I wasn't sure about this book, not being a real fantasy fan, but it did have a mystery in it, and it was on sale. So I bought it, and am I glad I did! Jo Walton has crafted a mystery set in England in an alternate history, where a group called the "Farthing Set" deposed Churchill and negotiated a "peace with honor" with Hitler in 1941, in which Hitler stayed on the other side of the Channel and England remained "independent" by agreeing to measures which amount to a milder form of suppression of Jews and homosexuals than that in place in continental Europe.
The action takes place in 1948, when a vote of no confidence is scheduled in Parliament. At a house party at Farthing, the estate of some members of the Farthing Set, the man who is likely to be elected the next Prime Minister is murdered. Lucy, the daughter of Farthing's owners, and her husband David Kahn, a Jew, have come to the party at the insistence of Lucy's mother. It's not clear why they are invited until it becomes obvious that they were wanted there in order to pin the murder on David, the JEW.
The mystery story is quite good, but the real point of the book is the picture of an England which is sliding slowly and inexorably into Facsism through the machinations of the power elite (the Farthing Set) and the willingness of the public to believe the lies of the ruling politicians. Through the course of this book and the second book in this series, the suppression of Jews and homosexuals becomes more extreme, and many have been forced to flee or hide. And people in positions like police detectives are coerced into blaming the crimes of the powerful on the people with no power. Meanwhile, of course, Hitler is still Fuhrer of all of Europe, undesirables are still sent to work camps, and the war is still raging between Germany and Russia.
The story is greatly enhanced by the two narrators, John Keating and Bianca Amato. The book is written in chapters which alternate between the narration of Lucy Kahn and the third party narration of the investigation conducted by Inspector Carmichael of Scotland Yard, making the alternating narrators particularly appropriate. Both do a sterling job.
This is really a gripping tale, very complex and disquieting but definitely worth the money and the time to listen to it. Excellent!
Set in the village of Kurland St. Mary, "Death Comes to the Village" is the first in a projected series. The mystery plot is intriguing, with several twists along the way, featuring two missing maids from two households, and a series of thefts of small items from the houses of each of the wealthier families in the area. The identity of the villains is not who we usually would suspect, and the author keeps the secret well through most of the book.
The characters are even more intriguing, in my opinion, particularly Miss Lucy Harrington, the oldest daughter of the Rector, considered by some to be an old maid in her early 20's. Unlike the heroines in most Regency Romances I have read, this young woman chafes under the strictures imposed upon her by society. Since her mother died in childbirth when Lucy was 15, Lucy has had to act as nursemaid to her 7-year-old twin brothers and as her father's housekeeper and hostess, fulfilling the duties her mother would have performed. She has no prospect of escaping those duties, since her father views the arrangement as a permanent one and intends to send her beautiful younger sister to London for a coming out season.
In rebellion, she becomes involved in investigating the disappearance of the maids and the thefts, in an uneasy alliance with Major Robert Kurland, the wealthy local squire, who is bedridden while he recovers from injuries suffered in the battle of Waterloo. He is rude, with a quick temper, and they argue as much as they work together. Both main characters are multi-dimensional and interesting. Other characters, while not as finely drawn, are still interesting and entertaining.
Narrator Susannah Tyrrell has an unusual voice and delivery which bothered me a bit at the beginning, but I soon grew used to it and decided that it was perfect for this book. Her change of voices and delivery of both high class and low class regional accents sounded wonderful to this American's ear. And she dealt well with scenes of suspense and violence.
I enjoyed this book a lot, and I look forward to listening to the series as it progresses.
Well worth a credit!
"Death on Blackheath" is the tenth book which portrays Pitt as a member of Special Branch, a government agency concerned with security, espionage and government secrets. When Anne Perry first moved Pitt from the police to Special Branch, I had difficulty adjusting: the espionage and thriller parts just didn't ring true for me. But I hung in there, believing that Perry would get it together so that Special Branch would be as believable and engrossing as the earlier police novels were. And the last few Special Branch books did finally come up to the quality of plot and style that I had so enjoyed in the police stories.
