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The astonishing true story of two World War I prisoners who joined together to pull off one of the most ingenious escapes of all time. Imprisoned in a remote Turkish prison camp during World War I, having survived a two-month forced march and a terrifying shootout in the desert, two British officers, Harry Jones and Cedric Hill, join forces to bamboozle their iron-fisted ca The astonishing true story of two World War I prisoners who joined together to pull off one of the most ingenious escapes of all time. Imprisoned in a remote Turkish prison camp during World War I, having survived a two-month forced march and a terrifying shootout in the desert, two British officers, Harry Jones and Cedric Hill, join forces to bamboozle their iron-fisted captors. To stave off despair and boredom, Jones takes a handmade Ouija board and fakes elaborate séances for his fellow prisoners. Word gets around camp, and one day, a Turkish officer approaches Jones with a query: Could Jones contact the spirit world to find a vast treasure rumored to be buried nearby? Jones, a trained lawyer, and Hill, a brilliant magician, use the Ouija board--and their keen understanding of the psychology of deception--to build a trap for the Turkish officers that will ultimately lead them to freedom. The Confidence Men is the story of the only known con game played for a good cause--and of a profound but unlikely friendship. Had it not been for "the Great War," Jones, the Oxford-educated son of a British lord, and Hill, a mechanic from an Australian sheep farm, would never have met. But in pain, loneliness, hunger, and isolation, they formed a powerful emotional and intellectual alliance that saved both of their lives. Margalit Fox brings her "nose for interesting facts, the ability to construct a taut narrative arc, and a Dickens-level gift for concisely conveying personality" (Kathryn Schulz, New York) to this gripping tale of psychological strategy that is rife with cunning, danger, and moments of high farce that rival anything in Catch-22.


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The astonishing true story of two World War I prisoners who joined together to pull off one of the most ingenious escapes of all time. Imprisoned in a remote Turkish prison camp during World War I, having survived a two-month forced march and a terrifying shootout in the desert, two British officers, Harry Jones and Cedric Hill, join forces to bamboozle their iron-fisted ca The astonishing true story of two World War I prisoners who joined together to pull off one of the most ingenious escapes of all time. Imprisoned in a remote Turkish prison camp during World War I, having survived a two-month forced march and a terrifying shootout in the desert, two British officers, Harry Jones and Cedric Hill, join forces to bamboozle their iron-fisted captors. To stave off despair and boredom, Jones takes a handmade Ouija board and fakes elaborate séances for his fellow prisoners. Word gets around camp, and one day, a Turkish officer approaches Jones with a query: Could Jones contact the spirit world to find a vast treasure rumored to be buried nearby? Jones, a trained lawyer, and Hill, a brilliant magician, use the Ouija board--and their keen understanding of the psychology of deception--to build a trap for the Turkish officers that will ultimately lead them to freedom. The Confidence Men is the story of the only known con game played for a good cause--and of a profound but unlikely friendship. Had it not been for "the Great War," Jones, the Oxford-educated son of a British lord, and Hill, a mechanic from an Australian sheep farm, would never have met. But in pain, loneliness, hunger, and isolation, they formed a powerful emotional and intellectual alliance that saved both of their lives. Margalit Fox brings her "nose for interesting facts, the ability to construct a taut narrative arc, and a Dickens-level gift for concisely conveying personality" (Kathryn Schulz, New York) to this gripping tale of psychological strategy that is rife with cunning, danger, and moments of high farce that rival anything in Catch-22.

