San Anselmo, CA, United States | Member Since 2006
This is Mr. Perry's first book, originally published in 1982. Although it's a little dated (a full gas tank, 12 gallons, for $10!) that is the only flaw I can find. Michael Connelly, one heck of a writer himself, has written an introduction to the book, which accurately describes Perry's awesome talent and assuredness. Connelly uses the word "velocity" as a description of plots that delight us, and this is the perfect word for Perry's plot. There are only two main characters, the unnamed professional hitman, and the Justice Department agent Elizabeth Weiser, plus many other characters. Perry cleverly alternates chapters between these two characters to hold our interest, and this is a very successful suspense device. The book flies by. The hitman takes on the Las Vegas mafia families single-handedly, and you believe that he can manage it. He is no non-human superhero, though. He is believable in every way. Likewise, Elizabeth is also a real human being, in the field reluctantly for the first time, and simultaneously doubtful and self-confident. You just have to read Perry's work to see how smoothly he creates these characters. He also sees Las Vegas as what it is, or was thirty years ago. The narration is flawless. Mr. Kramer understands the writer, and has narrated all of Mr. Perry's books. He is fluid and entertaining. He builds the suspense for us. You can never guess the plot's twists and turns. You will at one moment fully suspect that someone with a gun will sneak in the door, and then Mr. Perry surprises you. Even Elizabeth is surprised and hoodwinked. This is a terrific book, and I am sure that I will eventually listen to all of Mr. Perry's books. Great entertainment!
I suppose that this must be just the sort of thing for people who like this sort of thing. And I also should have known that basically all of these books are grossly the same, a comment which could be made about many genres. However, for a book that is highly touted and an author likewise acclaimed, frankly, I couldn't have been more bored, my dear. Powerfully repressed, intense desires that threaten to take down all that is civilized about human beings? Puhlease. The Brits have been doing this kind of thing for so long that they may not have noticed that a century (at least) has passed by since Britain ruled an empire scattered across the globe, which meant that the Brits themselves had to uphold standards of propriety which no one really cares about any more, and indeed hasn't done so for a very long time. Their Empire is gone, dwindling down to the Falkland Islands. The French Empire has gone the same way, down to the pathetic little island of Corsica which you see whenever you watch French TV weather reports. We Americans had our own brand of imperialism, and see what that cat dragged in. And in this century, who knows? The Chinese? India? Any takers?
In any case, you can probably guess the plot of this book with just a little bit of thought. There isn't any spy stuff, which at least injected a little action into the John le Carre books. There is no action of any kind, anywhere, by anybody. There is thought, intense, suppressed, paralyzing thought. And oh, the thought is so lubricious...
Colin Firth's voice, OTOH, is so listenable that one could just lie back on the divan with a cup of tea and little Nipper, and pleasantly while away the afternoon until tea time. I could listen to this man read almost anything; anything except, perhaps, Graham Greene. And he's a handsome devil, too, isn't he? Given a choice between six hours of this and watching two hours of The Spy who came in from the cold, the jury will be out for about five minutes.
I guess I knew this day was coming, but it's been a heckuva ride, I must say. As in most serials that have basically run out of gas, these books are beginning to have a sameness for me which drags each of them down. The wit is still there, the arch sophisticated worldview that our three heroes (Spenser, Hawk and Dr. Susan Silverman) convey. And, Joe Mantegna still does a really creditable job, although on the "he said-she said" controversy I come down on the side of the Michael Prichard fans. The milieu, however, has become too familiar. Boston still seems like a really interesting city, and Spenser's delightfully idiosyncratic view of it continues to entertain. The plots, though, have become so similar and repetitive that I truly have to stretch to recall them. I did enjoy the April the prostitute miniseries, which allowed us to get a little bit under Spenser's facade to show us his compulsion to rescue damsels in distress (how psychological! And from me, a psychologist!).