In this latest installment, Pitt and Stoker of Special Branch are called to investigate matters which would not otherwise come under their jurisdiction, except that they occured at the home of Mr. Kenyston, an important scientist doing secret weapons work for the government. As things progress, bodies are discovered near the same home, all causing Pitt to focus on Kenyston. It turns out that some of those things were intended just to create that focus.
Anne Perry writes with her usual fine eye for detail, both physical and emotional detail, and describes minute details of her characters that allow the reader to see the faces, and the new lines caused by aging, hard work, fear and other factors.She allows us to understand and feel what the characters are feeling, and the exceptional narration of Davina Porter makes us feel the fear, the happiness, the love and the hatred that the characters experience. Many of Perry's continuing characters appear in this installment. This book may be one of my favorite Pitt books, because it also lets us see, and feel, new love between two of my favorite Perry characters.
"Fingersmith" is the award-winning, masterful exhibition of Sarah Waters' exceptional skills in creating settings so real the reader can see them clearly and characters who are fully developed and who act like real human beings. In this book, the setting created is Dickension London and neighboring areas, and the characters, both lower and upper class, are ones who would feel perfectly comfortable among the characters created in Dickens' various stories.
Add to that setting and those characters a plot which would outdo even Dickens with its many twists and turns, leading the reader toward an inevitable conclusion, then at the last moment adding one more element and turning toward another inevitable conclusion, and then turning again. Waters keeps you guessing almost up to the end.
From the first words of "Fingersmith," I was completely engrossed. First because of the exceptional voice of narrator Juanita McMahon, quite low and velvety, speaking in the accents of the London slums. Then I became caught up with the characters and became embroiled in the plot. I remained engrossed right to the very last words of the story, more than 23 hours later. By then, I had laughed and cried at and with these characters, and I didn't want to let them go. I wished for a longer book or a sequel.
Some people have called this soft lesbian porn because the relationship between the two leading characters, both women, is gradually recognized by each of them as being love.
There is only one scene which contains a brief physical act between them, and it is described in such euphemistic Victorian terms that our more hardened modern sensibilities might barely notice it. For each woman, it is the love she feels for the other that is important and is almost the only source of joy in her life.
If you like Dickensian stories or settings, you should enjoy this book. Even if you don't enjoy such things, but do appreciate exceptional writing skill, I would recommend this book to you. There are passages in "Fingersmith" which were so well drawn that they took my breath away. Obviously, I recommend this book very highly.
Somehow, I missed the release of Broken Homes, and just happened to see it when browsing a few days ago. I instantly snapped it up and began listening immediately. As you will see from my previous reviews, I love the Peter Grant series, and I think Ben Aaronovitch is the most creative, imaginative and entertaining writer I have run into in a long time.
I see from the current reviews of this book that there is some difference of opinion about the story of Broken Homes. I am one of those who think this book is as good as the first in the series, and that's saying a lot. This story is different from the previous books, which had pretty linear stories. In Broken Homes, there are numerous story lines going on at the same time, and the reader can't be certain which of those stories (if any) have anything to do with what emerges as the main storyline. So, you are taken along on several roller coasters at once, having to trust that things will come together in the end (at least some things).
Ordinarily, books like that drive me crazy, but in this case each separate storyline is so amusing and so much fun that I forget to worry about the end. Many characters from previous books in the series appear in Broken Homes, both friend and foe, and not many new characters are presented for you to keep track of. The members of the Folly seem to be getting more settled and together, and are actually able to work together without having huge fights. Arch-villain The Faceless Man remains the primary evil opponent, and is suitably vile both in person and through representatives.
Then, near the end, there is a huge twist in the plot which puts everything you think you know about this story at a new angle, and I, for one, was left in shock, mouth hanging open.
