With "Betrayal," John Lescroart departs a bit from his ongoing San Francisco series of novels. For one thing, part of the action takes place -- as a flashback -- in Iraq, unveiling some of the sobering corruption taking place there at our government's expense. Secondly, much of the subsequent action takes place not in San Francisco, but down the Peninsula in Redwood City. We still have Lescroart's perennial protagonists -- best friends Dismus Hardy and Abe Glitsky, defense attorney and cop -- working together to discover the hidden machinations that sent an innocent man to prison. But this time they don't enter center stage until midway through the story. Lescroart definitely did his homework for this novel, delving deep beyond his legal and law-enforcement expertise into the ugly underbelly of the Iraq war and the unscrupulous contractors capitalizing on it. But, as always, he also delves deep into the hearts and minds of his characters, making them real to us, and making us care about them. Also, as always, David Colacci does a magnificent job narrating this audiobook. He has a wide range of voices and accents to draw upon, clearly distinguishing the characters from each other. I recommend this audiobook to anybody who enjoys legal thrillers with heart.
You first need to understand that Terry Pratchett has created a whole new world, here, with different laws. Things work differently on Discworld. It has different physics than our world, mainly because of its magical field. As soon as you get past that obstacle, you will love Discworld, Terry Pratchett, and magic. If you have a little trouble with the idea of a flat world, carried on the backs of four huge elephants, who are, in turn, standing on the back of an even more gigantic turtle swimming her way through space on some mysterious errand, just think about quantum mechanics for a while, and Discworld will settle into its proper perspective. After all, people really used to believe that the earth was flat, and that you could sail right off the edge of it, right? Maybe, in a few years, we will discover that, taking higher dimensions into account, our earth isn't actually shaped like a sphere, after all, but more like a spiral ....
"The Colour of Magic" tells a story that concludes with its sequel, "The Light Fantastic;" so, if you are contemplating purchasing "The Colour of Magic," then I recommend that you purchase "The Light Fantastic" at the same time. Otherwise, you are going to be left wondering, "Well, where 𝘪𝘴 The Great A'tuin going?" and, "What ever happened to the luggage?"
While listening to "The Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic " (I think of them as one book), I kept imagining them made into a movie, with Jack Lemmon playing Twoflower, and Walter Matthau playing Rincewind. (If you are too young to remember all those wonderful Jack Lemmon / Walter Matthau movies, never mind. Otherwise, those two actors and their comedies together will give you some idea of the main characters in "The Colour of Magic." Rincewind is the grumpy one.) In fact, the Brits did make these two novels into a delightful movie in 2008, with the adorable Sean Astin playing Twoflower. If you are contemplating listening to "The Colour of Magic," but don't know if you want to get addicted -- like the rest of us Pratchettians -- try renting the movie (it is called "The Color of Magic"), or checking it out from your library. I predict that you will enjoy it, and submit willingly -- nay, gladly -- to the Pratchettian jones.
By the way, the color of magic is Octarine; but it can only be seen by Wizards and cats.
For anyone with an interest in recent international history, Ms Hellmann has provided a stellar fictional perspective with "A Bitter Veil." Perhaps because I never liked history classes very much, I think that historical fiction offers most of us the best way to learn about what happened in the past: through the eyes of (albeit, fictional, but believable) people living through it. In this case, we're talking about a horrific historical event: the 1978 Iranian revolution. Even without the opening chapter -- which starts us off in the middle of the horror -- we can feel the impending doom gathering and hovering, about to engulf our protagonist, Anna, in its darkness. I kept wanting to scream at Anna, "You fool! Can't you see what is going to happen to you?" Of course, few of us could see what was coming back then, could we? I, in my youthful innocence and self-absorption, had only a vague awareness -- and no interest -- in the events taking place on the other side of the planet. Now I can declare that everything that I know about the Iranian revolution I learned from Libby Fischer Hellmann. When I hear about those terrifying events, it occurs to me how uniquely "gentle" our American revolution must appear in the history of world revolutions. As far as I know, we did not have wild-eyed, fundamentalist vigilantes running around murdering fellow citizens for not believing the way they did. (Of course, we then made up for it less than a century later with our Civil War, didn't we?) Compare our American revolution with the bloody French revolution, where people felt justified in murdering their own monarchs and nobility. Ms Hellmann, in her Afterword, mentions the cruelty and bloodthirstiness of the French, Cuban, Russian, and Chinese revolutions, pointing out how we humans keep making the same mistakes. We keep thinking that we finally have the right paradigm, and employ violence to force it upon our neighbors. Even though I don't like studying history, I have to admit that we all need to have our noses rubbed in it, so that we can, hopefully, learn from our past folly. Audiobooks like "The Bitter Veil" may provide the most effective -- and, arguably the least painful -- way to do that. If you have the courage, purchase "The Bitter Veil," and brace yourself.
