This is the second book in the series, and it held itself up well to the expectations I had after reading the first. Funny, engaging, with a hint of mystery. It was a little over-the-top with some of the characterizations and accents, though, so it was a little less believable than the first. It won't keep me from listening to the rest of the series, though.
I've never seen this play produced, but I have seen the movie so I was prepared for the strong language and palpable anger in the dialogue.......and these performers do a wonderful job. The anger and fear is almost palpable among the salesmen of a real estate development as they struggle to sell properties to feed their families and rank higher than their coworkers on the sales board each month, so they can get better sales leads the next month to try and hustle to earn enough to feed their families again.
If you've never listened to a live performance it might take a bit to get used to the sounds of the audience applauding, for instance, but it's worth it to hear this great script and great performers.
In this book, the series takes some significant steps forward - characters are more developed (Ceepak in a relationship, Danny now a full time police officer), and the crime and mystery are more serious and more grisly. That may or may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the light writing style and dialogue are still there. I could have done without the musical accompaniment to the epilogue, though.
Sage is a young woman who befriends an elderly man in her grief support group, and he asks her to kill him as a kind of twisted form of justice for his previous crimes 60+ years before when he was an SS officer..........but that's not really what the book is about. Too bad, because that would have made a more interesting book about justice, forgiveness, sacrifice, self-loathing, and self-doubt.
Instead we get a retrospective story about how Sage's grandmother lived and survived though World War II and internment in Nazi concentration camps, in great part because of her unfinished and ongoing story that she'd written.....the story had captivated an SS officer who helped her survive Auschwitz because he kept wanting to know what happened next in her story. That forms the biggest chunk of the book, and it's mixed with that telling of the story that she (the grandmother) wrote - which bears an unfortunate resemblance to a teen vampire love story. 'I killed for him, isn't that a sign that we were meant to be together?' -- Ugh!
There's a definite undertone of Christian mythology in the book, in spite of the fact that Sage is an atheist and her grandmother was a Jew who survived the holocaust: Mary, Joseph, Adam, and Eve (well, it's actually Eva), all appear and bread is a central thread as the staff of life and livelihood, and the manifestation of the baker's emotions. Overall, I thought it was rather heavy handed in it's symbolism and language.
I think this story pushes the envelope a little too far when it ventures to Hollywood.....had most of the story stayed on the ocean liner crossing the Atlantic, I think it would have been much better. I like the central cast of characters (all except for Queenie - she should have stayed with her new boss), but things reached ridiculous with the wild animals and movie plans. It was a fun romp up to and including New York, and I hope the next installment will stick a little closer to home for the 34th in line to the throne and her Irish beau.
And I hope Queenie gets a job elsewhere and exits from the series!
Katherine Kellgren's narration is always great, but even she was stretched a little too far, especially with the Spanish and Mexican accents. She managed a range of American accents fine, though she was a little over the top with the Western twang too. I'm hoping for a more Euro-centered story next time. Maybe even within the UK. A trip to Darcy's old home, maybe?
If you're captivated by the machinations of wealthy families....well, this might be the book for you. I found the story dragged on and on with predictability, but then the last chapters felt rushed as if Follett felt the need to wrap things up quickly. All the regular suspects are there (the rich snob, the hooker with a heart of gold, the honourable son, the black sheep of the family, the evil foreigner) but they don't add up to anything unexpected and aren't written with much subtlety or imagination. Follett seems to me to write some excellent books and some very average ones, and this is solidly in the second category.
This is my first venture into Russian literature, and I am pleased to say the wonderful narration helped with the difficult nomenclature.......characters are referenced sometimes by their last names, sometimes by their first and middle names, and sometimes by their nicknames - all of which are foreign to my ears. But because of Anthony Heald's narration skills, I could sort out who was whom and keep the story straight. I'm sure it would have been more difficult if I were reading the text.
This is a combination of philosophy, social commentary, and a murder mystery; the murder mystery is the weakest of all the components, I think, and the murder is used mostly as an illustration and as motivation for the rest. That's OK, because the philosophy and moral questions posed by the book are the real meat-and-potatoes of what makes it interesting. This is not an easy book, but it was ultimately worthwhile. Still, it will take some time before I'm ready again to take on another Russian novel that looks at philosophy and society so deeply. I think I need a change of pace now with a bit of fluffy pop fiction - it's good to mix them up.
Even though this novel is over 30 years old, it's the first time I've sampled any of Martha Grimes' books and so far I think they're good - but there's not much in this one that will make me rush to listen to the rest of the series. I've found I like the character-rich British mysteries more than American ones, and I guess I should have realized that even though these mysteries are set in small-town Britain, they're still written by an American and that will seep through. Too many of the players here seemed almost to be caricatures of themselves, or of a type. Not really my cup of tea, I guess.
Crooked House was a terrific story, and I liked it far better than Endless Night, but both were good. Crooked House seemed to have more energy and engaging characters, but Endless Night had more mystery and sense of foreboding. Both were good, and this was well worth the time.
I've read and listened to a few of Barclay's books before, and they were better written and more enjoyable than this one. One of the things I like about his books is that his protagonists are ordinary people caught up in unfortunate circumstances, and that's true here too, but I thought that some of the characters were either particularly stupid or weak, and that bothered me. Also, this is, at the end, a story of revenge - and I don't particularly like revenge stories - they're colder than the more common and passionate motivators of action like money, lust, jealousy, or power.
The narrator was fine, but just OK - I don't think he really added much to the experience.
This is a different type of Christie story for me, as almost half of it takes place in the past - remembered by characters and explained in exposition - rather than actively happening. That made for a different feel to the story, but it's a good story nonetheless: A year ago, a young socialite married to an older man dies of cyanide poisoning at a restaurant, and it is declared a suicide. Almost a year later, her husband gets a note stating that it was actually a murder, and at the birthday dinner at the same restaurant for the dead woman's sister, he ends up dying of cyanide poisoning himself. Was it suicide from grief? Was the note correct or a red herring? Was his death also a murder?
All good questions and a plot for a good mystery, but the resulting solution is weak and unworthy of the setup, IMO.
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