As with the previous books, I will say: READ THIS BOOK! But only after you have read the previous books in the Peter Grant series. That is really necessary to get the real flavor of the characters and their relationships.
This Phryne Fisher adventure is a bit different from earlier Greenwood books. In "Urn Burial," the author has decided to play a game as many earlier mystery writers did in the 1920s and 1930s, sometimes including Agatha Christie. The game involved following the Rules of Murder which had developed over the early years of the genre, and which were "codified" by mystery writer Ronald Knox in 1929.
Knox set forth 10 rules, which he followed in his books (several of those books are available on Audible), including things such as there must be a large party at a country house, no magic or similar gimmicks can be used to solve the crime, there may be no Chinamen introduced into the story, and other matters. (You can find Knox's Rules set forth in the Wikipedia article on The Golden Age of Detection Fiction.) In addition to following those rules, Greenwood also pays homage to Agatha Christie in several details, including naming one of her characters Miss Mary Mead.
I found the story quite engaging, although in a different manner than the previous Phryne adventures. Despite the different structure, however, Phryne is still Phryne, stylish, passionate, self confident, and very much her own woman. As is usual with Phryne books on Audible, there is at the end an interview between the author and Stephanie Daniel, the voice of Phryne, and in these conversations you always pick up a little information about Australia in the 1920s or about Australian history or grography.
I have yet to find a Phryne book on Audible which wasn't fascinating, entertaining, and great fun. They all give you hours of lighthearted adventure, and I love them!
After a few disappointments, I had become wary of trying new (to me) authors and series. However, when I saw "A Serpent's Tooth" on sale as the daily deal, I decided to give it a try and see if I agreed with all those wonderful reviews of Walt Longmire I had seen on Audible. I do agree with those reviews -- from the very beginning of the first chapter, I was intrigued by the characters, both major and minor, contained in the story. From County Sheriff Walt Longmire and his under-Sheriff Vic(toria) Moretti, his friend Henry Standing Bear (also known as "the Cherokee Nation") to a sweet little old lady who says angels come to her house and make needed home repairs and another woman who runs the general mercantile in Short Drop, WY, Craig Johnson's characters are three dimensional and very human, with quirks and wit galore.
In addition to wonderful characters, the plot is great. Starting with the appearance of a "lost boy" from a polygamous fundamentalist Mormon sect that has set up a compound (make that a fortress) on 12,000 acres of land in Walt's county, and developing into the murder of one of Walt's Deputies and attempted murder of another, the story line carries you along right to the final battle without ever letting your interest flag.
George Guidall's narration puts the finishing touch on a perfect package. His voice, with a natually deep timbre, brings Walt to brilliant life as a native Westerner, and then softens just enough to provide truly believable female voices. And his delivery of quirky or witty pronouncements is perfect.
All in all, this book was a wonderful experience. Now I will go back and begin the series with Book 1 so that I can experience this series with all the backstory from one book to the next. Highly recommended.
Tales of the City, published as a book in 1976, started out as separate, short articles in a San Francisco newspaper serial. As a result, this book is a true depiction of the City in the 1970's. Many references to items of the 70's come along in the descriptions and the dialog of this story. The book contains several story lines, all centered on the denizens of 28 Barbary Lane, an old house that now consists of several rental apartments, occupied by young renters, all under the benelovent eye of the landlady, Mrs. Anna Madrigal.
The characters are brilliantly drawn by Maupin, and you end up liking almost everyone, even the not very nice ones. All the characters are 3 dimensional, each with his or her own failings, strong points, and flukes. And they nearly all have heart. It's all too complicated to go into detail in a review, but the reader really ends up caring about these people and what happens to them. The separate story lines all sort of intersect with each other from time to time, and I was left feeling joyous, and sad, and happy for having gotten to know each of the main characters. Mrs. Madrigal is my favorite, as I think she is for most readers.
