Cover Image: The Lying Dutchman

The Lying Dutchman

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Member Reviews

Master Mercurius is back with another captivating episode during his long and tumultuous life dedicated to diplomacy, spying and sleuthing.

Set in 1685, this latest installment is as far as I'm concerned the most accomplished in the series. It's uproariously funny and it offers us a compelling look at the political upheavals set in motion by Charles II untimely death in England.
Mercurius is sent by his Stadhouder, William of Orange to London in order to take stock of the political situation and to create mischief and face some dangerous situations.....

The political shenanigans between James II, his son in law, Orange and his nephew Monmouth (the illegitimate son of Charles II) are brilliantly staged in this highly entertaining romp that kept me at times in stiches. Blessed with a terrific cast of exquisitely drawn characters and lots of delicious dialogues, this marvellous fictional tapestry deserves to be enjoyed without any moderation whatsoever!

Many thanks to Sapere Books and Netgalley for this terrific ARC
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Summoned again by Stadhouder William, Master Mercurius is given an assignment to visit England again.  He is not thrilled but cannot disobey his patron so voyages across the sea to London.  Meeting with old friends he is appraised of the situation regarding the King and his rival, the Duke of Monmouth.  The Stadhouder does not want to support Monmouth but also does not want to oppose him and Mercurius is a cog in the wheel of deception.
I really like Brack's books about Master Mercurius.  Firstly the setting in 18th Century Leiden is unusual, secondly the anti-hero Mercurius is very engaging.  This story is no exception, a convoluted plot to foil the Monmouth Rebellion but which makes sense in the context.  Terrific fun and a great way to while away an afternoon.
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Mercurius, the professor and preacher, is back in Graham Brack's The Lying Dutchman.  William, stadtholder of Holland, sends Mercurius as an emissary to England to get his father in law King James to beef up his resources against the Duke of Monmouth.  Mercurius bumbles about amidst all the English intrigue and chicanery; he does not have any great success.  In the course you get a good view of England in this time of great change and instability. Great reading from his memoirs.
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“What line of thought would make a ruler think ‘I need someone to undertake a perilous cloak and dagger mission in a strange land. I know, I’ll ask a university lecturer’”?

This is what readers wondered in the first adventure of Master Mercurius, but by now, we’re not only used to the idea, we look forward to where William will send him next. William? He’s William of Orange, the husband of Mary, yes THAT William and Mary, at this time in the Netherlands. As Mercurius explains to someone in England later:

“ ‘I’m here on business on behalf of my master the Stadhouder.’

‘The what?’

‘The Stadhouder. He’s rather like our King.’ William was not actually a King, but nobody had plucked up the courage to tell him that yet.”

Ah, but he’s hoping to be king. He and Mary are cousins. Her father (his uncle and father-in-law) is James the Second, King of England. He inherited the throne from his brother, Charles the Second, who had a heap of illegitimate children but no legitimate ones. So that puts Mary next in line for the throne when father James pops his clogs (sorry, James isn’t Dutch, so that’s not entirely appropriate).

But that’s forgetting about all those illegitimate children, the eldest of whom, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, was born in the Netherlands. He’s been making revolutionary noises which isn’t going down will with William, or with Mary, for that matter. She’s great friends with young James.

What is a Stadhouder to do? Mercurius is summoned.

“ ‘A pretty problem indeed,’ I agreed. ‘There are none so blind as those who will not see.’

‘Exactly, Mercurius. But then I had a brainwave.’

My stomach contracted violently at his words. I knew where his brainwaves led.”

Right – to England. He hates going there. He’s seasick going over, hates the food, struggles mightily with the language, and has to tread ever so carefully between the Protestants and Catholics. Unbeknownst to anyone, he is both a Protestant Minister AND A Catholic Priest. He just never gave up the one when he was ordained a second time.

“‘James is an anointed King, Mercurius, but holy oil doesn’t make your brain work better. My horse is a deeper thinker than my father-in-law.’
. . .
‘So what do you propose to do, Your Excellency?’

William smiled broadly. ‘It’s not about what I’m going to do, Mercurius. It’s about what you’re going to do.’

‘Me?’ I squeaked. I repeated the ejaculation in a lower, more manly register and tried to pretend I had a cough.”

Refusing isn’t really an option, so our gentle cleric has to carry a couple of letters to England regarding the Duke of Monmouth’s possible plans. He becomes increasingly nervous about finding himself on the wrong end of a knife, as did one of the men he’s sailed with.

“I just don’t like rough stuff; and if a man with a sword can finish up like poor [XX], I hesitated to think what might happen to a philosophy lecturer armed only with a small bible and a pair of velvet gloves.”