I haven't listened to any of Ms Hellmann's other Georgia Davis audiobooks yet; but, since "ToxiCity" falls chronologically before the other episodes (even though it was published after the others), I decided to listen to it first. Now I am looking forward to hearing the other novels in the Georgia Davis series. Ms Hellmann clearly possesses encyclopedic knowledge of Chicago police procedures; and she doesn't pull her punches. We encounter several dead bodies -- and not just human bodies -- in egregious conditions. I can't say that I envy these cops their jobs. At the time of this story (ca 2000?), Georgia Davis is still working as a uniformed police officer in a Chicago suburb. By unearthing a key piece of the mystery, she gets her first taste of detective work, setting her on track toward her future P.I. career. However, in this episode, Ms Hellmann gives us not just one, but three protagonists, each puzzling out a different aspect of the mystery, and through whose eyes we witness the solution emerging. Like all of us, these three people are simultaneously juggling their own, ordinary life issues -- like relationships and faith, for instance -- allowing us to see them as real people, about whom we can care. Via intermittent flashbacks, Ms Hellmann even teaches us to care about the villain of this story!
I have never listened to one of Robin Rowan's narrations before "ToxiCity," but now I suspect that we will be hearing more from her in future audiobooks. She has a beautiful, feminine, whispery voice that she can immediately change to gruff, gravely, shrill, or deep, as the character warrants. This valuable acting chop comes into play, especially, when one character interrupts another. (I have tried it -- trust me, it's hard to make a quick vocal switch like that!)
I recommend “ToxiCity” to any mystery-lover who doesn’t mind a touch of urban grit.
Some author / narrator combinations were clearly made in heaven. As soon as you hear 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 actor performing 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 author's creation, you know that those two talents were meant to come together, rendering something magical and beautiful. That happened with Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Rosenblat. Now it has happened again with Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs. You can almost hear something finely-crafted and well-oiled clicking into place, like the Universe doing something right. I enjoyed "Dodger" so much that I turned right around and listened to it again, immediately ... and enjoyed it even more. You will appreciate "Dodger" especially if you have previously read some of Charles Dickens' novels, like "Oliver Twist," in particular. Here (in Pratchett's world, of course), we learn that Dickens not only derived his character, The Artful Dodger, from this eponymous protagonist, but that he derived almost 𝙖𝙡𝙡 of his ideas from Dodger, by following him around, taking notes! Dodger is a "tosher" in Victorian London: He makes his living by scavenging coins and jewelry that the "nobs" have carelessly let fall through the sewer grates. Well, he also does a bit of scavenging above ground, too. We quickly learn to love and root for Dodger, whose smarts have kept alive in a cruel world, without subverting his good heart. Perhaps even more, we come to love Dodger's landlord and mentor, Solomon Cohen, who has done some hair-raising surviving of his own. The magnificent Stephen Briggs switches effortlessly from Cohen's Yiddish accent, to Dodger's cockney, to Simplicity's girlish timbre, to the Outlander's "not Chinese, but not German" accent, to Serendipity's carefully-cultivated Somerset accent, not to mention all the other characters' -- male and female -- unique voices. Oh, and did I mention the humor? "Dodger" is 𝙛𝙪𝙣𝙣𝙮! (Well, of course. I mean, after all, Terry Pratchett wrote it, right?) I can't imagine anybody not liking "Dodger," so just buy it.
