In route to a colonial settlement in the Carolinas known as Fount Royal, a magistrate and his clerk take shelter at a inn. What happens there sets a very dark tone that carries throughout the novel.
Soon the two reach Fount Royal where they enter into a battle of wills with Robert Bidwell who is both the town's proprietor and their host. The purpose of the magistrate's journey is to try a woman who is accused of witchcraft. Because we live in modern times, it's clear to readers that sorcery doesn't exist, but try to put yourself in the mindset of a small town filled with God-fearing citizens who have no other explanation for what is happening around them. Or are they God-fearing citizens? Over time Matthew, the clerk, peels back the thin veneer of civility, unmasking ignorance, greed, and depravity. Yet no one, not even his mentor the magistrate, will believe him.
The book starts out a bit slow and predictable but don't give up. Soon you will be intrigued with the characters and their lives. One caution though, there are activities in the book that are repellent.
The narrator is perfect. He masters all the accents and nuances.
This book is written like a series of newspaper stories on deaths caused by poison. To link the stories together, Blum has written about the New York City Coroner who name sounded like Norris and his chief chemist Geottler. Together they change the profession of forensic medicine.
Since reading The Disappearing Spoon I have had a fascination of chemistry. This book goes into detail on the use of forensic medicine to discern the chemical markers of various poisons from arsenic to thallium. For that reason, I found it very interesting. It is not a deep study of the personality of these poisoners. Most were typical Americans, not serial killers.
The book did dishearten me when I thought about the way people bumped off their inconvenient relatives with such convenient methods. I was also saddened by the number of alcohol deaths during Prohibition. Seems that people would go to any length, even if it killed them, to get their alcohol.
I recommend this book to anyone who is curious about a very dark side of American society and the triumph of forensic science.
Tana French was a favorite of mine. I can recommend all the books leading up to this one. The Secret Place was quite a departure from those previous works.
The book starts and nearly concludes with eight suspects who are so similar it took hours of listening to differentiate them. If you love solving mysteries, have a pencil and paper next to you and organize the clues. Determine quickly who is in each clique, the color of each character's hair, eyes, and cellphones (yes, cellphones), and who is involved with the murder victim (more like, who wasn't). I did not do that and as a result could find no logical way to narrow down the suspects. This Secret Place reminded me of one of those old Reader's Digest puzzles: "Tim lives in a blue house and Tammy lives in a green one. The murderer lives in a Yellow house. Who is the murderer?" Forget traditional motives like love, revenge, or money. You won't figure it out that way.
I recommended that you buy the Kindle edition and read it rather than listen. More than one-half of the story deals with a group of English girls who speak in a very poor version of Valley Girl vernacular. Everything is OMG and text language. The narrator, Lara Hutchinson, has a pleasant voice but reading the girls' use of language made the narrator sound like a simpering idiot. The sound was so grating I found myself tuning out.
Had the book been centered on the male detective instead of the girls, it would have been pretty good. The Stephen Hogan, who narrated the two detectives, was excellent. Those portions of the book were a reprieve from the inanity of the girls.Unfortunately, Conway, the female detective, seemed to be an adult version of the St. Kilda girls.
Don't overlook Tana French's other books or her next one. I hope I don't have to wait another year for that.
The Cairo Affair presents itself as a thriller, a murder mystery. The wife of a diplomat sets out to find the man behind the man who killed her husband. Or is it the woman behind the man who...well, you know.
Olen Steinhauer writes beautifully. He evokes visions of Egypt and other lands that are intriguing and worth exploring. His characters, especially the veteran diplomats and spies, are individual and multifaceted. He reveals their strategies and their frailties. Some characters are deep and authentic while others are cold. With the exception of one, the women were not as well written as the men.
Based on my limited knowledge of regional accents, Edoardo Ballerini's narration is on point. He has a wide range and given the number of characters in this book, did a masterful job of recreating their voices.
The story line was a problem. It was if the book were written on glass tablets, shattered, and then pasted together by someone who didn't know the plot. The characters, the timelines, the decades and the locations jump around and cannot find their way back to center. It becomes tedious. I didn't feel, as some other reviewers stated, there were too many characters. My criticism is that the disjointed story lines ruined the pacing.
The Cairo Affair didn't make it to my top ten list. Nevertheless, because of his writing style, I will try another book by Olen Steinhauer.
Elizabeth George is one of my favorite writers. Though very good, this was not my favorite of her books. It was as literary and engaging as all of her others. It's just that the main protagonist (if I can call her that) was Barbara Havers rather than Inspector Lynley.
