This book deserves to be reviewed by someone who has one tenth of the writing talent of Janet Maslin but that's not me. I am in a much lower percentile. So please stick with me while I try to describe how this wonderful novel became my favorite of the summer.
The plot moves along so fast with so many twists I listened in one sitting always anticipating what would come next. All the characters are human, not caricatures, and the hilarity comes from their interactions and obsessions.
I live in the desert and after months of triple digit temperatures I become as agoraphobic as Bernadette. I love the cooling memory of Seattle's rain, but Bernadette hates the city's weather and its culture, stays inside at her computer and maintains her closest friendship with her "virtual assistant" in India.
Her husband Elgin is a star at Microsoft, has given the fourth most watched lecture at TED where Al Gore and David Pogue were in attendance. There's a liberal sprinkling of techie ikons through the narrative to enjoy if you read tech columns and wish you could understand Wired Magazine articles.
Their daughter Bee, 14, graduating with straight S 's (S = Surpasses Excellence) from Galer Street school is rewarded with a family trip to Antarctica. Bee's character is like fresh air out of the Northwest. She has no affectations, no cell phone addiction and listens to MP3's on her Zune. She "gets" both parents.
Bernadette's antipathy toward the school's parent association and her fear of the Antarctica trip are the initial psychological motivations. The flash point is her neighbor Audrey's demand to have her yard cleared of blackberry bushes. Audrey is part of the Galer street parent group and receives the brunt of Bernadette's spite but gives back as good as she gets. The fighting provides lots of the laughs.
Even the minor characters are beautifully drawn and full of surprises. From the "blackberry abatement specialist" who doesn't want Audrey's chard to her delinquent son, all are unique and clearly rendered.
What caused Bernadette's initial escape from LA to Seattle? Where did she disappear to this time? It's great fun to get to the answers.
I have loved all of Arnaldur Indridason's mysteries since "Jar City". (I first read it from paper, then got the audio version.)
Erlundur, the very troubled policeman living in the past returns to his childhood home to look for his brother who was lost in a snow storm. Another mystery emerges and Erlundur's pursuit of answers is a slog through the snow. The atmospherics are wonderful. The action in this mystery takes place mainly in Erlundur's thought processes as he unravels the past. Listening, I was intrigued, surprised, disappointed, etc. along with the protagonist. A great listen.
I couldn't pause the book for shopping, cooking, or going to bed on time. The story grips you from the start and does not let go. There has been overwhelming praise for the author, so I won't go into that. What I want to make note of is the work of Simon Vance and the voices he created. I don't know if the accents were true to South Africa, but I knew immediately that I was nowhere near Kansas.
I agree that with the other criticism that it is superficial and has no chronology. I could live with that if the course had linkages between the individual lectures. I could not identify the organizing principal behind the course. It was a disappointment since the other course by this presenter was quite good.
Do not buy if the “Mystery Thriller” books you listen to must be plot driven and contain action cliff-hangers.
Read this for the characters and their development.
Publishers Weekly says it better than I can.
“Turow has always been more interested in character than plot, and in Robbie Feaver, a lawyer on the make who ends up fighting for his life, he has created his richest and most compelling figure yet.
….for Feaver is a character of almost Shakespearean contradictions. A charming, brash womanizer who nevertheless shows superhuman reserves of love and patience to his dying wife at home, he is always several jumps ahead of the prosecutors, the FBI and the reader, winning sympathy, even admiration, where there should be none.”
Read the Publisher’s summary for the plot.
If I were not a subscriber to the Freakonomics podcast I would give this a 4.5 star rating, but as I listened to the book I realized that much of it had been trotted out on the podcast. The book is one credit. The podcast is free. Where's the economics in that?
My previous review of "curtains for three" was meant for this book. I realized my error right after I submitted the review and do not know how to retract it. I did a marathon of Nero Wolfe books and got confused. Stories are duplicated in this book that are contained in "homicide Trinity". I hope the editor removes the other review.
I listened to only 10 minutes of this book and could not listen to any more of it. I have no idea if the story is good or not. The reader had a very distracting and annoying accent.
I bought this because it was highly rated by a reader I follow. The story was well constructed but the narrator was very poor at doing southern accents and male voices.
I skipped about two thirds of the book, but had no trouble figuring out what lead to the conclusion in the last chapters. Christian love, charity and forgiveness is wonderful to many of us, but extremely hard to swallow in such large doses from flat or fatuous characters in this book..
If I could, I would create an Audible sub-genre: "Mysteries and thrillers, Espionage, British, Set in Istanbul". I have three in my audible library that are memorable. Eric Ambler's "A Coffin for Dimitrios" is the very best. Joseph Kanon's "Istanbul Passage" comes in third. (Yes, Kanon is an American author who probably read a lot of British spy novels while at Cambridge.) Gavin Lyall's book is a solid four star second.
Istanbul between the two world wars provides a stage with built in struggles between the European powers, an incubator for spying. It has a long history of religious and cultural clashes providing fertile ground for native conflict. Great physical beauty and a dark bazaar. All this raw material is fun to visit even in third rate novels.
This is a first rate novel. "All Honourable Men" has the distinction of being set in 1913 before WW I, so it takes a little digging into what you can recall of the European power structure of the times. Then you can relax and enjoy the the excellent plotting unravel and the characters develop through top notch narrative writing.
Oh! and the characters get to ride in the Kaiser's private carriage behind the Orient Express!
Warning: this is written from the point of view of a Scandinavian Noir addict who has attempted to read/listen to every english translation of the genre since discovering Henning Mankell and his alcoholic, depressed Kurt Wallander decades ago.
Second warning: Do not read this book if you have not read others in the series. It's best to start with Red Breast and read in order.
Harry Hole, Jo Nesbø's protagonist, follows the tradition as an alcoholic, depressed police detective with a critical eye on the society around him, a misfit, and failure in his relationships. In every book in the series Nesbø puts this stereotypical character in the midst of plots with so many twists and turns and surprises that the reader's desire to find out the next development does not diminish until the end.
I rated the story four stars instead of five because of the violence the author does to Harry who, like the old Energizer Bunny, just keeps going and going and going. I'd like to add a half star for the social commentary,i.e."[Norway] is a fairy-tale country".
Though Nesbø's famous predecessors were Swedish, Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall writing in the sixties through Mankell and Steig Larrson, he has taken the prize home to Norway.
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