I always enjoy how the author shows this period of English and Dutch history from a completely different angle. I don’t see how anyone keeps all of the royal intrigue straight, but it does make for entertaining reading.

As ever, I look forward to his next adventure. Thanks to the author and NetGalley and Sapere Books for the copy for review from which I’ve quoted.

P.S. These are more interesting read in order, I think, although it’s not strictly necessary.

I am also waiting for the next instalment of Brack's contemporary Josef Slonsky Investigations series based in Prague. It begins with Lying and Dying - love it!
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Book 6 in the Master Mercurius mysteries is a joy to revisit. Mercurius is once again summoned by William of Orange the Stadhouder to go to England and plant plans which will stop The Duke of Monmouth’s  invasion to take the throne of James II. As usual Mercurius journey does not go to plan and he finds he could face certain death as a spy. These memoirs of Mercurius are filled with so much humour and historical telling you are swept along at a wonderful pace to the end. This character is one you cannot wait to revisit soon.
I was given an arc of this book by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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This sixth instalment of the memoirs of Master Mercurio, ordained Protestant minister, professor of theology at the University of Leiden, and secretly a priest in the Roman Catholic church, has Mercurio undertaking another dangerous secret mission to England on behalf of William of Orange, Stadhouder of the Netherlands.
As one might expect from a book entitled The Lying Dutchman, there is a LOT of humor in the book  in addition to adventures, and it is the feature of the series I enjoy the most. I like highlighting and making notes when I read ebooks, and my copy of Lying Dutchman is full of “ha ha’s”, like this conversation between Mercurio  and Samuel Pepys. Mercurio says,
“May I speak frankly and in confidence?”
“Of course. Mum’s the word.”
“I don’t understand. Why is your mother involved?”
My second favorite element of the series is the setting in the late 1600s, a very interesting time in European history that I wish I knew better. It is also a very confusing time in European history, as various powers vie with one another both openly and clandestinely, compounded by the complicated blood relationships among the royals of various countries. These relationships are an important part of the intrigue in which Mercurio is involved, and it is confusing, even though he tries to explain it at the beginning of the book. Author Graham Brack gives a very short Cliff Notes version of the background in a Note at the end of the book as well as a list of his references if your curiosity is more seriously whetted. A fun part of the setting also is the cameo appearances by people we all recognize, such as Samuel Pepys.
Mercurio’s errand for William of Orange seemed a bit implausible and did not really grab me, nor did some of Mercurio’s adventures (although some of them were entertaining, like when Mercurio gets locked in an English jail), but the humor and the historical setting were enough to keep me reading.
You can read this book in the series without encountering a lot of spoilers that will ruin earlier books, so do not hesitate to begin here and then pick up the earlier books later. If you like mystery and history presented with a big dose of humor, I am confident you will want to do exactly that!
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This another compelling addition to this excellent historical series. Mercurius is a likeable and fleshed out characters, the plot are always gripping, the complex historical background is well researched and vivid.
This is a gripping story that I strongly recommend.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Many thanks to NetGalley and Sapere Books for this opportunity to review “The Lying Dutchman.” All opinions and comments are my own.

The sovereign Prince of Orange and Stadtholder of Holland is at it again, in “The Lying Dutchman,” Book 6 in this entertaining series by Graham Brack.  In this one his favorite investigator is sent to England to do his worst, err, his best, and as Master Mercurius himself will tell you, they are probably one and the same.

The humor in these books is perhaps its greatest appeal.  How often, at least in a mystery, does one get to read the lines “I need someone to undertake a perilous cloak and dagger mission in a strange land.  I know, I’ll ask a university lecturer?”  But the laughs only underscore the fact that the plotting is exemplary, using real historical references to entertain and enlighten.

As the book opens, we learn that Charles II has died.  James II has ascended to the throne, and he’s an avowed Catholic.  A lot of people are not happy about this, among them the Duke of Monmouth, the late king’s oldest illegitimate son, who entertains thoughts of taking the crown by force.  To do this, he needs to invade England.  Stadtholder William tasks Mercurius with taking a letter to England which details all of Monmouth’s invasion plans.  He tells Mercurius they’re not the real plans.  But he’s to lose the letter along the way, James will get hold of it and assume the worst, Monmouth will think twice about his plotting, yadda yadda yadda.  As William says, when everything comes together, “we’ll all live happily ever after.”  William doesn’t want Monmouth on the throne; he wants his wife Mary (the legitimate heiress) to attain it peacefully, because James has no children and is likely never to have any.  All of this sounds rather simple, but is anything ever simple when Master Mercurius must work in the spy business?  Not really.  And would us readers have it any other way?  No.  Of course not.  

