trying to see the world with my ears
I started Rendell with her later Wexford mysteries, but hesitated to spend a credit on this one because it was both older and shorter. I'm glad I finally tired it since it proved a well-wriiten and absorbing mystery made more enjoyable by Rendell's knack for capturing the setting and Wexford's dry wit. The narrator (not favorites Bailey or Anthony) delivers a different but apt voice for Wexford.
Why can't more "gentle" contemporary detective novels like this series be created? I usually avoid U.S. contemporaries because of the
*poor quality of prose
*even more over-the-top action heroes and Barbie heroines who can run in designer shoes
*even campier formulaic gratuitous sex and violence scenes and
*overall dumbness factor
This series avoids the above and has the strength of quirky characters (but not TOO quirky) and a strong city setting. Lippman almost does for Baltimore what Rankin does for Edinburgh. Tess usually takes on a social issue (secondary to the plot), which may put off some readers. Except for #2 in the series (Charm City), I think Lippman grows stronger in her craft in each.
As for the narrator, Barabara Rosenblatt, who is much criticized in reviews of this series - I am among the minority who don't like her as the voice of Amelia Peabody, but I love her as Tess Monaghan I don't get the criticisms voicied here--- She doesn't slobber over the vowels -- I think her delivery is part of her fresh take on impulsive Tess. She reads as if speaking, so - yes - there are some human sounds. She is not Microsoft Anna!
So - if you seek a listen to relax, to be engrossed (and not grossed out or blood pressure raised), try this.
This is a satisfyingly slow-paced bloodless backyard listen written in the 1990s before technology necessarily started to dominate murder mysteries. The protagonist is a middle aged widow and mother, a political scientist, back room provincial politico - nothing glamorous, just smart. The setting is very Canadian prairie, but the Manitoba political system is explained well enough and doesn't get in the way. The plot doesn't turn on coincidence, and though you'll know "whodunnit" before the protagonist, it unrolls like some classic detectives in that the author wants you to be one self-satisfying step ahead of the sleuth (but not 100% sure!)
Amateur sleuth mysteries often fail because an author can't establish a valid reason why the protagonist gets involved -- so it seems like meddling. This protagonist involves herself in the murder mystery because, in her grief, she needed "to prove that life was a coherent narrative with a beginning, middle and an end." And isn't that why we read detective novels? So we enter the puzzle with her naturally. I doubt that this series can keep its grounded feel (one murder can happen in anyone 's life but how can an amateur sleuth find a dozen?) However, I hope Audible stocks many more in the series so I can find out.
I find it useful when reviewers compare a series unknown to me to a better known one . I think this is like Laura Lippman's Tess, with a similar strong sense of place but less action. It's well narrated too, in a similar style.
PS The cover art is poorly chosen - I delayed listening because I suspected yet another abusive clergy story line due to the rosary. Religion is a minor cultural element, one of the minor "appearances" to be kept up by some characters and adds local colour, but is not central.