Yashim the Eunuch is rapidly becoming one of my favorite detectives. I love this series and the author really not only has a great plot, he has a great setting which he lovinly embellishes with details so that you feel you are actually there. The narrator is spot on for the character and the book. I highly recommend this books and others in the series.
This is another great book from Alan Furst, loader with atmosphere and “you are there” feeling about it.
The central focus is a tale of spies and arms trading on the even of World War II. The Spanish Civil war is at its height. Franco is winning, but the Republican forces are struggling on. But they need weapons and other forms of aid.
The central figure in this book is Cristián Ferrar, a Spanish émigré, a lawyer in the Paris office of a prestigious international law firm. He gets involved with a mysterious figure of Max De Lyon who is an arms trader working for the Republican force.
The book is a serious of stories of arms trades which takes the duo from Warsaw to Odessa and Berlin in their business to secure supplies, illegally for the republican forces. On these trips they become involved with a series of mysterious, and shady characters who supply them with guns, oil, bullets etc. These people have little morals or scruples and for some it is all about the money – the cause is irrelevant so long as they get money. It is a dirty grubby business and Furst, like the consummate writer he is deftly brings to life this business and the cost in human lives and money and the cities they go to for their business – from Turkish Brothels to shoveling coal on a stolen Railway train there is the feel of Europe on the even of war.
It is a gripping story and if you are interested in the late 1930’s this is the book for you. Furst does not disappoint. The reader is excellent and adds to the story immeasurably. He gets the voice and tones just right
II had mixed feelings about this book. First I did not like the setting - a mining community. I would have preferred a London Setting. The author uses weather to help provide the atmosphere of the story. Day and Hammersmith have been sent to this village to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a family.
There is aura of the supernatural which to me diminished the mystery part of it. The story itself takes places over a 2 day period. The village itself is sinking into the ground due to all the mining tunnels which extend under all the houses. The people in the village are very superstitious and this superstition plays a major role in the book. Most of the villagers are sick and dying from a mysterious disease. Day and Hammersmith arrive and a spring blizzard sets in which hampers their ability to investigate and on day 2 they can hardly find their way around the village. Also present are two survivors of the US Civil War and their back-story plays a major role in the mystery of disappearing family.
I had several problems with the author's development of the plot. I found some of the plots a little implausible. It seems bizarre in the middle of this spring snowstorm in an out of the way village that day's wife stops over for a few hours. I found it odd that Day and Hammersmith had arranged for Dr. Kingsley to join them - no real reason for his coming except the author needed his presence for the plot. In parts the plot seemed forced and the failure of the locals to find the missing family is odd, considering where they were found, although Hammersmith easily figures out where they are.
Most of the murders have already taken place by the time Day and Hammersmith arrive and in one case the body is never found and the person is hardly missed. The other deaths which occur when the detectives are in the village can not be classified as murder but more violent deaths in the presence of the detectives.
The end of the book of course has a fast moving Hollywood style disaster ending. The weight of the Snow from the blizzard causes cataclysmic sinking of the village which helps provide the resolution of the mystery as trees fall on buildings, the Railway Station is upended -- but the train is still able to arrive and take the detectives back to London.
This is a fairly fast paced mystery which will provide the reader with plenty of thrills. But I found some of the plot contrivances way too artificial and overall I did not think this was your typical mystery in the way the first book in the series was. Too much of this story is overlaid with an aura of the supernatural, which I do not like. Also the various plot contrivances made the whole books seem more like the script of one of those Hollywood Mega Disaster movies than a real mystery.
This could have been a good book, but it isn't. It has an excellent plot. The plot is great but the way the writer presents it, is tedious beyond belief.
The books goes off on tangents. At a dinner table, the most minute and trivial conversation is presented in detail, even when it has nothing to do with the story. The author includes quite a lot of detail about music and composers of the era which may not be to everyone's taste. For every little incident, it seems we get a long back story. And most tedious of all we are treated to the detective, Preiss, thoughts at great lengths and to his private life and loves at even great length. I got really sick of Preiss and his girl friend - they took up too much time in the book.
The narrator was not bad, but he had such poor material to work with, that at time he just seemed to drone on.
This is a great series. It has good story, well plotted mystery and on top of that it is very humorous. The reader, Graham Thorpe, adds so much to the book. He does the voices so well and gives each one its own character.
Of course the star is Detective Inspector Hardcastle who bring so much wit to the series as he deals with his subordinates and intimidates all around him, especially the person he is interviewing. He never lets their title or position stand in his way.