30 review for The Confidence Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    3.5 stars, rounded up This nonfiction history tells the story of two British Officers who escape from a WWI Turkish POW camp. It highlights a chapter of the war that I had no clue about. What makes the tale so engaging is that they escape by means of an elaborate con, using a Ouija board. I appreciated Fox giving us the background on things like spiritualism, telepathy, the treatment of the mental ill and the history of the long con. In fact, her research and the details she’s able to provide are 3.5 stars, rounded up This nonfiction history tells the story of two British Officers who escape from a WWI Turkish POW camp. It highlights a chapter of the war that I had no clue about. What makes the tale so engaging is that they escape by means of an elaborate con, using a Ouija board. I appreciated Fox giving us the background on things like spiritualism, telepathy, the treatment of the mental ill and the history of the long con. In fact, her research and the details she’s able to provide are the highlights of the book. It’s an interesting story and reads more like fiction than non. A friend recently introduced me to the concept of creative nonfiction, and this definitely fits the bill. While the story is at times humorous it’s also graphic. It’s amazing to realize the hard work of constantly acting that was involved. My thanks to NetGalley and Random house for an advance copy of this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    Besides chronicling one of the most ingenious hoaxes ever perpetrated (and one of the only known examples of a con game being used for good instead of ill), The Confidence Men explores the strategy that underpins all confidence schemes: the subtle process of mind control called coercive persuasion, colloquially known as brainwashing. The answers to this book’s central questions — How does a master manipulator create and sustain faith? Why do his converts persist in believing things that are pate Besides chronicling one of the most ingenious hoaxes ever perpetrated (and one of the only known examples of a con game being used for good instead of ill), The Confidence Men explores the strategy that underpins all confidence schemes: the subtle process of mind control called coercive persuasion, colloquially known as brainwashing. The answers to this book’s central questions — How does a master manipulator create and sustain faith? Why do his converts persist in believing things that are patently false? — also illuminate the behavior of present-day figures such as advertisers, cult leaders, and political demagogues. Above all, The Confidence Men is the story of the profound friendship of two men who almost certainly would not have met otherwise: Jones, the Oxford-educated son of a British lord, and Hill, a mechanic on an Australian sheep station. Vowing to see the scheme through if it cost them their lives, each was sustained throughout its myriad hardships by the steadfastness of the other. In the introduction to The Confidence Men, author Margalit Fox explains that even years after having read Elias Henry “Bones” Jones’ 1919 memoir, The Road to En-dor (in which Jones details his incredible escape from a Turkish POW camp during WWI with co-conspirator Cedric Waters Hill, whose own memoir The Spook and the Commandant was published shortly after his death in 1975), she was transfixed by the “how” of the pair’s escape, but couldn’t understand the “why”: just why did their captors fall for a long con that involved malevolent spirits, buried treasure, and faked insanity? By quoting Jones and Hill’s own accounts at length, backing up their assertions with quotes from other memoirs and historical reports, and layering on research from incredibly diverse fields, Fox tells a riveting fact-is-stranger-than-fiction tale that gets to the heart of her “why”. This is a fascinating, thorough, and accessible read about war, cunning, and friendship; it contains lessons that are relevant to our modern world and would make a compelling movie. (Note: I read an ARC through NetGalley and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.) This is the true story of the most singular prison break ever recorded — a clandestine wartime operation that involved no tunneling, no weapons, and no violence of any kind. Conceived during World War I, it relied on a scheme so outrageous it should never have worked: Two British officers escaped from an isolated Turkish prison camp by means of a Ouija board. Turkey’s Yozgad prison camp in the Anatolian mountains was considered escape-proof: not only was its location remote, forbidding, and surrounded by marauding brigands, but it was well known within the camp that any attempt to escape would bring swift and severe punishment down on those left behind. Two of the prison’s inmates — the aristocratic E. H. Jones (a British officer who surrendered to the Turks after the siege of Kut) and C. W. Hill (a downed Australian airman who flew for the RAF) — were so focussed on escape that they conceived of a plan that would not only see them making their way to freedom, but would actually improve conditions for the men who remained at Yozgad. Hill had spent years honing the skills of magic and mentalism, and as a lawyer, “Jones had been schooled in the verbal seduction that is the con man’s foremost asset”, and between the two of them and a homemade spirit board, they had all the tools they needed to persuade their captors to set them free. (The plan would also include starving themselves, a nearly successful “attempt” at a double suicide, and a six month stay in an insane asylum; but they did get out of Yozgad just as planned.) And again, as fascinating as the “how” was, Fox elevates what is essentially an adventure tale with her multidisciplinary research into “why” it worked: In the end, what aided the mediums most of all were the times, for it was only in that liminal era, poised at the nexus of the scientific and the spiritual, that this particular con could have stood a chance. The period saw the resurgence of the Victorian ardor for spiritualism, a movement, itself founded in fakery, that has been called “conjuring in disguise.” It was a time when cutting-edge technologies such as the phonograph, radio, and telephone were making disembodied voices audible to an enchanted but largely uncomprehending public, rendering the idea of discourse with the dead an authentic empirical question. It was an age, suspended between alienism and Freudianism, when the observed symptoms of mental disorders had been neatly codified and could thus be well emulated. It was a time when orthodox psychiatry endorsed the belief that mediumship could result in madness. And it was a time of sustained, widespread social upheaval, when many stood ready to grasp at whatever straw might offer succor. Perhaps this particular con would no longer work, but while times change, people don’t; we’re all capable of being conned and gaslit, attracted to cults and strongmen, and it’s always worthwhile to read a cautionary tale about such “coercive persuasion”. I enjoyed everything about The Confidence Men and the only thing lacking would have been a deeper dive into who Jones and Hill were as people; Fox shares plenty of their biographical details, but I’m left not really knowing them or understanding their desperate drive to escape (and especially after they had used their con to vastly improve conditions in the prison camp.) Still a solid read, rounding up to four stars.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Margalit Fox

    Thank you so much, everyone, for the lovely advance reviews of THE CONFIDENCE MEN so far. I'm thrilled that you find this remarkable true story as compelling as I did. FYI, I've created a hashtag for the book on social media: #FoxConfidenceMen With warmest wishes, Margo Thank you so much, everyone, for the lovely advance reviews of THE CONFIDENCE MEN so far. I'm thrilled that you find this remarkable true story as compelling as I did. FYI, I've created a hashtag for the book on social media: #FoxConfidenceMen With warmest wishes, Margo

