American Harold Middleton is a music professor and former war crimes investigator who is called to Poland to assess whether or not a manuscript purported to be an original, previously undiscovered, Chopin is genuine or a fake. However, the man that Harold meets with is murdered soon after their meeting and it soon becomes clear that there is more to the manuscript than mere rarity.
For what is essentially a publishing gimmick the book is delightfully entertaining. The plot rollicks along with red herrings and shocking twists aplenty, just as a good thriller should. The only evidence that the story is written by 15 different people is that there are perhaps a few more characters than normal, but the upside to that is that there are more genuine surprises than you might expect with a book authored by a sole writer who has pet characters and plot threads. There are several themes which are carried throughout the book, such as the role of music, and these help to produce a surprisingly cohesive story.
None of the characters are particularly well developed, there are too many and the book too short for that, but as this is a book all about a fast paced plot that's not a huge turnoff on this occasion. There was enough information to glean about Harold, his daughter Charlie, the evil Faust and a few of the other characters to engage my interest and keep me listening.
The book is narrated by actor Alfred Molina who does a superb job of handling the dialogue-rich story which features a couple of dozen characters.
It's the third book in a loose series and if you've read the first two you can't help but roll your eyes a bit that the same small part of England is once again the scene for unspeakable crimes, especially when the same family that has been victimised before (by completely different evil doers) is once again under attack. So I'd have liked the author to branch out a little.
No. I think it's time for this author to move on to other characters and settings. She is a great writer - witty and accurate in her human observations and really draws the reader into a world - but I don't need to read any more about evil in Shipcott.
The story was serviceable enough but never fully engaged the ‘must know what will happen next’ part of my brain because it seemed fairly obvious from the outset what the overall outcome would be. The set pieces that took place along the way, including those in the courtroom, were competently written but, for me, failed to surprise and felt too much like they’d been assembled from a few newspaper headlines rather than looking at any particular theme or idea in any depth. Issues like the treatment of Muslims after September 11 2001 and the reaction of western governments to the growth of extreme terrorism were given lip service which brought out nothing new or insightful and left me unfulfilled.
The Disappeared isn’t terrible but I just didn’t find it very original or thought-provoking.
Sian Thomas is a terrific narrator though. I’m normally wary of narrators who choose to do foreign accents (they can border on the offensive) but it was well done here and at times the best thing about the fairly dull courtroom scenes.
I would definitely listen to another book by this narrator but as for the author I'd be more picky. This book was very violent, gratuitously so in my opinion, and I didn't think much of the plotting or the main character. I'm prepared to give the author another go because there are hints of writing that I do like (particularly the humour) but I'm wary of more of the same.
The changes in voices for the different characters were subtle but noticeable enough to make the book easy to follow. I do like a Scottish accent too.
Revulsion mostly. I've had my fill of serial killer books featuring tortured souls on disgusting quests that require the mutilation of innocent people - being a crime fiction fan I've come across a lot of these but am well and truly done with this particular sub genre. I've also had it with excessively violent blokes using their fists to solve every problem they come across.
This book was not for me but I don't think it's badly written. It just takes readers down a path I have trodden too often before.
I???m not normally one for books told from the career criminal???s point of view. In most cases I???m not sympathetic to them, regardless of the real or imagined traumas that led them to their lives of crime, and I???m rarely swayed or intrigued by their angst or their revelling in the misery they inflict. So a story told by a pickpocket should not, on past experience, have engaged me at all but it did. It may have something to do with the fact that the eponymous thief (named only once as Nishimura) doesn???t delve deeply into the morality of his actions (aside from a claim to only steal from rich people) and certainly doesn???t spend time justifying himself. He is what he is and rather dispassionately tells his story which I somehow found more acceptable than the books which give lengthy reasons for a person becoming a life-long criminal.
There is also, at least on the surface, is not a lot going on here in that rather than a major story arc the book concerns itself with an almost random slice of Nishimura???s life which is another reason I ought not to have been engrossed in the book as that kind of thing often irks me. But with THE THIEF almost immediately I did want to know what troubles would befall the narrator (there was never even a glimmer that his life would bring something other than troubles). Somehow his detachment and reserve made me hang on for the few tiny morsels that would provide insight into the man, his personal history and his ultimate fate.
Some of THE THIEF borders on the surreal, the female characters are prostitutes or dead (downtrodden women are a feature of all the Japanese crime fiction I have read) and the ending is as ambiguous as it gets which are all more reasons why I would normally not enjoy a book. And yet I listened to the whole thing in a single sitting almost without noticing the time passing. I am glad to have read the book and would recommend to those prepared for something a little different.