There’s all kinds of problems.  As Mercurius is narrating these books to his long-suffering scribe, we do know that he survives this encounter.  Suffice it to say the mission is accomplished, and back to Holland he goes, to realize that William was thinking ahead of everyone, as usual.  Unfortunately for Monmouth, he did invade, and as history records, lost his head for it.  Too bad he didn’t have Brack’s Stadtholder advising him.

William tells him that he is not going to be welcome in England for a while, which does not make Mercurius unhappy at all.  What he does hope is that the Stadtholder will forget where he lives.  Hopefully for our purposes that won’t happen for a very long time.
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1685. King Charles II is dead and his brother James is now King. But Charles's son the Duke of Monmouth plans an invasion to take the throne. Stadhouder, William of Orange friend to the Duke but wants his plans to fail so that evenually his and his wife Mary, daughter of James become the next King and Queen. So he has a plan, and to this end he sends Master Mercury's to England. But plans rarely turn out as wanted.
Another entertaining and well-writtn historical mystery with its likeable main character. A good addition to this series which cn easily be read as a standalone story.
An ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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It’s the rare writer that is able to tackle humor and mystery and succeed at both. John Sandford and David Rosenfelt come to mind.  And also, Graham Brack.  His Master Mercurius series excels at combining the two.  
As Brack states in his Notes to the Reader, this is more adventure story than mystery.  This time, Mercurius is called to help the Stadhouer avert or at least minimize a planned invasion by the Duke of Monmouth against the current king of England, James II.   Mercurius is to plant a letter outlining Monmouth’s plans in England so as to alert James.   But to be caught with the letter will be to be labeled a spy and hanged.  Despite knowing Mercurius survives (the book is told as part of his memoirs written in his old age), there’s still the suspense of seeing how he escapes.  
This is a great way to get a little history lesson in entertaining fashion.  Brack does a wonderful job of detailing life in 1685 while outlining the political intrigue of the day.   The book would work as a stand-alone, but the entire series is so delightful, I would recommend starting at the beginning. 
My thanks to Netgalley and Sapere zbooks for an advance copy of this book.
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Back again with the fantastic Master Mercurius and his memoirs as he is again called for and sent on a mission to England by William Of Orange.

I have really enjoyed this series. A witty historical mystery series where the books are short but hugely enjoyable.

The Lying Dutchman I feel is the weakest in the series by far. It has its moments and there are as usual some real lol moments but, even at a page run of a little over 200 pages it felt overly long and lacking in story.
The pages are text heavy as they are filled with Mercurius musings, too much of it I felt at the expense of the story.
The story itself I felt was incredibly thin and had no real energy to it. It all felt a little one paced and flat as it meandered to its conclusion.

I do wonder if this series has ran its course at this stage. It all felt a little too familiar and added little to the series.

2.5 stars rounded up to 3.

Thanks to the publisher for the ARC through Netgalley.
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Mercurius is back! This time he must travel to England to plant evidence that will prevent the successful invasion of the Duke of Monmoth....

This is the sixth book in the Mercurius Mysteries, but there is no requirement to have read the preceding five books before this one
I've read a few books in this series now and they're always good fun. The Lying Dutchman is no exception.  A likeable protagonist with a wry sense of humour supported by well-rounded cast of characters and an engaging plot with just the right amount of description and exposition to set the scene without detracting from the momentum of the tale. Yes please. I'm looking forward to the next instalment.
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What an entertaining mystery novel! I love Master Mercurius' sense of humour and way of seeing life while dictating his memoir! I laughed a lot and again, I am waiting for Master Mercurius' next adventure!
Thank you, the team of NetGalley, for sending a digital ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest review! I thoroughly enjoyed it!
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A stormy passage

I am Dutch, born and bred in the city where the Stadhouderlijk Hof  is located in the heart of the former Royal residence (Leeuwarden) - which remained property of the Dutch royal family until 1971). Here, the Frisian branch of Oranje-Nassau, (and William of Orange's daughter) are buried. 

I wish my history lessons in school would have been this enjoyable! :) 

This historical novel takes place on the eve of the Glorious Revolution.  Master Mercurius, a middle-aged philosophy lecturer at Leiden University (- University founded by William of Orange to thank the city for its rebellion against Spanish rule-) is sent off to England by William of Orange.    
We follow Mercurius on his stormy passage across the Channel, during which he loses one of the two letters; during his stay in England, his talent for moving  from one disaster onto the next in the blink of an eye continues to haunt him.

