I've read all of Demille's novels. What keeps me coming back is his use of language - it's precise and evocative where needed, and well-paced at all times. "The Panther" maintains the standard. It's a classical story in the Demille style and isn't let down by mis-steps in plot or characterization. However, the same can't be said for the narration or the narrator.
George Guidall - his ability to add mood to a narrative when required and to highlight plot movement is legendary. By contrast, Scott Brick has an annoying and off-putting habit of wringing every ounce of gravitas from the simplest text - particularly irritating when the text is descriptive only. When I saw that he was narrating, I was tossing up whether to buy the audio version or opt for the digital edition to read on my Nexus 7 instead. I persevered with the audio book, hoping that someone at Audible.com might have told Scott to up his game. Sadly, his reading of "The Panther" was worse than most. I found myself screaming at him to wake up and learn his trade. So please, in future Audible.com, don't let him near a book of this quality until he has gone back to school and learnt the art of of story-telling. In writing the above criticism, I am well aware of the plaudits that have gone the way of Scott Brick, not the least of which was the naming of him as "Narrator of the Year". I was incredulous when I read his list of awards and have thought that it must be me who is the idiot here. For those who want an example of the lack of timbre, tempo and depth to which I refer, simply listen to the opening paragraph of Demille's latest masterpiece where Brick breathlessly sets the scene. This intro is meant to be descriptive, but because Scott maintains his anxious and eager enthusiasm from the get-go, we're not gently lead into the plot development. On the contrary, we're expected to maintain our heightened fervour throughout. (Contrast this with George Gudall's introduction in the latest Daniel Silva thriller - "The Fallen Angel". Like "The Panther", the intro sets the scene. It is conveyed to us - the listeners - in a way that demands attention, because the details are important for later plot development. But George knows there's more to come that will need his narrator's skills, and that those skills will need to be attuned most keenly to the overall plot development. His tone and pace tell us exactly where the text before him stands in the totality of the plot. He's not trying to ring some dramatic blood from the story where the author never intended any. He's simply telling it as it is.) I only wish that Scott could do the same.I recently re-played an old copy of Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" (circa 1984) and was agreeably surprised to have it confirmed that the narrator's skill is not new - in fact, it's something that's been around since cavemen sat in front of their fires regaling each other with tales of their exploits. I have no doubt that the best and most revered of those storytellers were those who were able to build tension based on the development of the plot - not slam into it from the first word. As a final example, and final word, on this topic, Scott Brick's narration of the author's dedication is instructive. It reads: "To the memory of Joan Dillingham, who maintained her Viking spirit throughout her beautiful life." Authors' dedications are a personal tribute to folk who have had an impact on the authors' lives, and it's the author's way of acknowledging that fact. It has nothing to do with the tale being told; it is a statement of fact. One might reasonably expect, therefore, that the dedication, if read, would be delivered with some deadpan solemnity at the very most, just as one might reasonably expect that it would NOT be delivered with the breathless enthusiasm that the climax of the plot deserves. Unfortunately, Scott fails to understand this most basic requirement. In short, (and I'm sorry to say this, Scott), you ruined a fantastic story.
No-one would ever suggest that Archer is a literary genius - there are too many lapses in language, too many contrived plot developments, too many character missteps to grant that accolade. But, likewise, no-one could ignore the ability of a true story teller to successfully write an intricate, intertwined tale of gigantic proportions like Archer can. Hence the rating.
And I can't leave a review of an audible book without commenting on the skill of the narrator: he was fantastic. He was one of those story tellers whose ability actually enhanced the tale to the point where I believe that those who read the book are missing a dimension that we listeners get merely because a master tradesman has brought all of his ability to the task given to him.
It's only infrequently that a newly discovered author produces a novel with a genuinely intricate plot woven into language that is balanced and evocative. And what's more, the narrator doesn't intrude into the story as some do (Scot Brick is the worst offender in this regard).
This is the first time that I've given any novel five stars in all categories. That says it all. Anybody who likes a mix of the private eye / legal thriller genre will love this novel.
We all know that Archer is a master story teller. However, in this - the fourth in the Clifton Chronicle Series - one has the feeling that he is writing to a pre-ordained master plan and is manipulating plot development to create the outcome that he wants.And so, while there are pleasant twists and turns, this is not a novel that will be talked about in the future as a noteworthy example of the "saga" genre. It is not in the same class as, say, Ken Follett's Century Trilogy.But don't mistake my assessment as intending to dissuade you from listening to the book. It's a great tale, written by an author whose skill is top tier, and will entertain you. It won't - nor is it intended to I think - tax you though. You'll be able to listen to it, and stop listening when it's time to go to bed. In other words, it won't keep you up all night as a compelling must read!
The plot was tortuous, the author's skills were juvenile at best but usually totally AWOL, and the patronising condescension* was infuriating. I have only read one other Dan Brown novel - The da Vinci Code - and swore after that experience that I would never revisit the cess pit again. However, time has an awful habit of making yesterday's foul taste fade and so I let my better judgement have the day off and succumbed to buying this this pile of garbage. Brown's repetitive and irritating habit of pedantically parading the fact that he's read Wikipedia and found some obscure fact about a building/painting/street in the novel's current location just adds to the feeling that here's someone without a true author's skill.My disgust was heightened because I had just finished listening to two novels by Adam Mitzner, a newbie, whose penmanship leaves Brown for dead. Even the three novels that I had listened to before that - The Clifton Chronicles by Jefferey Archer - were on song, and that's from an author who makes no claim to fame that he's anything other than a writer of pot boiler novels.So, if you have an idle moment and are tempted to buy this audio book. go and stare at yourself in the mirror and answer this question honestly: Wouldn't it be better to stick pins in my eyes than read garbage? While the answer is clear, for those of you who feel that you would rather undergo really bad pain - I mean excruciating agony - then after you've listened for about an hour and can take it no longer, just remember - I told you so ...
* [superfluos for emphasis]
I've already started The Kill Room (A Lincoln Rhyme Novel) by Jeffery Deaver.
I'm not sure whether I've listened to him before, but my criticism of this novel is NOT a criticism af the narrator's skill. Au contraire, his finesse and adroit professionalism enhanced the novel rather than detracted from it.
There's nothing more that needs be said save for this: the old adage of "Once bitten, Twice shy" should be tattooed on my forehead so that I'm never again tempted to ignore my own advice which is: stay well clear of anything this pretender might write in the future.
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