  4. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is the third non-fiction book by Margalit Fox I've read and enjoyed. I enjoyed this one the most. I've gotten all three books free of charge, but I would have enjoyed all of them, especially this one, even if I had paid for them. I re-read the book description above before I wrote this, and I don't think I am engaging in spoiler-ish behavior to say that the two heroes of this book eventually escape from the WWI Ottoman prison camp (not a fun place, but a lot less horrible than I thought it w This is the third non-fiction book by Margalit Fox I've read and enjoyed. I enjoyed this one the most. I've gotten all three books free of charge, but I would have enjoyed all of them, especially this one, even if I had paid for them. I re-read the book description above before I wrote this, and I don't think I am engaging in spoiler-ish behavior to say that the two heroes of this book eventually escape from the WWI Ottoman prison camp (not a fun place, but a lot less horrible than I thought it would be) through an elaborate scheme that, as the title suggests, has more in common with The Sting than The Great Escape. However, the exact details involve some surprising twists and turns, which I'd like to write about, so I will veil part of this review behind a “spoiler” tag. I'd be very surprised if someone isn't working on a screenplay of the story of this book right now – it has all the elements of a great caper movie. I hope M. Fox gets a splash of Hollywood lucre, but I fear that penny-pinching movie moguls will claim these previously-reported and public-domain events can be used free of charge. On the other hand, both of the POW heroes are white men (there is evidence they were probably racist in real life), there are no parts for women, non-Westerners are villainous (some completely, some slightly ambiguously), and one of the slightly ambiguous villains is a Ottoman Jew called (by the heroes) “the Pimple”. A big screen treatment may have to wait until we are all a little less spun up about stuff like this. But yes, it all begins as a ripping good yarn, in which one of the POW heroes, Jones, constructs a Ouija board with no other aim than to entertain himself and his fellow prisoners during a long tedious captivity in a remote camp as WWI rages on inconclusively in the outside world. Jones unexpectedly finds himself excelling at bamboozling his fellow captives with mystic mumbo-jumbo, and then sees a chance to escape as the Pimple, acting on behalf of higher-ups, inquires if the Ouija board could help find treasure allegedly buried in the area by a rich Armenian fleeing genocide. Jones enlists Hill, an aviator with a talent for magic tricks, as a confederate, and initial steps go surprisingly well, but then… (view spoiler)[… when they are getting ready to leave the camp with (and escape from) the Pimple and the camp commander (whom they've roped into the scheme) in search of the non-existent treasure, a well-meaning fellow-prisoner, believing the trip is an pretext by the Ottoman captors to kill Hill and Jones “while escaping”, blows the whistle. The trip is cancelled, everybody stays put; Hill and Jones have to turn to Plan B. Plan B is for Hill and Jones to pretend they are insane. Here the book takes a darker and grimmer turn. Being insane involves months and months of living in filth and squalor, babbling, endangering yourself, and staying in character at every moment someone else – including a fellow prisoner – is around. Pretending you are insane is enough to, well, drive you crazy. Plan B starts to work, but it works slowly. Not only do Hill and Jones stay in character the whole time, they build on their previous flim-flammery to convince the Pimple and his confederates that other-worldly specters are requiring that the whole group, captors and captive, travel to Constantinople (as it is referred to in this book) to uncover the last (non-existent) clue which will yield the location of the buried treasure. In this part of the book, there's some writing about the general psychology of the “long con” and some talk about how to make people believe for some time in a big, preposterous lie. While President Trump is not mentioned (until the References section at the end), the narrative points strongly, I believe, to the events of our time connected with the former President. I thought this was a pretty brave move on behalf of the author, because – in my opinion – a large part of the demographic that is likely to read a non-fiction book about an escape from a WWI Ottoman prison camp is also the demographic that will be antagonistic to the idea that the former President was a con man, or, at least, employing well-worn and well-known tactics of conmen. These readers might even appear on Goodreads to write negative reviews. The heroes' long drawn-out attempt to escape via feigned madness actually succeeds in the end, but at the same time the war is drawing to a close. The ironic conclusion is that Hill and Jones survived and arrived in England only two weeks before many of the fellow prisoners they left behind. On the other hand, senseless violence and the Spanish flu at the prison camp took the lives of many of those who stayed behind, so perhaps the impulse of Hill and Jones to escape at any cost was justified. It certainly was understandable. (hide spoiler)] Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for giving me a free advance review copy of this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    Unfortunately, I was completely bogged down with way too much detail in this one. I’m sure the story will appeal to many others but as much as I love a good historical war story, this one didn’t work for me. The author goes into deep detail on explaining certain history that I felt could have been covered much quicker. From the description I was expecting another Great Escape, this was not it. I want to thank Random House Publishing Group along with NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to r Unfortunately, I was completely bogged down with way too much detail in this one. I’m sure the story will appeal to many others but as much as I love a good historical war story, this one didn’t work for me. The author goes into deep detail on explaining certain history that I felt could have been covered much quicker. From the description I was expecting another Great Escape, this was not it. I want to thank Random House Publishing Group along with NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to read an ARC. Comes in with 2 stars.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Yigal Zur

    interesting story if not amazing about the weird escape of 2 soldiers from turkish prison camp world war 1. the problem with the book is the too many notes and explanations. in the end we want a good story but with the structure of explanations in the main body plot we get lost. still worth the effort.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alan Teder

