If you're a lover of Tim Dorsey's manic Serge Storms series, it's probably enough to say that you won't be disappointed in this book. It's the second in the series, so you get to see the appearances of some characters that populate the later books, like the lovely ladies City and Country. Serge's sidekick Coleman has not yet been reincarnated (apparently killed in "Florida Roadkill" but there is a not-quite-so-stupid Coleman surrogate, Lenny Lipowicz. I believe this is the first appearance of the "Accidental Virgin" Johnny Vegas, a recurring character in the series.
If you've never read a Serge Storms book, then I have a recommendation for you: don't read this one first. Not because you'd be reading them out of order, that's not too important. I recommend you start with one narrated by Oliver Wyman. Come back to George Wilson once you're firmly hooked.
I've listened to a lot of George Wilson. I spent almost 24 hours with him in "Citizen Soldiers", and thought he was great in "With the Old Breed". What those two books, and many other Wilson narrations, have in common is they are factual narratives. Not too many ways to punch up the Battle of the Bulge.
Serge Storms is a maniacal character. George Wilson's portrayal of this zany character is like Richard Nixon impersonating the watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher. He just doesn't know how to be crazy. And don't get me started on Wilson's rendition of the various shrieks and yells that litter the text. Or how he "sings" the song lyrics that show up from time-to-time.
Oliver Wyman, on the other hand, is the perfect characterization for Serge, Coleman, Lenny, and all the rest. He must know someone with some serious problems to capture them so well. And he surely has been a witness when someone hit a bong.
So, start with a Wyman story, then maybe mix them up, Wyman, Wilson, Wyman, Wilson ... I believe they each did about the same number of Audible's productions, so it will even out in the end.
By the way, if you're a fellow Floridian you'll recognize many of the places Serge describes in this series of books. When I was a kid we traveled all over the northeast part of the state, as that's where our relatives lived. Along the way we'd stop at Weeki Wachee Springs, the Alligator Farm, Saint Augustine, some old pirate bar whose name I forgot, and many, many more. They're all real, and Serge knows every detail of their histories. Some fun!
Grisham takes us back into the courtroom, a setting in which he excels: The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, and on and on. Including, of course, the wonderful A Time to Kill (1989) with attorney Jake Brigance. In Sycamore Row Jake is back, this time wrapped up in defending a holographic will.
This book is a sequel to A Time to Kill only in that the same lawyers -- Harry Rex Vonner, Lucien Wilbanks, Jake -- are back in the same small Mississippi town, but if you've forgotten the earlier book you won't have any problem reading this. A few references to the trial in A Time to Kill are used to establish Jake as a stand-up guy, which is how he gets dragged into the business with the will in the first place. There are also some KKK types who threaten and harass Jake and his family over his defense of a black man in the earlier book, but all the needed backstory is provided.
The plot is tightly woven and well paced. There are a few elements that seem there just to provide color, like the slick Memphis lawyer who tosses a race-grenade into the courtroom, but then slips from the scene. I do wish Grisham had followed through a bit more with the rednecks, especially the one who was released on parole. I thought for sure that firebrand would be back, and I just love it when they get their comeuppance, but he too was written out of the plot.
It's a different kind of law than what we usually get in courtroom novels. It centers around a holographic will handwritten by a man on the eve of his suicide by hanging (from a sycamore tree, a fact you should keep in mind). It's established pretty early on that his kids, son and daughter, don't have much time for the old man, so you won't be surprised to learn they don't make out too well in this will. And of course, there's an earlier will out there, all lawyerly and notarized, in which the kids fare much better. Which will wins? Read on.
Michael Beck is excellent. He has a nice, unaffected style when he's just narrating, and then shows a great range of characterizations of the southerners portrayed here. From my short time living in Mississippi I can say the accents seem quite authentic. Beck gives each of the major characters his own distinct voice and keeps them consistent throughout the book.
No more free passes for Mister Grisham, not after the hugely disappointing The Broker. Now I approach every new Grisham book as a I would a new author. Interestingly this book is a sequel to one Grisham wrote when he was a new author and yes, it's just as good.
Somewhere in the first chapter I went back to Audible to make sure I hadn't bought a book by someone with a similar name. Nope, Max Allan Collins it says. I checked the copyright date, thinking this must be a re-released version of really early book, but no, 2013 it is.
