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This is a cozy with a clever twist. The lead character is a 92 year old female sheriff's deputy and columnist for the local paper. For those of us who can claim to be of "a certain age," that is certainly an inspiration! :-). I worried at first that those would be character qualities that would make a mystery book so unbelievable that it would be hard to listen to. Happily, I was wrong!
Victoria is a feisty lady who knows the community and has plenty of life experience and a bit of intuitive wisdom that leads other people to turn to her for help when a series of murders start occurring on the island. She seems to be able to see the same clues others see, but to draw the correct conclusions when the murders keep happening.
One thing that I noticed about this book is that Victoria tends to respect her own age-related limits. Although she has plenty of spunk, and often rallies others follow up clues (and she is often right there with them), she is not depicted as a woman who takes ridiculous chances that leave her vulnerable to danger ( as so many authors seem compelled to do with their protagonists). This supports my long-held contention that some authors contrive situations where the protagonist does dangerous (even dumb) things that belie the credibility of that person to be wise enough to put the clues together and solve the crime. I really liked that Cynthia Riggs created a truly realistic character. Women can be wise without having to be silly.
I think that Davina Porter did a great job of finding different voices for many different characters (no easy task for a cast as large as is found in this book). My only complaint was that she read it maddeningly slowly! I hope that that was not an insinuation that because the protagonist is an elderly woman, the reader (of any age) must be slow in taking in the story and clues :-)
Actually, this is a pretty neat little cozy. One murder is a trifle grisly, but we only hear about it after the fact. Though there are rather a lot of characters to sort out, it is very easy to keep up. If you are looking for something engaging but on the light side, this is surely it!
Nina Siegal has taken one masterpiece painting, "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp" by the young 26 year old Rembrandt, and historically and imaginatively brought it to life. And though it states above that she is the narrator, I believe it was done by several other people whose names I don't see listed there.
Siegal has reflected upon this one painting (which it helps the listener to look at in an art book or via googling) and given it a credible story. She has brought to life even the corpse, so the reader/listener can have a greater sense of who the real people posing there might have been. It was well researched and provides insights into the life, mindset, religious views, ideas, artistic approaches, and even superstitions of the 17th century Dutch world.
There is one character, Pia the art restorer, who "dissects" the picture via dictation, as she prepares to clean it, thus giving the listener the opportunity to hear about every detail in it. This is especially interesting as it parallels the way the Rembrandt character goes about creating it in his own mind before beginning to paint it. The painting depicts an autopsy, and she focuses on how the corpse's right hand appears to look as though it has been altered at some point by Rembrandt, which she also cleverly works into the story itself.
I found the characters fascinating, because she excellently provided historical perspective through them. There were Rembrandt and Dr. Tulp, the anatomist, and how they came together for this painting, but also Adrian, the hanged criminal (corpse) and his wife Flora. Rene Descartes was prominently a part, as he searched for the seat of the soul and mind in the body. At that time, they apparently believed the body would reveal the misdeeds of a man's life. Dr. Tulp says that "to know the body is to know God's purpose." One particularly moving point the author weaves in, is the observation that the corpse looks particularly Christlike, itself a frequent topic in art history. She mentions especially another well-known painting, "Lamentations of Christ," comparing the perspective and the emotions aroused in the viewer.
I believe that Siegal has done a good job of bringing not only the characters, but the historical times alive. She has provided a combination of back story to explain how the people arrived where they were in the painting, an exploration of artistic social value, guilds and techniques, philosophical and theological ideas and common mindsets and beliefs that would have guided their daily lives. I think she handles the dissection as carefully for the listener as possible. I did not find it at all upsetting, but I suppose the overall premise of the book could be uncomfortable for some listeners.
I would hope that she will take more paintings and do this sort of imaginative/historical exploration more in future. I love art and art history, often find myself wondering what the story inspiring many old paintings might have been, and so I very much welcome her contribution. I think she gave a good balance to what is known combined with her creation of characters' thoughts and intentions. The narration was wonderful, almost all voices being clearly distinguishable as the particular character at all times. I think the book begins a tad slowly, but looking back, perhaps it had to, to be able to draw the listener in with enough details to understand the whole effort. This is a book that I could listen to again (which I rarely do).
