I purchased this based on listener reviews and was not let down. It was one of my favorite listens of 2006--sweet, romantic, funny and exciting. The voice of David LeDoux (young Jacob) reminded me very much of an actor named Jonathan Woodward (from episodes of Buffy and Firefly); for me there is a permanent mental picture of him inserted into the narrative (and in a film version, he would make a wonderful Jacob). John Randolph Jones grabbed my heart even more--he was so perfect in his reading.
I sent the book to my 93 (yes, 93) year old Grandmother--I only wish she could hear the audio version of the novel and experience it like I did.
I was really looking forward to this because of all the four and five star reviews on both Goodreads and Audible, but I am in the minority after all: I hated this book.
It started promisingly enough, and reminded me very much of the work of Louise Penny: mysteries set in a bucolic little town, a "cathedral town" in this case, a police procedural but with an intense focus on the internal lives of a recurring set of main characters. I spent so much time learning about the nooks and crannies of the brains of multiple characters, I half expected to learn the doggie thoughts of a small terrier that makes an appearance at one point--but I didn't, partially because the terrier gets killed by the villain early on, and also I think the terrier is male. You don't learn a damn thing about the internal lives of any male characters in this novel, with the exception of the killer, and we'll get to that in a bit.
For the first half, it seemed that this novel was not just a mystery, but also a meditation on the nature of healing, and on the relationship between the healers and the people that they heal. I think it actually succeeds more on that basis than on the basis of being a mystery. As a mystery, it was terrible. But it had a lot of interesting observations to make about the practice of medicine and about being ill. The most compelling character for me was a minor character named Kathy, and her approach to her cancer and what happens with her. Her story was sad, but lovely and complex. However: Caring much at all for everyone else associated with the mystery that is the framework for the entire story? Not so much. When the killer strikes again halfway through, my reaction was "FINALLY", and frankly, that is not really the reaction one should have when someone gets brutally murdered. But it was a welcome respite from the internal emotional minutia to which the author subjects the reader for the entire first half of the book--and also the second half, let's just get right out and say it.
Spoilers after this:
As a mystery, why did this novel fail? During the second half, Hill seems to have decided to go ahead and write the mystery bit of the story, and so we become gradually more attuned to who the killer is, leading up to learning exactly who he is about three-fourths through the novel. The detective on his trail is not Simon Serrailler, but a female detective, new in town, named Freya Graffam. Freya is the main protagonist of this story, doggedly working a case that no one else believes in, but she's doomed to fail because the serial killer is really very good. She's basically got nothing until the killer starts to unravel all on his own and literally puts himself in her path, and then visits her to reveal himself because, of course, everyone knows that all serial killers are compelled to reveal themselves to their detective counterparts so they can monologue about why they did it. Why did this one do it? He hates women, natch. And terriers, he hates terriers.
Freya is a completely awesome and wonderful character, despite falling in love with DCI Simon Serrailleur, who is barely in this book. When he does make an appearance, he is consistently referred to in full as "DCI Simon Serrailler", with an implied sound of angels singing and heavenly light casting down echoing in the reader's brain. He's good looking, artistic, from a well-off and industrious family but he's just enough of an outsider in his family to be cool and intriguing. He loves women, but is hampered by an emotional failure to launch.
Freya, with whom we spend so much time in the course of the novel, ends up being merely "meat in the room". She gets killed off in the end, in either a sad bid to garner pathos, or just to get her out of the way to make room for Simon to take the stage in the next novel. The problem was, by the end of the book, I couldn't care less about the dude. Where was he when all the s*** was going down? Who cares? Meanwhile, Freya's unofficial partner in the case, a young rough and tumble policeman with a heart of gold AND from a tough background is disturbingly described multiple times as having a "monkey face".
Nope. Just Nope. This book needs some Nick Angel and Danny Butterman, STAT.
Lastly: Steven Pacey? Awesome!
Bryson never fails to please me, I loved this as I have loved all of his works. It put me in the mood to go back and have a nice re-listen to all of his stuff.
I gave up on this novel, after reading a review of it on Amazon that basically echoed the negative thoughts I was having about it. When I checked my progress and reacted with dismay to find I was not quite halfway through, I realized this might have been a bad use of a credit.
