This is the beginning of Phryne Fisher's adventures. A wealthy flapper in 1920's England, who began life in poverty in Australia, Phryne decides to battle boredom and ennui by going back to Australia and becoming a private investigator. All very light, but with a kernel of serious concern, and portraying 20's Australia very well. The story is interesting, the writing is very good and often tongue-in-cheek, and Stephanie Daniel provides exactly the right narration -- the perfect inflection and tone of voice for a rich, well-educated, sophisticated woman of the world in the time period portrayed, with an expert delivery of ironic and humorous lines. The first Phryne Fisher book I read was one later in the series, and I enjoyed it so much that I am now working on listening to the entire series in order.
This is the sort of book which will be enjoyed by people who like Amelia Peobody books -- the same sort of independent heroine with an eccentric view of the world, all done with fun and humor. A great escapist experience.
This is among my favorite Eve Dallas books. I particularly enjoyed the opening of the story, in which Eve and Roarke are attending the premier performance of "Witness for the Prosecution" in the New Globe Theater, constructed and owned by Roarke. The description of Eve's reactions to the play are quite wonderful. She has never seen the play or the movie, so her evaluations and reactions are based entirely on her experience as a police officer: she is sure from the beginning that Leonard Vole is guilty, that his wife is lying to save him, and that he's not worth the sacrifice she is making.
In the last scene, when Vole's wife stabs him, a real knife has been substituted for the stage prop so that the actor is really stabbed and dies on stage. Eve immediately takes charge of the situation, and the real murder investigation begins. From then on, Eve spends time trying to understand actors and their motivations, which provides a great deal of frustation for her and amusement for Roarke.
When the investigation gets into full swing, we get the full team at work together, which is one of the best parts of every In Death book. Peabody, earnest and ironic; McNab, jumpy and enthusiastic; Feeney, chewing his sugared almonds; Nadine, always searching for an exclusive interview; and all the other wonderful characters created by Robb. Throughout the story line, Eve is also gaining new insights into the ways that people interact and how to relate to them.
J.D. Robb writes such wonderful characters, and then does such a good job of developing the characters from one book to another, that the reader really becomes involved with the characters and cares about them and their welfare. I find it remarkable that she is able to produce two full-length In Death books each year, with an occasional short novel in-between, maintaining the quality of the writing and characterization throughout.
I am hopelessly hooked on this series. May J.D. Robb live long and write much more.
It's always nice to find a good "new" old mystery series that's been around for decades but is completely unknown to me. That's one of the things I love about Audible. Reading other listeners' reviews sometimes gives me great leads to excellent books I've never heard of before. That's how I came across the Hidlegarde Withers series. So far, I've only read the first book, "The Penguin Pool Mystery," and I would classify it as good but not yet excellent. I expect that there will be improvement in future books, and I enjoyed this first one enough to want to read more.
Copyrighted in 1931, Penguin Pool introduces us to Miss Hildegarde Withers, 39-year-old "spinster" school teacher, who has brought her third grade class to the NYC Aquarium on a field trip, and has the misfortune to spot a dead body in the penguin tank. We also meet Inspector Piper, Inspector of Detectives in the NYPD, who is in charge of the investigation of the death. Not surprisingly, Miss Withers has many observations to contribute to the investigation, and after one of her suggestions helps to avoid a mistake in the investigation, Piper begins to welcome her participation. The story is ingeniously plotted, and the setting of early-depression New York City is well done.
I would have given a higer rating if the narrator had been able to make the 30's-era dialog more believable. This was distracting and reduced the overall enjoyment of the book. Still, it was enjoyable, and I will be listening to more of this series.
"Some Buried Caesar" is the sixth Nero Wolfe book, published in 1939, and is one of the best of the series. For one thing, it is amusing to see Wolfe far from his NYC brownstone, having to put up with the inconvenience and discomfort of having to sleep in a strange bed, sit in chairs which are not big enough to hold his girth, and, worst of all, eating food not prepared by his private chef.
The only thing that could entice Wolfe out of the city is an opportunity to display his hybrid orchids in an exhibition contest. This is what has drawn Wolfe, and consequently his assistant Archie, to the countryside of upstate New York. After their car fetches up against a tree as a result of a blowout, Wolfe and Archie encounter Caesar, a prize Guernsey bull, when they are crossing Caesar's pasture. Archie manages to outrun the bull to the fence and safety, but Wolfe is stranded atop a large boulder in the pasture and has to be rescued.
