For fans of Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth's classic British mysteries are a real find. Miss Silver is the retired governess turned private sleuth whose Victorian manners and morals are pure, proper, and good, and whose gimlet mind fastens vise-like on the telling details that explode the mystery. In this story, a wicked witch-like older woman terrorizes and bullies her young niece and the niece's little sister. Enter a strong, sensible, knight in shining armor and Miss Silver to put things right. The old fashioned charm of Wentworth's books is by no means sentimental or unintelligent; great word smithery is evident in each paragraph. This narrator was born to read these books--her tones and inflections are exactly right for the period and the atmosphere, and each character has a distinct, consistent voice. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.
Combine witty, literate writing and a cast of idiosyncratic actors putting on a play in Oxford, and you have a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable classic British mystery. I loved every minute of this story, which is particularly enjoyable for the colorful characters and their interactions with each other. The narrator is perfect.
A button-downed, dreamy New Englander marries a driven Korean woman, who feels duty-bound to buy a deli for her mother to manage and run. The husband is the narrator of this wonderful true account of culture clashes and heart meshings. It's also a fascinating inside glimpse of the microcosmic world of the ethnic-run deli---the place all of us New Yorkers depend upon in our various neighborhoods for newspapers, coffee, and snack cakes. There's a drama behind every single one of these convenience items. The narrator is phenomenal, capturing Korean, Black, Middle Eastern, and Boston Brahmin accents with seeming effortlessness. I absolutely loved this book.
I fell in love with Connie Willis' time travel story The Doomsday Book and after reading the enthusiastic reviews for this I thought I would like it, too. It also has time travel, but to me the humor seemed forced and silly. Humor is a very individual taste---people considering this purchase should listen for about 30 minutes to the sample to see if this is for them. The reader is excellent.
This is one of my all time favorite audible listens. The story takes place in a not-too-distant near future in which time travel is possible under tightly controlled conditions within a university setting. A history graduate student named Kivran has prepared intensively to travel back to the early 14th century, learning the languages and practical and social skills for the period. In the present day, elaborate immunization protocols have eliminated illness. Part of Kivran's preparation involves health enhancements to protect her from medieval illnesses of her targeted time drop.. Her time drop is scheduled for about 30 years ahead of the black death's lethal sweep through England and Europe.
But! As it happens, a fatal flu epidemic is just getting started in Oxford as Kivran's time drop is being put in motion. The key technician for the drop is already losing cognitive focus, being (unknowingly) in the early stages of the flu. Due to decreased focus, he makes an error in the program, and Kivran ends up in 1348, just in time to be in the path of the plague.
At the same time, the flu epidemic sweeps through the story's present-day Oxford, thus incapacitating the key personnel for correcting the mistake.
This is not an unfamiliar plot device for a time travel narrative---a person getting "lost" in the past. What makes it a great story is the way the increasing intensity of the characters' development, in both the present and the past streams of the story. That, and the superb narrator, whose voice brings to life a 14th century priest, a future/present day 14 year old boy, an anxious middle aged don, a 7 year old medieval girl, and an initially fearful but increasingly dismayed yet unfailingly courageous Kivran--who finds herself drawn into the real human lives of the people of the little 14th c. village in which she finds herself.
I found this a very moving, engaging, thrilling, and poignant story. Highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction and character-driving time travel.
The pleasure of this mystery is in watching the author develop her characters layer by layer, with the clues coming from Kincaid's and James' successive discoveries about the personalities in play. Readers who like smart British mysteries with a minimum of gore will enjoy this extremely well narrated story---not as spectacular or byzantine as P. D. James, but within that tradition.
Ngaio Marsh creates another closed community, in this case, a group of artists studying together, in which disparate characters with outsized personalities and flaws compete for the reader's suspicions. The writing is a pleasure with both description and dialogue creating a vivid multi-layered fictional world. The narrator is superlative.
This is an extraordinary historical drama. It mostly concerns the fortunes of three British women living during the British Raj period in India. They are the wife of a missionary, a hapless and naive soldier's wife, and an engineer's wife. Their characters grow--or are crushed--as the story develops. The setting and time are shown in both their brutality and beauty. The story shifts back and forth between the present day descendant of the missionary's wife and the 19th c. era, with the emphasis on the latter. Some aspects of this book are truly heart breaking, but in a way that gives the book a great sense of historical authenticity and emotional truth. The narration is spectacular, with Welsh, Scottish, English, and Indian accents effortlessly limned. There is romance, but it is far, far more than a sappy romance. Can NOT recommend this highly enough.
Crombie's mysteries often involve long-hidden secrets from the past and a generous outlay of interesting characters. No Mark Upon Her is especially strong on the character aspect, as each scene reveals a new facet to the featured personality, so that the listener gets to know these people layer by layer. This story is set in the opera world, and contrasts artistic with musical talents. I thoroughly enjoyed this extremely well narrated and well told literary mystery.
The theme of Gregorian chanting is intriguing and unusual; the author clearly has a deeply spiritual understanding of Gregorian chants and effectively conveys the beauty and other-worldliness of this music to the reader.
The story itself is well crafted and interesting---just not great. Take this with the proviso that my mystery heroines are the likes of Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. Louise Penney is not up to their standards, but not everyone can be a goddess.
The story is intelligent and intricate but somewhat earnest. There is some profanity that seems out of place considering the setting and the type of earnest, upright characters who are featured.
If you like Louise Penney's other books I think you'll like this one a lot. Just don't expect the mind-boggling twists and turns of plot and delightfully hate-able kooks you will meet in some of the older classic mysteries.
Anyone who has read Dorothy Sayer's iconic Gaudy Night, which begins in a reunion of Oxford University graduates will feel her heart quicken at the sight of any mystery that is set in a British school reunion. While Deadly Reunion is no Gaudy Night, it is an enjoyable, clever, and well crafted tale of disparate personalities brought together for a school reunion. That this is a mid-level public school with upwardly mobile aspirations emphasizes the elements of snobbery and envy. As entertaining as the crime itself is the home life of the detective, whose overbearing but loveable mother has parked 2 couples on him and his new bride for 2--yes t-w-o weeks for a huge family reunion. If you like British mysteries and you've already listened to all of Sayers, Christie, James, Marsh, and Wetnworth---I think you'll enjoy this a lot.
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