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Richard

Likes intelligent mysteries, spy thrillers, world history, most anything Roman. Hates bad writing.

ratings
83
REVIEWS
17
FOLLOWING
2
FOLLOWERS
0
HELPFUL VOTES
22

  • The Little Drummer Girl

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By John le Carré
    • Narrated By Michael Jayston
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (82)
    Performance
    (70)
    Story
    (72)

    On holiday in Mykonos, Charlie wants only sunny days and a brief escape from England's bourgeois dreariness. Then a handsome stranger lures the aspiring actress away from her pals - but his intentions are far from romantic. Joseph is an Israeli intelligence officer, and Charlie has been wooed to flush out the leader of a Palestinian terrorist group responsible for a string of deadly bombings. Still uncertain of her own allegiances, she debuts in the role of a lifetime as a double agent in the "theatre of the real".

    Darwin8u says: "Terror is Theatre: Le Carré Awakens Anger & Love"
    "More than a spy novel"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    For my money this is the best of the post-Smiley books. It is not only sophisticated in its understanding of the moral ambiguities and contradictions of the ongoing -- no end in sight -- conflict in the Middle East, it is a compelling psychological study of a young woman on the fringes of left-wing politics who is drawn -- more accurately kidnapped -- into a plot to thwart a terrorist bombing. Charlie is a theater actress of only modest success, which is to say she makes a living but only barely. She is the quintessential anti-heroine of the story. Sexually promiscuous and co-dependent, an abused girlfriend (of the cretinous "Long Al," a fellow actor), drawn to but also repelled by the brutal logic of terrorism and counter-terrorism, and finally an accidental if not unwilling savior of innocent lives. This is also a love story, counterposing Charlie and "Joseph," a Mossad operative who despite his legendary status as the coolest, toughest spy among the best of both types, is fraught with existential doubt about the consequences of meeting violence with more violence. Le Carre's prose is, as always, superlative. Little Drummer Girl stands up to anything ever written in this genre, including Graham Greene at the top of his game. Michael Jayston's narration is a perfect match for Le Carre's prose.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Children of the Revolution: An Inspector Banks Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Peter Robinson
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    Overall
    (124)
    Performance
    (112)
    Story
    (113)

    The body of a disgraced college lecturer is found on an abandoned railway line. In the four years since his dismissal for sexual misconduct, he’d been living like a hermit. So where did he get the 5,000 pounds found in his pocket? Leading the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks begins to suspect that the victim's past may be connected to his death. Forty years ago the dead man attended a university that was a hotbed of militant protest and divisive, bitter politics. And as the seasoned detective well knows, some grudges are never forgotten - or forgiven.

    Robert says: "Finally, another Banks novel + Simon Prebble"
    "Not a Banks fan based on this book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was my first (and probably last) Ian Banks novel. I am always on the lookout for new mysteries, and I was particularly interested in the tie-in to 1960s-70s radical politics. Although the writing style is good, I found the plot weak and the pace tedious. The resolution depends on characters spilling their guts to police instead of just clamming up or saying "before we go any further I want to talk to my solicitor." Occasionally this sort of confessional splurge can be forgiven, but it is such a constant feature of this book that it becomes intrusive and annoying. Finally, as detectives go I found Banks a bit on the bland side. Chacun a son gout, I suppose.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Dominion

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By C.J. Sansom
    • Narrated By Daniel Weyman
    Overall
    (66)
    Performance
    (62)
    Story
    (62)

    1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany. The global economy strains against the weight of the long German war against Russia still raging in the east. The British people find themselves under increasingly authoritarian rule - the press, radio, and television tightly controlled, the British Jews facing ever greater constraints.

    J. says: "Interesting Alternitive History"
    "Very interesting counterfactual history"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The story gets off to a strong start, with a very believable scenario in which Lord Halifax succeeds Chamberlain as PM and sues Nazi Germany for peace. The "what if" premise here is that a continuation of appeasement would have led to Hitler emerging as the clear victor in an attenuated war that never really grew into a World War. The depiction of fascism extending itself gradually into the institutions of British politics and society is truly frightening. The English characters swept up in this tragedy are finely drawn and mostly sympathetic (except for a suitably loathsome Blackshirt brother-in-law). However, the taut narrative begins to fray a bit about a third of the way into the book. As some others have noted, the idea that some secrets about America's development of an atomic bomb conveyed orally during a violent family argument does not really bear up to close scrutiny. Too, the prolonged chase of the person who, very much against his will, is burdened by the secret drags on far too long and is accorded too much importance to the governments concerned. Thereafter the story ends somewhat abruptly, with what seems like a somewhat forced rosy scenario for Britain's future following Hitler's death. What could have been a great book thus ends up being only good.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Dark Tunnel

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Ross MacDonald
    • Narrated By Tom Parker
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (17)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    Doctor Robert Branch was a university professor, not a secret agent. But his best friend was dead and Branch knew that it couldn't have been suicide. He was also certain that the murder had been arranged by a Nazi espionage group operating on campus. The only trouble was, no one would believe him. Branch knew that the Nazis would have him eliminated as soon as it was convenient.

