I enjoyed both of these witty novels featuring Maggie Hope--a combination of social and political commentary and thriller (of the less intense sort) set in England at the start of WWII. This second book, however, is marred by the quality of the reading. I hate to say anything negative about someone who did such an admirable job in many ways, particularly her use of different voices for various characters, but her sing-songy cadence sentence by sentence was so distracting that at times I found it hard to listen. I persevered and I'm glad I did,but unless Duerden can overcome this very unhelpful vocal tic, I can't recommend books read by her.
Baldacci is a pro who knows how to cook up an intricate plot and keep the narrative ticking away like a bomb. BUT this book reads like a first draft, complete with cliches and grammatical errors, poor character development and stilted dialogue. I can't help but think that if he had taken another six months to work over the plot and character elements and goose his writing style, this could have been a stunning thriller.
The performance is another issue. McLarty's voice has range, but his delivery can be oddly stiff. He is not the problem, however. The faux suspenseful background music was horrible and intrusive. Even worse were the appalling sound effects--like the machine gun spatter--that accompanied the most dramatic scenes. Not just unnecessary but ridiculous, bordering on grotesque. I've never encountered this before in an audiobook and I pray I never do again!
James Lee Burke is a splendid storyteller whose novels feature complex and unpredictable plots and vivid, morally conflicted characters. He also has a gift for language rarely encountered in genre writing. He surpasses himself in both style and content here. However--and it's a big however--the book was in desperate need of editing and could have been cut by one-third, simply by eliminating some of the weather descriptions, half the metaphors for the look in the bad guys's eyes, and three-quarters of the main character's flashbacks to his war years in Korea. Not that the language and the message weren't powerful, just that he says the same thing too many times.
Nonetheless, Will Patton's truly amazing reading makes any repetition worth listening to. He brings all the characters to life convincingly. I've listened to many recorded books and this was the first time I felt compelled to look up the reader/actor--who I then recognized from films and television. I was dazzled by his talent, which dovetailed perfectly with Burke's narrative.
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