I was amazed to hear the credits of some of these writers -- NYT bestsellers time and time again, but the fiction was pretty rank. There are only a few stories worth listening to. If you like the thriller/mystery genre and want some entertaining short fiction, I'd recommend checking out Jefferey Deaver's short story collections (Twisted, More Twisted, Nocturne). His was one of the better written stories in this collection, and it's not the best of his short fiction.
Came off of a Gillian Flynn kick, having started with Gone Girl, then Dark Places and finally Sharp Objects. All of which were compulsive listens, the kind where you don't want to quit even though the commute is over. Even Sharp Objects, which was the lesser of the three, had people real enough (damaged, mean, yet somehow sympathetic all the same), and drama that grew organically from the characters and their relationships.
So I was excited, and perhaps expecting a bit too much, when Girl On the Train came up as an Amazon recommendation after checking to see what others had purchased based on the Gillian Flynn books (lots of the reviews touted this as the next Gone Girl).
The only thing it had in common with Gone Girl was the first person narrators and the close narrative distance (and the unlikable characters -- though Fylnn's characters, despite being unlikable are sympathetic and honest enough to identify with).
Differences were many. All the characters in Gone Girl were honest and true (to their motivations anyway). The characters in The Girl On the Train weren't true to anything. They didn't even know what they wanted. They were all clueless, wandering, adulterating, unlikable people.
The mystery was a non-mystery. The missing girl is one of our first person narrators, expounding about what happened half a step behind the 'sleuths' trying to figure it out. And if she'd been honest with the audience, meaning had she thought out loud (first person narrative) all the truth, we'd have suspected the actual perpetrator in the first third (at least) of the book and this thing wouldn't have had the feet to move passed 100 pages. Instead the author hid behind the assumed honesty that comes with a first person narrative, and the big 'twist' came in the end when we learn that two of the main characters knew that there was another person who was the most likely of suspects.
The cops are minor characters in this one, beat out by an armchair detective who is a blackout drunk; unemployed but so insecure as to take the train everyday so her flat-mate doesn't suspect she's unemployed and can't make rent (never mind that commuting each day, and drinking in London -- which is what she does most days -- would cost probably as much, or more, than her rent does). But she one-ups the coppers time and again.
All the characters, and their motivations (non-motivations) are pretty much forced; meaning this thing bends characters to a desired, poorly planned plot.
The thing this novel didn't achieve (for me anyway), that Gone Girl did was a reason to care. I never did care about any of the characters. Rachel was sympathetic in the beginning but she lost credibility pretty quickly, and not for simply being a down and out drunk, but because she was so totally lost, with no conviction whatsoever. It made riding first person with her difficult. Self-doubt is an inherent human condition which everyone experiences at one time or another, and so it's a true way to the readers heart (if it's honest). Rachel has an overabundance of self-doubt, but she also experiences (at least as many) episodes of self confidence when there should be no confidence at all. She becomes tiring in her unreality very quickly.
It started out promising, but went downhill pretty quickly. I'd have given up on this one in the first two hours if it weren't for all the glowing reviews. I stuck it out, and I was disappointed. I think if I'd listened to this without any expectations I'd have been more forgiving.
The ending was was insanely preposterous. SPOILER ALERT: Two ex-wives sitting around with a murderer as he scooby-doos his confession and motivation (which was heretofore missing) while drinking tea. Huh?!?!
On a plus side, the narrators were great, especially Louise Brealey who, with her ability, gave the character more character than was actually written there.
The idea was grand, and tantalizing, but this novel didn't deliver.
I started with Landay's newest novel (Defending Jacob), which was a great listen. It wasn't a book that engrossed me right upfront, but by the time I was just past the middle point, I didn't want to stop listening. As impressed as I was with Defending Jacob, I was more so with The Strangler.
Landay has it down. He writes excellent, intriguing, fully fleshed characters. There's real drama here (as opposed to the melodrama you often find in sub-par mystery/crime novels). He's got a great ear for the way people speak (which shows with his character's dialogue). The story is excellent - there's never an instance of characters bending to plot; everything is organic, realistic, natural.
Not only is the writing really good, but so is the narration. Stephen Hoye was perfect for this book. He did such a great job that I actually browsed other books he'd narrated in hopes I'd find something that interested me (I haven't yet, despite the extensive catalog). There's quite a large cast of main characters here, as well as an abundance of minor players, and Hoye was able to lend nuance to each voice so that, almost always, you knew who was speaking even if the context didn't clue you in.
One evening, after driving home from work, I actually sat in my driveway, listening for an extra five minutes to a tense scene. I couldn't not know how that scene wrapped up before I tuned out for the day. And I couldn't wait to get back at it the next day.
I've got several hundred books in my audible library, and there are perhaps only half a dozen or so I've gone back to for a second listen (to name a few: Hearts In Atlantis, A Widow for One Year, Terror's Echo: Novellas from Transgressions, American Gods). Even knowing how this one ends, I'll be going back for a second listen. I even bought a used paperback edition to loan out to friends, that's how much I liked this book.
Both of Landay's other novels are good too, but this one was my favorite. I only wish he published more frequently.
Dedicated Grisham fans might love this one, I didn't. It's Brigance again, but it's missing everything that made A Time to Kill great.