    Richard says: "Read Lew Archer series first"
    "Read Lew Archer series first"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Written during WWII, Ross MacDonald's spy thriller is only partly satisfying. The plot is only so-so and the protagonist is less than believable, but the distinctive writing style clearly establishes MacDonald as a force to be reckoned with. As a writer, MacDonald only comes into his own in the Lew Archer series. Readers new to MacDonald should read all of the Lew Archer books first. After that, savor this little book for what it is: a early effort by someone who would go on to be a great writer.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rogue Code: A Jeff Aiken Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Mark Russinovich
    • Narrated By Johnny Heller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (316)
    Performance
    (295)
    Story
    (294)

    Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys revealed how high-frequency trading has created a ruthless breed of traders capable of winning whichever way the market turns. In Rogue Code, Mark Russinovich takes it one step further to show how their grip on high finance makes the stock market vulnerable to hackers who could bring about worldwide financial collapse.

    Ted says: "This Will Probably Happen."
    "Stale fast food for the brain"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was attracted by the idea of a cyber-terror attack on financial systems. But what I actually got was a disappointing combination of deadeningly conventional thriller cliches with a good deal of tech talk thrown in with the goal of persuading the reader that the author actually knows what he is talking about. Who knows, he just might have expertise in the technical details. But then again who really cares if the technical content is buried in a heap of stock characters pulled off the thriller genre shelf (all the women are attractive blond, all the men are above average, etc. -- a veritable Lake Woebegone cast) and sloppy, appallingly bad writing even for a genre not known for its literary merits. One unintended benefit: every so often I come across a book so ineptly crafted that I am inspired to go back to my long unfinished second novel. Heaven knows that I am no great shakes as a fiction writer but I have no doubt can better than this even after three or four beers. So get ready world, I'm coming back!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Zebra-Striped Hearse: A Lew Archer Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Ross Macdonald
    • Narrated By Tom Parker
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (41)
    Performance
    (18)
    Story
    (19)

    Strictly speaking, Lew Archer is only supposed to dig up the dirt on a rich man's suspicious soon-to-be son-in-law. But in no time at all, Ross Macdonald's private eye is following a trail of corpses from the citrus belt to Mazatlan. And then there is the zebra-striped hearse and its crew of beautiful, sunburned surfers, whose path seems to keep crossing the son-in-law's - and Archer's - in this powerful, fast-paced novel of murder on the California coast.

    Richard says: "Lew Archer at his best"
    "Lew Archer at his best"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    For my money The Zebra-Striped Hearse shows Ross Macdonald at the top of his writing. The story is less violent and more psychologically-nuanced than earlier books on the series. The plot is brilliantly developed with the twists and turns needed to maintain suspense and element of surprise. The writing is both graceful and spare, perfectly capturing the essentials of the detective noir genre. My only complaint is the title which turns out to be something of a red herring -- or maybe that's entirely intentional. I won't say anything further lest I give away a spoiler alert.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Personal Injuries

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Scott Turow
    • Narrated By Mark Bramhall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (99)
    Performance
    (86)
    Story
    (87)

    To Robbie Feaver the law is all about making a play - to a client, a jury, or a judge. But when the flashy, womanizing, multimillion-dollar personal injury lawyer is caught offering bribes, he's forced to wear a wire. Even as the besieged attorney looks after his ailing wife, Feaver must also make tapes that will hurl his friends, his enemies, his city, and a particular FBI undercover agent into a crisis of conscience and law.