    Ouija Escapees Review of the Random House hardcover (June 2021) The Confidence Men is the incredible story of how two British officers in a World War One prisoner of war camp in the then Ottoman Empire managed to escape using their combined skills of telling tall tales, memory, sleight of hand and acting. Elias Henry Jones (1883-1942) and Cedric Waters Hill (1891-1975) were captured in the Mesopotamian theatre of the war, Jones after the Seige of Kut, and Hill when his bomber airplane was shot dow Ouija Escapees Review of the Random House hardcover (June 2021) The Confidence Men is the incredible story of how two British officers in a World War One prisoner of war camp in the then Ottoman Empire managed to escape using their combined skills of telling tall tales, memory, sleight of hand and acting. Elias Henry Jones (1883-1942) and Cedric Waters Hill (1891-1975) were captured in the Mesopotamian theatre of the war, Jones after the Seige of Kut, and Hill when his bomber airplane was shot down. During their incarceration they managed to convince not only their fellow prisoners, but also their Turkish captors, that they possessed not only the powers to contact the dead but also the power of telepathy. This all started off with nightly seances with a custom built Ouija board leading up to a hoax to convince their greedy camp commandant that they could get the spirits of the dead to lead them to a buried Armenian treasure. Eventually they had to feign insanity as well in order to qualify for a prisoner exchange of the sick and wounded. Cover image of "The Spook and the Commandant" (1975), the posthumously published account of Jones & Hill's escape by Cedric Waters Hill. Image sourced from Flying Books Co. UK. Margalit Fox has done an excellent job in not only telling the escape plan story, which was first documented in Jones' own account The Road to En-dor (1919), but providing the additional background and context of the war situation and how spiritualism had a strong enough hold on people in that era for the hoax to be believed by many parties. I read The Confidence Men due to its nomination for Best Fact Crime in the 2022 Edgar Awards by the Mystery Writers of America. The winners of the 76th Annual Edgar® Awards will be announced on April 28, 2022. Other Reviews The Brilliance of Two Captured WWI Officers, by Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch, July 18, 2021. Trivia and Link The Road to En-Dor (1919) by Elias Henry Jones is in the public domain and can be read on Project Gutenberg here. There was apparently an attempt to adapt this story for film and a script was written by writer Neil Gaiman in collaboration with magician Penn Jillette, but the production has never proceeded.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    This stranger-than-fiction story of two World War I captives, one an English officer, the other Australian, that trick their way out of a Turkish prison camp via a long, elaborate con centered on a Ouija board is compelling and at times, funny as hell. My thanks go to Net Galley and Random House for the invitation to read and review. This book is for sale now. The beginning is grim; grim enough that I abandon this story twice before ordering the audio version from Seattle Bibliocommons to help m This stranger-than-fiction story of two World War I captives, one an English officer, the other Australian, that trick their way out of a Turkish prison camp via a long, elaborate con centered on a Ouija board is compelling and at times, funny as hell. My thanks go to Net Galley and Random House for the invitation to read and review. This book is for sale now. The beginning is grim; grim enough that I abandon this story twice before ordering the audio version from Seattle Bibliocommons to help me get over the hump. There’s torture, deprivation, and every ugly thing that the notion of an enemy prison brings to mind. I am especially horrified because I thought this book was going to be funny! Reader, it is, but you have to get past the grim and at times, dull beginning to get to the amusing bits. Somewhere between the fifteenth and twentieth percentiles, the shift occurs, and that’s when you can expect to enjoy yourself. You may want to skim a bit through this part; I do, and it works out well. Harry Jones was an attorney before the Great War commenced; Cedric Hill was an Aussie auto mechanic. Once captured, the two have no chance at all making a conventional escape; the camp is too isolated for either of them to get anywhere, even if they were able to leave. Instead, what they have is nothing but time, and ultimately, that and their excellent imaginations and problem-solving skills, aided by some genuinely stupid captors, is what saves them. The most impressive aspect of their scheme is that it takes place over a very long period of time. Not many con artists would be able to keep their story straight for so long. Jones and Hill have a great deal of self-discipline and organizational skill. Also, they’re afraid, and fear can improve one’s consistency and attention to detail. Once the meat of the story begins, it is absolutely riveting! I flipped back and forth between my digital galley and the audio version. Both are equally good, but I would give a slight edge to the audio version, assuming the reader is primarily seeking entertainment. For a researcher, the print version is better for keeping details and sources straight. Recommended to those that enjoy history and intelligent humor.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Siria

