon, Wilde starts to ask some very important questions.

I have been looking forward to devouring this book since I saw it on the shelf, and Mr Clements did not disappoint me. This book was everything I have come to expect from one of his novels in the Tom Wilde series. The tenseness of the read is definitely helped by the dates, as you know as the reader that World War II is looming ever closer despite the characters hopes that it will not come to pass. Nemesis is a quick read, and easy to devour even without having re-read the previous two books in a while.

I really enjoyed the way Clements built the tension of the coming war, the way we as a reader could see it start to creep into life at Cambridge. I also appreciated the way Clements uses Wilde’s dual nationality to highlight the different thoughts and attitudes between the UK and US at the time. It was really interesting. Although it wasn’t a main feature of this book, I really like how the relationship between Tom and Lydia is written.  And of course I enjoyed the return of a few familiar faces; it was nice to find out what had happened to them since the events of Nucleus.

There are three main threads to this story, all of which are closely interwoven: Tom and Lydia’s relationship, the mysterious Mr Marfield, and the looming war. As always in this series, Clements is a fantastic storyteller. He does a great job of entwining the narratives, and at the same time bringing alive the tension of the approaching war and all the questions that brings. As with previous books in this series, I enjoy the way Clements intermingles fact and fiction. The story’s conclusion is well done and very realistic. I’m curious to see where Mr Clements goes with future books in this series.

Review: Nucleus by Rory Clements

Nucleus by Rory Clements (UK edition)

Title: Nucleus (Tom Wilde, 2)
Author: Rory Clements
Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre (25th January 2018)
Blurb:

June 1939. England is partying like there is no tomorrow, gas masks at the ready . . . but the good times won’t last. In Europe, the Nazis have invaded Czechoslovakia, and in Germany Jewish persecution is rife. Closer to home, the IRA has embarked in a bombing campaign throughout Britain.

But the most far-reaching event of all goes largely unreported: in Germany, Otto Hahn has made the atomic bomb possible. German High Command fears that Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory could be close behind; they must discover its secrets before it is safe to wage war.

When one of the Cavendish’s finest brains is murdered, Professor Tom Wilde is drawn into the investigation. He unveils a conspiracy in which the fate of the world rests on the discovery of a kidnapped child. Can Tom Wilde discover the truth before it is too late?

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 stars)
Review:

NUCLEUS by Rory Clements is the second book in his wonderful Tom Wilde series. The story is set in Cambridge during the summer of 1939 and tensions are running high. War has not yet been declared, but the Nazis have invaded Czechoslovakia, in Germany Jewish persecution is rife, and the IRA are active in Britain. Within this in Germany Otto Hahn has made the atomic bomb something possible, no longer relegated to the world of fiction. The German High Command fear that Britain might not be far behind and wants to know exactly what is going on in Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory; a world that Professor Tom Wilde finds himself drawn into.

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Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (UK edition)

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Historical Novel, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism
Publisher: Gollancz (24th May 2012)
Blurb:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love – a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

(Blurb via Goodreads)

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3 stars)
Review:

THE NIGHT CIRCUS is Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel. It is a story filled with magic, mystery and competition. The story is set in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and revolves around a mysterious bet made between two gentlemen about whose student is better. Meanwhile, a circus called Le Cirque de Rêves is created by a group of dreamers in London that is designed to delight and amaze: it arrives without warning and is open from dusk to dawn. Its performers produce amazing feats and some of the tents themselves are magical, and soon it picks up quite a following as it travels around the world.

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A Q & A with Rory Clements

Rory Clements is the author of Nucleus, published by Zaffre, hardback, £12.99. To celebrate the upcoming release of the second novel in the Tom Wilde series he has kindly agreed to stop by and do a Q & A. I have read the first book in the series  Corpus and you can find my thoughts on it here. To make it easier for you to follow, all my questions will be in blue and Rory Clements responses will be in bold. I’d just like to thank Rory for agreeing to doing this Q & A, and I’d also like to thank Emily for organising it. I hope you enjoy the Q & A.


Hi Rory, thank you for agreeing to do this Q & A with me.

I’ll jump straight into the questions:

NUCLEUS is your ninth novel, the second book in your Tom Wilde series, how do you feel with the publication date so close? Are you doing anything to celebrate?

I think I’ll have a glass or two of red wine.

This is probably quite a difficult question for me to ask but, how would you describe NUCLEUS in ten words?

Tom Wilde must save a child to protect the world.

Both of your series are historical novels, what drew you to writing a series set in Elizabethan England and the late 1930s?

They are set at times of extreme peril, when enemies send agents in to England and threaten invasion. They both feature the world’s oldest secret service, founded by Sir Francis Walsingham in Elizabeth’s reign and continued by MI5 and MI6 in more recent days. The perfect canvas for a series of thrillers.

