Why can't more "gentle" contemporary detective novels like this series be created? I usually avoid U.S. contemporaries because of the
*poor quality of prose
*even more over-the-top action heroes and Barbie heroines who can run in designer shoes
*even campier formulaic gratuitous sex and violence scenes and
*overall dumbness factor
This series avoids the above and has the strength of quirky characters (but not TOO quirky) and a strong city setting. Lippman almost does for Baltimore what Rankin does for Edinburgh. Tess usually takes on a social issue (secondary to the plot), which may put off some readers. Except for #2 in the series (Charm City), I think Lippman grows stronger in her craft in each.
As for the narrator, Barabara Rosenblatt, who is much criticized in reviews of this series - I am among the minority who don't like her as the voice of Amelia Peabody, but I love her as Tess Monaghan I don't get the criticisms voicied here--- She doesn't slobber over the vowels -- I think her delivery is part of her fresh take on impulsive Tess. She reads as if speaking, so - yes - there are some human sounds. She is not Microsoft Anna!
So - if you seek a listen to relax, to be engrossed (and not grossed out or blood pressure raised), try this.
The “coming of age” descriptor put me off, but once I started this novel, my ears ate it up – It’s like a young Scottish Colin Bateman all fired up. Not today’s youth but those becoming political aware circa millennium are chronicled in this comedy of manners. It reminded me of why elder writers like William Boyd ought not try to re-create Bertie Wooster but instead let young writers write about fresher experience for Wodesonian humour. If you’ve ever marched against the Man (be it Vietnam, Cruise, Iraq or a 1% Logo) OR if you’ve ever wanted to understand those that have— try this.
warning: lovely working class Scots English narration (*listen to sample!) and MUCH chronological anarchy in the history this weaves
This is very faithful to the original, and well recast in 21st century teen talk--- however, take the period out of Austen, and you have a light chic lit tale, too often told. I thought McDermid might bring out the darker satire of Northanger – my biggest concern before downloading was how would I react to McDermid’s usual graphic violence in an Austen classic – no worry! This re-telling will not alarm the most squeamish. I kept waiting for some kind of twist, so I kept listening (well, there’s one tiny cute twist, coming from McDermid). My time would have been better spent re-listening to Juliet Stephenson reading the original. Like an Oxford School paraphrasing of a Shakespeare play – why bother if you want more than the bare story, and if you just want the bare story, why go on (and on) about tweeting Twilight and other modern teen concerns? If the intent was to make the novel more accessible to younger audiences, I think that’s a miss, too: the beauty of Austen is that she draws readers into more complex prose and period. Perhaps if the market weren’t flooded with Austen spin-offs, this might have been a novelty at least.
P.S. The blurbs in the publisher’s summary MUST be about other McDermid novels!
I thought Hardcastle might be a binge series for me, but I couldn't become engaged with this instalment. I like the early WWI English setting, I like the attempt at slice-of-working-class-life, and even the central mystery was OK - - but the recipe didn't cook for me. The author repeatedly tries to interpret FOR the reader very simple dialogue and actions--- without these interruptions and some extraneous and drawn out details of weeks spent travelling from Hardcastle's home station to the scene of crime area(s) and back, I might have found this a quietly satisfying whodunnit, albeit with thin characterization. I chose this instalment because it is the first in chronological order (rather than order written), and I'd expect the author to know his craft better. It's a series I want to like, but unless there are some good reader reviews for other novels, I won't be downloading more. The WWI setting earned it a third star from me.
The first half of #8 in this series felt very deja vu and second rate for a McDermid, but second half contained her usual engrossing storyline. However, for me, enduring the usual Mcdermid graphic, domestic-inspired violence wasn’t worth the second-half story. If you’re not planning on listening to all of the Tony Hill-Carol Jordan series, skip this one -- On the other hand, if you’re going to read only one in the series and don’t mind the graphic descriptions of brutally abused women, this might be THE one, as it could stand alone (despite its ties to The Retribution, #7). Also this one involves Paula MacIntyre more than most others, so it might be of interest to those who like her character. I winced at the violence, but I learned from McDermid's observations on human nature.
