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  • Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Ruth Rendell
    • Narrated By Davina Porter

    Wexford is horrified by the carnage he encounters at Tancred Manor, home of a famous anthropologist, but he is determined to do all that he can for 17-year-old Daisy, the only survivor of the mass murders that obliterated her family.

    N. says: "Entertaining but predictable with rushed ending"
    "Entertaining but predictable with rushed ending"
    If you could sum up Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter in three words, what would they be?

    Predictable, Conventional, Procedural

    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    Saw it coming a mile way (that is to say, very early on in the novel). But knowing Rendell/Vine's genius, I kept telling myself throughout the whole thing: "No, no, calm yourself; she'll no doubt go a totally different path to what you're expecting." Not so. No twists were forthcoming. Also, this ending was very rushed and seemed to come out of nowhere i.e. with very little notice to the reader that Wexford was hot on the trail. Given Wexford's particular emotional attachment to one of the victims, it seems extra-odd that we're given no hints that he's started to make sense of the case. Finally, the very last few sentences cheated the reader of satisfaction over the solved mystery; we--or at least I-- need a little more. Even another paragraph would have been useful.

    Which scene was your favorite?

    Although I didn't care for all the drama and trauma with Wexford's daughters, I chuckled over every scene featuring one daughter's loathsome new boyfriend, and Wexford's pained reactions to him.

    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    The above boyfriend scenes elicited audible chuckles that caused the people in nearby work stations to look over at me.

    Any additional comments?

    For me, this was not one of Rendell's best. Admittedly, I have always preferred her more psychologically-driven, non-procedural-heavy works (such as the ones written as Barbara Vine) but this novel stands out as a particularly mundane police procedural, with (unwelcome) emphasis on Wexford's daughter dramas thrown in as if to add "characterization." I understand why Rendell drew the parallels between his home life and the case at hand, but it was too much.

    Overall, the book was entertaining enough that I'll listen to it again in the future, and I don't mind recommending it to you if you're a Rendell fan...I would just advise newcomers to Rendell/Vine to start with other of her novels, lest you get the impression that she is a conventional mystery writer who writes conventional, predictable (if well-written) detective novels. Normally, she's anything but.

    As for the narrator Davina Porter, she is a solid one and I'd readily buy more books read by her. Her voice is itself modulated in tone and pleasant, and that's no small point when you consider how bad it can be to listen to an overly-breathy or too-nasal, etc. etc. narrator for several hours on end. Her forte is lower-class accents; those are great. She is good at Wexford's West Country accent, too, though sometimes distractingly inept at American accents.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Brimstone Wedding

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Barbara Vine
    • Narrated By Juliet Stevenson

    Unlike the other residents of Middleton Hall, Stella is elegant, smart and in control. Only Jenny, her care assistant, knows that she harbours a painful secret, and only she can prevent Stella from carrying it to the grave. As the women talk, Jenny pieces together the answers to many questions that arise: Why has she kept possession of a house that her family don’t know about? What happened there that holds the key to a distant tragedy?

    N. says: "Stevenson + Vine/Rendell = good audiobook"
    "Stevenson + Vine/Rendell = good audiobook"
    What made the experience of listening to The Brimstone Wedding the most enjoyable?

    Until fairly recently, I didn't realize that A-list film actors recorded audiobooks. But apparently, quite a few have, and this recording of The Brimstone Wedding, narrated by the redoubtable Juliet Stevenson, is an example.

    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Brimstone Wedding?

    Like one of the characters in the novel, I think I'll now always have certain mental associations of wheat fields, farmers, tractors, and "the countryside" in general. The book's entire action takes place in the country; no London scenes here.

    What about Juliet Stevenson’s performance did you like?

    She is everything a narrator should be: warm, intimate voice and intonation that invite themselves into the listener's mental "space;" good at various accents; good at performing voices for a sex different than her own (men); and an intelligent phrasing and enunciation. I liked the way she handled the accent of the main narrator, Jenny/Genevieve, because unlike some other actors playing country characters, she didn't make the character seem overly naive or diminished in intelligence. Being from a rural area and having little formal education does not make one stupid or a figure of fun! In Stevenson's hands, Jenny/Genevieve always seems bright as well as sympathetic, friendly, etc.

    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This isn't one of those Vine/Rendell books (like say, A Sight For Sore Eyes) that affected me viscerally while reading/listening. Towards the end, I even thought, "Really, are those all of the main plot points of the book--no more?" I didn't feel that punch in the stomach and lingering sense of doom that many Vine/Rendell books supply. The plot is much simpler and more straight-forward than I expected from this author. But it works in its own, subtle way. This would definitely reward a repeat listening.

    Any additional comments?

    Please note that this is a first-person POV/narration, and it is sometimes shared between two main narrators, neither of which I normally care for in novels, but it works to good effect here. There are also several flashbacks to previous eras (the 1950s and 60s). Also, if you've never read a Barbara Vine novel, you should know that these books are often not detective novels or police procedurals such as the ones the author writes under the name Ruth Rendell. The Brimstone Wedding is not a mystery novel, although there are mysteries within it that characters puzzle over, nor is it a thriller or suspense novel per se. It is, rather, a tale that is suspenseful and at times disturbing (though not, in my opinion, as disturbing as other Vine/Rendell novels). Enjoy!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Cinnamon Sky

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Janet Woods
    • Narrated By Anne Cater

    The Patterson sisters have lived in the Earl of Longmore's house since they were orphaned as children. When the old Earl dies, the estate passes to Kynan Trent, a London merchant and descendant of the despised Welsh branch of the family. The title is a surprise to him and he's even more surprised to find himself responsible for five lively and independent young women. There are tales of hidden treasure belonging to the Patterson family, but in reality the girls are penniless and their futures look bleak.

    N. says: "Light Georgian romance"
    "Light Georgian romance"

    Cinnamon Sky is a hard to find, sometimes out of print late-Georgian era romance by British-born author Janet Woods. It is mild as historicals go, with no explicit scenes, and a lot of gentle, sparkling humour. The orphan/rags-to-riches story, while not original, is well-handled, highlighted by the distinct personalities of the five delightful Patterson sisters. (Although I could have done with less of the stock Other Woman narrative). The narrator is very good, especially at the little girls' varying voices (the hero is a bit gruff/raspy-sounding). I would recommend this to readers who like humourous Regency-era romances such as Pride and Prejudice (Cinnamon takes place just before that era, around 1800); orphan stories; stories about sisters; or quietly intelligent (as opposed to fiery) heroines. I think you'll enjoy this.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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