The book may well be worth reading but I just could not tolerate the narrator another minute. His inflections and emphases have no relationship to the text. It's like listening to a particularly dissonant piece of modern music--'Trash Cans With Screaming Cats', say. Do yourself a favor and listen to the sample before you buy this. I really don't know how good the text is so I gave the author the benefit of the doubt in rating it a 3.
I was undecided how to rate this. The writing, characters, dialogue, descriptions and narration were all excellent--easily a 4 or a 5. But I am an attorney and I find it hard to believe that the portrayal of Italian criminal law and procedure is accurate. No pretrial motions or pretrial prep at all by the protagonist lawyer--i.e., interviewed no witnesses, did no independent investigation and no preparation to introduce the obvious alibi he only happens upon during trial; written 'summaries' of witness statements prepared by prosecution being allowed as evidence at trial, with no opportunity to examine witnesses in some cases; permitting expert opinion to be introduced during closing argument, with no foundation and no opportunity for cross examination. Maybe this is how it really works, but if so, there must be a lot of guilty people in jail there.
Clear presentation of the subject, with a balanced approach to not only the problems of capitalism, but also the many benefits it has brought. Should be required reading for all politicians, especially Democrats.
The plot is only so-so, but the writing and narration are superb. Prose does not get much closer to poetry than some of the passages in this book. The narrator should do many more. He would be great at any of Dickens' works.
Overall, a good course with many useful insights. My only complaint is the lecturer's apparent inability to quit saying 'in other words.' She says this a minimum of 5 times per lecture, sometimes many more. In one span of about a minute and a half, she said it 3 times. As annoying as a Valley Girl's 'like' or the early John Denver's 'far out.' Stop It!!!!!
Intriguing subject matter, well written, but the narrator is way too dramatic. Every sentence sounds like a proclamation from Mr. Sinai.
I bought this for two reasons: I'm planning a trip to Tuscany and was hoping for the sort of local color other mystery writers provide--Parker for Boston, Connelly for LA, Johnson for Wyoming, Sandford for Minneapolis and environs, for example. There's virtually none of that here and, except for the Mafia connection, it could have been set almost anywhere. Also, I like good mysteries, but this is not one. Finally, the narrator does all the Italian characters with something like either an Oxcam or Cockney accent, depending on their class and background. Cannot recommend.
If you like mysteries where almost all the essential information relevant to the crime is withheld until the very end, at which time the wily old detective gets everyone in a room and all the guilty ones readily confess and fill in all the details (a la Columbo, Poirot or Perry Mason), you'll probably like this. If not, not. There is a decent amount of clever British-style quips and banter and the narrator is ok but not exceptional.
I thought this was very well written and thought provoking. Assuming it is an accurate portrayal of Black culture (which I do), it demonstrates that the author is not afraid to show that Whites do not have a corner on racism, but also that he does not seem to understand Whites or White culture any better than Whites understand Blacks. Since all the White characters are either air-headed, condescending, 'bleeding heart' (one of his Black character's phrases) yuppies or unapologetic red-neck racists, I can only conclude, surprisingly, that even with his intelligence and experience as a respected journalist, he apparently has not encountered any who share the same values I'm sure he has--hard work, honesty, self-reliance, self-respect, personal responsibility--and who endeavor to judge others on those same grounds, not on skin color. If he has, I'm not sure why none were portrayed in his otherwise excellent novel.
The book was ok in terms of plot, character development, etc., but I found it very odd that the author chose to present it as a number of first person narrations. What are we supposed to think these are? They are not letters or diary entries. If we are supposed to think the all-seeing author is putting us inside the heads of these people as they muse, it strains credulity to think that anyone muses so articulately, whether a child, a nurse maid, an executioner or a queen. I don't recall ever reading a book like this and I think it greatly distracts from the overall work.
This may be my last Burke novel. The plot is preposterous in many places. (Warning: plot spoilers dead ahead.) Why would a German submarine have a 42 pound, jewel encrusted swastika and Hitler's 'plan for America' on board? Why would even a Neo-Nazi psychopath want the sub so badly? Would any real person risk his life to save a man (he thought) who had brutally tortured him or a woman (as it turns out) who terrorized his family? How can Clete continue to get away with his shenanigans (as much as I like them)? How many times can one novel contain some variation of 'Are we CLEAR on that now, podnah?" To top it all off, are Rush Limbaugh listeners (Burke makes a very thinly veiled allusion to them) really responsible for the Neo-Nazi movement and do they really not care about black people being slaughtered, as Burke clearly implies? I've contributed enough to the support of self-righteous liberals like Streisand, Baldwin, Penn and Damon. I didn't realize until this book that Burke has the same mind-set. I wish someone had warned me.
I gave it two stars instead of the one (or less) it probably deserves because there are some funny lines and, despite a great deal of over-elaborate description and psychological musing, it is pretty well written. Unlike many Burke reviewers, I think Hammer's narrations are excellent.
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