If you are hoping for the next episode in the story developed in Case Histories and Started Early Took My Dog, this isn't the book you were waiting for. At least I don't think it is. Atkinson can mystify the reader for several chapters before the narrative starts to hang together, but she has the ability to make the material engaging even though you don't know what's going on. Maybe that's what she's doing in this novel. I wouldn't know because I gave up on it after about 1/2 hour. This very low rating represents my disappointment as much as the perceived quality of the book.
This is a story about death and decay. I'm too old to listen to it and gave up after 1/2 hour.
I'm a glutton for audiobooks - especially mysteries - and I'm surprised I had never heard of Chris Knopf until I stumbled upon The Last Refuge. After hearing it read, I listened to the other four in a week. Five books by the same writer in one week is high praise. But note, these books won't be for everyone. My interest is in the protagonist, a 54 year old mechanical engineer, called Sam Acquillo, who is one of those guys who knows how almost everything works - both manufactured or natural. If he doesn't know, he can figure it out. He's a know-it-all, but he isn't annoying because he DOES know it all. He a good guy to have around, especially if you are tracking down various murderers.
Sam is a former boxer. He's wasn't a good boxer but he's stayed in shape by working out at grimy, smelly boxing gyms. When he meets another man, Sam sizes the man up and decides whether he could kick the guy’s butt. He usually decides that he can and he's usually right. This is largely because most men were never boxers of any sort, and if they were they haven't maintained the physical condition of even a mediocre boxer.
At the beginning of this book Sam runs a R&D Division of a huge corporation. He has a record of going all over the world to fix big problems in huge industrial operations. He's the company's best engineer, in spite of the fact that he doesn't play and work well with others.
The book begins with a corporate board meeting. Sam is invited and is praised for the remarkable job he's do with his division and the terrific revenues his team has been able to generate. In fact, it is so profitable that the Board is thinking about selling it off at a very high profit. Sam knows it's a done deal and is very unhappy to have his division sold out from under him.
Sam's lousy personality emerges. The house counsel, sitting across the table from Sam, starts to read a description of the mechanics by which Sam's division will be spun-off. Sam gets up, reaches across the table, grabs the lawyer's tie, and pulls him far enough across the table to punch him in the face. It isn't a good thing for anyone to do to another person, but Sam has seized the “reader’s attention,” (At least he seized my attention.)
Within twelve hours Sam has quit his job, abandoned his career, and has dumped his dreadful wife. He has also consumed a lot of Absolute vodka (which is a continuing riff). For days, weeks, or months, Sam runs on the wild side. His is committed to a detox. The program doesn't work but Sam gets off the streets and ends up in a small beach cottage he has inherited and which is barely habitable. He lives like a semi-hermit and is starting to FIND himself when he FINDS his elderly next door neighbor, a woman he doesn't like, dead in her bathtub. The police call it a natural death; Sam thinks it's murder because the old gal didn't take baths.
It goes on from there.
I'm giving five's to all of these recordings. They aren't the same kind of fives I give to Dickens novels, but fives to acknowledge a new series with a new protagonist I like the fictional John Deal and Doc Ford and the real-life Australian science-genius: Dr. Karl (who can be heard on a BBC podcast).
Listening to Infinite Jest is an experience of hearing the work of a virtuoso performer. These 900+ pages include four-page paragraphs (3000 words) which Pratt reads in a way that keeps them engaging and fresh from beginning to end. The same can be said about his reading of the entire novel.
His accomplishment can't be fully appreciated without reading a few pages of the text while he performs it. I find myself listening to random selections from the download two or three times, and I enjoy listening to the words and sentences without concern about how the fit into something larger. I don't think I've ever done this with another book.
A brilliant, unlikely history of of one of the things we fear the most - and with good reason. Never would I chose a book like this on my own. It was recommended by someone whose judgment I trust, and will trust even more in the future. This is 500+ page tour de force bya guy who has just completed an intense fellowship after completion of medical school, internship, and a residency. Where was the time to do this? Why isn't the writing riddled with sloppiness because he couldn't give his full attention to whatever was next on his outline? If there were faults, I didn't hear them.
