This is one of those instances where I wish Audible allowed reviewers half stars. This one really deserved 2 ½. (I reserve five stars for absolutely-loved; four for really-liked; three for OK; and 1 for did-not-finish…Leaving 2 stars to cover both finished-but-hated-it and finished-but-did-not-really-like-it. The two are really quite different and this one is more of the later.)
The plot is unbelievable. It starts with the accidental discovery of a skeleton in a construction site. The body, of course (you kind of expect it, so I don’t think this is a terrible spoiler), happens to be one of two girls murdered 11 years earlier. Coincidentally (there are way too many of these coincidences throughout the book), the guy who was convicted of the murders has just been released from prison after serving a ten-year sentence. There is a traffic accident involving his mother and the two bumbling investigators go to his village to investigate.
The investigators are apparently the stars of the series (this is the first to be translated, but not the first in the series). Quite frankly, I am shocked they have a following. They are absolutely incompetent as “sleuths.” At one point, the author writes: “The pieces of the puzzle were falling in place as if by themselves.” And that is precisely what happens. It seems that everyone in the village is guilty of something or another and everyone confesses or gets discovered purely by chance. There is one instance, I kid you not, where the suspect disappears and the two "investigators" say to each other (I paraphrase): “I thought you were taking him to the station!” “What? I thought you were!”
There are also some things that are never fully explained. (Why one character hid a will that would have made his family rich, for example.)
I found most of the characters, even the protagonist, unlikeable. Our "hero" went to prison after getting so drunk eleven years earlier that he simply could not remember what happened during an entire night. And yet, mere days after getting out of prison, he proceeds to do the exact same thing! If ten years in prison for a crime you don’t remember committing don’t cure you of binge drinking, what will?
I didn't really hate the novel but it is, at best, mediocre. Like I said, two-and-half stars: Finished it but did not really like it.
At first, it seems like a pretty simple (but enjoyable) tale of bad vs good: the old man gets robbed and refuses to take it lying down. But then the novel becomes much more, culminating in a terrific finale. I enjoyed every minute and don't want to spoil it for you. Download it. You won't regret it.
I have to admit that I did not expect this to be so enjoyable. A great mix of humor and suspense. The 11-year-old heroine is funny and smart. The plot is great. You don't even realize that you are on the edge of your seat because you're smiling most of the way. Towards the end, I could not put it down. In fact, I stayed awake in bed listening to the last twenty minutes at one in the morning. Can't wait to read something else by Peter Abrahams. And James Daniels did an excellent job as well.
The publisher's summary says "The Hunger of the Wolf is a novel about what it means to be a man in the world of money. It is a story about fathers and sons, about secrets that are kept within families, and about the cost of the tension between the public face and the private soul." Except that THAT is what The Hunger of the Wolf wants to BE...but isn't. It starts out brilliantly--Mr. Marche is a phenomenal writer--but then it fizzles. The commentary about what it means to be "a man in the world of money" isn't insightful or revealing enough--there are moments of cleverness, but simply moments. The relationship between fathers and sons (yes, it's meant to be a key part of the novel) is not paid off because none of the relationships depicted here have any real depth (the novel covers three or four generations and it's only 8 hours long...that should tell you something). And the costs of maintaining a public face while hiding the truth about yourself is too obvious a theme, revealed without any subtlety. The brothers are werewolves (I am not giving that much away; you find out as soon as the caretaker's son stumbles upon all kinds of documents spelling out the family's history--hard to believe that a family so obsessed with privacy would leave all these documents laying around for the taking, but whatever). But the werewolf theme is just there, barely affecting anyone, really (in fact, if you like werewolf novels, this one will disappoint you; if you don't like werewolf novels, that won't be the reason you dislike this one). It is almost a side note, even though it's meant to be 'the key' to the family's tragic history (yes it's supposed to be a metaphor for the 'wildness inside' except that, again, it is not a deep or surprising metaphor. Simply there.) I think this novel needed to be longer--although I am loathe to say this since I really couldn't wait for it to be over. Cannot recommend, which is a tragedy itself considering the promise of the first 20 minutes or so.
