Readers familiar with Rex Stout's tales of Nero Wolfe and his Associate Archie Goodwin will be gratified to see that the Old Master retained his mastery of the detective story form to the end of his long writing career.
Civilized, articulate, short on explicit violence and long on solid craftsmanship, this late book in the series will give pleasure to long-time readers.
For those, perhaps attracted by the excellent TV series of some years back, this offering should be no disappointment. The narrator, I imagine, has had a longer engagement with these characters than anyone but the late author. His reading reinforces the different characteristics of the two leading characters and offers none of the failed efforts of some to reproduce male and female voices with verisimilitude. He allows the text and subtle variations in intonation to work their magic in the listeners mind.
The plot retains its interest throughout the book without resorting to the complex variations,misplaced psychologizing and ready sex play which bog down the straight ahead story line preferred by the "classic" detective story writers of his era.
Reader is fine.
Writer provides a good script for reading.
The premise for a book length story is grievously tedious.
As they say in the trade, it is a one joke plot. Change the names of the characters to Smith, Jones and O'Hara, remove the few quirks introduced by the premise,and do a bit of rewriting to paper over the holes these changes create and the author would have a typical light, character focussed, detective story, which would provide amusing fare for the reader.
If you are good at revising the manuscript as you hear it to enhance its entertainment value, you will find this pleasant listening. If doing so is not to your taste, I am afraid you will find this a bore.
This is an early Peters, cast in the form of her non-series romantic, archaeological, mysteries. The girl is appealing, the men quickly sketched but suitably heroic or villainous depending on the role assigned them, and the romance is done with easy grace and suitable lightness to keep it from weighing down the story. Typically, there are interesting archaeological aspects although the basic Christian significance and supposed consequences of unraveling the cypher never were clear to me. For those who share the background of the characters religious perspective that may not be a problem. The reader is not Barbara Rosenblatt but does a good job nonetheless. The pace is swift, the cast of characters, split between interesting and essentially blurred depending on their role in the story.All in all, I can recommend this one to all Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Michaels, readers, and to anyone who likes a sproutly, what once were called, "Lady in Distress" books which are in a humorous rather than high suspense mode.
Certainly one of the better historical mysteries but I would have preferred not to have such detailed descriptions of how the victims met their deaths.Squeamish? Yes. Uniquely so? No. If you listen just be prepared for some ugly moments. Beyond that, my only criticism would be the somewhat lengthy background on death in the American Civil War. Not squeamishness but felt an unnecessary impediment to the pacing of the essential story.
On the other hand, whether or not historically accurate, the "amateur detectives", four members of the Boston literati,came across interestingly and with sufficient characterization to avoid being simply puppets manipulated for the purposes of making it "historical". It is well written and well read. The setting conveys the feel of 19th Century Boston and Harvard to one who knows little of its specifics. How an expert would react I do not know. It it is not a puzzle mystery, where all clues necessary for the reader to solve the puzzle are presented. In keeping with current practice, the mystery is solved with information that is discovered by the amateur sleuths that cannot have been known to the reader. I accept this contemporary convention though devotees of the "classic", early Ellery Queen type books,will be perturbed.
Overall, it is solid fare that kept me engaged throughout the book. I do believe it would have been better if the cause of my concerns had been eliminated but I can still recommend it to anyone, whether or not familiar with the poets most of us only read in school.
At times, I felt that I did not belong among the other readers (listeners) to this book. In recently looking through the mystery section of a local bookstore to find some new names to listen to when I felt the need for a light and airy book, I had noted the authors name and the amount of shelf space her books occupied. Happily audible. com gave me a chance to find out whether she would join my happy circle of authors. I believe this is, as of now, her only audiobook.
Clearly, in thinking through what kind of book would work with the predominantly female audience (according to the surveys) for mystery stories, she took to heart the characters who seem to be the backbone of some of the successful series. Her heroine and crime solver is a baker who specializes in what we are told are the most delicious cookies ever tasted, and, of course, she is unmarried, has two suitors, and, most importantly, a cat.
In brief, if you are looking for light, airy,and feminine (not feminist) this book will please you.