The dialog is strange. One second a person is screaming hysterically, the next speaking calmly to the killer, then more hysteria. And what a strange plot - a traumatized teenager is institutionalized and doesn't speak one word for ten years, then sees a news report on TV and is instantly as normal as apple pie. Well, maybe rhubarb pie.
I had read almost everything Collins has written and loved it. This book was a big disappointment. It is so different from his usual tight plots and sparkling dialog that I wondered if he hadn't collaborated with someone but forgot to mention it to the publisher.
It seems to get a little better as time goes on, but sure never rose to the level of good. I think listening to Dan John Miller kept reminding me of the many hours I spent with him and Nate Heller, and that kept my hopes alive.
If you've never read Collins before, do yourself a favor and don't start with this one. Read everything else he's ever written first, you'll thank me.
I bought the print version for one main reason: to give to my wife, who always figures out the whodunnits while I am still floundering amid the clues and red herrings. Let's see her sort THIS one out!
You won't be able to say that the clues are obscure or concealed. Inspector Appleby reviews the facts and summarizes the case frequently, just in case you might have missed something. There was one bit that I thought was downplayed a bit for all its significance, but since my wife is an RN she should probably pick up on it. We'll see.
Anyway, it's classic stuff, English manor house, motives, means, opportunities, spies, a very clever mystery writer guest, and an even more clever inspector. There's an anagram that's about as subtle as Rumred, and a little forensic stuff for good measure. High society and political bigwigs in antebellum (WWII) England round out the cast.
Some knowledge of Shakespeare's Hamlet will help, maybe just the Cliff Notes or Wikipedia version.
Great narration. My first Matt Addis, and I'm looking forward to many more.
The only downside to reading this book is, I feel a little like I did when I first read Ngaio Marsh and then discovered that she had written scores of like books! Innes wrote a lot of books too. So many great books, so few credits remain. Maybe Audible will let me renew early.
It's not completely clear whether this book is all-original by Robert Knott, or his completion of a Robert B. Parker manuscript. The title sure suggests Parker started it, and the text copyright is given as "the estate of Robert B. Parker". But an author interview online makes it sound like Knott wrote the whole thing. Knott does appear to be uniquely qualified to pick up Parker's torch, as he co-wrote (with Ed Harris) the screenplay for Appaloosa, based on the first book in the Parker series.
In any case, if it didn't have Knott's name on it you wouldn't guess it wasn't written by Parker. It's written completely in the style that Parker developed for Marshall Virgil Cole and his Deputy Everett Hitch - tough, laconic, fair-minded, decisive, courteous to the ladies and the bad guys' worst nightmares. A little like having two Gary Coopers in High Noon. Virgil does have a breaking point though. He would normally not kill a man unless he was looking him in the eye, but this one SOB abused horses, so ...
Virgil and Everett are back, wrapped up with train robbers of the meanest sort and damsels in distress of the purest sort. The book's a classic western in the tradition of Eastwood's spaghetti westerns. There's never any doubt that the good guys are going to prevail, but it's a lot of fun to watch them do it.
Titus Welliver has narrated every book in the Cole-Hitch audiobook series, and he's the perfect man for the job. Some of the dialog between Virgil and Everett consists of a series of one or two word statements (they never quite say "yup"); Welliver delivers these lines flawlessly, and you're never aware of the author's "Virgil said" or "Everett said". It's like listening to a dialog in a movie.
Newcomers to the series shouldn't miss out on much by starting with this book or any other in the series - the back-story is suggested but not necessary to enjoy the book. Virgil's girlfriend Allie French doesn't make an appearance, but there are several references to her, none necessary to the plot.
This is a great read. I hope Robert Knott carries right on with this remarkable series.
P.S. One quibble: Virgil and Everett backtrack along a railroad line to find Bloody Bob Brandice, who jumped off a quarter-mile back. When Everett says they walked "about a hundred furlongs or so" that tells me he's never watched a horse race. Maybe a hundred rods, if he wants old English measures.
Gingrich and Forstchen had a great idea when they came up with what they called "Active History": examining how history would have changed by altering a single pivotal event. What would have happened if Robert E. Lee had won at Gettysburg? What would have happened if the Japanese had pressed their immediate advantage at Pearl Harbor and wiped out the Naval Base's ship repair facilities? It's a wonderful concept, and made for many hours of fascinating reading.