    A readable yarn about the story of two soldiers in WWI Turkey—the British Elias Henry Jones and the Australian Cedric Hill—who used feigned abilities in telepathy and spiritualism to get out of the remote POW camp in which they were being held. Margalit Fox provides a little more historical context and benefit-of-hindsight analysis than might be gleaned from the accounts that both Jones and Hill wrote in later life, and some dry humour, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was reading simply A readable yarn about the story of two soldiers in WWI Turkey—the British Elias Henry Jones and the Australian Cedric Hill—who used feigned abilities in telepathy and spiritualism to get out of the remote POW camp in which they were being held. Margalit Fox provides a little more historical context and benefit-of-hindsight analysis than might be gleaned from the accounts that both Jones and Hill wrote in later life, and some dry humour, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was reading simply a paraphrase/synthesis of their respective books. What I really felt was lacking from The Confidence Men was some sense of why they did it. Yes, I could see how the sheer boredom of being trapped in a POW camp might lead you to start running harmless(-ish) Ouija board cons on the people around you to pass the time; I could even see why Jones and Hill started thinking about ways they could use their tricks to potentially get out of Yozgat. But both men went to incredible lengths, endured incredible suffering, and came close to death, in order to get home... a fortnight earlier than they might have otherwise? And sure, that's not nothing, but they were getting communications from their families which told them that the tide of war was turning in the favour of the Allied Powers. So why risk so much? Why not tap out? I really got no sense of motivation here. Perhaps there really were few hints in the surviving records as to what drove both men—something which inclines me to think that their exploits deserved a novelization more so than an attempt at a straight historical recounting.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    In WWI, a number of British soldiers fighting the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East were taken prisoners by the Turks in battles that are not nearly as well known as those in France on the Western Front. Two of those men were British officers: Elias Henry Jones and Cedric Waters Hill. Jones was from an upper class family in Britain and Hill was from Australia. Incarcerated in a remote prison in the mountains of Anatolia (modern day Turkey) they searched for a means of escaping and came up with In WWI, a number of British soldiers fighting the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East were taken prisoners by the Turks in battles that are not nearly as well known as those in France on the Western Front. Two of those men were British officers: Elias Henry Jones and Cedric Waters Hill. Jones was from an upper class family in Britain and Hill was from Australia. Incarcerated in a remote prison in the mountains of Anatolia (modern day Turkey) they searched for a means of escaping and came up with a plan that seems like fiction. Creating a homemade Ouija board they held seances and managed to convince the Turkish interpreter and Turkish commandant that they could actually commune with spirits including one who knew where a local treasure was buried by a fleeing Armenian. Jones wrote a book on the entire scheme after the war was over and Margalit Fox uses it as her first source for a tale of an unbelievable escape and remarkable story. This story also serves as a framing device to wander farther afield to include the history of confidence men, seances and communing with the dead, the massacre of Armenians and the creation of modern Turkey. Without these tangents it would be a much shorter and not as interesting story.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alisa

    [Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC] "Narrative is inherently seductive, and a propulsive tale can buoy the mark straight into the storyteller's hands..." This was a fantastic, fascinating read about a bizarre escape plot - complete with ghosts, treasure, and a madhouse stint. I often find that accounts from World War I get overlooked, so I am glad to have picked up this book. Fox recounts the experiences of Jones and Hill in a delightfully entertaining way; the two men quickly endeared themselves [Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC] "Narrative is inherently seductive, and a propulsive tale can buoy the mark straight into the storyteller's hands..." This was a fantastic, fascinating read about a bizarre escape plot - complete with ghosts, treasure, and a madhouse stint. I often find that accounts from World War I get overlooked, so I am glad to have picked up this book. Fox recounts the experiences of Jones and Hill in a delightfully entertaining way; the two men quickly endeared themselves to me, and I rooted for them throughout the narrative. Their courage, ingenuity, perseverance, and optimism in the face of despair were very inspiring. Plus, who doesn't love a good prison escape story - especially if it involves a ouija board at the heart of it? I would love - and definitely expect to see - a movie adaptation of this book. The story is just that good!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nan Williams

    The Confidence Men is a very detailed account of the life of British prisoners of war in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The accounting is very explicit and not for the faint of heart. This non-fiction story does not spare one of the horrors of war – especially with those who do not value life. The ingeniousness of the British in exploiting their opportunities to escape was the only bright spot in this otherwise sordid, but true, tale. I especially appreciated the maps and illustrations thr The Confidence Men is a very detailed account of the life of British prisoners of war in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The accounting is very explicit and not for the faint of heart. This non-fiction story does not spare one of the horrors of war – especially with those who do not value life. The ingeniousness of the British in exploiting their opportunities to escape was the only bright spot in this otherwise sordid, but true, tale. I especially appreciated the maps and illustrations throughout this book. They were very helpful in visualizing the setting and the terrain. I appreciate this ARC from NetGalley and also the publisher, Random House, in exchange for an unbiased review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kayrene

