In A Pale House, Inspector Ian Rutledge is challenged by seemingly disparate mysteries: the finding of a dead man in an abbey ruin, the disappearance of another man, and, confounding his efforts to solve the first two events, a series of murders and attempted murders that ride the reader to an almost breathless ending. The twists and turns of Todd's Inspector Rutledge series never ceases to amaze me, and I appreciate that Rutledge, like the reader, spends a fair amount of time getting it wrong before he gets it right; although, Rutledge is rarely too far from the truth. This particular installment also brings to light in all its horrifying clarity, that which is Hamish. Readers familiar with this series already know about Hamish, but if you haven't read/listened to this novel, then, finally, you can learn about the whole sad, tragic story, at length, not just in snippets.
I give this novel only 4 stars because I do feel the mysteries were wrapped up a little too easily at the end. But the getting there was very satisfying. As always, Simon Prebble's narration was a joy.
Inspector Ian Rutledge is presented with a mystery that could result in an innocent man's death by hanging if he doesn't find out the true story. A casualty of WWI, the man thinks he spies his wife and children on a railway platform and sets about to find them. The woman turns up dead and all assume that he is the guilty party. But where are the children? Where is the other man that was with the woman? Rutledge sees a man haunted by his experience in WWI, much as Rutledge himself is. He'll set about to find the truth and, in doing so, unearths a more complicated mystery. His superiors throw roadblocks in his way, but Rutledge is tenacious at the least. What I love most about Rutledge is his tenacity. He never gives up, always going one more time to this witness, or one more time to that witness. He is a wonderful exercise in analysis. Of course, he has some help from his ghostly nemesis, Hamish, who at times harangues him to the point of near insanity and at other times provides him with the direction he needs. I missed Simon Prebble's narration in this installment. Samuel Gillies was quite good, and I would enjoy his narration again. But Prebble is the absolute best.
Inspector Ian Rutledge races against time to solve a series of murders, the victims all being men who had fought together in the Great War. This killer is particularly sinister, much more sinister than any one that Rutledge had yet come up against. Clues left by the killer send Rutledge on wild-goose chases across the English countryside. Meanwhile, his own experience in the Great War continues to haunt him and come between him and his love for a woman who understands him too well. Margaret has her own ghosts to deal with and the reader's heart aches for them both. For me, this was a particularly sad novel, not just because of the deaths, but because of the lives that try to go on in spite of the deaths, because of the post-war weariness, the sense that it will be years before lives can be normal again, and the idea that for some, life will never be normal again.
But the mystery abides and once Rutledge figures out who the killer really is, there's no turning back; only a relentless struggle to stop him from killing again. For me, this installment is the best in the series. The characters are fully fleshed out now, and Todd's writing is often at times poetic, making me wish I had the book so I could underline some of the passages. I hope I don't have to wait too long for another installment.
I am thoroughly enjoying this series of mystery novels by Charles Todd. In "The Red Door," Todd starts off with the door and the owner of that door, but it isn't until far along in the novel that the connection is made between the door and the latter characters and circumstances. An interesting trope, it kept me intrigued because I kept listening, wanting to know how the door and its owner were related (if at all) to the other characters. Even once the connection is made, the reader is kept well in the dark regarding the identity of the murderer. Admittedly, the conclusion of the novel seemed rather convoluted, and I did feel a bit of grudge at Todd for throwing what I think was a red herring in the narrative. Todd is a bit selective in who he chooses to provide narration for: we hear the thoughts of Inspector Rutledge, of course, but also of other characters, which can throw you off. You, the reader, think you're getting more information than Rutledge can possibly get. It's a deceptive, but forgivable, approach. Rutledge's own psychological scars from WWI often threaten to derail his investigations, and they definitely threaten his chances at peace and happiness in his own life. Todd's sympathetic rendition of the "collateral damage" of war borders on the poetic, making such depictions heart-rending. These novels would not be the same without Rutledge's ever-present ghostly companion, Hamish. As adversarial as Hamish can be at times, he also helps Rutledge, working with him to understand and solve the cases. Hamish may not be real, but the reader can't help but believe in his existence in much the same way that Rutledge does.