The most interesting thing about this book is the publisher's summary. The book itself is incredibly tedious. At the start of the novel, the totally unlikeable heroine is indeed panicked (as the publisher has told you) when she realizes that her boyfriend and friends are about to be released from prison. You realize that she did something bad and left them behind to pay the consequences. OK, so far the story shows promise. Except then...it doesn't go anywhere. You see endless flashbacks to the girl's childhood which are kind of predictable. She has it tough (although not that tough, really--there's a five minute bit where the author tells you how the girls parents were not married when she was born so she drifted from this home to that home to that home until her parents got back together again and moved to the town where the story takes place...that feels like it was added after the fact because the author realized that the girl's current home life was not bad enough to account for the girl's feeling of self pity!). She meets the town's loved child. She meets his friends. They drift aimlessly (the kids' stupid behavior is hard to believe....well, it is actually IMPOSSIBLE to believe, as is the entire novel). Then bad thing happens and guys go to prison while girl goes to Europe and ends up repairing antiques (the descriptions of some of these antiques are annoyingly long...and lack any kind of beauty; sounding almost like excerpts from wikipedia). Then the kids get out of prison...and more preposterous plot 'meanderings' ensue(not surprising enough to be called 'twists'), some are actually groan-worthy...Anyway, read at your own peril. Or if you need something to help you fall asleep.
I have to admit I could not stop listening. Rushing by real life just to get back to this. Great writing (yes, there are some actions that stretch credibility, but it didn't really affect my enjoyment). Rachel is one of the best unreliable narrators I have encountered. She is giving you the wrong account of what happened but only because that's the account that she believes at the time...and because she can't quite remember. The 'truth' is that everything here is not as it seems: the way the characters remember the past is unreliable, the way the characters perceive the present is unreliable, and--most importantly--the way the characters see each other is not to be trusted.
The three narrators (Rachel is one of three female first persons telling the story) are excellent readers. Their voices pitch perfect.
I can't wait for this author's next book. What will she think of next?
It starts out great. You expect to see two cunning, ruthless masterminds pitched against each other. Except it goes nowhere. One step forward (the current plot line from the murderer's point of view), two steps back (a story from his past that is supposedly going to help us understand him). One step forward (the current plot line from the hunter's perspective), two steps back (a story from his past that is supposedly going to help us understand him). One step forward again, two steps back again; one step forward again, two steps back again...It would have been fine if the current plot line got farther faster...or if the backflashes actually felt meaningful, but after the first one all of them start sounding the same...and the whole thing becomes extremely tedious. I tried, but could not finish this one.
I was expecting a long set-up where we get to know the characters, so was surprised when the troop comes in contact with the stranger almost immediately. I thought, "now what? how will he keep this going?" But Mr. Cutter keeps your interest because the character development happens AS the different personalities deal with what is happening to them. Excellent writing. Great narrator.
I enjoyed the movie (very cute, heartwarming), so I did not expect to enjoy the book (the surprise element being gone). I was wrong. Even though the two are nearly identical, the novel was still a fun listen. The narrator is excellent. The story is still endearing the second time around.
The other reviews already mention the bizarre cast of characters. The darkest of the dark. We follow them along their twisted and on-and-off converging paths. Horrified, mesmerized...and, one has to admit, very much entertained at the hands of an expert storyteller and an excellent narrator. Bravo!
The "stalker" theme seems to be all around us lately and is, quite frankly, not my favorite. Would probably not have even considered this had it not been for a post on Facebook by a friend whose tastes on books I usually share (the fact that this is how I came upon this book is actually ironic). So glad I followed her advice! And so glad I listened to "You" rather than read it on paper. Mr. Fontana is PERFECT as the first person narrator--the stalker who becomes increasingly obsessed with his prey. And Ms. Kepnes keeps your interest throughout, with the lies and deceptions becoming more and more involved, preposterous...and believable. It will make you want to reset all your social media privacy settings. It will make you cringe. And it will make you laugh! Yes, there's a lot of humor here. (Considering the theme, it is actually a pretty light--if riveting--read). Well done! I can't wait for her next one.
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