Thereafter there is a great to-do about the bull, his value and the present owner's plans for the animal, and amidst the arguments and fights first one, and then another, dead body shows up. Of course Wolfe knows immediately that the first man was murdered, and who did it, and the rest of the story involves evidence which keeps disappearing, interspersed with the judging of the orchids.
This is classic Nero Wolfe, with Wolfe at his imperious best, and Archie has plenty of chances to exercise his charm over beautiful young women when he is not discovering bodies or detecting, or irritating the police with his smart remarks. Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novels have been called by many critics the best American mysteries of all time. I find them well-written and always amusing. The price of the audible versions seems high for the fairly short length, but I find them well worth the price.
I am always delighted to discover a series that is new to me, which is entertaining, clever and well-written. So I am very pleased to have found the Dalziel and Pascoe series, which begins with "A Clubbable Woman."
First published in 1970, this book establishes the characters of Inspector Dalziel (pronounced Dee-ELL) and Sergeant Pascoe, members of the police in a medium sized town in Yorkshire. They are a fairly new mismatched pair -- the Inspector is a grizzled veteran who is large, messy, ill-mannered and loud, and who scratches a lot. The Sergeant is younger, a University graduate, nice looking and very well-mannered. A fairly large part of the story involves the partners' adjusting to each other. This requires Pascoe to attempt to understand Dalziel - not an easy thing.
The mystery involves the murder of the wife of an old star Rugby player, and the investigation centers around the local Rugby club, the social center for all of the current and former players. The plot is quite involved and the solution was not given away until quite near the end.
The book was quite enjoyable and was made even more so by the excellent narration of Brian Glover. The majority of characters spoke with Yorkshire accents, which Glover handled very well, at least to these American ears. The addition of Irish, Welsh, and Scots characters, as well as University and aristocratic accents were equally well done.
I would recommend this book to any reader who enjoys well drafted plots, colorful characters, and very little graphic violence and sex.
In Taken in Death, J.D. Robb has created an engrossing story that keeps you engaged and rooting for the good guys right to the end. And all the good guys are back in this story -- besides Dallas and Roark, the investigation includes Peabody, Macnab, and all the members of Dallas's team. The plot depends on an old, often used plot device which I can't name without being a spoiler, and Robb has given the old device new novelty and shine. The mission in this book involves locating and rescuing two young kidnapped children, and the key to finding them turns out to be a child's toy.
The author manages to pour a lot of tension and suspense into a book that is only a bit over 3 hours long. Susan Ericksen's narration is excellent as usual, and the whole experience is well worth your time and token. Highly recommended.
Overcome by boredom, Phryne allows herself to be convinced by some circus friends to join a travelling circus in order to discover who is behind a string of "accidents" which threaten to shut the circus down. She gets hired as a rider in the trained horse act by learning and then demonstrating her ability to stand and stay standing on a cantering horse.
This balancing act is explained in terms that allow me to understand how it can possibly be done. That's one of the side benefits that I enjoy about reading Phryne Fisher books -- Kerry Greenwood always gives the reader some tidbit of knowledge, whether it is some bit of Australian geography or history, cultural history, or how to balance on a moving horse.
This is the first tale of Phryne working independently, with none of her ordinary backup team. Thus she is in more danger and less sure of herself. That makes this 6th Phryne Book a bit more serious than the others. And it also involves a sexual liaison which is more serious than in other books. But, of course, Phryne discovers and exposes the villain with her usual style and grace.
This book was very enjoyable for me, even though it is not as lighthearted as previous books in the series. As usual, Stephanie Daniel does a top notch job of narration. I especially enjoyed the conversation at the end between author and narrator, including the author's story of learning how to stand on a moving horse when she was a child.
Well worth you time.
Okay, so I am being converted from a "won't touch paranormal books " to a moderate urban fantasy/paranormal fan. It all began, I suppose, with Harry Potter when I really enjoyed the inventiveness and wit of the writing. But at that time I still maintained that Harry Potter was an anomaly: it wasn't the genre that attracted me, it was simply those characters and that writer that I liked.
