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Robert Goldsborough has done something very difficult: picked up characters and continued a series after the death of the original author. Not the first to do so, but by far one of the best I've ever read so far! I have read all of the original Nero Wolfe mysteries (multiple times) and I am here to say, that it was very hard to tell "who" had done the writing during most of this book.
I should think that of all the series to have taken on, Nero Wolfe might have been a huge challenge because of all the very distinctive kinds of vocabulary, mannerisms, stylistic elements and so on that were the trademarks of the original series. Being off by just a little would have been very noticeable.
He has taken on the unimaginable task of re-creating the characters from the long Nero Wolfe mystery series--with all the same wonderful people (Nero, Archie, Fritz, Cramer and the rest...) and managed somehow to keep the same energy, atmosphere, subtle sense of humor, and framework in which the mystery is laid out--it's all there, and pitch perfect!
In this story, Archie and Nero work to solve the mystery of the suicide (which of course, only Nero recognizes as a murder) of a wealthy female newspaper owner. They go through almost the exactly predictable sort of interviewing of everyone in Wolfe's office (he will never leave his house)--with the same kind of grumbling, resistance--yet ultimately somehow cooperation--of everyone toward unmasking the murderer in the classic NW style ending. Wolfe spends lots of time with his orchids, Fritz cooks wonderful meals and Archie does all the footwork toward the resolution of the crime.
If I had the smallest thing to comment on that was sort of a negative for me, it would be that Goldsborough had understandably (I suppose) updated this book to a more recent time than the original Archie and Nero series. Hearing (only a few) references to a computer, "turning off the phones" and the like (I think it was written in the 80's--but sounded as though it might have been intended to have been late 70"s?--just my guess) was a little bit of a turn off, since the original series was (largely--but not entirely) written during the 40's, 50's and some still into the 60's.
Because of that, Goldsborough couldn't quite capture the feel of the original era in which these were (mostly) written. Nor did he try--since he constructed it as a book that would have been placed in the logical order of next in the series, coming after all that RS wrote. I don't know whether it would even have made sense to have tried to write this as something in the middle of the long stretch of time during which Rex Stout wrote all his books anyway. So that is really the most minor of things. And did not detract from the book--simply made me occasionally aware that this is "new," not one of the old, classic RS mysteries.
L. J. Ganser was a wonderful narrator. He so captured the essence of how (I think) Nero Wolfe should sound that it was just delightful to listen to him. He had the crisp-sounding, distinct clarity and intonation of his voice, one could almost hear the punctuation marks in his speech (just the way I think Wolfe would have sounded). I wish he might not have carried that crispness to other characters quite so much--since I believe that Archie and the others might have been a little more casual in their manner of speaking. However, as a listener--it was a bonus, because every word was clearly spoken.
All in all, this book was just a delightful surprise. A future listener should not hesitate to try it with a worry that the differences in writers might be too obvious. Where there are *slightly* noticeable differences, they won't detract from the overall feeling of having magically been brought back to the old brownstone with Nero and the rest.
I think that Goldsborough and Lanser have made a solid contribution to those who love the NW mysteries. Somewhere, I can't help thinking, Rex Stout is smiling and saying, "Satisfactory!"
I noticed that only one person has rated this book before now, and appears not to have liked it at all. If that listener was unfamiliar with the whole series, it would be easy to understand how difficult it might have been to make sense out of this story. I love this series, and I loved this book. But it is perhaps one that most depends upon knowing and understanding the character of Ian Rutledge up till this point, to allow the book to be interesting and meaningful.
Ian Rutledge is a veteran returned from WWI, injured in body, mind and soul. He feels cautious of other people, has been rejected by the woman he had been engaged to before the war, and has come back to work at Scotland Yard, where he seems to be something of a loner, a man who works best by following his own intuititions. Indeed, he is not exactly "alone," because he suffers from Shell Shock (what we would call PTSD today), and carries within him, the haunting voice of an executed war comrade, along with torturous guilt and memories.
This book possibly is the strongest one in the series, in terms of directly and indirectly alluding to the internal ghosts he is struggling with. The book begins on New Year's Eve, where a woman is doing a seance-like sitting, trying to evoke the dead--which so unnerves him that he has to leave early. He finds shell casings there (and other places) which provoke anxious memories for him. And then his job takes him north, to a spirit-ridden area, where tight-lipped people won't go into the woods, nor reveal why to him because of something that occurred in their past.
