I got the book a couple of years ago during a Jeeves-and-Wooster phase, which ended before I'd gotten around to listening to this one. Needing a smaller work to fill some time, I decided to polish off "Aunts" recently, finding it worked out well. The Jeeves canon stories build on each other, so this final one would work best for fans of the series; there's some of the old slapstick adventure, but it has the feel of a finale to it.
I truly liked Amy Hobbes as a protagonist, empty nest mother of a grown daughter, who's had a couple of bad breaks with relationships: widowed young when her cop husband is killed on duty, followed by a divorce from Mr. Wrong. The relationship she re-kindles with a former colleague seemed too good to be true to me, bordering on romance genre, but I suspect it's more that I'm not a woman of a certain age who might appreciate those details more than I did.
As with most first novels, the "mystery" angle vies with series setup details, so the ending wasn't the strongest part of the story. In my case, the professional relationship between Amy and her protégé reporter Clarice made for the most compelling aspect. My memory may not be the greatest, but I don't recall a story featuring women newsroom colleagues (Amy does give a "hat tip" to Edna Buchanan as a trailblazer).
I'm looking forward to the sequel that Ms. Drier has in the works, especially if Lee Ann Howlett narrates that one as well. Her Amy voice fits the character well, but I liked Clarice's quite a bit, also - no way you'll confuse the two women!
First part of the book concerns some (nouveau riche) girls who try, but just aren't accepted by New York society - truly an example of Rich Peoples' Problems.
The young ladies head over to London where, in spite of the rigid class system there, they manage to snag a couple of swells. Part Two is a tale of "be careful what you wish for" as money and titles don't prove all they were cracked up to be - more Rich Peoples' Problems.
I give the work three stars as the writing quality is good, making it a decent read for those with a strong interest in Victorian literature.
A word on the audio narration: Flo Gibson can be an acquired taste, with her unusual cadence. I hadn't heard anything by her recently, so had to start over again with her style, but by the middle of the story either I'd become re-acquainted, or she'd hit her groove.
Read "Second Sitting" first, especially for the history between Casey and Dr. Sam Mallory. It would be fair to describe this series as a chick lit - cozy hybrid, although it's nowhere Harlequin (Mills & Boon) territory. I find the stories interesting for the cruise ship background, as well as the descriptions of the ports of call. Narration is good.
Graham Greene, along with his cousin Barbara and a host of bearers, traveled through Sierra Leone and Liberia in the mid-thirties; seventy five years later, Tim Butcher followed their route (as closely as he could) to see what traces of their journey remain.
At first, I felt that the story seemed a bit padded, as the actual trip didn't begin until he and his companions left Freetown almost a quarter of the way through the book. Sierra Leone proved a bit tricky to interpret, however, as the Greenes traveled via a railway that hasn't existed for over a generation, leaving Butcher to give impressions as best he could.
The second half of the book, through Liberia with a brief cut through Guinea (as the Greenes had done) proved more ... swashbuckling, in that Liberia's chaos, while initially directed at the Americo-Liberian elite, quickly became a violent tale of inter-tribal conflict. Thus, the author manages to work in the Greenes' experience, as well as his own, filtered by the stories and visual evidence of warfare.
Barbara Greene's book is harder to get a hold of, but I'd recommend (at least) reading Graham's book before tackling this one. A strong interest in travel narrative, or a background in West African history, would come in handy as well. Very good narration.
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".
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