With a truly hideous daily LA commute, I get to listen to a lot of audiobooks, from a lot of genres. I've come to realize that a good audiobook is hard to find -- it requires both great writing and strong, diverse interpretive reading from a voice that can mimic (not mock) different voices. I've heard some otherwise well-written books devolve into hackneyed hideousness with bad readings (Peter Weller doing William Gibson comes to mind), and, of course, not even a good reader can save a bad book (ie, stay away from "Errors and Omissions"). That said, this version of Dennis Lehane's new novel is, quite simply, the best I've heard. I've liked Lehane's books in the past, but hadn't been blown away, and I've enjoyed the two movies I've seen from his work (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone), but I was not at all prepared for the powerhouse punch this audiobook delivers. The writing is taught, sweet, seemingly true to the historical period and emotionally honest. The plot development is riveting without being ludicrous. The interweaving of fictional characters with historical figures, though hardly new (reminded me somewhat of Doctorow's "Ragtime"), is deftly handled. Add to that the narrator's phenomenal ability to vest the different characters with consistent and believable voices, as he easily and smoothly jumps from Southie Bostonian to Southern African-American to immigrant Italian(a testament to this truly gifted reader is the listener's inability to discern the reader's own ethnicity), and no accent he does seems forced or mocked. The combination of great writing and reading makes this audiobook my unqualified favorite of my listening career. I cannot recommend it highly enough. This is as good as it gets.
This book suffers from two fatal defects. First, the plot is incomprehensible -- not that you can't follow it, just that the characters' motivations for the choices they make are simply unfathomable. At each plot fork, the author seems to have his characters choose the least likely, most ill-conceived choice possible. At first, I thought maybe this was some sophisticated post-modernist riff on the legal thriller. But, and this leads me to the second defect, the language itself is so stilted and cliched, that I was left to conclude that this book is just awful. Save yourself.
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