    I was excited to read a book about WWI, as I am most lacking in visiting this time period. Such an interesting subject matter, that these two would dare to think they could fool the powers that be to convince them in believing in the Quija board, and that they would be considered insane, and removed from the prison camp. Absolutely outrageous.... but! A great read! I so wish the author hadn't gone down numerous rabbit holes with additional information. I had to read this book in shifts to stay i I was excited to read a book about WWI, as I am most lacking in visiting this time period. Such an interesting subject matter, that these two would dare to think they could fool the powers that be to convince them in believing in the Quija board, and that they would be considered insane, and removed from the prison camp. Absolutely outrageous.... but! A great read! I so wish the author hadn't gone down numerous rabbit holes with additional information. I had to read this book in shifts to stay interested. I would have loved it, if it had just been the story. Could have done 5 stars. Good read, though. Thank you for sharing!

  14. 5 out of 5

    ck

    Absolutely stunning. The confluence of spiritualism, codified psychiatry and individual skills and fortitude all contributed to a breathtaking and complicated “long con” with the highest of stakes — escape from wartime captivity. Hill and Jones relied on planning, skill, luck and adept reading of the personalities around them to craft an incredibly complicated scheme by which they hoped to escape a geographically remote prisoner of war camp that was designed to confine military combatants deemed Absolutely stunning. The confluence of spiritualism, codified psychiatry and individual skills and fortitude all contributed to a breathtaking and complicated “long con” with the highest of stakes — escape from wartime captivity. Hill and Jones relied on planning, skill, luck and adept reading of the personalities around them to craft an incredibly complicated scheme by which they hoped to escape a geographically remote prisoner of war camp that was designed to confine military combatants deemed to be escape risks. There are periods of great physical and mental pain, such as the forced march under captivity to their place of confinement, their privations while prisoners, and the additional physical burdens they shouldered in order to add credibility to their long con. Surprisingly, there also are moments of levity, where the two have to stifle their desire to laugh during their machinations. (I’m being vague because I don’t want to spoil the story for you. But I defy you not to burst out laughing at some of these passages, such as the one involving a cache of hard-boiled eggs.) Margalit Fox was fortunate to stumble upon contemporaneous writings about this grand endeavor, because it was a gem of a story 100 years ago. She has taken the what and the how, and rounded it out with the why (specifically why various elements worked as they did), thanks to a broad and deep amount of research. I happen to think that her years on staff with the New York Times crafting obituaries prepared her well for understanding not only what makes a person tick, but how to convey that ticking in an accurate and captivating manner. Notes on the Kindle Edition: 1. Explanatory notes, by chapter, work all right. 2. However, Fox has a beautifully comprehensive set of end notes that are one-way hyperlinked. These begin after the book ends, and I had no idea they were there as I read. Then again, because they only link from the note to the passage, and not vice-versa, using them is incredibly frustrating. I have to think that publishers who release e-books nigh-on simultaneously with physical books would deal with this more helpfully. 3. Speaking of hyperlinks, Fox helpfully provides several links to online resources … but they don’t function, and neither can they be highlighted to cut and paste. And the URLs are so long that memorizing them doesn’t work; you’ve got to write them out longhand. (Not e-friendly.) #hspls #luckydaycollection

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    There is no dearth of nonfiction books about World War I and II. Biographies and memoirs taking place during these periods give a face to the horrors of war. The story of how British officers, Harry Jones and Cedric Hill, makes for interesting reading. One can't help but be astonished at how they managed to fool so many people along the way through séances, madness leading to a psychiatric hospital stay that almost led to death, and ultimately to freedom. This story tells how the setting of World There is no dearth of nonfiction books about World War I and II. Biographies and memoirs taking place during these periods give a face to the horrors of war. The story of how British officers, Harry Jones and Cedric Hill, makes for interesting reading. One can't help but be astonished at how they managed to fool so many people along the way through séances, madness leading to a psychiatric hospital stay that almost led to death, and ultimately to freedom. This story tells how the setting of World War I created a perfect setting to make people susceptible to spiritualism, which readers see in this story. I always love an underdog story that ultimately leads to triumph and this story certainly had heart.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lemar