"Set the Night on Fire" will have special meaning to anyone who came of age in 1960s America. For me, it brought back some fond memories, some embarrassment, and some pride. Ms Hellmann has accurately captured the spirit and idealism of those times. With perfect hindsight, we can now see the rightness of our anti-war activism, and the wrongness of some of our methods. Against the backdrop of this activism, "Set the Night on Fire" (the title refers to the Doors' famous song) tells the story of what some of these 1960s youngsters did to voice their opposition to the Vietnam war, and the repercussions of their actions some forty years later. The text refers frequently to the Celtic Knot, which illustrates the interconnectedness of all things in time and space. What we did back then has a lot to do with what is happening now; and what I do now has unforeseen consequences for someone that I may not even know. In this case, the decisions of '60s activists has unintended consequences for their adult children, one of whom must piece together long-buried evidence to save her own life. Ms Hellmann has skillfully crafted an intricate knot, in which many strands come together to solve the mystery, yielding a satisfying denouement. The narrator, Diane Pirone Gelman, has a lovely voice, and does an adequate job of reading this audiobook, but lacks the repertoire of voices and accents to warrant five stars. I recommend "Set the Night on Fire" to all mystery-lovers, especially those who lived through the amazing 1960s. I will certainly be listening to more of Ms Hellmann's audiobooks.
I liked "The Dark Monk" better than its predecessor, "The Hangman's Daughter." It tells a better story, and it has fewer horrific descriptions of Midieval torture. (Yes, I know that this story technically takes place during the Reformation, but the people and villages depicted here still seem locked deep in the Middle Ages.) I also liked it better because of Pötzsch's increased inclusion of herbology in this story. Here, Pötzsch speculates about the original discovery of Penicillin, attributing it to one of his characters. Such speculation makes some sense: Practicing herbalists may, indeed, have quietly discovered the antibiotic properties of certain molds prior to Alexander Flemming's official discovery of Penicillium rubens in 1928. With "The Hangman's Daughter," Pötzsch built a tale around one of his real 17th-century forebears: a veritable village executioner. Whodathunk that anyone could make a hero out of someone who tortures and murders for a living? I, personally, find this character difficult to believe -- an executioner with a gentle heart and the gift of healing? However, if you can swallow that premise, then you might like "The Dark Monk," in which the executioner, his daughter, and her lover solve another mystery. And what a mystery they solve: the location and nature of the lost Templar treasure! The narrator, Grover Gardner, also does a better job with this audiobook than he did with "The Hangman's Daughter," using a wider variety of voices to distinguish the characters. He doesn't have very good accents in his repertory, but he makes attempts, as necessary. I hesitate to say this -- because "The Hangman's Daughter" contains a lot of harrowing scenes of cruelty -- but you will probably enjoy "The Dark Monk" better if you have listened to "The Hangman's Daughter" first. You stand forewarned.
I started trying to listen to "The Hangman's Daughter" a while back, then had to stop for a while, to prepare myself emotionally for a subsequent attempt. Yikes! This audiobook opens with a scene so horrific and gut-wrenching that I couldn't bear it. Having now finally finished listening to the entire audiobook, I feel a bit shattered. If you have a gentle heart like mine, I warn you away from this novel. Perhaps its scenes of cruelty, torture, and bloodthirstiness establish a reality true to seventeenth-century Germany. Perhaps modern people everywhere would behave that way under similar conditions and circumstances. I hate to think so, and I have insurmountable difficulty understanding such human behavior. In any case, I don't look for those kinds of scenes in my entertainment, and I doubt that I will muster the courage to listen to "The Hangman's Daughter" again any time soon. If you have enough emotional toughness to disregard my warning, then you may find some merit in this novel. It does offer a pretty good mystery and pretty good writing -- although I have some suspicions about the translation. Pötzsch does provide good character development; only I'm having a little trouble believing the main character (who, by the way, is not the hangman's daughter, but the hangman, himself). Can a person who performs torture, dismemberment, and murder for a living really have a warm, loving, compassionate heart, with the gift of healing? As an herbalist, I do appreciate Pötzsch's apparent knowledge of herbs and their healing properties. Grover Gardner, the narrator of "The Hangman's Daughter," has an odd, throaty, but not unpleasant voice. He does an adequate, if undistinguished performance of this novel, lacking drama. In summation, I would recommend against this audiobook, unless you take an interest in medieval superstitions and torture techniques.