In this book Hardcastle is dealing with the murder of one of his constables. As he intestigates it turnes out the constable was NOT the target, but rather the lady next door. This lady claims to be a widow but as the body count continues, it turns out she is not a widow, but more of a "good time girl" who loves men in uniform. Unravelling this mystery takes Hardcastle to the corridors of power. A great book. All too short! I can't stop listening to one once I start.
This is an outstanding book. I have read or listened to all of Charles Todd's books and I found this one the best plotted of all. It kept me guessing right to the end. Even when I though I knew who the murderer was, Todd pulled one out of the hat with a big surprise at the end when you found out who the murderer was.
One thing I did notice was that Hamish was not such a big presence as he has been in the earlier book - whether Inspector Rutledge is getting over the events or Hamish didn't really fit in - but in any case he wasn't as ubiquitous as in the earlier books. In a way I am rather glad to see less of Hamish.
As in all his books you get to see another part of England – this time the Fen country, as it was in 1920, and the small villages there. In post World War I getting around in the Fens was dangerous. Dense fogs would roll in, the roads were not well marked and often little better than dirt road. Inspector Rutledge begins his investigation by getting lost and almost having a motor accident.
As always Charles Todd paints a picture of 1920 England: with farms, small villages, market day and places where everyone knows everyone else. He has the gift to take the listener back in time to a long-ago England.
What brings Rutledge to the Fen Country is two murders a week apart of two very important figures -- one a distinguished War veteran, and the other a local man standing for parliament. One is killed at Ely Cathedral, the other nearby while preparing to give a campaign speech. They seem unrelated but it is only at the end we see how they are tied together.
Much of the books is spend in actual detecting -- Rutledge going to different places and talking to many people to try and find out what connects the two murders. The only clue he picks up early on it that the murders were committed by an excellent shot, most probably a sniper. Many people are interviewed by Rutledge and local constables but nothing seems to fit. The roots of the crime go back to before the war and it is only when Rutledge gets as off-hand request from a local doctor, the he finally gets on track.
He only finally fits the pieces together when he travels back to London to interview the sister of one of the victims -- between London and Ely and trip to Mausoleum do all the pieces finally fit into place. This book keeps you guessing up to the very end.
Having Simon Prebble read this book, makes it all that much better. Simon is one of the most outstanding narrators in the business and I know I will enjoy the book that much more when he is the narrator. He is the perfect narrator for the series!!
If you like stories about the supernatural you will love this book, if you think you are getting a mystery story set in 19th Century with Jack the Ripper thrown in - you will be very disappointed. The book focuses on another set of real murders of the same period: The Thames Torso Murders, also called the Embankment murders. These murders, however, were overshadowed by Jack the Ripper and have never really entered into stories about the period as Jack the Ripper did, like those of Jack the Ripper they were never solved.
The Author uses real people from the period, chiefly Dr. Thomas Bond, who was the police surgeon at the time. He is the main character in the book. While Dr. Bond does give some description of the Ripper Murders and the Ripper victims, his real focus is on the Torso Murders.
The Torso murders took place between 1887-1889. Torsos of young women were washing up along the Thames embankment. The bodies were headless and their limbs were hacked off. The limbs were found separately packaged, also washing up along the Thames. These murders were never solved, and since the heads were missing, the victims were never identified.
This sounds like the start of a really good book - but alas it is not, at least for me. Yes it is very atmospheric in describing the London of the period. But I am not a fan of the supernatural and the author attributes the Torso murders to a man who has been "taken over" by a supernatural being. So a lot of the book is consumed not with the mystery, but of finding the individual who was taken over by this supernatural being and when did it happen.
The writing style does not lend itself to a smooth, flowing story. The author uses several different characters to tell the story, although Thomas Bond is the main figure. The chapters in the book alternate between the point of view of different characters -- some written in the first person, other in the third person, and chapters which are newspapers accounts of the crimes. Also the book does not flow chronologically - but tends to skip around between 1887 and 1889, depending on the POV of the character in the chapter. The listener will need to pay close attention to the chapter titles in order to follow this book, as the date is always given as part of the chapter heading.
The Narration is excellent and helps carry the reader along through the story. However, the narrator cannot overcome the long periods of boredom as we explore a character’s thoughts and internal musings. Again if you like supernatural/fantasy mysteries you will love this book. I did not.
This has to be one of the most boring and tedious espionage books I have listened to. Only the narrator saves it. The plot sounds fairly exciting. The main character, Leon, acts as a part time courier for am official, Tommy, at the British Embassy. The opening scene is exciting. Leon is at the docks awaiting a boat which is brining a Romanian defector with USSR/KGB secrets for the Americans. Gun fire erupts and Leon kills his assailant only to discover that he has killed the Brit from whom he has worked as an occasional courier. Obviously Tommy was a double agent.