The writing of this whole series and especially this book is just word-perfect. I never want one to end. I have read each one in paper, and I'm now coming back to listen--which is a very satisfying experience, as I hear details and grasp more of the psychological aspects of this time in history, and the narration is quite good as well. But even though I recommend this book with as many stars as one could give it, I fully believe this is one book best read only after getting a better sense of what the series/character is about. Otherwise, I can easily understand how disappointing it might have been to listen to--might not have made as much sense in many ways. However, I found it as good as when I first read it, and if one follows the series, this book will most likely be greatly enjoyed at many levels--historical, psychological, good mystery and very unique main character.
I think this is my favorite in the Max Tudor series so far. In this book, Father Max Tudor (a former MI-5 agent and now a priest) has had to leave his village and his pregnant love to go to a nunnery where suspicious events have occurred. He is there to look into the poisoning of Lord Lislelivet, who ate fruitcake laced with something that seemed intended to warn him away.
I thought that beginning (of being poisoned with fruitcake) was either meant to be taken a bit lightly or else it was somewhat awkwardly worked out. But it served its purpose--to get Ftr Tudor to the place where all the mysteries are happening. And unfortunately, things will get worse before they get better.
Let me tell you why I love this series & especially this book. GM Malliet has put this into a convent setting--something that I think it could be challenging to keep interesting for some authors. But Malliet writes with a refreshing dose of modern day observations and comments that are delightfully sprinkled throughout, which contrast with this religious setting where time has all but stood still. She moves deftly back and forth between drawing the listener/reader into the depths of a lifestyle that it is even hard to imagine in this busy world, with comments that remind one that it is indeed taking place in the 21st century.
She has done something else that I think is difficult--she has created a fairly large group of characters, and that can be hard to keep up with in some books. But in this one--the cast of characters are read out in the very beginning--so that was a big help, plus they are so well drawn, that I felt no problem following them.
I think the ending was a little bit too much drawn out--but it turned out to be a complicated situation, and probably needed all the time spent on winding it up. I hope, now that the "seasons" are all used up (in the titles of this series) that Ms. Malliet will still write about Max Tudor. I find this a really enjoyable series, and loved every word of this book. I felt so sorry when it had to finally be over.
I have always enjoyed this series. I believe that Deborah Crombie writes very well--and this was nicely narrated by Gerard Doyle.
In this book, Duncan and Gemma are each dealing with different cases, but Duncan has the greater role, as he is trying to trace the people who seem to have been involved with a frightening bombing incident at St Pancras' train station.
What I really like about this series is that it consistently presents very good mysteries to work out, and the main characters are a touching blended family who always manage to make their kids a priority--despite their busy lives policing. Something I'm noticing though, is that there seem to be so many peripheral characters, that it slightly detracts from Gemma, Duncan, their kids & close assistants in a way that feels (to me) as though the good tension that held with the earlier books is loosening a bit.
Nevertheless, in a series of this sort--where one has followed from the beginning, it is difficult to criticize--expanding acquaintances is the way of life--so it makes sense. But I think I did enjoy the earlier ones a bit more. Still recommend!
A young woman, raised by a group of non-law-abiding uncles, trying to go straight, lands a job as the library assistant in the home of Vera Von Alst--the most hated woman in town. Vera is as prickly as a porcupine, wheelchair bound, and perennially brusque with everyone. Despite that, the few people who work for her do care about her. So when Muriel Delgado mysteriously arrives and upsets the entire arrangement of the household, great suspicion arises. As usual, Jordan Bingham has to take matters into her own hands (with some help from the adoring uncles) to unravel the crimes that have taken place and threaten her (now ex) employer.
This is a really fun series so far. Each book has used a well known author as background, and this time it is Rex Stout, as Jordan channels Archie Goodwin in her mind, for guidance in moving forward to solve the mystery. I suppose this would work as a stand alone, but I think it would be better read in order. Recommend!
After listening to many of the selections in Alexander Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, I wondered if he could possibly match that great series in this new one. I was delighted to listen to "44 Scotland Street," in which he again creates a memorable set of characters and a lovely, meandering and engaging story through which to let them reveal themselves. Brought alive by the wonderful narration of Robert Ian Mackenzie, Pat--who has rented a room with Bruce in Edinburgh, finds herself a job in an art gallery (feeling a bit embarrassed because she is on her 2nd "gap year."). Her neighbors are each fascinating (and often humorous), and the book tells their tales as it shifts back and forth between several stories.