Barbara is a compelling character when alongside Lynley but in this novel she was on her own. As per the author's design, she made me uncomfortable. In all of us, our strengths can also be our weaknesses. However, Barbara seemed to yield a little too much on the side of situational morality. I can't say more without giving something away.
The story has a wonderful arc. Donata Peters narrates it brilliantly until she has to speak in Italian. Ms. George introduces some fascinating new characters whom I hope will appear in future books.
Just One Evil Act is worth your credit and your time.
Because they have to or we wouldn't read them, business leadership books oversimplify very complex organizational dynamics. They also repeat themselves and rehash plowed ground. Start with Why is no exception. It relays success stories about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others--stories we have already heard. On the other hand, Mr. Sinek is the exception to the author-narrator stereotype; he is a very good narrator.
Mr. Sinek does hammer home an important concept that I hadn't given enough thought to, and that's as the title says, Start with Why. This book will change the way I make presentations and work with my colleagues. So, to me, the key message was very valuable.
Finally, and most importantly, the price was right. This was a daily deal. Thank you, Audible
This is an epic story of Eli McCullough who is captured and lives three years with Comanches. It explores five generations of the McCullough family as well as several layers Texas culture from the Apaches and Comanches, to the Mexicans (aka Tejanos), to the White men and Vaqueros and back to the Apaches. Any romantic views you have about the men of these tribes will disappear quickly. I liked the characters as individuals but hated what they did to each other. The book is bloody and brutal but you wont be able to stop listening.
The alliances among these groups and McCullough family members shift with the winds. . Because of those changes, as well as the way the story unfolds, it was difficult to keep track of each character's place on the family tree. Play close attention to the opening of each chapter which tells you who is speaking and what the year is or you too will be lost,
Will Patton voices Eli to perfection. He draws you in from the opening scene. The other narrators are equally effective,
I give this book five stars for just about every aspect of writing and storytelling. Phillip Meyer is a fabulous writer and I look forward to reading other books by him.
Mitch Rapp comes close to being captured and realizes there is traitor within the hierarchy of his agency.Until Mitch can ferret out the impostor he goes rogue. The setting is Paris so both the local police force and the French National Security agency become involved.Each agency has it share of incompetent and self-serving actors. Mitch's handlers go to Paris, thus introducing a third agency into the mix. Mitch doesn't know who he can trust.
The book has some exciting action sequences. The near-capture scenario is cleverly plotted as is another part wherein Mitch and his girlfriend observe a badly played ambush. George Guidall's narration is excellent.
So why did I give the story only 3 stars? There were too many stereotypical characters and I would have preferred less focus on internal politics and more on the adventures of Mitch Rapp.
Shantaram is the nickname of the lead character, Lin. Lin escaped from prison in Australia and moved to India where he uses his intelligence to adapt to a different cultures. He quickly forges common ground with the fringes of Bombay society and the moguls of the underground economy. His rise is accelerated by learning and speaking local languages.
The book is narrated by Humphrey Bower. Given the languages, the characters, the cultures, I cannot imagine a book more difficult to narrate, yet Mr. Bower's rendition was flawless.
The author, David Gregory Roberts, is a supreme story teller. His descriptions of venues and scenes are rich and fulfilling. I felt like I was there. The characters are complex. Lin is flawed, falling back into an old heroin habit and relying on flexible morals. Yet, he is altruistic and conscience-driven. Ironically, it's the members of the lowest rung of Bombay society who seem to have the strongest moral code. To a great extent, the book is about doing the wrong things for the right reasons.
What I liked best about Shantaram was learning about people of India, especially the slum-dwellers. I also liked the explanations of underground economies including money exchange, passport fraud, and the tourist drug trade. What I liked least was Lin's seeming inability to foresee how his actions predicted his outcomes.
Defending Jacob is a brilliant story, written very neatly -- no extra words, artifacts or superfluous emotions. I was captivated from start to finish.
The writer portrays the dilemmas faced by the main characters, Andy Barber, and his wife, Laurie. The two have opposing views of how to handle a situation wherein their 14 year old son has been accused of murder. They even have differing recollections on their son as a child and an adolescent despite having lived together since he was born. I found myself wavering back and forth on guilt or innocence depending on the trial evidence and what is revealed by the various characters.
The story is made more complex by the fact that Andy Barber is a prosecutor who has some involvement with the case before his son is charged. The case is taken over by one of Andy's proteges who then views Andy as a nemesis. The interaction between those two is also very interesting because you don't know whether the new prosecutor has a case or is simply trying to defeat someone whom he views as a rival.
This novel is along the lines of "We Need to Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver, also an excellent book, but written in a more thought provoking way. Whereas "Kevin" leads to an obvious conclusion, Defending Jacob keeps you guessing.
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