This book was a wonderful surprise. As I am listening my way through all the Agatha Christie books that I read 35-40 years ago, they have so far all been narrated by the great Hugh Fraser. I mean no disloyalty to him when I say that just having listened to "Black Coffee," narrated by the late John Moffatt (one of the actors who played Hercules Poirot over the years) all I can say is, "Wow"!
Agatha Christie originally wrote this as a play, rather than a novel, somewhat of a departure from her usual style, and Charles Osborne has put it into book form. Many years ago I actually saw the play. (Can you tell I have been a life-long Christie devotee?) As well as I recall it, I think this book is quite faithful to the play--I believe it has kept the same plot/characters/development. This is a "classic Poirot" where he actually does line all the family members up at the end to do his wonderful thing of announcing how the murder was committed, and by whom. Very pleasing to old mystery readers like myself.
The premise of the book is that Sir Claud Amory, a scientist who has been working on a secret formula for something that has the potential to become a more powerful weapon than any currently available, has reason to believe that someone in his own household wants to steal it. So he hires Poirot to come to the house and help detect who that is. Unfortunately he arrives just in time for Amory's murder.
This book lays out the plot well, has very good character development, neatly suggests (or leaves the reader guessing) the various possible reasons any person could have killed Sir Claud, and it all flows as well (if not better than) any Christie herself could have written. I think he was largely faithful to Christie's own language and style. My only regret is that I believe he made Poirot a *tiny* bit more pompous and narcissistic than Christie portrayed him, and left me feeling sad with the way Poirot made fun of poor Hastings. I know there was a slight suggestion of that in Christie, but I don't recall it being as strong as Osborne has made it.
But if you listen to this book for no other reason--I would recommend that you do so just to hear the extraordinarily talented John Moffatt read the whole book, but especially the role of Poirot. It was just stupendous! There were opportunities throughout the book to speak English (mostly), French and Italian. And as far as I could tell, he spoke all three with perfection. But mostly he was able to capture the nuances of tone that left no doubt that is was, indeed, Poirot who was the main feature of the book. I'm not planning to abandon listening to Fraser, for whom I have great fondness, but I certainly am planning to listen to more of the Christies read by Moffatt. His narration was the true gem of this book.
Here's what I really, really enjoyed about this book: it was filled with pages of interesting information about art and art history. Loved hearing about artists, and things like debates around the worth of "fakes" and forgeries, and so forth. The story itself was clever.
Here's what I liked less: although interesting, at times it seemed written for about a high school reading level. Sometimes sort of stilted language (but not always).
Here's what I liked even less: the narrator read too fast.
Here's what left me absolutely cringing and needing a bullet to bite on: this book is filled with French words--vocabulary, places, names, even French accents for characters who spoke English. A lot more than the occasional French phrase thrown in here and there. This narrator murdered the French language! It was pretty awful. I might have thought the producer of this book could have found an accomplished bilingual reader to have made it a more credible listen.
This is a challenging book to review. It is unlike almost any I have read--and difficult to classify, though quite satisfying to listen to (after I began to grasp it's process, or non-process).
There is a rather light plot going on--a writer is committing ideas to notebooks--therefore, as we hear them, they lack the continuity of a novel--but seem to be the range of things that capture his attention, the scope of which are enormous. Then there is a story about a Christian church losing it's cross, and having it cruelly show up on the roof of a Jewish synagogue. This gives the sense that the entire book is meant to arouse notions of vexing theological questions, and Doctorow does not disappoint as he brings it to even cosmological questions.
It begins--in parallel with the Bible, with an explanation of one current belief about beginning of the universe, an expanded story about the Big Bang, and thereafter shifts among various ideas, verses, stories, that the writer would like to explore. The priest and the rabbis do some of the story telling, but as the book is not intended to simply be a novel with a linear plot, it is not always clear "who" is speaking--the writer, the other people or possibly the author himself. (It might be different if reading it--since there are sometimes breaks that make those things more clear).
However, not always being certain of whose consciousness is being expressed does not take away from the more important aspects, which seem to be a collection and expression of ideas and events (especially the Holocaust) that permeate the thinking around the latter part of the 20th century and the turn of the century (and still, for that matter). I believe it was originally published in 2000, so I'd say is quite appropriate in it's symbolic timing.