Smith slowly moves the reader/listener through various incidents in the days of the people who live in this house, which were increasingly interesting. Everyone is trying as best they can to get their needs met. Pat somewhat falls in love with Bruce, without realizing that his confidence is not all it appears. Her employer is part of a group who meet regularly at "Big Lou's"--and the reader gradually realizes that she not only dispenses food and drink--but also philosophical advice. The neurotic Irene--whose son is struggling to be a normal little boy despite her smothering attempts, and others. The thing that makes this book a gem is the reliance on good character development, description, and the underlying foundation of solid philosophical concepts that peek through at times.
In the very beginning, I wasn't sure if anything was going to happen, wondering if it was going to be boring. Then I realized that its beauty is in the attention to detail that Smith gives it. And even though things "happen" it seems as though the point is more about who they are than what they do. I would like to also say that the narration gives this book a richness that makes it wonderful to listen to. This is different from his other series, but is equally compelling. I really enjoyed listening to it!
Sarah Bird has written a sometimes heartbreaking, yet very moving story of the parallel lives of two teenaged girls living in Okinawa--separated in time, yet connected in surprising ways. The narration is very good--in that several people contribute to this to bring us more authentically into the atmosphere of the novel.
Tamiko is a young girl who has died of suicide at the height of the invasion by Americans during WWII, when Okinawa was surrendered. She tells her part of the story mostly from the perspective of what is happening at that time (leading to her death)--bringing the listener directly into strong family connections, the life on this island before the war, and contrasting it with the initial brave attempts to win the war--where even the youngest among them feels honored to be doing their part to help the Emperor. She is one of the Lily girls--recruited at first to be in school, but quickly shifted to horrifying experiences as these young girls are sent to be nurses to thewounded Japanese men. Now, her spirit is searching for someone to help her complete her journey to be with her beloved ancestors.
Luz is an American girl, whose mother is the head of the Kadena Air Force base police, and whose sister has been recently killed in Afghanistan. She, too, is desperately searching for meaning, and closure, after something has turned her world upside down. She also is struggling in the beginning with wishes to die, to rejoin her sister in the only way she can think of. She is adrift in her efforts--feeling lack of closeness to her mother or anyone else. Newly moved to the base, she doesn't even initially have close friends to help her with this.
Their two stories begin to combine in surprising ways (which it would be a spoiler to comment more on). The strength of this novel lies, I think, in two places. Bird is excellent at evoking the atmosphere, the sense of what people are feeling, reacting to--their levels of joy (at times) and desperation at others, and how connections with others brings courage to face what must be faced.
The other thing she has done, is provide a wealth of information about how the Okinawans relied on their connection with the "kami" (or spirits of ancestors) to find strength, and the need to return to their ancestral place among them. The story provides a gripping sense of what it must have been like to helplessly face the disaster of your entire world about to come to a catastrophic end and yet continuing on, always treasuring Life. The book is beautifully written and filled with fascinating details about life on Okinawa (past and present).
Much of this book addresses the suffering of the main characters, yet I didn't feel pulled down by it--actually the opposite, it was more inspiring and deeply engaging. I have not read Sarah Bird's previous books, but now I think I will seek them out.
Ronald Siegel, PsyD is an inspiring teacher and psychotherapist, who offers a wealth of information about a practice that has been brought to the western world from the east: mindfulness and meditation. We live such busy, conflicted lives that we often do not even dream that slowing down and tuning in to ourselves is a more effective solution than multi-tasking, working harder, or getting caught up in ever more complicated ways to try to manage it all.
I have been privileged to attend several conferences that Dr. Siegel has given, and I found this series of lectures to be fully as exciting and useful as hearing him in "real time." He is a wonderful speaker, and he does a good job of conveying what I think might be unfamiliar to some, but when put into practice, can bring significant change to our lives.
I feel amazed at the sheer amount of information he is able to convey in such a (relatively) short period of time in these lectures. He gives a good introduction to what mindfulness is--it's origins in Buddhist thought, along with scientific studies that are proving how helpful these methods are proving to be in today's busy, often anxious world. He talks about it's uses in daily life, medical situations and even addictions. Now that there is more evidence than ever before that chronic stress is directly connected to many medical and pain conditions, mindfulness is finding it's place especially in the medical world, as it offers an additional way to address chronic conditions.
I like listening to The Great Courses--in fact, I have been buying and listening to them since they were produced on cassette tapes! (Hint: that was a long time ago :-) Although I have never listened to any Course that I didn't like or appreciate, this one is a 5 star winner in my opinion. It is a well-balanced combination of information, interesting anecdotes, useful ways to employ what he is talking about and he maintains a consistent level of excellence in his talks. Speaking of which, Dr. Siegel "talks" a bit rapidly--you may have to listen hard at times to get it all, but he is clearly speaking fast because he has so much information to convey. If you like listening to something that will change your life in positive ways, this is the Course to use your credit on! I *SO* recommend this!