This book is just a history story. Nothing is changed. They have just taken the bare facts of Washington's assault on Trenton and puts words in the mouths of the characters, some historical and some fictional. They tell us how cold it was, how ill-equipped the troops were, and generally they try to add verisimilitude. They let us listen in as Thomas Paine, sitting by a camp fire, hears some soldier talk about how trying the times were, trying his very soul ("Catchy phrase - maybe I can use it!")
The narration was way over the top. I kept getting flashbacks of Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live in his role as "Master Thespian", flinging out his arm and declaring "Acting!" Dufris narrates as if he were auditioning for some stage production, playing each character and scene as larger than life.
A mighty big disappointment to me. I won't be reading the rest in this series. Maybe G&F will come up with some more "active history" and win me back.
Nobody's reading reviews of this book trying to decide if it's worth reading. Scott Turow's fame plus the fact that Presumed Innocent was made into a Harrison Ford movie pretty much guarantees that.
But is it worth reading again? Absolutely. I had previously read the print version and seen the movie, and now I've listened to the audio version. Knowing whodunnit from the outset didn't take anything away from Turow's artistry - it's just a treat to hear a great storyteller tell a great story. And Edward Herrmann is just the right guy to give voice to this excellent bit of courtroom drama.
So, if they make it a musical, I'll go see that too!
I picked this book up from Audible's list of Edgar winners (best in show, 1983). I was drawn to the publisher's description of a protagonist who sounds a lot like Randy Wayne White's Doc Ford. Both called Doc (Ford a PhD, Adams a surgeon), both live on the water, both are a lot smarter than the villains who surround them. Boyer's Doc Adams is not an ex-black ops guy, but he seems to have picked up some moves somewhere that Doc Ford would appreciate. I expect Rick Boyer would like to have had White's success, but he hasn't, and this book may hold a clue to why.
The plot seemed weak and not particularly credible. I was never convinced that Doc Adams had any good reason to set out trying to locate the boat he initially sees high and dry on the novel's eponymous shoal. The police in the novel were portrayed as amiable dunces, willing to go along with Doc Adams and usually defer to him. The incident in which Doc Adams' wrist is broken comes out of the blue, making you think it's something sinister. It's not, and it makes no serious contribution to the plot, except to give the hero time off from work to be a hero.
It's become obligatory in the genre for the good guy to suffer grievous bodily harm at the hands of the bad guys. Doc Adams does. A lot of authors describe these beating in detail. Boyer just says, through Adams' voice, that he couldn't describe it. And, like all those other beat-up good guys, Adams comes right back, complaining every few paragraphs of this ache or that pain or of feeling woozy. Not credible.
That said, Boyer does paint very fine scenes for his characters to act in. The atmosphere of New England's waterways and watermen is compelling. You can feel the rain and wind when Adams is off on his solo quest to find the missing ship. The dialog is good too, intelligent, and witty when needed. This sort of textured writing would make a decent plot into a first-class book.
Christopher Lane has one of those radio announcer voices that are very easy to listen to. He has a good range of different characterizations that let him consistently identify the character speaking. His female voice is pretty good too, although if I heard it in a singles' bar I would definitely be sneaking a peek at the old adam's apple.
On the whole, a book for a slow day.
Well, maybe it's the best yet because it's the latest.
Every one of the books in the Nathan Heller series has been excellent: meticulously researched and expertly written by Max Allan Collins, and narrated with perfect pitch and atmosphere by Dan John Miller.
Foremost on my mind when I downloaded this book the day it was released were the recent disappointments I had suffered with other latest books by my favorite authors. John Grisham brought me to tears with The Broker: it was that bad. Hordes of fans stood in virtual lines to download Michael Connelly's latest Harry Bosch, only to find a so-so story read by a blah narrator.
This book sure wasn't a disappointment. It has everything we've come to expect from Nathan Heller and the A-1 Detective Agency: mobsters, famous politicians, petty crooks, labor union thugs, cops, and fan-dancers, all combined in a wonderful period piece set in 1963 Chicago. It's the month before John Kennedy's assassination and the town is crawling with made men, mad Cubans, and an ex-Marine who bears a strong resemblance to Lee Harvey Oswald. Nate gets recruited by Attorney General Bobby Kennedy to help out with the protection of the president during his upcoming visit to Chicago. The presidential motorcade route goes right through a warehouse district (where the ex-Marine works) where the cars have to slow for a turn onto a downtown street. Brush up on the history of Kennedy's assassination before you read this one: lots of familiar players pop up.