It is not as well written as are Lillian Brauns nor as well read as that most successful authors (unabridged) audiobooks have been, but both are adequate to the purpose. The heroine has two sisters who help her get the facts whereby she solves the mysteries and a mother who is a mild pain to all three but is good of heart nonetheless. Romantic musings are small town gossip are of central importance with the mystery part being of no particular importance save to show the heroines talent. Insofar as one will be engaged by the problem solving do not expect a Cornwall or Grafton touch of grit. This is all play acting which might stretch too far one's ability to grant credibility save that one soon adjusts to the lack of credibility and either goes on to the foregone conclusion or pushes the stop button. I went to the end and did not regret it.
One of the rich crop of British (well Australian by birth in this case)"lady" mystery writers, Marsh sometimes can be a bit tardy in getting her stories going. Not in this one. It hands us a villain quickly and moves right along with a nice balance of quirky characters and a bit of romance without our having to sit through yet another of those sex scenes thrown in to add spice and readers. (At my age, my only reaction is "cut out that mush and get back to the story".)
The setting is Rome and Alleyn is working undercover cooperating with the Italian police.We do not get a travel tour but as in the later, very popular books by Elizabeth Peters (another of my favorites)the key action takes place underground in several archaeologic layers of resurrected churches.The writing is highly professional and interesting, the reading by Nadia May is up to her customary high standards. The book was originally published in 1971 and thus omits some of the customary "feminine touches" which mark the books by the current crop of (often very fine) mystery writers. Alleyn's artist wife, Troy, appears only off-stage in the letters written to her by her detective husband.
I can recommend this to people who want some good listening without high drama, intense suspense, or realistic coverage of death. Fans of Marsh will be happy to hear a good reading of a book they may have read years ago.
Yes, I know the author does not call them Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, but what listener who lived through their era, beginning ca. 1948, will not identify the characters. No giving away plots of mysteries, which this does turn into somewhere along the line, but that identification bothered me from the time the author moved from comic characterizations (which are funny) to THE MYSTERY. By that time he had done too good a job on the lives of M&L for me to enter into the spirit of the mystery. I cannot predict how other, younger readers will react but simply put up the flag for those to whom that might matter. Other than that, the reader is out of the top drawer,making each character live. The author knows where the holes in the plot, as a mystery, are and plugs them as best he can in the long Thin Man, Charlie Chan mystery solvers explanation. The book is well written for reading. As for the heroine, until the last segment, I did not find her particularly appealing, but the reasons for that feeling are dealt with by the author, so that you can take her or leave her.
The book is overlong for a mystery but of suitable length for a non-mystery novel.
In summary, very mixed feelings because the author does a good job in making one see the characters as he wants you to see them; some will like what they see, some will be put off by the verisimilude of the comedy act partners, some will find the lead character to be what she says she is, and not like that, others will.
Different reactions among listeners to the recent entries in this long running series are understandable. For the listener who has visited with George Guidall over the years, no single book stands alone on its merits; on the other hand,first time readers or those who are able to encapulate each experience from the others, are likely to respond differently.
Speaking as a long time listener (I do not believe I ever read one), who believe the reader is the perfect embodiment of the lead character, this was quite enjoyable despite the authors minimalist approach to "the mystery". True mystery fans, to whom the character and situations are secondary, will have reason for complaint.
I was moved to write despite a plethora of existing reviews because of the reader. While typical, the story maintains one's interest and does provide the additional flavor of a bit of learning with regard to the eponymous creature. The narrators voice I found lacking in the actors resonance and general vocal qualities; his style below average for books recorded in the years since audio books became popular. I do note a difference of opinion among the customer reviewers but I suspect the experienced listener to these books will find the reader well below the standard being set by the average reader for Books-on-tape, Recorded Books, Blackstone and the other major publishers of unabridged works (as well, of course, as the better known professionals who are employed by the major publishers putting out abridgements of popular contemporary novels).
The narrator is excellent, the story well written, but it is not Sherlock Holmes. Some will find naming the character Holmes no barrier to enjoying the study of an old man, others, like myself, will find it troubling to reconcile the attributes of Doyle's Holmes with the creation of this author. Probably the degree of familiarity and comfort with the original will play an important role in determining which category a read will fall into.
In addition, it is one of those books which is designated by the author or distributors as a mystery but hardly meets reasonable criteria for the categorization. Once again, if it is not mystery or detective fiction that attracts you to this book, you should be satisfied with it.
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