Simon Prebble has an uncanny ability to provide enough distinctiveness in the characters' voices without resorting to caricatures. If you like puzzling mysteries, ones that make you think more than flinch, then do listen to this installment of the Inspector Rutledge series.
I am amazed by Tana French's ability to get inside the heads of keenly different characters such as Rob (In The Woods), Cassie (The Likeness), and now Frank. The narrator, Tim Gerard Reynolds, was spot-on. It was almost as if he had listened to the The Likeness and drew from that narrator's rendition of Frank, embellishing and deepening the character. As with French's other novels, you dive deep into the mind of the main character, the narrator of the story. That her stories are in first-person make it impossible to not feel yourself go under. And she doesn't offer neatly tied up endings where everyone goes home satisfied. Even if the crime is "solved," there's little satisfaction in it. Lives are turned upside down, relationships comes near to ruin. Frank, who had been avoiding his family for ages, gets brought back into the fold with the discovery of a suitcase that had belonged to his first love: a young woman with whom he was planning to run away with, many, many years before. He had always assumed that she had left without him, and now he's determined to find out what really happened to her. The discovery of the suitcase, and Frank's insistence on digging about for an explanation, precipitates another murder, this one much too close to home. Frank's relationship with his family is a huge part of this psychological drama, with all the resentment, responsibility, sense of duty, near-hatred, and grudging affection that comes with it.
Since Ms. French's three novels have overlapping characters, but different narrators, I can't wait to see who will be the narrator for the next novel.
I'm sorry to say that I was disappointed with the novel. I've enjoyed Laurie R. King's Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, and I did enjoy reading The Art of Deception in hardcover. I don't know if my disappointment has more to do with the narration or the writing style. Alyssa Bresnahan read this novel as if it were poetry, and it's certainly not poetry. This is a police procedural, with a few too many tired cliches and stereotypes. It's also much more slower-paced than The Art of Deception, which was aggravated by Ms. Bresnahan's plodding narration. But I did enjoy the scenes in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, having lived there for about 12 years. The setting was actually one of the attractions for me, and King can conjure a strong sense of place. Still, I don't recommend this as an audio book. If you want to give it a try, then buy the printed version or check it out at the library.
Louise Penny continues to excel with each novel. This latest in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series is a tour de force. It's a complicated story, with essentially four narratives running parallel and often intersecting. There is the current murder to solve, that of an historian in the basement of the Literary and Historical Society. There is the previous mystery from Three Pines: that of the hermit in the woods, for which Olivier was convicted and sent to prison. And there is the shared experience of a case gone horribly wrong, an experience shared by Beauvoir and Gamache. While Gamache tries to solve the historian's murder, Beauvoir is in Three Pines to covertly and unofficially re-open the case of the previous murder. And while each man is on his separate journey, each remembers with well-placed flashbacks the case that almost killed them both. The flashbacks are an excruciating but pleasurable tease for the reader, because you don't know until near the very end what actually happened to Gamache and Beauvoir. Penny's deftly interlaces the flashbacks with current action, and Beauvoir's trip to Three Pines gives the reader some necessary comedic relief from the horror that is revealed through his memories. Cosham's narration is excellent as always. I am thoroughly spoiled by him, and hope that he will continue to narrate Penny's future Gamache novels.