The usual ending that sees Tony and Carol's relationship heading around a new bend is marred by the omission of the "You have been listening to..." statement before the inclusion of a clever short story by McDermid - to me this is a three star novel with an extra star for the short story (once I figured out it wasn't the next chapter of the novel!). Narrator Doyle is excellent as usual.
If you like to relax or treat a head cold with a Heyer-like escape, you know how rare such reads are. I've given up trying authors who are supposed to Heyer-like; however, I really needed a break from reality when I saw this among Audible's new releases. This is the best-of-its-classification I've come across in many listens: "sweet" without being saccharine or too silly, well-written, and well-narrated. Although it has an expected plot and Regency-a-la-Heyer world - like Heyer, it's just very diverting and witty.
I was always uneasy with the undertones of family violence/threat of violence in many Heyers and Heyer-homages (Heroes who feel like "boxing ears" or "shaking" women); this novel is refreshingly free from such patterns. And the author manages to avoid remixing Heyer's overused cliches while including mixing reader favourites (and nods to Austen). I hope Smith has more like these! I am tempted to rate as five starts, just because it can't be easy to strike the right balance in these novels, and attempts at old fashioned Regencies are getting rarer, even with the explosion of contemporary stories cloaked in Regency clothes (often losing even the clothes).
I’ve never read Ian Fleming so I know Bond only as the film icon; however, I like Boyd and wanted to see what kind of Bond he would create for late 60s Britain.
This is a very uneven novel --- I enjoyed moving through world of the novel with this very ordinary (almost pedestrian) Bond ---when it involved a London neighbourhood or especially West Africa. Other parts, particularly Bond’s romantic encounters, are written in a "workman-like", second rate manner. I wonder if that was intentional, so much does it depart from the fine detail of other sections.
Bond is a man of his times in many ways, but a mainstream 60s hero wouldn’t adopt his positions. Would any Bond enjoy the feeling of being in a woman station head's "capable hands"? or "His powerless made him want to weep" or "Bond began to feel a debilitating sense of impotence"? Perhaps this is a triumph -- The novel (outside of bedroom snapshots) didn't conjure up any movie Bond but a distinct character.
Battles (army battles) and fights abound -- not gory however. No gizmos are involved. Neither is there explicit sex – the encounters are what 007 film goers wold expect, and rather corny. The setting suggests of Nigeria--Biafra in late 60s - early 70s, but those elements were not developed as much as I would have liked (though this is almost a post-colonial bond).
I felt that the novel didn't gel for me and suspect that Boyd enjoyed writing a Bond but perhaps was restrained by external parameters and didn't put his human heart in all of the writing. I liked the parts that were Boyd---William Boyd, so I will stick to William Boyd novels.
Well narrated in a restrained style.
You can find similar material from Zinn in pieces on the Internet; you can get more detail in better sound quality in his other more recent publications; but for an accessible overview at a peanut price, this is a good bargain.
It is a workshop, however, conducted primarily for the attendees and happened to be recorded rather than scripted for audiobook purposes. You can hear rustling and other crowd sounds. You can hear Zinn breathing during yoga and he may have a cold. For me the sound quality was acceptable but not up to that of, say, a Sounds True current production.
This is a 1.5-hour intro to mindfulness talk with exercises (like raisin eating) and Q+A, lots of Q+A. Zinn handles the questions skillfully. This is followed by sitting (following breath with alternating periods of silence and guidance/commentary, including the mountain meditation included in Zinn’s “series 2” audio). There is about an hour of mindful yoga, similar to his “series 1” audio first yoga session - then more sitting, brief walking meditation and yet more Q+A. The program is more useful if listening with an app that permits bookmarks – and if you’re not planning on meditating with the audio, a fast forward function.