Who or what was your inspiration for Professor Thomas Wilde?

I wanted an outsider – someone not impressed by the rather effete university types found in Brideshead Revisited. So Tom Wilde is half American, half Irish. He is inspired by two specific Americans: Conyers Read, an American historian who studied at Oxford and wrote the definitive biography of Sir Francis Walsingham and was later involved in setting up the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime forerunner of the CIA, and James Jesus Angleton, also American but a survivor of an English public school and later chief of CIA counter-intelligence. He was a friend of Kim Philby and, like everyone else, was betrayed by him. But Tom Wilde is neither of these two men, nor an amalgam of them. He is very much his own man.

Was there a particular reason that you chose Cambridge as the main setting for this series?

Cambridge in the 1930s was a political cauldron – and the breeding ground of the spies Burgess, Maclean, Philby and Blunt. It also produced the men who split the atom, developed radar, broke the Enigma code and started the computer age. And it just happens to be a gorgeous place within easy reach of my Norfolk home.

You worked for several newspapers; do you think that background has helped you with your writing?

Undoubtedly. In newspapers you quickly learn what makes a good story, because if you don’t you won’t last long. And then, of course, you have to tell that story well or face the editor’s wrath. It’s a shame so many modern ‘literary’ authors have lost the plot and forgotten their poor readers.

If you could give your younger self any writing tips what would they be?

Write, write, write…read, read, read. Expecting your debut novel to be brilliant is like someone picking up a tennis racket for the first time and going out to face Federer on Centre Court. Tennis isn’t easy, nor is writing. You need thousands of hours of practice. Stick with it and never stop trying to improve yourself.

Typically how much research do you do before you start writing?

Half a year of reading, travelling, experimenting and talking to the experts.

And to end on a lighter note what, if anything, are you currently reading?

I’m reading a mass of history books to help me with No.3 in the Tom Wilde series. The most recent novel I enjoyed was The Binding Song by Elodie Harper. It’s a very atmospheric thriller set in Norfolk. Highly recommended.

Nucleus by Rory Clements is out in hardback on the 25th January 2018. If you want to you can pre-order a copy on Waterstones, Foyles, Amazon UK, and The Book Depository.

Nucleus by Rory Clements

From the award-winning Sunday Times bestselling author of CORPUS

The eve of war: a secret so deadly, nothing and no one is safe

June 1939. England is partying like there is no tomorrow, gas masks at the ready. In Cambridge the May Balls are played out with a frantic intensity – but the good times won’t last… In Europe, the Nazis have invaded Czechoslovakia, and in Germany he persecution of the Jews is now so widespread that desperate Jewish parents send their children to safety in Britain aboard the Kindertransport. Closer to home, the IRA’s S-Plan bombing campaign has resulted in more than 100 terrorist outrages around England.

But perhaps the most far-reaching event of all goes largely unreported: in Germany, Otto Hahn has produced the first man-made fission and an atomic device is now a very real possibility. The Nazis set up the Uranverein group of physicists: its task is to build a superbomb. The German High Command is aware that British and US scientists are working on similar line. Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory is where the atom was split in 1932. Might the Cambridge men now win the race for a nuclear bomb? Hitler’s generals need to be sure they know all the Cavendish’s secrets. Only then will it be safe for Germany to wage war.

When one of the Cavendish’s finest brains is murdered, Professor Tom Wilde is once more drawn into an intrigue from which there seems no escape. In a conspiracy that stretches from Cambridge to Berlin and from Washington DC to the west coast of Ireland, he faces deadly forces that threaten the fate of the world.

Review: Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

Title:  Love and Other Consolation Prizes
Author: Jamie Ford
Genre: Historical Novel
Source: The publisher
Publisher: Allison & Busby (12th September 2017)
Blurb:

1909, Seattle. At the World’s Fair a half-Chinese boy called Ernest Young is raffled off as a prize. He ends up working as a servant in Seattle’s Red Light District and falls in love with Maisie, the daughter of the falmboyant madam, and Fahn, a Japanese maid sold into servitude.

On the eve of the new World’s Fair in 1962, Ernest’s reporter daughter looks back into the past and prompts him to consider the memories he made with his beloved wide and their tragic past.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 stars)
Review:

LOVE AND OTHER CONSOLATION PRIZES is the latest novel from Jamie Ford, and the first of his works I have ever read. The narrative splits itself between events at the turn of the twentieth century and the 1960s. LOVE AND OTHER CONSOLATION PRIZES tells the story of Ernest Young a half-Chinese boy who is raffled off as a prize at the 1909 Seattle World’s Fair. We follow Ernest’s life through events that are linked around two Seattle World’s Fairs, giving us a picture of two different worlds. Ford tells the story of a man who led a complex life and who loves his wife.