I'm glad I gave this book a go. I had been discouraged by other reviewers who found the premise of The Likeness to be implausible; even though many others were happy with it, I was concerned that such a seemingly outlandish concept couldn't work and I would be stuck with several hours of frustration. But I had listened to In The Woods and already was intrigued by French's deep, psychological twists and turns. Like I said, I am glad I decided to try this novel and make up my own mind. As impossible as it might seem for Cassie to have a double whose shoes she could step almost effortlessly into, French's rendition of this conceit won me over. The book is long because you need a lot of backstory to make the whole premise plausible, as well as to fill in Cassie's story for those who have not heard/read In The Woods. This is a psychological thriller so it's often slow-moving, often frustrating in that you might find yourself yelling out loud at the characters as they do things that you just know will put them in danger, but you still understand why they are driven to do just that. This is not a neat whodunit with obvious villians and heroes. Sometimes the heroes act like villains, or at least they border on it. Sometimes the ones you think are villains are just people who want to forget their past. The ending was not anti-climatic. it was sad, for sure, but it made sense. Sort of like, good intentions don't always lead to the best ends. Now I'm looking forward to French's next novel, where I expect I'll get lost in Cassie's world again.
When I come across what for me is a new series, I always like to start at the beginning. I was introduced to J.L. Burke and Robicheaux with Audible's free first chapter for The Glass Rainbow. I was intrigued by Will Patton's narration, the lyrical descriptions of Louisiana, and this taciturn but expressive man, Robicheaux. So I started with Neon Rain, and then promptly went through Black Cherry Blues and A Morning for Flamingos. Like one reviewer has already noted, these novels are graphically violent and, depending on your sensitivities, they may seem gratuitously violent at times. Burke has a poetic style, painting his scenes with words in such a way that you can't help but watch the horror unfold; yet, the second or third rendition of the same scene does seem overdone. I actually found myself rolling my eyes at those times, especially with Clete's apparent relish of the gorier details. But Robicheaux is one of those flawed, nobel characters that's hard to turn your back on, even when he insists on being hard-headed and mucking things up. He's a tortured soul that you want to see redeemed because at heart he's a good man. So Burke hooked me and reeled me as I went through the next two unabridged novels in the series. I'll say here that I definitely prefer Will Patton's narration to Mark Hammer's. With two novels back-to-back, Hammer's narration became irritating for me when he took up the other characters. A slight modulation can go a long way, even when dealing with difficult dialects. While I do recommend the Dave Robicheaux series (and The Neon Rain is a great place to begin), I don't recommend careening through three in a row. By the end of A Morning for Flamingos, I was wondering if the 24 character of Jack Bauer had been modeled on Robicheaux: it seems that nothing can kill Robicheaux, and yet no one who loves him will live long.
This is my first listen to one of Charles Todd's mystery series. I chose it after a marathon of three of James Lee Burke's novels, needing a change of pace from Burke's contemporary and considerably more violent police procedurals. Like all good series writers, Todd brings the neophyte up with speed with his characters by moderate amounts of judiciously placed flashbacks and reflections. I enjoyed the post-WWI settings of London and surrounding villages, with side trips to St. Ann's. I enjoyed "knowing" at the outset the history of the murdered victim, and then listening to Rutledge try to piece it all together. Rutledge was a fine character, doggedly persistent in uncovering the truth when he could have easily washed his hands of the crime once a trial-worthy suspect was found. Like other mysteries I've enjoyed, I wound up listening to the last two hours late at night, unable to sleep because Rutledge was so close to revealing the oddly intertwined relationships that led to the murder. I simply couldn't wait to know how it all would play out in the end. It was difficult for me to keep track of all the characters through audio (some considerably minor but they still pop up frequently), and so I might have lost some of the character development that I usually enjoy in these well-paced novels. It was challenging to believe that the murdered victim might have actually had some redeeming qualities: I don't know if Todd just wanted to confound the reader/Rutledge in the quest to find the murderer or if the point was to highlight the strange confluence of guilt and evil. In any case, it added to the tension and kept me glued to my earbuds.
I love the narration of Simon Prebble who has an uncanny ability to modulate his voice just enough to discern the different characters without making them into caricatures. I highly recommend this particular novel in the series and hope to listen to some of Inspector Rutledge's adventures
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