The one thing I deliberately have not done is to read the book in which Susan dies. Clearly it is time for me to do this now. I hope that this kind of real-world development (although just a tiny bit extreme and melodramatic for my tastes) may give us another chance to see Spenser as a flesh-and-blood fictional character (huh?). Up to now his suit of armor hasn't been pierced in any significant way. Maybe in that case it will be. For now, the mix-and-match lost kids-disturbed families-helpful/semi-helpful cops above whom Spenser and Hawk rise to the rescue: I've just about had it. For an author who has found a way to mint money by reeling off one after another just-slightly modified book, it must have taken a whole lot of guts for Mr. Parker to walk across to the other side of the desk and see his guy from a whole 'nother point of view. This is an accomplishment that, I dare say, Lee Child will never ever even approach. My hat is truly off to Mr. Parker.
You can have your Stone Barrington, thank you very much. Just the name says phony and contrived. I have tried a couple of those, plus the others, Ed Eagle, Hothouse Whatever, etc. This is Woods' first book, and, IMHO, his best. It is worth reading the Wikipedia paragraph about this book. Woods would eventually become one of our generation's most prolific authors, making his publishers and agents quite rich, I am sure. However, much of what he has written since Chiefs is forced, formulaic, and designed to sell like hotcakes. Fine. Chiefs, though, seems clearly autobiographical, to the degree that many of the best writers' early works often do. The multi-generational story of Will Lee and the town of Delano, Georgia grabs you very quickly, and, without the modern tricks of hyped-up violence and scary suspense, Mr. Woods holds you with a tale that is completely genuine and passionate. He loves his characters, and we know it. Will Lee himself is a wonderful protagonist: we are almost immediately on his side, and Mr. Woods develops Will Henry's life (his friends call him Will Henry, out of Southern affection. The only man who calls him "Lee" is the loose cannon Foxy Funderburk, who is insanely jealous that Will was chosen as the first chief of police in Delano rather than him.)
The other characters are also fully drawn: Will's wife and family, the banker Hugh Holmes, who gambled big on the new town and got rich very quickly. One of the first scenes is Will's accidental arrest of two drunk rednecks who have robbed Holmes' bank. They come careening around the bank in a huge old Packard, or something, while Will happens to be holding an old, rusty Colt .45 just given to him by the town doctor and council member Frank Mudter. The whole town (a thousand people) calls Will a hero, and he is off to the races, albeit in a slow, gentlemanly Southern way.
Mr. Woods was born and raised in Georgia, and it shows. He is extremely fond of almost everything about the South. He depicts the racial/slavery issues with deep compassion. He understands the life of people who may live in this country but have little in common, it would seem, with most of us middle-class regular guys and gals (gals? I'm becoming a Southerner!). He also handles the issue of alcohol (Georgia was a dry state at the time of this book) with great skill and delicacy. Basically, every single thing about this book is wonderful. If you want the best of Stuart Woods, start here.
If you want the best of Mark Hammer, you could well start here too. His voice is just so mellow, slow and easy, never pushed or hurried, warmly funny and also very loving towards the characters. He manages a Southern drawl with ease and great skill. You just have to listen to him to truly understand the richness of an audiobook. Reading with the eyes is fine, but a great performer like Mark Hammer adds a unique dimension to the work.
I just plain loved every little thang about this book, and I surely hope that y'all do, too.
I assume that Lee Child has the golden-handcuffs problem: a high class problem to have, but I wouldn't want to have it. He is a slave to a cartoon. Reacher is the ultimate Man's man: He lives nowhere, has no ID and no credit cards, he buys cheap clothes and wears them for four days, when he throws them out and buys new ones. He is John Wayne personified and taken to the nth degree. Most of us know that John Wayne's name was actually Marion something.
To say that Reacher is getting a little long in the tooth is to understate wildly. There is apparently a large sector of the male population that just eats this stuff up. Reacher knows absolutely everything there is to know about weapons and ammo, about forensics and military evidence, etc. He can be relied upon to ride into town on an invisible white horse and solve a really sticky crime problem for the bungling locals. This book has an interesting plot twist: Reacher rides into town to guarantee that a mass murderer who got away with it in the military is prosecuted to the extent that the law allows, convicted and shipped off to prison forever. Further plot twists await. Reacher uses no fancy tools other than his intellect, experience and judgment, and somehow he manages to wrap up all of these things into nice neat packages with shiny bows. Personally, I prefer my heroes to be a bit more human and less cartoonish, with weaknesses and desires just like the rest of us humans, sometimes even with families, loves and disappointments. Reacher soars above all these lowly primate concerns.