It is dazzling to listen to--I know I could listen many times and always find new things to hear and contemplate. This book defies an easy definition--as at one moment we are hearing about Einstein's ability to hold deeply religious and also scientific ideas in his mind simultaneously--while having a character (the priest) who seems unable to manage the religious ideas that he promotes to his congregation, so many doubts does he have.
I have not done justice to this book in my review--there are so many different aspects that one could comment upon. I will just say that it is fascinating--and though it is necessary to suspend the need for a book to have the typical movement from one point to another, it is quite something to sit back and listen to some of the ideas that are defining our time--in some contrast (implied if not stated) to those which shaped the thinking of others in history. It is a book that relies less on character development and mostly on the exposition of consciousness as it explores the broad and the miniscule in the universe from a theological, philosophical, even poetic point of view. I will have to say it has left an impact on me--and I know that I will listen again.
In most books, I have to listen for a while to get all the characters and situation in my mind. In this one, I was hooked almost from the first sentence. I'd had this in my library for a while, and passed it by, not feeling inspired by the notion of an amnesiac detective trying to solve a separate, different crime. What astonishment I felt when I realized that this is one of the best-crafted, well thought out, engaging and wonderfully narrated mysteries I've encountered in quite a long time.
Anne Perry, who wrote this many years ago,has assembled a challenging story of a double mystery (Monk's own identity and that of a murder) in a way that is neither overly complicated to follow nor challenging to one's belief system. I had thought the premise might have been a bit over the top, so avoided this book. Don't do it! This is a great book--one that I find notable for both it's writing style and it's good mystery.
I believe the beginning, the unfolding of how Monk discovers that he doesn't know who he is, is exceedingly interesting, credible, and works so very well with the story as a whole. His search for his own identity is taking place as a quiet, private matter while he works a very public case for the "Peelers" (newly formed police department in Victorian era London).
Many people have already written reviews about this--I want to echo the ones that praise it. Perry's weaving of the two plots in and out is very skillful and very rarely strayed into a forced conversation or interaction between characters to get to where she was leading the reader (listener). Just for the actual skill of assembling this book I would give it 5 stars. The narration by the excellent Davina Porter is a plus that just put it over the top for me. I only wished it could have been longer--I didn't want it to end! Highly recommend!
I am enjoying listening to the books of Martha Grimes which I read in paper form many years ago. With this book, she has shifted her tone a bit--there is less emphasis on the silliness of some of the characters (though that is there a bit) as she has crafted this mystery around a more serious social/ethical concern--animal abuse.
I think Grimes appropriately down-played the amusing characters (such as Aunt Agatha, Melose Plant's impossibly pompous and irritating relative) so as not to detract from what I presume was her intent to blend the usual good mystery with attention to animal needs and rights.
This book begins with pets mysteriously disappearing and dying, and one of the main characters is a young girl who has dedicated herself to trying to rescue abandoned or injured animals. Against this background, murder occurs in the oddest way--and is discovered by Polly Praed, who calls in Melrose Plant and their friend from Scotland Yard, Richard Jury... and the detecting process begins.
Does this mixture of a mystery for reading enjoyment mix well with commentary on a serious ethical concern? Well, yes and no. Yes, because she has worked the plot around it sufficiently well to have an interesting story, but maybe not totally because (as much as I genuinely believe in and support her message) it felt a little forced. I would have preferred her point to have been a bit more subtle. I hate to make any criticism of Martha Grimes--I so enjoy all she has written, so please don't let that keep you from reading this book. I would say that if her emphasis on the plight of animals was a little heavy-handed, her heart was in the right place. The message is important. The book is good and I quite recommend it.
In many ways this book is a story of closeness and distance. Twin brothers are born joined at the head--and though soon separated, have a special closeness for the rest of their lives, regardless of time, emotions and geography that eventually separate them. Raised by two doctors in Ethiopia--after their mother dies soon after their birth and their surgeon father disappears, Marion and Shiva's lives are impacted by the political events around them, their early years raised in a hospital environment, and their eventual separation (again--this time not by circumstances forced by their being conjoined at birth but by choice) and reconciliation. The back stories weave themselves in and out through the chapters, especially aspects of their father who, even though apart from them, has deeply impacted their lives.
