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.
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