Dick Hill does his usual workmanlike job here. He too must feel the bird in the gilded cage, but, hey, the money's good, and the guys keep reading. A faithful Reacher reader just told me something truly despicable: a movie is now being made, and Reacher is portrayed by....TOM CRUISE! Tom Cruise is about four feet tall: Reacher is six foot five. An outrage. The only thing they both share is that their combined age now well exceeds 100. Long may they reign.
I bought this book because Edoardo Ballerini narrated it, plain and simple. He is so gifted that it is a pure pleasure to listen to almost every book he reads. Almost. The precis notes that the book is about a man named Thomas Danforth, and it hints that there will be more than a smattering of WWII. As many of you know, O Constant Readers (I embarrass myself), I have had it just about up to here with WWII. Schindler's List said it all. Nonetheless, the book has strong points, and those who are still in the mood for WWII books will probably like this. Thomas Danforth is, at the time of the narration, a ninety-one-year-old man who is telling the story of his involvement in the war to a young interviewer named Paul. The mechanism of switching back and forth between post-September 11 New York and the world of sixty-plus years ago is an awkward device, which constantly makes the reader repeat phrases like "years later, Thomas would..." This does get a little annoying.
The crux of the book is an unbelievably naive plot to assassinate the Fuhrer, with a crew of only four or five people. One of them is the ferociously dedicated, dark, young, Jewish woman named in the title. Danforth helps train her and falls deeply in love with her, despite the fact that the assassination attempt is a suicide mission. No further spoilers here, but you can imagine what happens.
Thomas Cook is an extremely gifted writer. If I were you, I would start with "Streets of Fire," which is IMHO a much better book than this. No sense comparing the two books; I just feel that SOF is a much more accessible book, and is much more compelling (oops, I did compare, didn't I?). So what.
Once again Mr. Ballerini's talents are so remarkable that they cover some of the less interesting aspects of the book. His skills with accents and multiple languages are just astounding. It is possible that he speaks all these languages; if not, he has one heck of an ear for the musical sounds of languages. Even German, that most guttural and in other ways off-putting of languages, becomes soft and buttery in his mouth. I must warn you that there is some plenty gruesome stuff: you might want to skip the particulars of the guillotine. There is a deeply felt romance at the heart of the book, an opposites attract version between Danforth and Anna, and that part of the book is done pretty well. Maybe you could just skip the entire WWII part, but that would leave you with about a third of a book. Which, come to think of it, would not be a bad idea
I had never read anything by Thomas Cook before. He has won awards in the mystery/thriller genre, and it's easy to see why. Also, I had never heard of Ray Chase. If it is possible to be better than brilliant (in caps!), then Mr. Chase is that. The book is set in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. Racial tensions had not been this high since the Civil War. The rape and murder of a twelve-year-old black girl sets up the plot. Sgt. Ben Wellman of the BPD is assigned to the case, and he brings to it a ferocious determination. Mr. Chase's range and variety of voices, accents and nuance is absolutely astonishing. You can almost believe that there are about a dozen actors in this play. This is the time when Dr. King was building his power base, and white Southerners (not all of them, to be sure) were scared and outraged down to their very bootlaces. This was the moment when the fire department turned powerful hoses on completely peaceful marchers. It almost seems like this all happened in another country. In five years both Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy would be assassinated.