If I hadn't already listened to all the previous Vicky Bliss mysteries -- all narrated by the incomparable Barbara Rosenblat -- maybe I wouldn't be grumping over the change of narrators for this one. However, with all apologies and respect due to Grace Conlin, she doesn't have Barbara Rosenblat's acting skill. I agree with the previous reviewer who said that Audible should be offering the Recorded Books version of "Night Train to Memphis," with Barbara Rosenblat narrating, in order to maintain continuity in the series and do justice to Elizabeth Peters' superb writing. To offer just one example of how Ms Rosenblat's version would have surpassed Ms Conlin's version: Ms Rosenblat would have 𝒔𝒖𝙣𝙜 the snatches of country songs quoted in "Night Train to Memphis," rather than merely speaking the lyrics, as Ms Conlin does. "Night Train to Memphis" marks an important turning point in the Vicky Bliss series, in that it moves into Elizabeth Peters' true area of expertise and passion: Egyptology. It also commences a subtle merging of Peters' Vicky Bliss series with her Amelia Peabody series. Vicky even mentions "Amelia Emerson" in this novel. In the following (and final?) novel in this series, "The Laughter of Dead Kings," Peters, herself, makes an appearance, à la Clive Cussler, as the researcher who is unearthing Amelia's journals from Sir John's family manse. (Oops ... I should have shouted, "Spoiler Alert!" before I said that, shouldn't I?) Long story short, "Night Train to Memphis," 𝒆𝒔𝙥𝒆𝙘𝙞𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 deserves Barbara Rosenblat's touch. Despite all my grumping about the narrator, however, I still recommend this audiobook to Vicky Bliss fans, assuming that you have listened to all the previous entries in the series, first. You will need to have listened to "Night Train to Memphis" before proceeding to "The Laughter of Dead Kings," the funnest episode of all.
Elizabeth Peters' Vicky Bliss series mercilessly spoofs the (eminently spoofable) romance genre of novel-writing. With "Trojan Gold," she takes the spoof right over the top, plop into romance. Yes, the elusive Sir John finally declares his love for Vicky, our beautiful heroine. "Trojan Gold" refers back, multiple times, to "Borrower of the Night," the first novel in the Vicky Bliss series; so you will want to listen to that entry, at least, before starting this one. (I advise listening to them all, in sequence, for the most fun.) "Trojan Gold" has more length and more plot complexity than the previous entries, and, therefore even more entertainment value. Yet, despite the light-hearted fluffiness of the Vicky Bliss series, Peters' intelligence and skill always shine through. In order to distinguish her fiction from her scholarly tomes, prolific author and eminent Egyptology scholar Barbara Mertz uses the pen name "Elizabeth Peters" for her Amelia Peabody series, her Vicky Bliss series, her Jacqueline Kirby series, and many other stand-alone novels. She also writes spoof-gothic fiction under the pen name "Barbara Michaels." (I have set myself the pleasant task of listening to every one of this brilliant woman's novels. I'll probably pass on the scholarly tomes.) Taken in conjunction with Barbara Rosenblat's inspired narration, you can hardly do better. Go for it.
You will definitely appreciate the Vicky Bliss series more if you start with the first one -- "Borrower of the Night" -- and listen to them in sequence. That will allow you to familiarize yourself with -- and get attached to -- the ongoing characters in this fun soap-opera. Like, for instance, the Han Solo-esque rogue, Sir John Smythe, who apparently meets his demise in "Silhouette in Scarlet" (but we know that he really doesn't, don't we?). With each entry into the Vicky Bliss series, I keep thinking that I like this one the best so far. It makes me sad that Elizabeth Peters only wrote six episodes in this series. I think that I enjoy Vicky Bliss even more than Peters' more famous heroine, Amelia Peabody ... although, I have to admit, that the Amelia Peabody series probably has more literary merit. Comparing the two would resemble trying to chose between cheese cake and raspberry tart: One of them might have more nutrition, but both are delicious. Barbara Mertz -- a brilliant Egyptology scholar writing under the pen name "Elizabeth Peters" -- somehow manages to have fun with her characters, while making us like them (or hate them, as appropriate). If, like me, you get emotionally affected by the audiobooks that you listen to, and would rather avoid anything gut-wrenching or upsetting in your escape-fiction, then Vicky Bliss will suit you nicely. And Barbara Rosenblat provides the perfect narration for Peters' wry humor. This astonishing narrator has more voices and more accents at her command than any other voice actor that I have heard. In particular, with "Silhouette in Scarlet," she uses perfect German, French, Swedish, American English, and Queen's English accents. Her acting talent awes me. I recommend "Silhouette in Scarlet" to anyone looking for a light-hearted, entertaining, downer-free romp.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.