I listened to this book several months ago and I still recall the bulk of the story line, the characters, if not their names, and the conclusion and atmosphere. That is rare for generally escapist fare, where maybe the main plot and maybe the main character are the only memorable elements.
But here the secondary and supporting characters stick out. The author allows for some real tragedy to befall the protagonist without providing a sugar and spice bow-tie recovery from the tragic events at the end. Poincare is cerebral, gritty, insightful and determined but doesn't flash superior in field action figure type skills that many thriller stories spring on a reader without semi-realism. He makes mistakes, his bosses make mistakes. Yet he steadily pushes forward even against his primary sidekick (who handles the action hero aspects) loses confidence in him and his mission as the story pushes the reader forward.
The denouement is a bit of a let down at first, but as it fully unfolds there is one last very human believable action by Poincare that is a satisfying surprise.
The main creditability weakness in the story is the globe-trotting field of investigation Poincare enjoys that is doubtful to expect from any criminal investigative bureaucracy, even an international one like Interpol which I suspect uses resources on the ground in its various participating countries.
The reader does a decent but not notable job. The range of accents characters should have, given range of locales the secondary characters inhabit, is quite narrow as delivered.
I haven't read a Grisham book in awhile. The insights into how our legal system works or doesn't work, motivations of the players and how truth and justice can scarily be subverted by either defense, prosecutors and judges have been his strengths. But most of his characters, other than the primary protagonist, often seem generally black or white - especially the bad guys being almost always uniformly unidimensional. His plots though are why his books sell, not the non-nuanced secondary characters. In The Racketeer, Grisham lets his imagination soar with not one key plot twist, but two. However, the mismatch is in the second twist where the protagonist pulls off an objective he has no background for with the skill and panache of a James Bond or professional con man destroyed the strength of Grisham at his best - realism in the legal battle world. A redeeming feature is the unfairly wronged protagonist is a sharply etched in his motives and actions as the story progresses. His ability to conduct those some of those actions arises from nowhere and subverts this novel from reaching the masterful category.
A great, fun and entertaining way to learn about the culture of modern India, its challenges, its energy, passion for cricket and gambling and other mores of various social classes in a very class-based and extended family network structured society. In this particular novel, you also pick up some vivid, disturbing, but important to understand history of the founding of India and the almost immediate religion and political power civil war that led to the creation of Pakistan. That backstory to the novel's primary plot line makes the pervasive history of fear, hatred and mistrust that impacts the entire region's politics and foreign affairs perspectives comprehensible, if not understandable in terms of the leaders of both countries inability to overcome or at least mitigate in terms of the education of both countries citizens. But this is not a history book. It is a fast-paced fun detective sotry ride.
Mr. Hall has created an engaging, enjoyable lead protagonist in Vishi Puri. Puri has an endearing portfolio of personal foibles, but yet has the expected hero detective wit, sharp tactics, supporting resources and core observational cleverness to inevitable prevail. This story also highlight's our hero's fundamental toughness and unflappability in facing danger. All unfolds using a witty dialog based story telling style that is throughly enjoyable in all three outings to to date. I am sure the author worked hard to craft the book, but a listener also senses it was created with a sense of fun, but with an achieved goal of entertaining and teaching, without preaching.
Some of the secondary characters are perhaps a bit less well drawn in terms of sometimes caricaturist mannerism (shooting for more humor - and effectively), and it makes them a far amount less memorably when you've finished the book. A noticeable exception is detective Puri's mother, who gets a starring supporting role in this story.
The reader did a commendable job on the accents, though the female roles seemed to blend together more than the men's.
One of the most engaging voices to render an audiobook I've ever heard. The premise for the story's plotline is exceptionally clever and engaging. The author combines wonderful dialog conveyed via a first person narrative form to cover a wide range of very adult themes and related exposition police brutality, child abuse, prostitution in India, abuse of women, and corporate and bureaucratic corruption, class discrimination)with the optimism, humanity and sense of humor of the protaganist to present a wonderful tale. But as other reviewers note - the diversity of personalities presented with perfect mix of energy, pace and tone make this audio presentation stand out.
I've never been to India, but the atmosphere generated by the author's words, enhanced by Mr. Shale's top-notch effort, are transportive. The author's well-crafted denouement is simply a first rate treat!
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