Ben feels intense heat from all directions, even (and particularly dangerously) from within his own police department. Many people from many segments of the community do not want Ben to solve the murder of Doreen Bollinger. Ben tries to get to know the girl's aunt Esther, but even such an apparently innocent contact is fraught with peril and suspicion from both whites and blacks. Ben feels pressured from all sides, and he is like a bug under a microscope, every move examined to the nth degree by everyone in town, or so he feels. The plot drives us so powerfully that I wouldn't recommend reading this just before you go to sleep, seriously. I hardly ever say that. In this case, the book can keep you reading well into the wee hours, and it can mess up your day at work. At the same time, I never wanted it to end. On a personal note, I was in Nashville during this time, at Vanderbilt. The most bizarre sight I have ever witnessed was the day after Dr. King's murder, when US Army tanks (!) rolled down West End Avenue, the long edge of the campus. Vanderbilt at the time was a hotbed of complacency, and it may still be. Black students numbered in the few dozens. What did they expect, an explosive race riot?
Enough about me. Get this book right now. Anyone who truly loves this genre, and has some feelings about racial conflicts in this country, will be so engrossed in the book that he or she might miss a few meals.
I guess Thomas Perry just could not sustain that amazing streak of winners forever. Joey Moreland is nowhere near as engaging as the Butcher's Boy. In fact, he is a robot. The "explanation" of how he became a serial killer of gorgeous prostitutes is Psych 101. Moreland's assignments and the process by which he receives them is way less interesting than what is available in prior books. The twist that Mr. Perry provides here is just not that creative. The fact that Joey is hired to kill a target, and meanwhile becomes "invisible" by living with a prostitute that he eventually kills also: big deal.
Jack Till is a man we know from prior books, as is his developmentally disabled daughter Holly. There is really nothing particularly new here, and it is disappointing. Robertson Dean is a very good narrator, who doesn't have that many voices in his repertoire but has enough skill in other areas to more than make up for it.
Unlike Metzger's Dog, there is absolutely 100% zero humor here, which also is a serious handicap. Mr. Perry has entertained us in so many ways that we have become seriously spoiled. The plot doesn't drive so much as plod. The cat and mouse chase is kinda old by now, and is a device that is so common and so widespread that many many writers use it. There is almost nothing new here. I can't recommend it, particularly because the earlier books I mentioned, plus the others, are so masterful that there is no sense settling for this book. Read the original Butcher's Boy, or any of the sequels, or Metzger's Dog, or indeed any of the stand-alone books and you will find one of the most talented writers in the country, if I do say so myself. If you want more great stuff, read Tim Hallinan or Martin Cruz Smith. Save your money on this one.
I really loved Mr. Laukkanen's first book. I really love this one too. And Mr. Ballerini has now firmly installed himself as my favorite narrator since Frank Muller, which is high praise, indeed. Like the first book, this one is a race down a highway to hell. It does not have the feel of a sequel, though. Carter Tilton, the head of the gang, bears little semblance to Pender, the main crazy in the first book. An accountant who loses his job, and who has a mansion and a family, Tilton gets quickly sucked down into the vortex (I just had to use that trope, I know) of crime, and his crimes rise rapidly in their violence. He starts with little notes to bank tellers, and proceeds to much higher wattage crime in a hurry. His female assistant is just as wacko as he. Her boyfriend drives the getaway car. The team of Kirk Stevens of the Minnesota BPA and Carla Windermere of the FBI is once again charming. They are in dogged pursuit of the criminals, and they both just will not quit. The sexual tension is everywhere: between the two of them, between Tilton and his wife Becca, between Tilton and Tricia, his accomplice. You can cast the movie in your mind with favorite actors. I would absolutely love Cate Blanchett in the Tricia role. As you can see, I had a lot of fun with this book. Laukkanen writes very well, with authority, with an informed sense of place that makes you believe he lives in Minneapolis-St. Paul (although in the first book I could have sworn that he lived in Seattle). He puts you in the car and drives you with each turn of events. There is no way that you can put this book down, other than to catch your breath. I also love that the editor/publisher allows Mr. Ballerini to read at his own pace: his voice is lustrous, his pacing exactly right, his ability to do precisely what the author wants him to do: all exactly on the money. I have heard a few books in which he was clearly pushed to go too fast, which was something that was done to Mr. Muller, too, on occasion. When you allow these guys to slow down, they show you every nuance of their mighty skills. I would dearly love it if Mr. Ballerini had a career as long as or even longer than that of Mr. Muller, who died in a motorcycle accident when he was in his fifties. A voice this rich, combined with the actorly skills and all the rest: we could be in for one of the most enjoyable audiobook careers imaginable. Listen to this. Trust me. Would I steer you wrong?