    Margalit Fox is in the same league with Michael Lewis in being able to draw the significance of a historical event while telling the story with skill. In relating the gripping account of two POW’s in an Ottoman prison during WWI, Fox delves into the history and psychology of the con. The copious research she did grounds the book in Ottoman Turkey circa 1918, in the complex world of alliances which lead to what was then called the Great War. The escape scheme is audacious, the telling is most sat Margalit Fox is in the same league with Michael Lewis in being able to draw the significance of a historical event while telling the story with skill. In relating the gripping account of two POW’s in an Ottoman prison during WWI, Fox delves into the history and psychology of the con. The copious research she did grounds the book in Ottoman Turkey circa 1918, in the complex world of alliances which lead to what was then called the Great War. The escape scheme is audacious, the telling is most satisfying and the ramifications can be felt in our era as well. She never says it explicitly, yet the emergence of a con man as the US president in the form of Trump hovers bloated over this story.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    This is a prison break story like no other. Two British officers, Harry Jones and Cedric Hill, are determined to escape a remote prison camp in Turkey during World War I. But instead of the usual account which often includes tunnels, hiding in outgoing trucks, and brave runs through the dangerous night, this story gives us two men who manage to convince their captors to let them go. It’s not as easy as all that of course. Jones and Hill managed to instill the belief in the Commandant, translator, This is a prison break story like no other. Two British officers, Harry Jones and Cedric Hill, are determined to escape a remote prison camp in Turkey during World War I. But instead of the usual account which often includes tunnels, hiding in outgoing trucks, and brave runs through the dangerous night, this story gives us two men who manage to convince their captors to let them go. It’s not as easy as all that of course. Jones and Hill managed to instill the belief in the Commandant, translator, and cook, that they are actually spiritual mediums that can communicate with the dead, and incidentally, read minds. By concocting a remarkable story they managed to finally leave the prison confines and escape home. According to author Margalit Fox, they were rather proud of their accomplishment, and each wrote a book describing in detail how they pulled the wool over their captor’s eyes. The books were apparently popular in their time, but somehow fell through the cracks in history, until Fox became aware of them and decided to tell their stories. She says, the two were very good at detailing how they were able to pull off the escape but didn’t know so much why. I have to admit that their schemes were quite elaborate and convoluted, and I found myself getting lost every now and then in what new story they were trying to promote. Fortunately, Fox winnows down the details for us and most importantly provides context and explanation that makes the story so much more interesting. Before we think that the Turks were overly superstitious or too easily fooled, we have to remember the times they lived in. Fox points out that the pace of invention had really picked up by this time in the early 20th century, and for people who had never imagined that they could hear a disembodied voice out of something like a radio, the thought that we could use technology to communicate with the dead did not seem so far-fetched. Thomas Edison himself spent an inordinate amount of time trying to see if he could crack the code and communicate with those who had passed on. Fox points out the tricks and techniques which the two British officers were able to use, first as a source of amusement for their comrades, but when they found out how easily they could convince their fellow prisoners that they could truly talk with the dead and read thoughts, they started to think about how their talents could be used to get them out of prison. It’s a fascinating, quick read, and illuminates not only the history surrounding World War I, but also the techniques of the “confidence man,” those people who still exist to try to convince us of what is not true for their own benefit.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jim Stennett

    Definitely a recommend for anyone interested in WWI, the Con Game, escapes, or magic. Throughly entertaining, well-written and just a rip-roaring good time. At time humorous, at times horrifying, at times adventure bound, but always keeps you turning the pages.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David

    Amazing, spell-binding true story of British POWs in WWI who run a long con to escape from a Turkish prisoner of war camp. The Sting meets The Great Escape.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This was moderately interesting but not as much as I'd hoped. A lot of long quotes, many drawn from the memoir published by one of the escapees and others regarding seances, spiritualism, and magicians. Some of this material dovetailed with a book I'd just read about Victorian-age spiritualists (the Fox sisters et al.), so I found it a bit repetitive. The author's prose wasn't objectionable, but it erred toward the factual and dry. I prefer books with a bit more sparkle. The escape in question w This was moderately interesting but not as much as I'd hoped. A lot of long quotes, many drawn from the memoir published by one of the escapees and others regarding seances, spiritualism, and magicians. Some of this material dovetailed with a book I'd just read about Victorian-age spiritualists (the Fox sisters et al.), so I found it a bit repetitive. The author's prose wasn't objectionable, but it erred toward the factual and dry. I prefer books with a bit more sparkle. The escape in question was long and drawn out, and rather harrowing, and it wasn't really an escape in my book -- more of a long con that took in the camp's commandant, interpreter, and cook, followed by a long spell of the two escapees pretending to be mad, ultimately being sent back to England for treatment only a few weeks before the end of the war. (Some of their fellow POWs actually made it home shortly after they did.) On the whole I found this account less appealing than another book on WWII escapees that I recently read, No Picnic On Mt. Kenya, which was a delightfully eccentric romp. Those escapees really did escape, then attempted to climb Mt. Kenya, and then turned around and went back to camp. Given the wild improbability of the prisoners in The Confidence Men succeeding, I was rather let down that the telling was a bit lacking in verve.