This was a quick and rather amusing read, in which an important part of  Dutch history is more or less made fun of. Names and details are historically correct,  anything else is made fun of with silly jokes, coloured with anecdotes of us being too creedy, too talkative, too serious for our own good,  e&t..
It felt like being in a Black Adder episode. albeit all the silliness became a bit too much and rather predictable in the end. 

Atmospheric and humorous in setting, this was my introduction to the series, will purchase the previous ones in this series, as I would love to learn more about Master Mercurious. 
3.5 stars, rounded up to four. 

Thank you Netgalley for this arc, I leave this review voluntarily.
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1685, The Netherlands & Master Mercurius has once again been summoned to The Hague by Stadhouder William of Orange. And a letter from William is never good news. King Charles II of England has died and William, with his wife Mary, is now next in line to the throne once the current king, James II dies. But Charles II’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth, has put a spanner in the works. Monmouth is being encouraged to stage a rebellion and take the English throne. William needs to stop him so as not to jeopardise his own claim, but he also wants to keep Monmouth as an ally. So, Mercurius is ordered to travel once again to England, and this time on an even more dangerous mission. He must plant a letter containing Monmouth’s invasion plans at court so that James summons an army in response and scares Monmouth off. The only problem is that if Mercurius is caught and tried for espionage, the punishment is certain death
This is the sixth book in the series & it could easily be read on its own. I love Mercurius & have loved how his character has developed throughout the series. This book had me on the edge of my seat for most of the book. I loved how the author painted a picture of life in Stuart times, I almost felt I was there. The characters are well portrayed & the pace is very good & I found myself devouring this page turner in two sittings. There is intrigue, treachery plus Mercurius is caught.
My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read
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I cannot believe that time has flown by so quickly! I read and greatly enjoyed Death in Delph, but now find that this novel is number 6 in this series! I have another 4 to look forward to! Deep joy indeed. 
Master Mercurius, is in his later years, and telling his memoirs to his scribe/ secretary, Van Der Meer. The interaction between these two men could make a comedy series on their own! There are playful asides and muttering, rich humour, wisecracks and quotes, deliberate misunderstandings, their conversations are so enjoyable and knowing, I would read this series just for these two people, who make me laugh out loud! 
Set in the year 1685, King Charles the second has died. His heir is his brother James, but he is a Catholic, and his accession to the throne risks a civil war, and that has bad memories still in England. Plans are being discussed to ask William of Orange and his wife Mary, to take the throne instead, as Mary is the Protestant daughter of James, likewise her husband is of the Protestant faith. William wants Mercurius to go to England and judge what the mood is about William and Mary becoming the next rulers, and to find out about the planned rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth, who has been persuaded by the Scots and some powerful Englishmen to stop Catholic James from becoming ruler.
Mercurius sets sail for London with some secret battle plans, his knowledge of boats is hilarious, but this letter is stolen, and if all the suspects are aboard, surely it must be easy to find out, who did it? 
Well, no, is the answer. Mercurius has a close call with a prison cell, loses a rather large sailing ship, and is injured, before he solves the mystery. 
I love these books and what a fun way to learn history! Our schools don’t go into this period of history in depth, and with many apologies to our Dutch friends, these books are a amusing way to learn these facts. The battle of Lowestoft is mentioned, just down the road from me, yet as a newcomer, I know nothing about this episode at all. 
I need to read the other books in this series, then to recommend the heck out of this series. 
My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers, Sapere books, for my advance digital copy in return for my honest and unbiased opinion. A five star read. I will leave reviews to Goodreads and Amazon today.
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It’s 1685 and once again William of Orange, Stadhouder of the Netherlands has cooked up a plan that requires him to send Master Mercurius to England once again. Charles II of England (a protestant) has died and his younger brother James (a catholic with French sympathies) is now on the throne. Charles’ illegitimate son, James, Duke of Monmouth (also protestant) in exile in the Netherlands is plotting to overthrow James II. Although William does not want him to succeed, thereby preventing William’s wife Mary (daughter of James II) ascending to the throne, he also doesn’t want to upset the protestants by opposing him. Hence his plan to send Mercurius to England to scupper Monmouth’s plans.

Poor Mercurius hates sea travel, hates England, its language and its weather and would rather be left alone in peace at his University to teach, read books and drink ale in his favourite tavern. However, he has no choice but to go and do his ruler’s bidding. Needless to say, things don’t work out quite as planned and Mercurius finds himself in all sorts of trouble.

