Frankly I was disappointed in the quality of this story. I found the central character unlikable and unreliable and the mystery quite thin - it was pretty obvious fairly early on 'who done it'. And I was bothered at how the main character over and over castigated his family, telling us what horrible people they were, of course he would be shut of them. Not only is the portrait that emerges far more nuanced but, excepting the father and the oldest brother, they prove sympathetic, and the three other siblings very decent. The disconnect does not seem intentional to advance the story in an interesting way, just poor story telling.
The writer provides some nice description and atmosphere and the narrator is strong.
At the outset this seemed a glib send-up of big time advertising (a rather easy target for satire and ridicule). It centered on one particular flack, a funny but shallow man drifting through life, hiding behind one-liners. Initially it was hard to care about the protagonist and my attention wavered. Then a moving, dramatic back story slowly but steadily came to life and made the listen well worthwhile and quite engaging. The quality of the audiobook is greatly boosted by the excellent, versatile narration of Robert Petkoff. One mild complaint is the at times lengthy and somewhat tedious spells of introspection by the main character Finbar, mulling over the same doubts and fears and mental roadblocks. All in all a fine tale and excellent audiobook.
Virgil Flowers is one of the best characters of contemporary crime/mystery fiction, and arguably the most appealing of all in audiobook format. Kudos to the author John Sandford, who made his fame with his character Lucas Davenport. Davenport and the Prey novels are fine, but I find the Flowers stories to be clearly superior. And much credit goes to the narrator Eric Conger. For my money, he expands upon the author's creation with what he brings to the reading: the warmth and uniqueness of the voice, the inflections, attitude, personality. No hammy "Minnesota" accent, but a delivery that feels authentic. Beyond his portrayal of Virgil, he handles a range of characters with aplomb. Simply exceptional.
Early reviews to the contrary, I found the plot and substance of Shock Wave to be superior to the preceding Flowers novels. I expected the 'PyeMart' thread to be heavy handed; it is not. There is a unique cast of characters and no obvious solution to the mystery. The balance of humor and seriousness is satisfying,and for the first time, Virgil's personal life is a bit more complex and realistic (for all his charm, a new conquest isn't so easy).
So many contemporary crime stories are diminished by either wooden characters or depressingly grim circumstances. The Flowers' novels thankfully have neither, But they also do not veer towards Carl Hiassen-like parody and lampooning (as good as Hiassen is for what he does). We need more crime novels of the serious yet thoughtful and also most cleverly entertaining mode that Sandford delivers with Virgil Flowers. Too rare!
I found John Sandford's 'Prey' series to be okay, pretty good, and Lucas Davenport a better than average lead character for a mystery/crime series.
But with Virgil Flowers the author has struck gold. Virgil is immensely likable, and a far more unique creation. And Eric Conger is a superb narrator, he makes these stories immensely enjoyable to listen to. The plots vary a little in quality (and frankly none are great literary achievements) but they are plenty good enough because the character and the narrator are so winning.
I really wanted to like this book because I admire John Grisham as a person and I want to resist the image he carries in some 'literary snob' corners as being a bit of a hack. This book will not help change that image. The story was for the most part predictable, had an oddly slow pace unrelieved by interesting characters, and the author showed no knack for thrill, suspense or mystery. The narrator was pretty mediocre, which didn't help. Yes, Travis Boyette is creepy, but the combination of the slimy voice of his character played off the do-goody/whiny voice of the 'pastor' Schroeder made for an unpleasant listen.
Donte Drumm is done wrong by the system and it is almost torture to slog through his slow descent. There just are no unique twists or turns here, no surprises, no richness, no depth.
Somehow there was some sense of satisfaction at having stayed with it to the end, (I did like some small touches, such as how the football team resolves its issues) but overall it is pretty thin gruel. Too bad, because the heart of the story is in the right place.
I'm not sure a better narrator could have salvaged this awkward and unconvincing mystery. But the poor quality of the narration made a mediocre story a chore to listen to. Not a winning combination. The plot never catches fire, the characters are unsympathetic and/or uninteresting, and the yo-yo of flashback between past and present keeps the story in a slow circle, with little advancement that engages interest.
The atmosphere of the small southern town, the characters and the ways their lives intersect are all developed into an original story that is convincing and winning. It is at times a sad story but not dark or depressing, or smothering, as some southern fiction can be. This is a case where the narration adds so much to the story. I think Kevin Kenerly does a marvelous job, especially with the policeman Silas '32' Jones. When we're with 32, we're right with the world.
This tale teeters just this side of surreal or over-the-top, but in sum it is a richly entertaining read, filled with good characters and compelling twined story lines.
It is about a bunch of bad guys and people with ill intent or, at the least, weak moral compasses, on a collision course with disaster(and each other) . Yet we come to like most of them, none more than Manco Kapak, the shady strip club owner. I love the narrator's voice for Manco and if anything I wish we'd had more Manco and a bit less of the lengthy diversions into some of the others.
We are stretched a bit thin to suspend our disbelief over Lt. Slosser's improbable domestic complication, and of the super hero qualities of Joe Carver, whose only known training for this is having run a bar back East. But we get past those quibbles. The ending is a reward in and of itself, even if it is not what one might predict or necessarily like.
This story pulls us through a spiral of violent death at a fast pace. That's a good thing because if it slowed down we might question the wisdom of going on such a dark ride. The estranged IRA gun man Gerry Fegan seems mad and near-ruined and unlikely to really be able to avenge all 12 of his killings. His quest, and the uniqueness of this haunted character, grabs our interest. And the few bits of light that penetrate this dark tale, such as Marie McKenna and her daughter, who takes a shine to McKenna as if to give him a dash of absolution, give us some hope. The side story of the undercover agent Davey Campbell adds interest; is he good or bad or, like most of the characters here, mostly badly damaged.
Doyle is a good narrator, at his best with the frightening old boss Bull O'Cain in the climatic farmstead scene. Bull's words of false comaraderie and comfort, rolling like tumbling marbles as he prepares to maim and kill, add to the chilling atmosphere of this tale.
My review is only based on the first 2.5 hours of listening to this book. I suppose there is a chance that it got better after I could listen no longer. But I found it so poor in plot, with such lousy characterization, lacking in believability or ingenuity, that I simply could not go any further. Even with my favorite narrator, Ron McLarty, reading the book (and this job is no great credit to him either). There are so many glaring holes from the onset. How can the reader believe for a moment that the governor should issue a pardon with absolutely no evidence given of possible innocence? There was no explanation of why the Goss videotaped confession was thrown out and what else went so wrong that this cartoon bad guy got off. Jack is an absolute buffoon, he grates on the listener with his unsympathetic nature and simply unbelievable instincts and reactions. Every character is as thin as tracing paper, every description is a hackneyed cliche, there is no suspense, nothing is plausible.
I am stunned to think that anyone could have enjoyed this book, in print or audible format.
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.