Preston and Child never miss a beat. In fact, with each outing they seem to improve, don't they? "Fever Dream" tells us another exciting story in the Agent Pendergast series. With each episode, Preston and Child always find some primal human phobia to tap into. Frequently, they take us underground, into dark tunnels; but this time they bring us into a Louisiana swamp, teeming with alligators, bugs, and snakes. Even more than the scare factor, Preston and Child triumph with intelligent, well-researched, scientifically plausible plots. Like Sherlock Holmes, Pendergast seems to know everything needed to solve the most arcane riddles; and, like James Bond, he can wield the weapons needed to punish the bad guys. In this case, he unearths the deadly secret that had gotten his beloved wife murdered twelve years before. Then he issues the bad guys their belated just deserts. Rene Auberjonois does a good job of reading "Fever Dream," giving each character a unique voice. I don't know exactly how to classify the Preston/Child thrillers -- they contain elements of horror, techno, sci-fi, adventure, and mystery -- but any fan of any of those genres will love "Fever Dream." (By the way -- explaining the title would give away the plot; so you will just have to listen to the audiobook in order to get it.)
"Final Account" (originally published in the U.K. under the title "Dry Bones that Dream") represents a slight departure from form in the Alan Banks series, by going international. Otherwise, it continues the high-quality listening standard that the previous episodes have established. (By the way, if you are considering purchasing this audiobook without first having listened to its predecessors, then I would suggest that, instead, you start from the beginning of the series -- with "Gallows View" -- and listen to them in order. Doing so will increase your appreciation and enjoyment of these wonderful stories.) People will get mad at me for "spoiling" if I try to tell you what I mean by "going international;" so, suffice it to say that fans of international-intrigue-with-a-touch-of-conspiracy will find familiar political/financial shenanigans to deplore in "Final Account." If, like me, you have a mental block when it comes to money matters, then you may find here the best dumbed-down definition of the term "money-laundering" that you will likely encounter anywhere. I 𝙖𝙡𝙢o𝒔𝙩 understand what it means now. If, after an hour, or so, of listening, you think that you know how this mystery is going to resolve, then (stop reading here if you hate "spoilers") you have probably guessed right; only you will still want to see how the plot plays out, anyway. That shows you how well Peter Robinson writes: Even though you have figured out the mystery early on, you will still want to keep listening ... unless, of course, you have an impatient nature and dislike slow unfoldings. Robinson's Alan Banks books do not qualify as thrillers or action/adventure stories, but, rather, intelligent mysteries. You won't find a lot of testosterone in these audiobooks. You 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡, however, find interesting plots, beautiful writing, and meticulous character development. Protagonist Alan Banks differs from your stereotypical thriller detective in a number of ways: Unlike Lincoln Rhyme, for instance, Banks is no genius. He is intelligent, all right; but his success comes from his persistence and determination. Unlike Jack Reacher, for instance, Banks is 𝒔𝙝o𝙧𝙩: only 5' 9"! Yikes! How can a short man solve mysteries?
I have decided to add Robinson/Langton to my short-list of author/narrator combinations made in heaven. (Here is the rest of the list, so far: Pratchett/Briggs and Peters/Rosenblatt.) If, like me, you enjoy good acting every bit as much as good writing, then the Robinson/Langton duo will enthrall you -- more than compensating for any "slowness" or "seriousness" that you might find in the Alan Banks mysteries. Langton has a beautiful voice, but he can "do" all kinds of voices and all kinds of accents -- even the American accent ... almost. In particular, you will love his rendering of the funny Yorkshire rural accent.
In summary, I recommend "Final Account" to anyone with the patience to appreciate good English who-done-its, well-performed ... but only after you have listened all its prequels in sequence.
I have been enjoying listening to Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series in chronological order. If you are contemplating purchasing this one, without having listened to the previous ones, I would strongly suggest that you go back and begin listening to this series from the beginning, with "Gallows View." You will see what I mean: This series introduces us not only to protagonist Alan Banks, but also to Yorkshire and its denizens. For those of us not living in Britain, these audiobooks open us up to a new world -- probably more rural, quiet, and leisurely-paced than ours. Each story builds upon the previous one, developing the characters of Alan Banks and his fellow "coppers" a little more. Aside from Banks' nicotine addiction and his incipient alcoholism, I have grown fond of him (who wants a perfect detective, anyway?), always looking forward to his next case. Peter Robinson writes beautifully: always taking time to lyrically describe the Yorkshire countryside and its weather, and to paint us verbal pictures of his characters' appearance and their gestures. (If you prefer fast-paced thrillers, getting impatient when the action slows, then you might not like the Inspector Banks series. These novels definitely qualify as mysteries, but not thrillers.) One can clearly visualize the story as it proceeds, scene-by-scene, almost as if one were watching a movie. And Peter Robinson really does devise excellent plots for his books, each one differing from the others, each one intricately thought out. In "Wednesday's Child," Robinson departs from form a bit, with a funny Hell's-Kitchen-style scene in which all the neighbors get involved in a noisy row between a blowzy woman and her good-for-nothing boyfriend, all contributing their considered opinions. If I were to find any fault with the Inspector Banks series, I would would wish for more humor; but this episode has it.
James Langton's excellent acting talent and his beautiful voice have a lot to do with my enjoyment of this series. In "Wednesday's Child," in particular, he surpasses himself with his perfect rendering of the difficult South African accent. He always distinguishes the characters from one another, even the women.
I recommend this entire series to anyone who enjoys the English-style procedural mystery genre; but, again, start from the beginning, and listen to them in order.
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.
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