Review – Monetary Men by Kenneth D Alford

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

I have decided to make a rule for myself when reviewing non-fiction books about war – if the author manages to make war boring, then I take at least 1 star off. I am kind of a war nut, in terms of how voraciously I read war-related books, and I don’t think I’m that hard to keep entertained.

Monetary Men suffers from several major problems. Firstly, it is being released soon after a movie called The Monuments Men, which is based on an equally excellent book. The Monuments Men covers some of the same ground as Monetary Men, and obviously the books share similar titles. I must admit that was what caught my notice first.

The second problem is that it reads as though it was written by an accountant. Which again, is not in and of itself bad, but it makes it a weighty tome which is largely filled with recounts of the numbers, and values of the gold, and other forms of currency which were stolen and recaptured from from various countries and locations around the world. I get that – if that was the purpose – there may be a market out there for this kind of information, but it hardly makes for entertaining reading.

The third, and probably ultimately the least forgiveable problem with the book lies in the title itself. The phrase “Monetary Men” implies that it would be telling the tales of the men who were out there doing the hunting down of stolen Nazi gold. Instead, more accurately, it is the story of the Tripartite Gold Commission. Unlike the Monuments Men, which took the time to highlight the personalities who were involved in the operations, I came away from Monetary Men with the impression that.

– Nameless Nazis stole the gold
– Nameless Allies recovered the gold
– Nameless Allies were largely reluctant to give it back

*sigh*

At the end of the day the subject matter was just not that interesting, and was not presented in a particularly interesting way. I felt that it had been anonymised to the point where it had ceased to be about the actual eponymous ‘Monetary Men’.

I will give it 2-3/5 stars because it clearly has a use as reference material, or for light reading for accountants, but I would judge it to be outside the interests of the casual reader.

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