trying to see the world with my ears
First, what this is not: The title does not signal any kind of Dan Brown clone--no holy grail stuff. Also, when this novel was written (and where) a priest involved in scandal did not immediately mean a sex abuse story line - so don't pass on this for that reason. Also, this is not a faith-based novel; the series (though not this instalment) draws a little on the tradition of priest sleuth, but no affection for Catholic faith is necessary to like the priest character. Neither is this edge-of-seat stuff: There is no graphic violence and no explicit sex - any violence or sex necessary for the plot are obliquely described.
This is a combination mystery-legal-detective procedural with elements of a traditional village cozy transplanted to an identifiable Canadian city, Halifax. The novel starts slowly but picks up after first quarter. It is somewhat predictable - but the mystery is secondary to character and setting (and establishment of story lines feeding the series).
The narration is good but does not have good regional infections; however, generalized accents are much better than bad regional ones. Two quibbles with the narration: There are more priests with thick Irish brogues in the novel than in Halifax itself. And I hope the narrator gets a dictionary for some common theology terms mispronounced-- Other vocal feats seem very well done.
I'll never get to Edinburgh with Rebus or Baltimore with Tess Monaghan, so I was glad to download this while in Halifax. The cityscape isn't as strong as in the classic detective/ city combinations, but adds interest. The Canadian legal context is laid out to be easily comprehensible to a non Canadian.
I'll definitely be listening to the entire series.
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.
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.
This is an incredible book. WIthout the slightest bit of fantasy or hyperbole, the author shows the reader that the real demons are those inside of us. It's difficult to write about the unparalleled brilliance of this story arc, it's sidebars and underlayers, and the author's out-of-the-box imagining of the characters, without hugely spoiling. It's a bit techno-thriller, a bit relationship commentary, and there is a lot of narrative whiplash where the story takes a sharp turn and you're left with "well, I didn't see that one coming".
The author's writing style couldn't be more sophisticated and loaded with complex imagery and phraseology - I found myself writing down word-bytes that were just off-the-charts clever and overflowing with wit.
While it's possible to pick up an anti-elitist vibe, it's all done with humor and mastery. Then on the other hand, there's an anti "average" vibe, critiquing those whose middle of the road lives seem to the main character as achieving a degree of dullness that is beyond belief. It's a dual message, but it's navigated delicately by the author. Wealthy big city snobbery is mixed with a huge putdown of the predictable choices made by the affluent.
Both narrators picked the perfect tone for this reading.
It's a great listen, and I did not want it to end. And actually - in a way, it doesn't. The two main characters are caught in a trap of their own making.