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Deposed by David Barbaree Q&A

Welcome to a post with a bit of a difference. Normally I just post reviews of books that I have read, so it has been a while since I posted a Q&A on my blog. I’d just like to say thank you to David Barbaree for agreeing to do this Q&A and to Emily of Bonnier Zaffre for arranging it. None of the questions or answers in this Q&A have spoilers. I hope you enjoy it.

Deposed by David Barbaree

More gripping than Game of Thrones and more ruthless than House of Cards – this a stunning new thriller of power, treachery and revenge

In a darkened cell, a brutally deposed dictator lies crippled – deprived of his power, his freedom – and his eyes.

On the edge of utter despair, his only companion is the young boy who brings him his meagre rations, a mere child who fears his own shadow. But to one who has held and lost the highest power, one thing alone is crystal clear: even emperors were mere children once.

Ten years later, the new ruler’s son watches uneasily over his father’s empire. Wherever he looks rebellion is festering, and those closest to him have turned traitor once before.

To this city in crisis comes a hugely wealthy senator from the very edge of the empire, a young and angry ward at his heels. He is witty but inscrutable, generous with his time and money to a leader in desperate need of a friend – and he wears a bandage over his blinded eyes.

The fallen emperor’s name is Nero.

But this isn’t his story.


Q&A

The Flutterby Room (TFR): Hey David, thanks for agreeing to stop by The Flutterby Room for a Q&A. DEPOSED is out on the 4 th May. It’s both your debut novel, and the first book in a trilogy. So my first question is, are you going to be doing anything to celebrate on publication day – or have you already celebrated?

David Barbaree (DB): Hi Becki. Thanks for having me.

It was exciting to land an agent and a publishing deal. But I think the biggest thrill was when I held the hardcopy in my hands. It finally felt real. After I’d admired it from every angle, my wife and I opened a bottle of wine to celebrate.

TFR: How would you describe DEPOSED in ten words?

DB: Fallen emperor, blinded and left for dead, seeks his revenge.

TFR: From the blurb we know that DEPOSED is set in Ancient Rome, was there anything in particular that drew you to that empire rather than Greece or Sparta?

DB: I’ve always been fascinated by ancient and medieval history. My love of Roman history in particular was cemented about ten years ago when I read John Julius Norwich’s series on the Byzantine Empire, which covers the later period of the Roman Empire. I worked backwards from there, to the earlier Imperial period and then the Republic. I’m not sure what it is about Rome that’s captured my attention. I’ve heard it said that it’s the combination of Rome’s similarities to our own time and the stark differences; how it’s both familiar and very foreign. I think that’s true. And everything is grander in Ancient Rome, the battles, the politics, the personalities. Also, the eight-year old in me will always love a good sword fight.

TFR: Nero is perhaps one of the more famous Roman Emperors, and although the blurb says DEPOSED isn’t his story, he was obviously a starting point for you. What drew you to him?

DB: I wanted to tell the story of a tyrant who, after he was deposed, blinded and left for dead, seeks his revenge. I’ve always loved the brutal protagonist the audience will reluctantly cheer for, like Walter White. Nero fit the bill. But he also had an artistic sensibility that didn’t really match the stories of the bloodthirsty hedonist. I think this made Nero more complicated and interesting than the commonly held view allows, and a compelling protagonist.

TFR: As this is an alternate history, was there a lot of research involved writing DEPOSED?

DB: You could call DEPOSED an alternative history. But I went to great lengths to exploit gaps in the historical record so that the story could be true. Obviously, it didn’t happen the way the book depicts, but the gaps were useful to me as a novelist. For example, the historical record from Vespasian’s reign (the emperor who eventually succeeded Nero) is sparse at best. I wanted the story to be not necessarily true but possible. So I spent a lot of time researching the period, and I did my best to make it an accurate, compelling recreation of Ancient Rome.

TFR: How long did it take you to write DEPOSED – was it something you just sat down and churned out, or did the idea come to you gradually?

DB: It took about 6 years in total. But at first I didn’t work on it fulltime. It began as a hobby. I’d re-write the opening chapters again and again, teaching myself to write. At the same time, I would research the period. Eventually it grew into an obsession. I wrote the last half of the book over about a three month span.

TFR: You’re a lawyer, a busy job by all accounts; did you find it difficult to find them time to write?

DB: Yes. But I found I could carve time out in the mornings before work. I didn’t mind getting up early because I enjoyed writing.

TFR: And my final question is what are you reading right now?

DB: I’m just finishing up Conclave by Robert Harris, which I’d highly recommend. It’s both a thriller and a fascinating procedural on how Pope’s are elected. Harris is exceptional at pacing a novel.


David Barbaree is a lawyer and a graduate of the Curtis Brown Creative Writing School. He lives in Toronto with his wife and daughter. His  debut novel DEPOSED is out on May 4th 2017. You can pre-order it on Amazon UK, Foyles or The Book Depository. Or add it to your Goodreads shelf.

