I think this was a lesser entry in the Carol & Tony saga, but the reader certainly didn't help. Midway through, I began to wonder if these books were just better when read instead of heard, but I don't think it was entirely that. The story itself was a bit clunky, and I realized there was more tell than show than I remembered from previous volumes. The dialogue was lacking and the mysteries felt half-hearted. It's as if the story part of the book got lost in its own politics. There were also a number of threads and asides that never went anywhere, which was distracting. Overall, I'd say this was a middling effort for this author, but I'm hoping for a return to form with the next book. It wasn't horrible. I just expected better.
Now, as for the reader - I have to say that my enjoyment of the book was very much so impacted by the reader. His pacing was odd. It felt like, at times, he just rushed from paragraph to paragraph with no break, which made the material seem disjointed. He also had that odd cadence where his inflection peaked in the middle of the sentence, making each one sound as if it was climbing a hill. He'd start in a normal tone, jump up a little higher (in the way one does when the sentence becomes a question by inflection only), then wind back down to normal. Something about the way he read some of the characters, Carol in particular, made them come off as quite whiny. At the same time, he was also very flat. I'll give him this - he did a pretty decent job with some of the accents.
In sum, there are better books in this series. If you've never read any of them, certainly do not start with this one.
I did come into this book completely unaware of the "cozy" mystery genre, whatever that is, so I'm probably not the book's intended audience. Regardless, I was led by the title and description to think that there would be actual spying in this book, which sounded intriguing. Note: There's not really any spying of the actual spy variety. Instead you get a minor royal who has to try to adapt to life as a "penniless" younger sister of a duke and, along the way, does very minimal snooping at the behest of the Queen. The book gets mired down in the day-to-day details of her life. It would have been okay if we didn't get a step-by-step recitation of the things Georgie did, but it gets rather tiresome listening to, "And first Georgie did this. Then she did that. She followed it with that. Something else followed in logical sequence. Here's the next step too. Finally, she finished this small, menial task." To be fair, there are some interesting characters (well, mainly Belinda). Overall, though, this felt like the elevator muzak of reading. Oh, and the final piece of the murder mystery that drops in the last few moments of the book just seems completely out of place, which bothered me more than it should have.
The reader is generally good. She also does the Jacky Faber series. Unfortunately, the things that I find irritating in the reading of the Jacky Faber books are even more irritating here. The voice of panic she uses makes me want to wince. With Jacky, it's a little easier to forgive since she's essentially a child. Here, that whining tinge seems wholly inappropriate for a (minor) royal in her early 20s. Plow through those bits, though, and she does an excellent job distinguishing everyone and giving them character of their own.
This book feels like a second-rate children's novel, both in writing quality and in characterization. The writing is just so painfully simple that it almost sounds as if you should be listening to a 'See Spot Run' story, only with slightly more adult storylines. I say slightly more adult because the characters are such flat, cardboard cutouts of people that they seem more like dolls being marionetted through the story than anything else. Actually, I want to expand what I said above. Everything about this book is painfully simple, and it's painful to listen to it. Don't waste your time.
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