  21. 4 out of 5

    René

    Thoroughly researched, incredibly detailed, well balanced - I can hardly recommend this book enough. It was informative (in terms of history, psychology, and magic) and gripping, and an approachable length for this genre. I admire how Fox writes an inspiring story without idolizing Hill or Jones. The book at once recognizes them for the con they pulled off and the hardships they suffered through, while acknowledging the biases and shortcomings of both men. With military history books frequently Thoroughly researched, incredibly detailed, well balanced - I can hardly recommend this book enough. It was informative (in terms of history, psychology, and magic) and gripping, and an approachable length for this genre. I admire how Fox writes an inspiring story without idolizing Hill or Jones. The book at once recognizes them for the con they pulled off and the hardships they suffered through, while acknowledging the biases and shortcomings of both men. With military history books frequently coming off as hero tributes to people who were in reality complex figures, it was a refreshing read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    David

    A library pickup, one that just about leapt off the "new arrivals" shelf at me. Spiritualism! The occult! Daring escape attempts! Well, dang. Guess I have to pick that one up, I thought. A great yarn, the tale of two British officers who long-conned their Turkish captors with a spiritualist scam during the first world war. Fox expertly lays out their tale, mingling a deft storytelling hand with excellent historical context. The balance is just right...utterly immersive and highly entertaining. A A library pickup, one that just about leapt off the "new arrivals" shelf at me. Spiritualism! The occult! Daring escape attempts! Well, dang. Guess I have to pick that one up, I thought. A great yarn, the tale of two British officers who long-conned their Turkish captors with a spiritualist scam during the first world war. Fox expertly lays out their tale, mingling a deft storytelling hand with excellent historical context. The balance is just right...utterly immersive and highly entertaining. A fine read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    An absolutely thrilling story that kept me glued to its pages. This is a nonfiction account, but reads like fiction. Highly recommend!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Pretty interesting!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Zeb Kantrowitz

    This is a fabulously detailed timeline of two British Officers who were captured and imprisoned by the Ottoman Empire. Their POW compound was in Eastern Anatolia and was nowhere near any of the Allied lines. One of them was a magician who would entertain the troops with his talent and the use of a Ouija Board which was very popular at this time. The use of the Board became very important to one of the guards at the Camp. A man they called Acmed was a member of the Officers group at the camp. He h This is a fabulously detailed timeline of two British Officers who were captured and imprisoned by the Ottoman Empire. Their POW compound was in Eastern Anatolia and was nowhere near any of the Allied lines. One of them was a magician who would entertain the troops with his talent and the use of a Ouija Board which was very popular at this time. The use of the Board became very important to one of the guards at the Camp. A man they called Acmed was a member of the Officers group at the camp. He had told the prisoners about a story he had heard about the camp they were in. Before the war, a wealthy man had buried his treasure in the area to be found after the war. The man gave three different men three different clues that would lead them to where the treasure was. The clues had to be followed consecutively. While the men who had the first two clues had told Acmed the first two clues, which the Brits had figured out that the third man had been killed in action and no one knew his clue. The Brits set up a confidence game that would convince the Turks that they could contact the third man using the Ouija Board. But they eventually convinced the Turks that they were insane and needed to be taken to Istanbul to be cured so they would be able to discern the clue from the Third Man's clue. How they go about convincing the Turk Officers to take them to Istanbul to be treated (and where they would be able to escape) is followed in the detail narrative that Fox has created. Very well written and a great tale to follow.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emg

    Probably more like 2.5. At times astonishing but after awhile, the details of the planning became tedious (had to put it down for a week).

  27. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    I was looking forward to reading this book, a side of WWI I knew nothing about, and the subject matter seemed intriguing. While the author clearly did quite a bit of research, it was incredibly detailed and for me, very slow paced. Perhaps because I was listening to the book, rather than reading it without access to the visuals in the book, it just seemed hard to follow. In the end, after getting 60% of the way through, I realized I just was not all that interested in telepathy. 2 star book for I was looking forward to reading this book, a side of WWI I knew nothing about, and the subject matter seemed intriguing. While the author clearly did quite a bit of research, it was incredibly detailed and for me, very slow paced. Perhaps because I was listening to the book, rather than reading it without access to the visuals in the book, it just seemed hard to follow. In the end, after getting 60% of the way through, I realized I just was not all that interested in telepathy. 2 star book for me but I’m sure those more interested in the subject matter would rate it higher.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Two British prisoners of war during WWI escape a remote prison in the middle of Turkey by dazzling their captors and others by using their knowledge of spiritualism and a Ouija board which was thought to drive people to insanity at the time. Feigning insanity allowed the to travel and escape. Lots of fun.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Two British Prisoners of War try to escape a prison camp by using a Ouija board, leading the camp commandant of a wild goose chase for treasure and faking madness.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jquick99

    I agree with the only other 1 or 2 star review…this needed a major editing. If the book was half to a third of it’s length, it would be a 5 star book. DNF.

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