I can't think of another book that takes on such an enormous and amorphous subject and ties the information in way that compels the reader-listener to turn the pages quickly and while checking to make sure there are plenty left to read later.
As a writer Mr. Mukhderjee is in the same league with Tracy Kidder, James Gleick, Simon Singh and even Oliver Sacks
Mukhderjee shines a very bright light on the nature of scientific research and the practice of medicine. What he reveals is applicable to all professions, and Cancer becomes a metaphor for all kinds of phenomena that we've encountered and can't quite make sense of.
The story or history or meta-history is tied together by Mukhderjee's insightful descriptions of very smart people - who are still people and who act in the same ways that we all do - for better or for worse - but they act on a huge stage with lives in the balance.
One of the reasons I bought the book was its length - you know, lots of minutes for the dollar. It turned out to be a good deal by this criteria. Hoye is a journeyman reader who brings the text to life without getting in the way of the story or information. AND listening to him read this book about cancer can be soothing?!? It's going to win a Pulitzer, National Book Award, etc. It is that good.
I never give mysteries a five, but this one deserves it. What a find!
2. Characters. John May is rational, extraverted, orderly, popular and a student of human psychology. Arthur Bryant is introverted, intuitive, disorderly, difficult, and a student of everything except human nature. They have been partners for nearly fifty years. To stay together in the PCU they have refused promotion, and they are doing everything necessary to resist the forces pressuring them to retire.
In spite of the fact that they have been together for so long, each has the capacity to surprise and to annoy the other.
2. Narrator. Tim Goodman is as good as they get. He subtly slips from his role as omnipotent narrator to any of the dozen voices he has created for the story,and like the other excellent readers, he can change his distinctly masculine voice to one that is clearly feminine without a noticeable change of pitch and without sounding ridiculous.. You always know who is talking, but no single voice demands more attention than any of the others.
3. Plot. One of my criteria for a good Audiobook is length. Dickens is, by far the best buy, but this one, at 14 hours, is excellent value for one credit. The plots are clever and coherent. If you are not paying attention you can listen to parts of the story for a second or third time and enjoy them that much more.
4. Writing. I give Dan Brown a 1-. Donna Leon and Sue Grafton go between 2 and 3. Fowler is a solid
His prose is fresh. He uses words and phrases I've never heard, and the dialogue - especially between John and Arthur is so well and lovingly crafted that I'm tempted to buy and read a hard copy of the book.
I listened to and enjoyed the first two Dismas Hardy titles available from Audible (Guilt and Mercy). I'm pleased with the several new releases that have become recently available and will probably buy and listen to all of them.
But this is not the Dismas Hardy book for new "readers" or old fans. The first fifteen minutes or so set up a couple of back- stories that involve none of the Dismas Hardy characters. These back-stories take up AT LEAST 75% of the book! And they are tedious.
Every once in a while I read or listen to a book I like very much and then find that the author has written several others. It's like finding gold - well silver or tin - something good. This was one of those books for me.
It was not "great" (5) which for an audiobook means it's so good that I can listen to it while doing nother else. If I could give this a B+ (or a 4+) I would, but it's not a 5 so 4 is good enough.
I hope I'll be able to report the same about the rest of Susan Hill's books.
[I have a friend named "Susan Hill" and she's the most competent person I've ever known. I wouldn't be surprised if she dashed off a few good books in her spare time without anyone knowing about it and that these are the books she wrote. If it is she I applaud and congradulate her and work on the envy it arouses in me before I see her again. (Aren't people who 'can do everything' annoying?]
I will buy this author's next audiobook.
If I noticed that an audiobook I was thinking about buying was read by the woman who read this book, I would be more likely to to buy it because I would know that it had a good reader.
A book that can engage and hold my attention while I'm involved in some other activity - such as driving or pulling weeds- gets a 4 from me. (The equivalent to a "B".) A reader who doesn't get in the way of the story and can smooth over rough spots in the text also gets a B.
This book was engaging, the character development, typical of this genre, was particularly good. In other words the characters weren't trite, flat, and utterly predictable. However, it is not so good that I could just sit and listen to it without having something else to do.
So for me it's a 4. Good enough to engage.
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