This is another very enjoyable historical tale, which Mercurius is relating in his dotage to his long suffering scribe. The plot is a lot of fun, filled with action and humour, with plenty of asides from Mercurius on the subject of ships, sailors, the English, their customs and their deplorable food. I can’t wait to see where William sends Mercurius next.
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Master Mercurius, now an elderly man, is recording his memoirs with the aide of a scribe. His memory takes him back to 1685 when, once again, the Stadhouder, William of Orange, summons him to The Hague. 
Charles II of England has died and James II, his brother, is now king. Next in line after James, is his daughter Mary, the wife of William of Orange. But Charles II’s illegitimate son, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth is being encouraged to stage a rebellion. James II is a Roman Catholic, and not popular. William of Orange has a cunning plan to thwart Monmouth’s rebellion without alienating Monmouth himself.

And who better to carry out this cunning plan than Master Mercurius?

Poor Mercurius. He was quite happy living his life in academia but a summons from the Stadhouder cannot be ignored. The Stadhouder’s plan is simple: Master Mercurius is to anonymously plant a letter containing Monmouth’s invasion plans in (or near) the English court so that James II becomes aware of the plans and summons an army.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, plenty as it turns out. Leaving aside Master Mercurius’s distaste for the sea (although I am fairly sure that Antarctica hadn’t been discovered in 1685, so that particular fear need not have arisen), there are language and other barriers to overcome. 

This is another terrific instalment in the Master Mercurius series. We know that Mercurius has survived (how else could he be dictating his memoirs?) but just how he manages to survive arrest and imprisonment makes for an entertaining read.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Sapere Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Master Mercurius is back in The Lying Dutchman by Graham Brack. The year is 1685 and our brother is tasked by the Stadhouder in the Netherlands to once again travel to England. This time it's trouble with who will keep the crown and if Monmouths invasion plans will succeed. As always Brack has a wonderful feeling for the time and place and the story is humorous and suspenseful at the same time. I seldom laugh out loud when reading but this author makes me do it with every book he writes. I strongly recommend that you try some of his work. Master Mercurius is a wonderful character that reluctantly is roped in to help out and he never backs down due to his sense of duty and the fact that he gets some time off from teaching and praying. I must thank @SapereBooks @sapere.books @netgalley for letting me read this advance copy and @graham_brack for continuing with making this stuff up.
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When a new volume in Graham Brack's Master Mercurius series, I know I'm in for an all-nighter. Once I start reading, everything else is on hold until I finish the last sentence.

The Master Mercuius mysteries are set in late 17th Century Netherlands. Mercurius himself is an academic, who would be more than content to spend his life exploring religious philosophy, even if that means putting up with bothersome undergraduates. He has no interest whatsoever in politics or crime, but repeatedly finds himself called upon by Stadhouder William of Orange to solve crimes and engage in espionage. 

European politics during Mercurius' life is centered around the struggle between Protestant and Catholic versions of Christianity. Netherlands is a Protestant state, and Mercurius is an ordained Protestant minister. But there's the small matter of his later secret conversion to Catholicism and ordination in that faith as well. So when the Stadhouder calls upon him, Mercurius is often in the awkward position of balancing his personal convictions with the necessity of pursuing a Protestant agenda.

The books are written in first-person, with an elderly Mercurius dictating his memoirs to a not-always-enthusiastic amanuensis. Occasionally, their verbal scuffles during dictation leak into the tales of times long past. These leaks are part of a brilliantly comic tone that all the Mercurius volumes share. Mercurius has a gift for seeing the worst in everything and expressing it in brilliant and and sardonic language. (Warning: if you live with people who don't like having hilarious bits of books they're completely unfamiliar with being read aloud to them every ten minutes or so, barricade yourself in your room before you begin reading any Mercurius title.)

The Lying Dutchman takes Mercurius back to England, a place he visited once before on business for the Stadhouder and had hoped never to see again. Nonetheless, he's in the land of drizzle,  unpalatable social norms, and even more unpalatable food, where taunting and harassing the Dutch is considered a lively and wholesome pastime. His job is to "lose" a crucial document pertaining to the struggle between King James II and Charles II's illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth in hopes that the document will be discovered by someone appropriate in England who will share the document with James II to prevent Monmouth's success in the struggle. James II is Catholic; Monmouth is Protestant; the Stadhouder, who is married to James II's daughter Mary, needs to appear to be supporting the Protestant Monmouth, while undercutting him so as not to weaken Mary's claim to the English throne upon James II's death. (Yes, it's a bit complicated.)

As Brack himself acknowledges in an afterward, The Lying Dutchman is more adventure story than full-on mystery, but this does nothing to lesson its pleasures. The plot twists, the humor, the varied characters, and the complaints about English weather carry this novel brilliantly. You can read the Master Mercurius series in any order—and will no doubt find yourself hunting down every title in the series once you have had a taste of one of them.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.
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