Review: The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown (Blog Tour)

This review is part of The Witchfinder’s Sister blog tour.

The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown (UK edition)

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown (UK edition)

Title: The Witchfinder’s Sister
Author: Beth Underdown
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: The publisher
Publisher: Viking (2nd March 2017)
Blurb:

‘The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…’

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

Based on a true story, this beautiful and haunting historical thriller is perfect for fans of Sarah Waters, The Miniaturist and Burial Rites.

(Blurb from Penguin.co.uk)

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 stars)
Review:

THE WITCHFINDER’S SISTER is Beth Underdown’s debut novel. The story is set in England in the seventeenth century, and follows the story of Alice Hopkins. In 1645 Alice is forced to return from London to the small Essex town of Manningtree to her brother Matthew’s house, after the death of her husband. She and Matthew left on poor terms, and she has not spoken to him apart from the letter she received notifying her of their mother’s death. The Matthew Alice returns to is very different from the brother she remembers. He now has powerful friends, and soon Alice hears that he is gathering a list of women’s names.

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Review: Corpus by Rory Clements (Blog Tour)

This review is part of the Corpus blog tour.

Corpus by Rory Clements

Corpus by Rory Clements

Title: Corpus
Author: Rory Clements
Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Source: The publisher
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre (26th January 2017)
Blurb:

1936. Europe is in turmoil. The Nazis have marched into the Rhineland; in Russia, Stalin has unleashed his Great Terror; Spain has erupted in civil war.

In Berlin, a young Englishwoman evades the Gestapo to deliver vital papers to a Jewish scientist. Within a week, she is found dead in her Cambridge bedroom, a silver syringe clutched in her fingers.

When a renowned member of the county set and his wife are found horribly murdered, a maverick history professor finds himself dragged into a world of espionage which, until now, he has only read about in books. But the deeper Thomas Wilde delves, the more he wonders whether the murders are linked to the death of the girl with the silver syringe – and, just as worryingly, to the scandal surrounding King Edward VIII and his mistress Wallis Simpson . . .

Professor Wilde’s specialist subject is the Elizabethan secret service. As the scope of the conspiracy is revealed, he must use all the skills he has learnt to save the woman he loves and prevent a massacre.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5 stars)
Review:

CORPUS by Rory Clements is the first book in a new spy thriller series. The story is set in late 1936, and tells the story of Cambridge history professor Thomas Wilde whose life gets caught up in a series of murders. The story is set during a period of great political turmoil within the UK as King Edward VIII is being forced to decide between Mrs Wallis Simpson and abdicating the throne. Something more than a few people are not happy about. Alongside this, Britain is split between the growing powers of Communism and Fascism, creating a huge powder keg about to explode.

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Review: Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

Title: Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf 2)
Authors: Ryan Graudin
Genre: Alternative History, Historical Novel, Young Adult
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books (6th October 2016)
Blurb:

There would be blood.

Blood for blood.

Blood to pay.

An entire world of it.

The war might be over, but the fight has just begun.

For the resistance in post-war Germany, blood must be paid with blood.

For seventeen-year-old Yael and her unlikely comrades, there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But dark secrets reveal dark truths and one question hangs over them all – how far can you go for the ones you love?

The thrilling conclusion to WOLF BY WOLF.

Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ (4 stars)
Review:

BLOOD FOR BLOOD by Ryan Graudin is the sequel to the brilliant WOLF BY WOLF, concluding the story. It continues the story of seventeen-year-old Yael, resistant fighter and shape-shifter. After the events of the previous book, the world stands on a precipice; dangerous secrets have been revealed, and events set in motion that cannot be stopped. Yael is left reeling, but her mission for the resistance must be completed. The fight to regain control has begun, though not everything is as it appears. The future of the world hangs in the balance. BLOOD FOR BLOOD brings Yael’s story, and that of the resistance, to a thrilling conclusion.

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Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (UK hardback) (pic via Penguin website)

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Authors: Katherine Arden
Genre: Historical Novel, Fantasy
Source: The publisher via NetGalley
Publisher:  Del Rey (12th January 2017)
Blurb:

A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman’s myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

(Blurb taken from Goodreads)

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 stars)
Review:

THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden is a beautiful book. It has a gorgeous front cover, and the story inside is delightfully magical. This debut novel tells the story of a young girl, Vasilisa Petrovna – Vasya to her family: the youngest child of Pytor Vladimirovich and Marina Ivanovna. THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE follows Vasya, as she grows up, the daughter of a lord in a small Russian village. Vasya isn’t quite like the other girls, not even her elder sister. Her life changes with the arrival of her father’s second wife, Anna Ivanovna, and Father Konstantin Nikonovich.

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