As usual, Zinn presents mindfulness in a secular/nonsectarian way and cuts through the dualistic thinking that divides secular/sacred. Because Zinn refers to his “tapes”, I assume this is an older workshop, but it stands the test of time. He refers to the “Open Centre” in New York but the exercises take place in a in a hotel space not really suitable for the work being done, and that sometimes gets in the way of the content. I felt annoyed by the context at the outset, but ended by enjoying the listen (and it’s almost worth the download just to hear Zinn say "just f*'ing do it!" to a live group).
This would be most useful to those interested in this inclusive flavour of mindfulness who maybe do not want to invest more time or money in other programs. For me, it's probably the closet I'll ever come to hearing Zinn in person, so it was worth the listening time, warts and all.
I admit that I bumped up this in my listening cue only after the author was revealed, but I'm glad I did. What Rowling did with the traditional Brit novel of manners in Casual Vacancy, she now does for the traditional Brit detective formula, but with a detective in almost stereotyped US classic noir circumstance (although a leg wound from Afghanistan is a nice nod to the Brit tradition and situation). There is a sort-of-dark male lead character with hints of a mysterious past who has a prickly relationship with a new, younger perkier female sidekick. Rowling enlivens both the formula characters and genre conventions. The dialogue is good - livelier than most UK crime fiction but not "screenplay" like some North American.
The world of celebrity doesn't interest me but the fictional world of London crime, created by generations of crime authors, does. This is not a masterpiece but highly enjoyable, and isn't "enjoyable" the gift that Rowling brings to adult fiction?
If you enjoyed Casual Vacancy and traditional Brit detectives, you'll love this. Like most Brit detectives, this is PG listening -- but I'd still not give it to the kids -- content is similar in tone to Casual Vacancy. I felt cheated that I did not have Harry Potter when growing up, so perhaps Rowling will now create a detective series for my generation.
This is a satisfyingly slow-paced bloodless backyard listen written in the 1990s before technology necessarily started to dominate murder mysteries. The protagonist is a middle aged widow and mother, a political scientist, back room provincial politico - nothing glamorous, just smart. The setting is very Canadian prairie, but the Manitoba political system is explained well enough and doesn't get in the way. The plot doesn't turn on coincidence, and though you'll know "whodunnit" before the protagonist, it unrolls like some classic detectives in that the author wants you to be one self-satisfying step ahead of the sleuth (but not 100% sure!)
Amateur sleuth mysteries often fail because an author can't establish a valid reason why the protagonist gets involved -- so it seems like meddling. This protagonist involves herself in the murder mystery because, in her grief, she needed "to prove that life was a coherent narrative with a beginning, middle and an end." And isn't that why we read detective novels? So we enter the puzzle with her naturally. I doubt that this series can keep its grounded feel (one murder can happen in anyone 's life but how can an amateur sleuth find a dozen?) However, I hope Audible stocks many more in the series so I can find out.
I find it useful when reviewers compare a series unknown to me to a better known one . I think this is like Laura Lippman's Tess, with a similar strong sense of place but less action. It's well narrated too, in a similar style.
PS The cover art is poorly chosen - I delayed listening because I suspected yet another abusive clergy story line due to the rosary. Religion is a minor cultural element, one of the minor "appearances" to be kept up by some characters and adds local colour, but is not central.
but I prefer to get her in print, where I can skim/skip the violent detail. I don't think Wire in the Blood is anywhere close to as gritty as Mermaids Singing (and that goes for the three subsequent in the series that I "read" with text-to speech or Kindle as well) - but I'm still too squeamish to hear a good narrator get into the minds and hands of her killers. I think, however, the violence is not gratuitous: She's speaks to the violence done unto the vulnerable in our world, and how, as Alice Miller would say "All evil is reactive." I prefer that served up in a Soc text. but along the way she weaves such good stories, and her Tony Hill and Carol Jordan characters are anything but cookie-cutter cops. During each novel, I thought I'd read no more from her, but I found myself going back to the series for the story and characters. I'm getting adept with the fast-forward function, as much as skipping pieces of a book go against the grain for me.
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