Surprisingly, to me, the thing I enjoyed most about this book was its richly depicted setting which included more information about bullfighting than I could ever have anticipated being intrigued by. Which is why it is sometimes good to read things you think you might not like. Webster, who is not a native Spaniard but has lived there for twenty years and has published several highly acclaimed travel books about the country, really does bring the city alive for the reader with quite lyrical descriptions of the city, the festival, the food and the bullfighting. The two main characters debate the merits, or lack thereof, of the sport and one fills the other in in on any history and symbolism that might be relevant to his investigation and it is these exchanges that provide that allow readers to absorb information about a subject most of them probably know little about. I really liked the way this was done, especially they way it enabled Webster to present both sides of the debate without being judgemental.
I was not as taken by the character of Max C??mara as other reviewers seem to have been which of course is a highly personal thing. Perhaps I have had my fill of alcoholic detectives who argue with their superiors and are, in the end, fairly self-absorbed (in this instance C??mara's inner life revolves around his worries over his fertility which I literally could not have cared less about).
Meadows' narration was very good, using a range of slightly different accents and genders but never going overboard, especially with the female voices as some male narrators can do.
I know there is another one on the way which will be a boon for people who like Max and want to spend time with him. Although I like the way Webster depicts Spain I'm not sure I'll bother spending more time with him
I found the plot of THE FALLEN uneven, slow to get going really as several threads of unequal interest were set up, including a somewhat confusing tale about Jade trying to find the grave of her mother who died when Jade was a baby. For me the pacing was thrown off by the terribly obvious and drawn out clue-hunting, and then at one point I thought the book had finished and was rather astonished to find there were still 6 and a half chapters (a couple of hours) of the audio book left . The thread that deals with what happens after the diving instructor???s body is found ??? and the truly horrible plan Jade uncovers ??? was for me the best part of the book; responsible for a genuine OMG moment when it became clear what was going on.
In the end it felt like the book didn't quite know what it wanted to be.A major thread dealing with jade's on/off romance with a married bloke took the book in a romantic direction that didn't interest me at all. At times it read like an old-fashioned whodunnit, though with De Jong making a bit of a fist of the kind of denouement that Holmes or Poirot could perform with aplomb. I cannot possibly, for example, be the only reader to have been internally screaming ???there are more than passengers on an airplane you dolt??? as Jade very slowly worked this out as if for an audience of dim-witted third graders. At other times the book read like a modern thriller with loads of action and heroine-in-peril scenarios. Personally I think this aspect of the book worked better, especially as it allowed the author to depict several aspects of modern South African life which was a real strength of the novel.
I've read all six books in this series by Lackberg, the last four of these in audio format narrated by Eammon Riley. I didn't enjoy this instalment quite as much as the earlier ones but I'm happy to give the combination another chance as I did enjoy the earlier books so much (particularly THE ICE PRINCESS and THE HIDDEN CHILD). Riley is a terrific narrator and I do enjoy having the Swedish names pronounced for me :)To me this book took a long while to get going, with almost the first third concerning itself with the day-to-day lives of the series' long-running characters which grew a bit tedious, and the mystery itself was not as strong as with some of the earlier books.
Only his other narrations of this series which I have enjoyed. This one is up to the usual high standard.
As always Lackberg has left us with a cliff hanger ending which means, I assume, there is another book on the way. I must admit I find this practice a bit annoying but I will read the next one anyway.
The part of the book that dealt with the impact of Jacob's arrest and trial on the Barber family was the best aspect for me. The family sort of imploded under the pressure and this was well depicted and poignant, especially if you consider that the impact would have been the same regardless of the boy's guilt! I wasn't so taken with the individual characters who I found a little unbelievable (how could such a warm, loving, outgoing person as Laurie Barber end up with not one friend to stick by her through a crisis for example?). I also found the thread about inherited propensity for violence poorly dealt with.
Honestly I'm not sure, perhaps so but I won't be at the head of the queue.
Nothing, I really enjoyed the narration and was especially impressed with his voice for Jacob. It's hard for adults to 'do' teenagers but Meyers does it well.
Never commit a crime? But seriously, no.
Jeff Woodman's narration was, as always, an excellent way to bring the fabulous characters of John Ceepak and Danny Boyle alive.
This was one of the lighter novels in the series, with Grabenstein taking the opportunity to poke fun at reality TV throughout the book, but no less suspenseful for that. There's lots of action and Grabenstein's usual subtle social commentary as well.
I have only listened to Jeff Woodman narrating all the earlier books in this series and he is part of the reason I fell in love with the books (against my own expectations). His performance here was up to his usual high standard. Woodman IS Danny Boyle.
Laughed. Out loud. Multiple times.
It IS hard to wait two years for each new instalment of this series but Grabenstein has made it worth the wait, meeting my expectations and then some.
This audio experience was saved from total ruin by the marvelous performance of Penelope Keith. Otherwise it is a silly little story about a silly, annoying woman and her succession of boringly described outfits.
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