I had put this one off as everywhere I turned folks raved about the book. Finally, I decided to see for myself what all the hype was about. I was a truly cynical listener as the story started; now I want to rave about it, too! The characters, setting, plotting ... it all works beautifully. Terrific narration made the experience even better.
I had thought that this would be one of those six-degrees-of-separation deals, where the effects of the mugging ripple directly outward. Instead, it felt more as though the affected were a closed circle, some of whose members I did not care for much. Kellgren's accents were good, especially the mugging victim Charlotte, and Czech immigrant Anton. However, at other times, she spoke in a "plummy" voice which I found a bit irritating. Others' mileage may vary on this one, but my experience was that it filled time, and not much else.
Does the trend of creating one's own verbs truly annoy you ("We'll have to conference about that later.")? If so, you are guaranteed to hate this book, since Florence does this as her own "private" language every paragraph or so; I (sort of) got used to it, but an editor should held firm on excising a great deal of it before publication.
That aside, y'all should know up front that the ending's left open enough to drive a truck through - either Florence's version of events is accurate, or her grasp on reality is mighty tenuous. I was firmly with her until about 3/4 of the way through, where an event occurs that left me shocked. That last part of the story forced me to completely suspend disbelief; even in 1891 I don't think it would've been that easy to manage things so "under the radar" without a smart policeman strongly suspecting something.
Audio narration was well done, although the housekeeper in Maine sounded more Southern to me, and I caught no reference that was the case. I'd be willing to read a sequel (in fact, I'd welcome one!) to address, if not outright resolve, some of the issues.
Had I read the print book, I might've come away thinking it "not bad" probably, though somewhat slight. The audio production, however, is a mess. I had an inkling of that from the sample, but figured, "Well, I really like travel narratives, so how bad can it be?" Bad enough.
To start, there was obviously no editing whatsoever - on occasion, Bucknall starts a sentence, loses his track, and then just ... tries again, like hearing an echo. Secondarily, he gives Americans rather cartoonish accents - including a university professor. Guess that's considered funny among non-Americans, but when you're trying to sell copies TO Americans, might wanna re-think that, eh? Moreover, he himself sounds like Bertie Wooster with a mouth full of marbles much of the time. If that's "upper class", I'll pass.
Read a cheap print copy if you must; otherwise, you've been warned!
I had read the first book in the series, recalling that I hadn't been all that wild about it. Still, this one was showing at a steeply discounted price, so ... why not pick it up? Answer: weak plot, unlikeable characters, and creepy overtones to both. In order to get into the book, one has to find the world of coffee interesting; if not, there's a lot of coffee-related detail to slog through. We start with a sort of prologue of finding the corpse at the Java Ho! convention, and are promptly yanked back a week or so for all of the details of setting up the event, and of the activity (such that there was) until we're back to the corpse again. Many of the characters are highly unlikeable, although the sheriff and Jerome-the-junior-journalist are downright nice. Maggy herself came off as often whiny, but that could've been the narration. By the end, I decided that the book was barely worth the discounted price, although the story of the baby creeped me out a bit. As far as narration went, Savage started at a fever pitch, as though she were facing some sort of looming deadline to get to the end, but I noticed she'd calmed down by the later part of the story.
Overall, I felt the book was worth the low price I paid as something to fill a few hours. At full price (or one Audible credit), I'd say skip it, or read it as a library book. Maggy and Jake's relationship doesn't "advance" so there's not much to miss otherwise in terms of the overall series arc.
I bought this audiobook thinking the story sounded kind of cute. Instead, after an hour of confusion as to who was who, and why they did what they did, I have totally given up! Basically, it's a long short story, not a novella, let alone a novel. The word count is largely made up of inner thought, description, and every single mundane action spelled out in detail, including one character's urinary procedure.
If I hadn't paid for the book, I might well have given up before the halfway point - the first half seemed one long slog of set up and recap. There still wasn't a lot of tension as far as plot goes later on, but I will give Lutz credit for showing a more mature Izzy by the end of the story. Also, it's confirmed that while she and Henry don't have that much in common, there's ... shall we say, a powerful sexual attraction going on. I must've blinked and missed one detail though - why was Rae doing community service (again)? She had done some previously, for holding her sister captive, but that seemed to be over. Yet here, near the end of the book, she's out on trash detail several hours per week.
Usual disclaimer that this series MUST be read in order, starting with "The Spellman Files".
I don't want to take away from Cathy's achievements here, but I didn't get all that much of an impression of how her blindness made the trip that much more challenging? There's no mention of her specific contributions while Bernard did the driving that I caught. The blindness angle seemed more of a "hook" to sell an otherwise okay-but-not-great travel narrative; moreover, she seemed to get as much sympathy benefit (not that she outright solicited it) from her disability, as any obstacles she faced because of it.
I did find the author's anti-American attitude rather annoying, subtle jabs about foreign policy here and there at first, until they reached the States near the end of the book. At that point she pours on the disdain, as though she's been waiting to do so as some sort of final "reward", becoming completely bent out of shape that they can't obtain vehicle insurance as easily (or cheaply) as they'd just, sort of, assumed, and a similar situation about air freighting home the bike from the U. S. Perhaps ... maybe ... if they'd done a bit of research before leaving home those things wouldn't have come as a shock. The female narrator's cartoon-ish American accent didn't help much either.
Bottom line: I wouldn't consider returning the book, but I do regret having bought it.
Poe starts out as a really, nice likeable character; in spite of the somewhat weak plot I felt invested in him. By the end, however, both he and his friend Fox come off more as overgrown frat boys. There are a couple of explicit sex scenes that I could've lived without, as well as an increase in the violence near the end. The suspects were largely a silly lot, but accepting that they were intended as caricatures, that wasn't all that much of a problem; the toughest part to get past was that the detective was willing to put her job in jeopardy in letting a complete stranger, whom she fell for almost right away, nose around in (interfere with) the murder investigation. Despite all that, I'd be interested in reading the sequel the author says he's considering ... but a word of advice: Poe's loaded - have him fly up front next time!
Audio narration fit the character very well.
I had thought this 32 hour opus would take several weeks, with a couple of breaks for other items, to get through - not so! I paused for another title once, but soon found myself wanting to get back to the soap-opera-like storyline. Trollope's satire shines through here with the nobility busy spending money they don't have, while scheming to marry their kids to "commoners" who've got some, publicly slobbering over the crass Melmotte while he's splashing around all that dosh. West's outright brilliant narration makes the book a slam dunk purchase.
If you're familiar with the BBC production (starring David Suchet), the book itself goes into greater detail regarding the characters, especially Melmotte's daughter, Marie.
At roughly halfway through, I found I'd fast-forwarded through as much of the book as I'd read (if not more) -- time to move on. Lots and lots of historical background, as well as personal asides, between the moments of actual travel narrative.
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