The balance of the books deals with Leon trying to discover who Tommy really worked for, and trying to see that the Romanian is delivered to the American. Unfortunately this exciting sounding plot is revealed not by action, but by long and often boring conversation with a large number of people Leon meets at parties, at the Embassy, etc.
Combined with this story are the flashbacks about Leon’s life and marriage in pre-war Berlin to Anna, who as the result of traumatic accident now lies in a coma in a nursing home. Leon faithfully goes to see here and hold long conversations with here about what he is doing and what his plans are.
For a little spice, he has an affair with Kay Bishop, an embassy wife, whose husband is murdered. Suspicion falls on Leon. Again most of this is revealed through long conversation. I skipped a lot of the part about his relationship with Kay – he spent one night with here in a hotel room and the conversations they had goes on for several hours on the audio book. I skipped it. There is just too much tedious conversation like that to make the book an entertaining read.
Although it has an exciting plot on paper, the author’s method of development may have a limited appeal. The author know Turkey and Istanbul very well, but even when he goes to a location we get a description of the location not in a word picture, bur rather with a long drawn-out conversation or worse monologues with flash backs about going to the location with Anna.
If you can tolerate a book whose plot development is done mostly with long conversations with a variety of characters and very little action, you may like this book.. But the author is no Eric Ambler or Alan Furst.
This is probably the worst Gordianus mystery I have read. It takes place during the civil war between Pompey and Caesar and deals with the flight of Pompey from Brundisium.
I found it quite boring in places. First of all this is not really a mystery. The murder which starts the book is immediately solvable and thus the murder is unimportant. The real mystery, which we don't learn much about until the end of the book, is whether Meto is in a plot to assassinate Caesar.
What consumes the bulk of the book is the tale of Gordianus traveling to Brundisium and getting inside Pompey’s camp. Along the way he has Tiro, Cicero's Scribe, as a travelling companion and he stops at Cicero's villa to talk to him. There is the obligatory attack on the Appian Way by bandits and the capture of the travelers by Mark Antony.
Gordianus is most concerned of finding his son Meto in Caesar's camp but he gets no chance to talk to him. He must get to Pompey's camp to save his son-in-law Davus, and then escape from Pompey's clutches and return to Rome. Pompey’s escape from Brundisium is probably the most interesting part of the whole book.
Personally I have always been lukewarm about Gordianus as a detective. I always thought the best book was "Murder on the Appian Way". Gordianus is a little too much of a goody two shoes to fit into the Roman world. He pales by comparison with Caecilius Metellus in SPQR. However, if you like Gordianus you will probably like this book.
The narrator is not too bad but certainly better than Scott Brick in the earlier books. However, he is not in the class win Simon Vance or other notable narrators.
I have reviewed many in this series and I personally like the whole series. To me this is another fascinating mystery set in wartime France.
Our pair detectives have been sent by Admiral Doenitz to prove that a popular Submarine Captain is NOT guilty of murder of French merchant.
The Captain has a bizarre hobby - he makes dolls. And he goes on hikes into the countryside to find the right clay for the heads. A broken doll found at the murder scene implicates the captain although he insists that the clay was too cheap for one of his dolls.
Also he and crew have invested a lot of money in the Captain's doll making enterprise. But someone has stolen the money.
Soon our detectives get involved with émigré Pianist turned archaeologist, and his family who have a large doll collection.
In fact dolls are everywhere in this story and it is discovering the story behind the different kind of dolls that solves the mystery and eventually leads to the murderer and thief of the money.
As always the narrator is excellent although some may find his French accent hard to understand. After a little of listening you will find that it adds a lot to the narration.
Paul Doherty has taken Chaucer's Canterbury tales and retold them as horror stories. It is an interesting concept and if you like horror stories with a Medieval Twist you will enjoy these. Like all of Doherty's books this one is based on facts -- for this tale it is John Puddlicott's great robbery of the English Crown Jewel in 1303. The monks of Westminister Abbey were seduced into aiding Pudlicott.
Since this has been turned into a horror story we find Brother Anslem exorcising Demons and solving the murders of whores -- many over the years has disappeared in the night to satisfy satanic rituals and blood drinkers.
If you like horror stories you will enjoy this and Andress Wincott is an outstanding narrator.
Now you are probably asking why I rated the story so low. Well I frankly have never liked Doherty's version of the Canterbury tales. Although I like this author very much, this series does not appeal to me, although many readers love it and find it his best work. I guess I am not into horror stories. But if you like horror stories you will enjoy this book.
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