The struggle’s so vicious because the stakes are so small

British historian’s wife outed as source of nasty online reviews of rivals’ books

An extraordinary literary “whodunit” over the identity of a mystery reviewer who savaged works by some of Britain’s leading academics on the Amazon website has culminated in a top historian admitting that the culprit was, in fact, his wife. Orlando Figes, an expert on Russia and professor of history at Birkbeck College, London, made the startling revelation in a statement through lawyers following a week of intrigue, suspicion, legal threats and angry email exchanges over postings on the website’s book review pages. The spat began last week when Rachel Polonsky, noticed among the many favourable reviews of her book on Russian culture, Molotov’s Magic Lantern, one condemned her efforts as “dense,” “pretentious” and “the sort of book that makes you wonder why it was ever published.” It ended on late on Friday evening with the surprise unveiling of Figes’s wife, Stephanie Palmer, a senior law lecturer at Cambridge University, as the reviewer calling herself “Historian.” Turns out Palmer was also behind anonymous online attacks going back years on the works of her husband’s rivals.

The Guardian

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