I don't know if this novel was translated badly, or had not very good writing that was translated efficiently, but it was full of strange, awkward phrasing and characters that somehow managed to be unlikeable and of flat effect at the same time. Aside from translation issues, I found myself saying, "Really? That makes no sense." on a regular basis just at the events that were being described.
It's times like these that I wish I had a written copy so I could quote from the book, but for example: The main character Tobias, convicted at a young age of a double murder, "does his time in the joint" and returns to his hometown. He has served ten years, the "maximum sentence for a juvenile" under the penal code. Ten years for two murders? Wow. The townspeople are heavily invested in making him leave town immediately, despite the fact that he is in fact obsessed with cleaning up his father's dilapidated property asap so he can sell it…and leave town. Instead of just clarifying his plans with him over a cup of coffee, they send three masked thugs to beat the crap out of him and "send him a message". After tying him up, stripping him, tightening a noose around his neck, blindfolding him and then beating him with baseball bats, they paint the word "Murderer" on his bare chest with red spray paint. Despite the gruesomeness of this attack, relayed in great detail, all I could think of was, "wow, it might be easy to spray paint the word murderer on a wall, but across a man's chest? That seems like a fairly delicate operation to accomplish with a can of spray paint. ". But maybe I don't do enough tagging in my neighborhood. But that is not even the nonsensical part.
So this character sustains a beating that should have put him in the hospital, but what happens the next day? He's up and around, with a messed up face, but definitely ambulatory. Mobile enough, in fact, to go out that night and getting roaring drunk with friends. "Friends?" I thought at the time…he's got friends? The double murderer who just got out of "the joint" a couple of weeks ago? The town pariah who apparently everyone secretly hated and envied for his dashing good looks and brilliance back when he was just a youngster with murder on his mind? Not one of his friends visited him in prison except the tomboy that secretly loved him as a girl and is now a famous actress.
This is just ONE part of this novel that left me scratching my head. I won't go on with this review, because in fact, I didn't go on with this novel either. I couldn't even summon enough energy to keep going just to solve the puzzle. When your novel's plot is so dependent on plot reversals and crazy coincidences that it just doesn't really hold together, you have not done your job as a mystery writer, and your readers are the ones left twisting.
Mitford-esque without the anti-semitism, this novel was tons of fun. The actual mystery itself trod over not-very-original ground, but the characters are sharply done, and the wit is sly as can be. I listened to the audio version, absolutely wonderful performance by Katherine Kellgren, the narrator.
I purchased this book partially on the strength of the reviews, but mostly because the narrator is Eduardo Ballerini, who totally captivated me in a historical fiction series by Robert McCammon. As usual, he didn't disappoint, and neither did this novel, which I just adored.
This book is a very gentle but also very funny satire, making me laugh out loud many times. All of its characters are deeply flawed and just about everyone has a story that sets them up for being mocked. Nevertheless they are all very enjoyable satellites revolving around the story between the two most serious and affecting central characters, Dee and Pasquale.
If you love movies, you will love this novel, which hilariously sends up the movie business from the early 60's right up to today in glorious detail. As a film lover myself, I actually spent much of the time casting the film version in my head while I listened.
I will say that there were times when I thought the story dragged a bit in it effort to give EVERY SINGLE character his/her due, but inevitably I would be drawn back into the story and at the end I loved the way it actually wrapped up almost every storyline.
Wonderful novel, awesome narrator!
An incredibly enjoyable, if somewhat lengthy historical mystery novel (2 novels, actually) that introduces plucky magistrate's clerk Matthew Corbett. The novel is actually a coming-of-age tale for Matthew, who travels with his magistrate master to a remote town to try a woman accused of witchcraft. She's a total babe (natch) and before long, Matthew's attraction to her sublimates into a fanatical devotion to discovering "the truth" of what is really happening in Fount Royal.
The novel is crammed with historical facts about colonial life in 1699 that appear in the narrative as large as billboards, but are nevertheless totally fascinating. Aside from learning way too much about the scary ickiness of healthcare from that period, I learned that wasps nests were kept *inside* of houses to keep mosquitoes under control...a fact I have not been able to verify by googling, but seems too perfectly weird to be made up.