Then I happened onto the Peter Grant trilogy by Ben Aaronovitch in Audible. I absolutely loved those books -- they were well-written, wildly inventive and very funny. The adventures of a young constable in London who ends up being assigned to the division of the Met which handles anything which is "not normal" kept me entertained and laughing.
I discovered the "Dresden Files" existence from references contained in reviews of the Peter Grant books, making comparisons between the two. "Storm Front" is the first of the Dresden Files, and now I am forced to admit that I am a fan of the genre. Harry Dresden is an engaging character, the only wizard listed in the Chicago yellow pages. His adventures are entertaining and laced with humor, and the mystery aspect was well handled. Comparing "Storm Front " to the Peter Grant books, I would say that Storm Front is darker, a bit more violent and somewhat less funny than Peter Grant. I also think that the paranormal creatures in Storm Front are not as developed as those in the other series, and more often appear as one-dimensional figures. These factors cause me to prefer the Peter Grant books, but I will be reading the rest of the Dresden Files, too!
The Gun Seller is a wonderful spy spoof, very well written by Hugh Laurie of House and Jeeves and Bertie, but most important for this review, of A Bit of Fry and Laurie. As I listened to Simon Prebble's excellent narration, I could almost hear Laurie saying the words himself. He wrote this book with a bit of the same cadence and the same prefaces, asides, dependent and independent clauses, and disclaimers as he and Stephen Fry tend to attach to their sentences in their comedy act.
Laurie throws the reader right into the middle of the plot with the first sentence, and the story goes along at speed. The best this reader could do was simply hold on, enjoy the ride and the send-up of the spy thriller genre, and trust that all would be revealed in time. And most of it was. In the meantime, I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the ironic dialog, and the plot, which included many changes in direction and plenty of red herrings. Only at the end do you find out which guys are bad guys and which are (comparatively) good guys.
I highly recommend this book. The only thing that might make it better would be to have Laurie himself do the narration.
After I read "How the Light Gets In" recently, I was inspired to go back to the beginning of Louise Penny's wonderful series about Chief Inspector Gamache, his agents of the Surete', and the charming village of Three Pines, with its idiosyncratic residents. "Still Life" introduces Gamache and his agents to the Three Pines inhabitants, and introduces all of them to the reader. I had read Still Life several times over the years since it first came out, and each time I saw more and more things to wonder at and to in admire Louise Penny's writing. This time, hearing the novel narrated by Ralph Cosham, I gained another perspective on a good story written by a superior writer.
To my view, what makes the Gamache series unique, and oh so wonderful, is the way in which Penny takes time to explore the inner viewpoint of each and every character over the course of the books. And, of course, the most complete exploration of character is that of Gamache. Each book, starting with this one, increases and expands our knowledge of him, his beliefs, motivations, and above all, his gentleness and kindness. Ralph Cosham has become Gamache for me, with exactly the voice, deliberation, mildness and steel that Louise Penny has created with her words.
If you've never read Louise Penny's books, I urge you to do so, and to start with Still Life. In order to really get the full impact of the evolution of these characters, you need to read these books in chronological order.
Highly, highly recommended!
Bruno, "Chief of Police, " is the only police officer in his small village, located in a sleepy valley of France. A former soldier who was wounded in Kosovo, he loves the quiet little village which has adopted him as one of its own. He teaches the young children to play tennis and Rugby, and sometimes coaches the village Rugby team. He knows almost everyone of the locals, and they know and trust him. Rather like the village constable in a classic British mystery.
But an elderly Algerian Frenchman resident is murdered and various clues indicate that his death is somehow connected to WW II, Vichy France, Nazism, and the Franco - Algerian troops from that time period. Officers from the National Police arrive in the village to investigate the crime, and Bruno is put in the position of assisting the investigation while trying not to release the secrets of the villagers about activities which are not, strictly speaking, legal.
Other reviewers have compared this book to some of the stories of Alexander McCall Smith. There is a calmness and gentleness to the telling of Bruno's story that is reminiscent of Smith's tales. However, I find Walker's writing, characters and plotting the more interesting and engaging of the two. The plot is interesting enough to keep you engaged, the characters are well fleshed out and likeable, and the writing style takes you along gently. Narrator Robert Ian MacKenzie brings story and characters beautifully to life.
All in all, a most pleasant experience. I expect to read more from this series.
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