In a time to kill Brigance was enlisted to represent Carl Hailey, and to try and justify what Hailey did to the men that raped and beat his daughter. This was something most of the audience was behind. Those men took something more than just that girls body from her with what they did, they'd taken her innocence and left her for dead. It was a great injustice and so we could all see why Hailey decided to do what he did - it was what any father, consumed by the kind of anger such a trespass would provoke, would do (or would want to do anyway).
This book has none of this. There is no great injustice in this book (at least as far as I can see -- I only made it through the first four hours). SPOILER ALERT: Here's the plot summary as far as I can see it: Spiteful rich man (who is white), who has a terrible relationship with his own children, hangs himself and cuts his kids and their families out of his will and instead leaves his vast fortune to his maid (who is black) who'd been looking after him in his final years. The will his handwritten and revokes an older will. Before he dies he sends a letter out hiring Brigance to defend his newest will against the lawyers he'd filed his older will with. The whole thing looks like it's going to be about money. And, of course, race (this being Grisham writing about the south).
Who cares? I didn't. It's all too black and white (literally and figuratively). All the rich white lawyers are bad. All the poor black families are good. But who cares about what goes on in any of these lives? The rich guy who hangs himself is a spiteful old bastard, so I had no sympathy for him or his cause. The family he cut out of the will is pretty much the same. So I had no sympathy for them or their cause. The black maid was a decent woman with a shitty husband and a poor bleak future, so of course you can sympathize with her. But I didn't care much for her, and she didn't really have a cause. All this was just thrust upon her.
Maybe it would've gotten better if I'd kept on, but I couldn't go any further
Narrator was great, but the story was flat. There's more to life than money, but if you like to see people fight over it, maybe you'll enjoy this more than I did.
A mixed bag here. I gave every story a chance, but if I wasn't engaged withing the first five minutes, I skipped to the next one. Several engaged me:
The Little Green God of Agony Stephen King (listened all the way through)
Blackwood’s Baby Laird Barron (abandoned after twenty minutes)
Black Feathers Alison J. Littlewood (abandoned after twenty minutes)
In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos John Langan (abandoned after twenty minutes)
Little Pig Anna Taborska (listend all the way through and enjoyed)
The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine Peter Straub (abandoned after about half an hour)
In the end, I only finished two stories: King's The Little Green God of Agony, which wasn't one of his best, and Anna Taborska's Little Pig, which was the only story in the whole bunch that I actually enjoyed entirely.
I almost made it through Peter Straub's Ballad of Ballardm, which was very engaging and narrated extremely well, but after awhile it meandered and I realized I didn't care about either character or their situation, so I bailed.
I'd give every one of these authors another listen. Some of this was just bad storytelling, but some of it was stiff narration too. For the worst of the stories it's hard to lay the blame completely on the author or narrator's shoulders.
Some narrators were fantastic. Others sounded stiff. As if they were trying so hard to pronounce everything so perfectly that their narration had no natural cadence.
I would have scoured the volumes of Cemetery Dance and Nightmare Magazine, and Dark Discoveries from this particular year and come up with a much better list of Best of Horror.
It was pleasant to discover the one decent story (Little Pig), but not worth the effort of slogging through all the others. I'll be returning this one.
Maybe. The stories were well crafted and it was intriguing to watch the characters take shape, but knowing how the stories conclude would probably ruin a second listen.
I can't recall reading anything that compares. Most of the characters are unsympathetic, selfish and unlikable, but the narrative is handled so deftly that you stick around anyway, if only to see if the unlikable characters get their comeuppance. By the end of some of the stories I was able to find shreds of sympathy for some of the most unsympathetic characters in the collection. Strange, really, but most of these stories were written (and narrated) very well. It's full of people being horrible to one another, but it's not (in most cases) for simple shock value -- it's organic and we get to see what shaped these vindictive characters.
None of the characters were really likable, so it's difficult to select a favorite. The narrator did a really great job with all the characters, though perhaps best with Jude from The Truth About Pretty Girls, or June from Unremarkable Heart.
The Audible Daily Deal occasionally pays off. Eighty percent of what I've picked up turns out to be crap. It was a pleasant surprise to find this collection offered. Without it I'd never have heard of Karen Slaughter. Now I'll be checking out her other works.
In an attempt to explore some wonderful themes (justice, vengeance, love and grace in regard to religious belief and societal laws), the Priest's Graveyard started off wonderfully, but went south pretty fast. Unique characters quickly morph into the cardboard cutout variety when their actions start to bend to the ridiculous plot.
A vigilante priest who takes justice into his own hands is terribly intriguing. Then, as we watch him interrogate his first offender and are made privy to his inner turmoil via a painfully indecisive interior monologue, we see that it???s not really a moral struggle, but more the fact that this character doesn???t know what he???s doing or what he???s really about, even though he thinks he does.
The same can be said of the recovering heroin addict and the ridiculous sequence of events that bring her to where she is. She???s another ditsy character that is at one moment full of conviction and self righteousness, and then the next second she's second guessing herself, and then she's full of conviction, and then second guessing herself, and then??? It???s tiring. We???re treated to monologue after monologue of the same thing from both main characters, especially in the last third of the book.
Cardboard characters and ridiculous plot aside, the theme at the core of the book is one worth exploring. It???s just a shame that by the time the main characters begin to really reflect on it, I no longer cared about them, not even a little bit.
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