Abraham Verghese has written a book that is almost impossible to stop listening to. This is one that I know I will come back and listen to again in the future, so filled was it with not only a deeply engaging and well-flowing (at times anxiety-provoking) story, but a sense of something almost magical about the atmosphere, the detailed descriptions of everything--especially the medical aspects--which are clearly a central part of the book, and the emotional connections among the characters. Excellent narration by Sunil Malhotra. This is a book which feels to me as though it should very well enter the halls of classics in time.
This was my first book by Arnaldur Indridason and I'll admit that at first I was drawn to it because I so love to listen to George Guidall's narration, so thought I would try it. I haven't read too many Icelandic novels, so didn't know what to expect. Happily--the result was unexpectedly good.
It begins with the uncomplicated-appearing murder of an old man in Reykjavík. There are a couple of clues that give it an odd sense, but Inspector Erlendur cannot yet imagine what he will be facing as he and his police team set out to try to solve it. This mystery has so many twists and turns that it stays moving at a good pace. The settings change over the course of the story, so that it has a feeling of wandering into entirely unexpected territory, ultimately that which deals with the name of the book (Jar City).
I will have to say that listening to unfamiliar Icelandic names was hard (even with a really helpful explanation of them in the beginning), but the story was well told. It related a bit about Erlendur's personal life (which I assume will be developed in subsequent books), but in general, just a good mystery. I would not give it 5 stars, but it was solidly good with what seems like potential to develop into something even better.
Georges Simenon, a Belgian writer in early 20th century, wrote many novels--perhaps most notably the Commissaire Jules Maigret series. Maigret is a detective in the French police, and he seems to find his criminal without using the customary procedural methods, but just following his own instincts.
In this book, the first in the series, Maigret is seeking a criminal who eludes him most cleverly. He seems to appear everywhere, only to be elsewhere instead. It begins with Maigret examining a body in the lavatory of a train, who looks like the man he is chasing, but he finds that Pietr has escaped, which begins his pursuit of him in many cities.
The writing is plain, lacking some of the exciting twists and turns of later detective stories, but fun because Simenon has created a character with a distinct personality (his pipe, his hat, his individualized way of pursuing his adversary). He tends to seek "the crack in the wall," meaning he uses a bit of psychology--waiting until he can observe his criminal in a way that shows the parts the man would not have liked to reveal about himself.
This is a very good translation of this book. And the narration is excellent. Recommend to those who enjoy books from the early era of detective fiction.
I never grow tired of the books by Patrick Taylor, and narrated by John Keating, about Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly, the sometimes crusty, often surprisingly kind old doctor who takes care of a delightful group of villagers in Ballybucklebo. He began his career in the poorest area of Dublin, where he met the nurse Kitty O'Halloran, whom he loves but does not marry for the next 30 years.
I cherish the stories that Taylor weaves in and out of his books--and this one gives us a look at the newly married O'Reillys, with contrasting flashbacks between the village where he practices now (at the time of this story--which I think is in the 1960's) and the earlier time in Dublin. If you have listened to all the books up till now, you will feel as though the characters are people you would love living amongst. Taylor's gift is to give what feels like wonderfully thorough depictions of the deep humanness of those who move in and out of these stories--with all their idiosyncrasies and quirks.
Although this is (I think) the 8th book in the series--and it might help to have listened to others, it is not necessary. Each stands alone very well--and I might add, that even within the books themselves, different stories move in and out so that this whole series is somewhat a collection of vignettes about the movements (and ailments) of people who become (or usually remain) very much alive on the pages of his stories. I always feel I have been drawn into the tales in a very satisfying manner.
I have read a couple of reviews that suggest this book is not quite up to the standard of past ones. I don't know--maybe there is some truth to that, but I still love it as much as every past book--and I hope there are many more in the pipeline for readers (listeners) who love them. And I have never read one of these in paper form--so to me, John Keating *is* Dr. O'Reilly and all the others. I doubt I would want to read them, so much do I enjoy his narration!
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