Joseph Finder can really write, and Edoardo Ballerini is now my favorite living narrator. Nonetheless, this is not the finest work by either of them. The book is forbiddingly long, and it is really so stuffed with information, names, plots and sub-plots and sub-sub-sub plots (you get the idea) that Mr. Finder seems to be deliberately trying to confuse the reader. Perhaps this is accurate history and only thinly disguised fiction. Still, you can't help but get lost. This is not good. Further, and to the book's perhaps fatal detriment, the editors or producers have responded to this volume of material by forcing Mr. Ballerini to read the book as if he were on speed. Seriously. I have now listened to at least a dozen Ballerini books (Beautiful Ruins is still my favorite) and the pressure here to talk as fast as is humanly possible effectively wastes the narrator's considerable talents. Mr. Ballerini has studied the Russian language carefully, and his pronunciations of numerous Russian names and words is brilliant. How this man can sound so fluent and fluid in so many languages is a wonder. Italian I get, but Russian? And he can do many more. His ear for language and its subtleties is just profound. But you just can't force him to do what is done to him here. It is a waste.
The major plot involves a man named Charlie Stone, a governmental operative in several secret CIA activities (are there any not-secret CIA activities?). The narration switches between Moscow and several cities along the East Coast of the US. I won't even try to tell you about the plot twists, as I would get confused myself. There is a love interest, between Charlie and his estranged wife Charlotte, which I would have liked to hear more about, but Mr. Finder is determined to stuff so much historical fact/fiction into the book that the romance, which is a pleasant distraction, is given short shrift. I have read a lot of books about Russia, as my family goes back to Minsk and Pinsk. However, if you want to understand Russia, Martin Cruz Smith is the absolute master of Russian fiction. His character Arkady Renko is without doubt the most human character in all of Russian fiction. I would recommend that you start there, particularly with Polar Star, Gorky Park, Red Square or Havana Bay. Wolves Eat Dogs is a bit hard for some folks to take, situated as it is in Chernobyl. However, Mr. Smith writes circles around Mr. Finder, with books that are half the length of this book, and they pack way more punch. Sorry, Charlie: your tale is a shaggy dog story.
This book starts off quite well, with a grisly and vivid double hanging. Both the victims have had their hands hacked off. Us thriller lovers (I know, we...) certainly can get into a little grisly and vivid. The author creates a cast of characters, and for a while it suffices to get to know them, and to try to figure out what the heck is going on. The various plots then turn extremely vague and cliche-ish. Always with the rainy and foggy nights. Always with the waiting for the bad guy(s) to make a sound or start a gun battle. The plots then go off into quite a number of directions, and by about the middle of the book I gave up. Too many shady and mysterious pasts. Way too many people chasing each other and running away from each other for dark, vague, undisclosed reasons. It's hard to tell who the primary characters are by the middle of the book, and this is just not good writing. Christopher Lane is a perfectly good narrator, but the material he is given here is so mushy and soap-opera-ish that at some point you just cease to care about trying to solve all of these puzzles. A good writer draws his primary characters fairly quickly, so that you care about them and are curious to see what happens to them. Just a bunch of people skulking about in the atmospheric wintry weather does not a good novel make. Where are the editors these days? Maybe I'm getting spoiled by reading the masters of this craft: Martin Cruz Smith, Timothy Hallinan, Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, Thomas Perry: these guys know how to write, how to grab you and make you hold on, start to accelerate the plot and then confuse you with a few red herrings...the great ones even lead you to a marvelous conclusion, rather than a list of tedious wrapping up of loose ends. Where can I find some more writers like these? Anyone?
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