The writing is so well done, and so wittty and funny, that it was a joy to listen to, especially with the superb narration by Frances McDormand. I am so glad that there are 8 more Tales of the City books for me to read/listen to and savor! One caveat: this book is set in 1970's San Francisco, as the hippie era was ending and the LGBT community was becoming more vocal. If free love, drugs and gays make you nervous, you probably should skip this one.
Otherwise, read/listen to this book!
Like most of the reviewers of this audiobook, I had seen The Godfather 1 and 2 movies a few times, but I thought I would like to see how the book compared to the movies. I was blown away by the book! We all know that when a book is made into a movie or movies, some scenes or story lines have to be left out in the interest of time. So, listening to the book filled in some blanks for me and expanded certain storylines.
The book actually covers most of Godfather 1 and some of Godfather 2. For me, the best part about the book was that it explained a lot of things. It gave more complete information on the pasts of the characters (like Luca Brazzi, Don Corleone, Clemenza and others), and more important, it explained the reasoning behind the decisions made by The Godfather and then by Michael Corleone, the finer points of a bargaining process, and the ways to deal with people so that they will love you and be grateful rather than resentful. In the movies there was no time for that, so the viewer had to try to figure it out. I think that failing left the Corleone's looking more villainous and heavy-handed in the movie. In the book you were able to see the Godfather through the Family's eyes and realize that he was, in his own way, an honorable man given the rules of his culture that he lived by.
Joe Mantegna was the perfect narrator for this book, and did an absolutely superb job!
"Soulless" is the first book in the Parasol Protectorate series, featuring Alexia Tarrabotti, a spinster of good family and ample means living in Victorian London. Alexia's England is peopled by normal humans, vampires, werewolves and ghosts, all of whom coexist under terms of an agreement entered into between the supernaturals and Queen Victoria. It turns out that Alexia is a preternatural -- normal in all ways except for the fact that she has no soul. This soulless state makes her able to neutralize vampires and werewolves merely by touching them. Supernaturals are told about preternaturals and warned to avoid them, but most humans have no idea that such people exist.
Alexia is an opinionated, impatient and educated woman, which explains her spinster situation, since few Victorian men are interested in an alliance with such an independent and free-thinking woman. Her attitude and manner of speech result in the book seeming a bit like a cross between Amelia Peabody and Urban Fantasy stories (not a bad mixture). In the opening scene of this story, Alexia actually kills a werewolf by accident while fending off his attacks upon her in a house where she is attending a ball. As a result of this occurence, Lord McConn, Earl of Woolsey, comes to the site of the killing to investigate. Lord McConn is a werewolf in charge of the London werewolf pack and of the Bureau charged with policing interactions among human and supernatural beings.
There are number of entertaining characters of all types, a good love story, and some very entertaining scenes in the story. Carriger has written a well-plotted story that kept my interest throughout. Emily Gray's narration was very well done and added to both the humor and the plot of this book.
A very enjoyable listen!
To my mind, Paula Poundstone is the funniest comedian I have ever run across. I have not seen her perform in person, but I watch any and all of her televised appearances, and I listen to NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" just to hear her sublimely funny ad libs. In televised live appearances, she usually ends up talking with individual members of the aiudience, and she is incredibly quick with really funny come-backs.
This book is Paula's telling of the events of the several years before the book was written. In other words, she tells us about her run in with the law over driving under the influence while her children were in the car with her. She was found guilty (or pled guilty) of child endangerment and abuse, among other things. In her telling, she does not deny anything or try to make excuses. She tells it honestly, while at the same time finding humor in the situation and in her alcoholism and rehab experience, and making it clear that she is crazy about her 3 adopted kids.
This book made me laugh and almost cry at the same time. I am so glad that she narrated the book herself -- her delivery is part of what makes her so funny. If you have ever enjoyed seeing or hearing Paula Poundstone, you will enjoy this book. Read it!
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