Matthew Corbett is a great character, a somewhat naive and bumbling nerd who becomes a kind of hyper-articulate and powerful agent of justice once armed with all the facts. I plan to check out his next three adventures asap. For some reason I can't get Elijah Wood out of my mind when I think of him.
A note on the narrator: Edoardo Ballerini, was absolutely fantastic. I plan to listen to, not read, the other entries in the series because he brings the story to life beautifully (and hilariously at times).
I thought both narrators did a splendid job. I can always tell when I like a narrator when I find myself googling up any information I can find about him/her.
I feel very ambivalent about Bohjalian's novel. My feelings about this novel moved along a giant bell curve. Despite the excellent performances of the two narrators, I had a lot of trouble getting into it, feeling that it spent an inordinate amount of time re-hashing the minute details of the plane crash that traumatized the sad sack of an airline pilot. I really wanted to be more sympathetic to his situation, but he didn't become interesting to me until he started having homicidal thoughts. But...the author has a great talent for building a delicate kind of jenga-like structure with the histories and motivations of the large cast of characters, and eventually I was utterly drawn in, realizing (with relish) that when the climax came, I had no idea who would prevail. Everyone seems to have a potential to tip the balance of things, and it was very well done. But but...when everything did finally come to a head, it was a crazy messy sprawl in which everyone and his brother ends up in the same location doing all kinds of ridiculous and inexplicable things. And then on top of that, the denouement toppled my own delicate and wobbling jenga-like patience.
I found Alison Fraser's voice mesmerizing, although I preferred Mark Bramhall's performance overall. Both of them did a great job evoking the different characters.
I was disappointed by this book, but I also enjoyed it very much. I just wish the end had carried me through better.
I really love Iain Pears, and have high expectations for this novel. I have really enjoyed it--in all the same ways I loved "Instance of the Fingerpost". I think my only caveat is that the stories told by the three narrators (at least the first two, I have not listened to the whole thing) are told as flashbacks from when they are young men..but the readers are older men. Despite the fact that these readers are awesome, and among some of the best in the business, I sort of wish these flashbacks could have been read by a younger voice--I think it would have given the narrative a bit more zip. I don't know, maybe I am just overdosing on the measured sound of the older British white guy. Again, let me stress.. the readers are fantastic, and I am loving this novel, but wish they could have matched the youthful urgency that the plot sometimes called for.
This first half of this novel is all about two people who need each other that keep missing each other as they work hard at hiding from everyone else. Paloma and Madame Michel are hard to like at first, both very intelligent but alienated and snobbish in their own way as they judge the people around them. It isn't until the second half of the novel, with the appearance of the wonderful and gracious Mr. Ozu, that they come alive and connect-- and so does the novel for the reader.
I really loved this novel, even as I admit that I mentally checked out during some of intellectual discourses of Paloma and Madame Michel. There is a scene in which Paloma is having tea with Mr. Ozu and blatantly mentions to the reader that she is not even listening to what he is saying, but that being with him, the person, is a wonderful feeling. That is exactly how I felt with this book--I didn't always listen to the lecturing, but I developed a huge amount of affection for the characters. I also loved the sound of Barbara Rosenblat's voice and loved her performance, and that of Cassandra Morris. Highly recommend this book.
-1 for the fact that this is actually a drastically abridged version of this novel (not even 3 hours long).
-1 for the fact that there is an Audie award winning version but this is the only one available.
-1 for Audible not making this clear by having the word "Various" in place for the narrators (all two of them) instead of the abridgement cast being listed. This would have saved me a lot of confusion. I still want to hear the version with Jeff Woodman.
+1 for this novel, which (even abridged so heavily) I can tell is a fantastic, unsettling psychological thriller. I have to read everything else I can find by Liz Jensen now.
+1 for the performances on this version, which are fantastic. I was sold within a minute of listening to the sample.
+1 for the convoluted way that a search for books narrated by Jeff Woodman, who did Life of Pi, brought me to listen to this.
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