    bradley says: "Keep looking"
    "A big disappointment"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I consider myself a Scott Turow fan. I have read all his books available on Audible and several in hard copy, never with less than overall appreciation for his ability to draw the reader into his narrative and his skill as a writer. Until now. I feel both puzzled and disappointed by Personal Injuries. Several reviewers have described the plot as boring, presumably because it moves along very slowly, frequently punctuated by digressive descriptions of minor characters and descriptive details of settings, clothing etc. It is, in short, more "literary" than the typical crime procedural mystery. My criticisms are more specific and do not take the author to task for writing a book that departs from my general expectations. I would argue that the books fails in ways that transcend genre. For example, the tensions between Robbie, the protagonist anti-hero sleazeball lawyer, and Evon, the constipated FBI agent assigned to undercover duty in Robbie's office, are artificial, tortured, and ultimately the stuff of television soap opera. Throwing in Robbie's wife dying a slow, painful death from ALS over the span of the story only reinforces this unfortunate impression. The cast of corrupt cops and judges comes across as more caricature than credible. Even poor Sandy Stern, the stately Argentine-American attorney from earlier Turow novels, is dragged in toward the end for a cameo appearance. In desperation perhaps, to lend some credibility? Finally one point that some might regard as nitpicking: the story is told in the person by George. George wafts in and out of the storyline, sometimes omniscient (or nearly so) and other times a relatively uninteresting and incurious observer of events. Turow attempts some unconvincing justification of how George could be cognizant of virtually all the things that are going on in the lives and thoughts of the other characters but it just doesn't fly. Creative writing technique aside, it is never a good thing when the reader is distracted by wondering who is narrating and why. Note: After I wrote this review I did a little research and learned that Time magazine named Personal Injuries as the Best Fiction Novel of 1999. I am left wondering who was on the jury and if they actually read the book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Invasion: Alaska: Invasion America, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Vaughn Heppner
    • Narrated By Mark Ashby
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (345)
    Performance
    (318)
    Story
    (320)

    In this controversial book, Vaughn Heppner explores the theme of a shattered America facing the onslaught of the new colossus in the East: Greater China. The time is 2032, and the Chinese are crossing the polar ice and steaming through the Gulf of Alaska. They have conquered oil-rich Siberia and turned Japan into a satellite state. Now a new glacial period has begun, devastating the world’s food supply. China plans to corner the world’s oil market and buy the needed food for their hungry masses.

    Jim "The Impatient" says: "THE AMERICANS ARE NOT SIBERIANS"
    "Weak story with appalling writing"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I bought this book because of an interest in speculative geopolitics. The idea of China invading Alaska in the aftermath of a sovereign debt depression intrigued me. However, neither the geopolitical speculation nor the story grabbed me. Instead I suffered through endless (and repetitive) descriptions of military weaponry, battle scenes described in the most purple of purple prose (worthy of first prize in a "bad writing" contest), cartoonishly shallow characters (to call them cardboard would be to insult inanimate fiber material), rampant stereotyping and cultural chauvinism, etc. I disliked this book on every level imaginable. In the end, however, it failed to connect with my interest in geopolitics and near-future sci-fi.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The End of the Affair

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Graham Greene
    • Narrated By Colin Firth
    Overall
    (2878)
    Performance
    (2647)
    Story
    (2630)

    Graham Greene’s evocative analysis of the love of self, the love of another, and the love of God is an English classic that has been translated for the stage, the screen, and even the opera house. Academy Award-winning actor Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, A Single Man) turns in an authentic and stirring performance for this distinguished audio release.

    Karen Downes says: "Colin whispers in my ear, and I melt"
    "Colin Firth & Graham Greene are a perfect match"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Having previously read The End of the Affair a few years ago and thinking it a minor Greene book, I have raised it to my A-list based on Colin Firth's extraordinary narration. Firth approaches perfection in bringing out the rhythm's and nuance of Greene's unpretentious but beautifully crafted prose. If there's any weakness here it is Greene's preoccupation with Roman Catholicism, which becomes a bit wearisome toward the end of story. Though not as great a novel as The Heart of the Matter, which appears on many lists of the 100 greatest novels ever written, The End of the Affair as narrated by Colin Firth is a must listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Winter in Madrid

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By C. J. Sansom
    • Narrated By Gordon Gordon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (81)
    Performance
    (38)
    Story
    (40)

    Winter in Madrid is set just after the bloody Spanish Civil War, with World War II looming over Europe. Reluctantly, Harry Brett looks for an old schoolmate who's become a person of interest for British intelligence.

    Annie says: "realistic characters in historical context"
    "Shardlake fans will be disappointed"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The very negative reviews of this book might well be the result of the jarring difference in style, tone, and narrative from the Shardlake series. Winter in Madrid is written in a literary style" with a weak plot, third person narration, flashbacks, and a generally bleak mood. As a fan of the Shardlake series I was unpleasantly surprised by all of the above. I wouldn't consider Winter in Madrid to be a failure or a bad novel, but it was neither what I expected or enjoyed. For anyone interested in the Spanish Civil War I would recommend Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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