This series just keeps getting better. Although they retained the traits that make them unique and endearing, John Ceepak and Danny became more realistic in this third instalment. Ceepak is softening a little and becoming less rigid, perhaps recovering slowly from his experiences in the army, while Danny has become a full-time police officer (graduating well from the academy) and is maturing. Their relationship still has a mentoring feel but it's clear here that the two are becoming friends on a more equal footing. So many male bonding relationships depicted in fiction involve consuming large quantities of alcohol and/or treating women like objects that it's quite refreshing to see a healthy relationship depicted without these elements.
Grabenstein does a great job of lulling you into a false sense of security with respect to the pace and direction of the story before taking you in an entirely unpredictable direction. This one was so engrossing and suspense-filled I had to walk an extra 2 kilometres so I could finish listening. As a bonus, although darker in terms of subject matter than the previous two books in the series, this one is actually funnier. Danny Boyle's narrative voice is delightfully witty and it has lost its slight juvenile quality as Danny has matured.
The only thing more enjoyable than anticipating a new Ceepak and Boyle adventure being read to me by the wonderful Jeff Woodman is having my expectations exceeded. I am completely smitten by this series and there's nothing for me to do now but play all my Bruce Springsteen CDs (his lyrics inspire our two New Jersey heroes) and see how long I can wait until I listen to the fourth book in the series which is already waiting on my iPod.
I found the plot of THE FALLEN uneven, slow to get going really as several threads of unequal interest were set up, including a somewhat confusing tale about Jade trying to find the grave of her mother who died when Jade was a baby. For me the pacing was thrown off by the terribly obvious and drawn out clue-hunting, and then at one point I thought the book had finished and was rather astonished to find there were still 6 and a half chapters (a couple of hours) of the audio book left . The thread that deals with what happens after the diving instructor’s body is found – and the truly horrible plan Jade uncovers – was for me the best part of the book; responsible for a genuine OMG moment when it became clear what was going on.
In the end it felt like the book didn't quite know what it wanted to be.A major thread dealing with jade's on/off romance with a married bloke took the book in a romantic direction that didn't interest me at all. At times it read like an old-fashioned whodunnit, though with De Jong making a bit of a fist of the kind of denouement that Holmes or Poirot could perform with aplomb. I cannot possibly, for example, be the only reader to have been internally screaming “there are more than passengers on an airplane you dolt” as Jade very slowly worked this out as if for an audience of dim-witted third graders. At other times the book read like a modern thriller with loads of action and heroine-in-peril scenarios. Personally I think this aspect of the book worked better, especially as it allowed the author to depict several aspects of modern South African life which was a real strength of the novel.
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