Michael Dobbs has an extraordinary power to make detail interesting. In this minuted account of the Cuban Missile Crisis, history comes alive and we get an insight behind the scenes of the reported events of the time.
Unfortunately, the extraordinary detail and the portrayal of the personalities involved also presents a problem: it reads too much like a novel. I find it hard to believe that the facts are not fiction.
Now, I am the first to admit that writing about history is tricky. There is a real chance of losing readers by being too dry and boring. That is not so with Dobbs,
His portrayal has all the elements of a good story. It is just that I don't feel comfortable relying on the information put forward - because for much of the book, the slightly sensationalist narrative doesn't read like facts.
Dobbs also includes - for my own reassurance - plenty of footnotes and explanatory notes as well as an afterword which puts the "story" into context. This somewhat helps as a reminder that this is not a novel, but it just doesn't make it an all round satisfying read.