Mystery reader (especially series) and Austen lover
I purchased The Mermaids Singing partially because of the reviews I read on Audible, but probably more because Val McDermid seemed to be the favorite mystery author of Mikael Blomqvist in The Millenium Trilogy (The Girl With .....). Now that I have read all of the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan books to date (a new one is due later this year), I felt it was time to write a review of the first book.
McDermid writes wonderful prose that makes her characters come alive -- all of them, not just the two major characters. I won't try to tell you about the plot, since many other reviews do that. But the development of the plot, along with the minutiae of each character's life and personality, make for excellent reading. McDermid creates a tight, incredibly tense story that keeps you reading, sometimes even when you don't want to.
If you are averse to graphic depictions of violence and perversion, you may want to skip this series. But if that's not a problem, I highly recommend these books. In Tony Hill, McDermid has created a flawed and damaged character who still manages to live in the world and work for the forces of good as a Profiler, expert at his work because of his scarred past. The relationship of Tony and Carol Jordan, police inspector, is so tentative and slow moving that you sometimes could scream, but you keep waiting for it to progress. The pair pursues serial killers in plots that will keep you on the edge of your seat with your jaw clenched.
It is important that you read the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan books in the order in which they were published, since these are not stand alone novels. The characters and their relationships and pasts are developed over the course of the series, and reading out of order makes it more difficult to follow some developments.
For several years now, I have studiously avoided any and all of the current books involving vampires, ghosts, werewolves, spirits and similar creatures in mystery and other genres. I didn't read horror stories, period.
Then I read some member reviews of "Midnight Riot," and thought I'd give it a try, despite the dead, undead and non-human monsters. What a revelation! This book gives the reader a rollicking ride through modern day London in the course of a murder investigation. It is fast-paced, engrossing and hilarious. I laughed out loud repeatedly when listening. In addition, I learned a bit of history about various sites in and around London.
Constable Peter Grant, having just finished his probationary period with the Metropolitan Police, interviews a witness to murder, only to find out that his witness is the ghost of a man who died 120 years before. As a result of his being able to see and converse with the ghost, he is recruited by Inspector Thomas Nightingale to work in a unit (made up of only Nightingale and Peter) whose "beat" is anything non-human, undead or uncanny. Turns out Nightingale is a wizard, and Peter becomes his apprentice. Now, sweep all ideas of Harry Potter out of your mind -- this is not a Hogwarts type of story.
As Peter, Nightingale and Constable Lesley May, a friend of Peter's, work their way through the mystery. they encounter a great deal of violence, a number of River Spirits, ghosts, vampires, and general confusion. Peter Grant is a lovely character, who is smarter than he realizes, and who looks at London and its residents with a jaundiced eye and very ironic comment.
Other reviews give a much more detailed description of the book, and I refer you to those other descriptions. I want to talk about the narrator, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. He is perfect! He gives Peter's character just the right accent and attitude, that of a young mixed race man from a working class background who has a breezy attitude and many a smart remark to make. Then he makes Nightingale a well educated gentleman of at least a century earlier. Male and female voices, London accents, German, Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Caribbean and Japanese voices are all wonderful. KHS brings the book to life beautifully.
There are so many glowing reviews of this book that I wasn't going to write one, but I just can't help it: I have to write it. I so LOVE this book and this series. I love Armand Gamache and his wife Reine Marie and their wonderful understanding relationship. I love the village of Three Pines and its wonderful, flawed, loving residents.
When you begin an Inspector Gamache novel, you are drawn into his world. And when the story moves to Three Pines, the village embraces you like a huge, loving, comforting hug from Myrna, bookseller extraordinaire.
To my mind, How the Light Gets In is one of the best of the Gamache series, and is a welcome return to Three Pines. While investigating the death of a character clearly based on the Dionne quintuplets, Gamache is also preparing, with the few allies he has left, for a decisive confrontation with his enemies in the Force. As a result, the reader gets a healthy dose of all that's wonderful about Three Pines and its denizens, along with a suspense which grows steadily and inexorably toward the confrontation. Many questions are answered and many puzzles are solved while Gamache maintains his courage and integrity.
Ralph Cosham's narration brings it all to sparkling life, with never the slightest waver or misstep. I particularly enjoyed the conversation between Penny and Cosham at the end of the recording.
I agree with previous reviewers that the Gamache books should be read in order, beginning with Still Life. While you might enjoy the story without the previous details, Louise Penny's characters are so like real people, who have grown, made mistakes, learned things, and hopefully improved as people, that you will miss the full emotional richness if you don't have all that background.
You will feel detached from reality off and on, and unable to tell what is real and what isn't. This is the brilliance of this writer--to keep you as off balance as the characters in the novel. No matter if you love the story or not, there is no question that Marisha Pessl is a superbly talented writer. I loved it.
The review by Linda does an excellent job of summing up the story without giving anything away. She wrote what I was feeling.
I will look up other works by this author as time goes by, hoping she comes up with another gem like this one. In the meantime, I plan on listening to this one again.