The good news: this book picks and improves somewhat about halfway through-so should you listen to it, have patience. The basic ingredients are all here--interesting young Mick Malone and Alyssa, a young woman who has been treated like a cousin in his family, go to Scotland, where he plans to do his internship for his college degree. They stay with his grandmother who apparently has purchased a small piece of a manor or castle, along with a title of some sort, in return for her influx of money, meant to help make improvements to the property. Some people pretend to be writing a book about walking paths, who are intent on something entirely different, quickly alter the atmosphere, because murder has intruded upon them. Mick, along with Jock Malone, are the Constabulary who have to manage all this. But many players will become part of the story. It is a fairly fast-moving story which is good.
The less good news: I suppose this is not true, but I had the oddest feeling the author had never stepped foot in Scotland, and was maybe writing as a hobby or something. And the narrator was (at least in the beginning) kind of hard to listen to. I so don't want to criticize him--oddly, I had the sense that he was reading as best he could, and though it sounded a bit amateurish, I wanted to give him something for earnestness and effort.
I don't regret buying or listening to this book, but I'm not champing at the bit to purchase another, either. I might. Just depends on how it might be presented in it's writeup. But I would prefer a different narrator.
I basically enjoy the Maisie Dobbs series--and this book is no exception. It is one of several series which focus on the new ways women were able to establish themselves in the world in more meaningful ways just after WWI. I am really glad to see these book celebrating the exciting changes in women's lives and the newfound respect they were gaining.
That said, despite that I have always enjoyed the mysteries (the plots) of this series, I've found it a bit of a leap to handle the rags-to-riches, Cinderella type story that Winspear has created for Maisie Dobbs' background. She's gone from being a housemaid in a wealthy household at age 13, to being noticed and selected by them to get a fabulous education at Cambridge (which would have been available to few women yet at that time) to inheriting a fortune from her mentor in psychology and detecting...to possibly now considering marrying the son of the wealthy household she began in. While I really like the complicated plots that come with every one of these books, I find it hard to juggle good stories that are about solving mysteries with fantasy romance.
And so, this is still a good story. Maisie is approached by Scotland Yard--to her surprise, to take on a case they have not been able to solve. It seems that the brother of the murdered woman, Usha Pramal, has come from India to England to try to find out who killed his sister and why. Maisie is intrigued and takes the case. Before she scarcely gets into it, yet another woman is also murdered, and she is doubly determined to find the killer.
This book invites the reader, in a very positive way I think--to consider issues of diversity and how people tend to regard those who seem different to them (for instance, it would seem that Scotland Yard didn't give this case as much attention as they might have, had the murdered woman been English instead of Indian). It is also good because it supplies a large number of potential suspects, and kept me guessing till the end who the killer had been. But it was complicated by Maisie's personal life--a number of changes she is making that leave the reader wondering where this series might be heading. Perhaps that is the skill of the author--to be able to move the series in different directions, but I was not terribly comfortable. I'm old. I like things to be as I expect them :-) However, like everyone else, I will wait with interest to see where Maisie finds herself in the next book--and I'm sure the story will be fun to read.
MJ Trow has created this series, based on Lestrade--the policeman who was never quite as smart as Sherlock Holmes (except in this series, he is). It is filled with interesting characters, and often a lot of humor. In this book, he is tasked to help to find who is murdering people while huge numbers of folks are flowing into London from around the world, for the Olympics. The premise of these books is good--and I enjoy the humor, the complexity of the plots and Trow's creativity in bringing this lesser known Sherlockian character into a greater role. And, as a positive--I suspect nobody but the author of a book could ever know exactly how he might want it to be read. But even though Mr. Trow has a soft and gentle voice--and gets all the jokes read just as they should be for getting a laugh, I find his voice to be a bit muffled--hard to achieve clarity. I strain and strain to listen, thus taking a good bit of the pleasure of the book away. I like these stories, and I like that Mr. Trow wants the public to know how he intends them to be read. Unfortunately, I just find that listening to his reading is quite challenging. I listen on my tablet. It's a good story--just bear that in mind, and worth the straining to hear. Perhaps an external speaker of excellent quality, where you can adjust various tonal qualities would deal nicely with this situation, but I just don't happen to have one.
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