Dan John Miller has the perfect voice for the wise-cracking but tough as nails Private Eye. When he talks you see trenchcoats and snap-brim fedoras and smell unfiltered Camels. He does the rest of the cast just as well. Mob killer Chuckie Nicoletti sounds suitably menacing, and his sidekick "Mad Sam" DiStefano sounds as crazy as his Wikipedia picture looks. Miller does a suitable female voice, and there's no suspension of disbelief required when Sally Rand speaks.
This book was really hard to put down. At a little over eight hours in length, it can be finished in one serious session, or in a few days if you have to go to work. If you do read it straight through you'll wish you could forget what you heard and start all over.
Newcomers to Nathan Heller can feel free to start with this or any other book in the series. I'm not sure, but I believe they were written and published well out of the chronological order of the events portrayed. Each is a standalone work, with references to other books provided but not essential to the plot. So when Nate goes to see Bobby Kennedy, a reader of the whole series would know there is bad blood here (over that Marilyn Monroe thing), but Collins clears that up with a few lines and the action moves on.
I think Collins mixes up his service academy football schedules a little. I thought I heard him say at one point that the President was going to attend the Army-Navy game during his visit. That would have been Army-Air Force, on 2 November. Army-Navy was 7 December (and featured Heisman winner Roger Staubach - I was there!)
It's a great book in a great series. Don't miss it.
There's nothing new here Bosch-wise: same high-energy, straight ahead Harry we have grown to love. He's still working Open/Unsolved crimes, and picks up one that he began twenty years earlier. He didn't wrap up the earlier one because it occurred in the chaos and confusion of the LA riots that followed the Rodney King verdict in 1992. All he has to go on initially is one shell casing, but trust Harry to apply his instincts and hunches to find the killer.
Along the way he gets caught up in police politics - a white victim in the midst of all the black killings, and solving it and not the others looks bad for the chief. True to the character Connelly has created, Harry bucks the system and presses on anyway. No, not his favorite chief Irvin Irving, he's gone. This fellow's name is O'Toole, nicknamed (of course) the Tool.
The book really gets rolling when Harry strikes out on his own to confront the bad guys in their own town. Some pretty hairy scenes, though Harry doesn't get so badly mistreated as many other modern mystery heroes do. I guess that all started with Mike Hammer, and now it seems mandatory for the hero to get beat up, often pretty severely (though they seem to recover pretty quickly!)
There's a good bit of treatment of Harry's relationship with his daughter, none of which contributes to the plot. Maybe Connelly just wants to show us Harry's human side. There's little to no love interest for Harry this time, although FBI Rachel does make a cameo appearance.
Michael McConnohie does an OK job. No, he's not Len Cariou, but he's better than some of the other Harry Bosch narrators. McConnohie's narration history does include a number of factual nonfiction books, and I think he's probably better off sticking with that. McConnohie doesn't do a very good black ghetto voice. You have to pay close attention to the story to know when one of those bad guys is supposed to be talking, you won't get it from the dialect.
On the whole, though, a credit well spent.
In fact, I've pretty much forgotten it now. During the reading I found my mind wandering, and had to go back four or five minutes to try to pick up what I'd missed. I don't think it was my problem: I listen to a LOT of audiobooks, I sometimes drift, but never anything like this. I re-read the publisher's summary and it's completely foreign to me.
This is the seventh Inspector Rutledge book I've listened to, including two narrated by Samuel Gillies. It's been a while since my last Gillies, but I'm thinking it's something about his narration that sets my mind adrift. Listen to the sample: that's exactly the way it's going to be for eleven hours.
The other principal narrator, Simon Prebble, has never disappointed me. So my advice to a newcomer to the Inspector Rutledge series is to start with a Prebble narration - it would be unfortunate to form a bad impression of this wonderful series based on a so-so narration.
Reading the series out of sequence is not a big problem. There is one character (sort of) named Hamish, who lives in Rutledge's mind. His back-story is brought out in every novel in greater or lesser detail. One reviewer says that the whole story is brought out in the first of the series, "A Test of Wills". I'll wait a while before trying that one, since it's also narrated by Samuel Gillies (NOT Samuel Giles - that's clearly a typo on Audible's description).
A great series, good solid police procedural, lots of plot twists to keep you thinking, as long as your mind stays moored.
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