San Anselmo, CA, United States | Member Since 2006
Dennis Lehane knows how to write. I wish he knew when to stop. The first half of this book is the former; the second half the latter. In Part 1 he sets up a good plot among a bunch of gangsters and prison inmates and crime families. There is a cherche the femme aspect of the plot, of course. There is a guy who controls his empire from inside prison walls. So far, so good, However, Part 2 becomes a giant cliche, with the bad guys blasting each others' heads off, along with deathless dialogue. The plot bogs down and sinks into the mire. We begin to forget who is who, and we begin to not give a sh...
Lehane is capable of better than this. I think maybe the pressure to produce a "blockbuster" with each new book presses him to prove Mae West wrong: too much of a good thing is not
Faithful readers of mine will have heard me rave on at length about these two guys. I'm gonna do it again. Mr. Majestyk is both Leonard and Muller at the peaks of their careers, in the mid-70's. Both of them continued to do great work for several more decades. Mr. Majestyk appears in a later book by Leonard, when he is a seedy, broken down old judge in Detroit, if memory serves. In this book Vince Majestyk is a strong, brave, healthy young man who just wants to raise melons, have them picked by migrants and then sold to food brokers. His peaceful life is busted in on by gangsters who want him to use boozehounds to do the picking, rather than the skilled Mexican workers who follow ripening crops all over the country, earning enough money to send back to their families, but leading a nomadic, roaming life. Leonard sketches out his hero and several of the workers, in particular one very attractive young woman. It takes Leonard a few paragraphs to establish what lesser writers take chapters to accomplish. As I have quoted Leonard before, when asked why his books are so short, says, "I leave out the stuff that people don't read."
Mr. Majestyk resists the encroachment of these lowlifes onto his fields, and he soon runs afoul of one very fowl gangster, Frank Renda. The cat and mouse chase that the two men lead is so thrilling that you will genuinely have trouble stopping to do anything else before you finish this. THIS is why we read audiobooks.
Frank Muller was my favorite narrator for years, until he died, and then along came Edoardo Ballerini. Muller's voice is what we talk about when we say "mellifluous," that is, if we say that. His phrasing, pauses, voicing, nuances of individual characters: I could go on praising him for a long time. The book manages to be funny in addition to being everything else that it is. I won't spoil the ending, but you will probably see it coming from a mile away. The enjoyment is in the getting there. Majestyk's heroics are not overblown or cartoonish, although he does manage to off about a dozen bums in the book. The romance is very briefly sketched, but charming nonetheless. I was somewhere in the middle of about five books when I spotted this one: I dropped all the others and read this one start-to-finish without even thinking about the others. Not everything Leonard ever wrote was spectacularly good. A lot of it was. The same is true for Frank Muller. Once you have read Polar Star (please!) you will forgive Mr. Muller any lesser works, particularly since he is not the guy writing the books. The hit TV series Justified is based on a book by Leonard called Raylan. Any book involving Raylan Givens is well worth your time. I hope you have as much fun as I do with these gentlemen. It is a unique pleasure.
I think the only spook book I've ever read was The Spy who came in from the cold, and I read it because I had seen the movie, which I loved, and also because Frank Muller narrated it. I will listen to it again. I bought this book primarily because I love Edoardo Ballerini, who can, in my view, do virtually no wrong. However, the entire genre just does not appeal to me. Liars lying to liars, with multiple layers of lying above and below; cloak and dagger plots which are so convoluted that they are almost impossible to follow; characters who turn out to be uninteresting drones, living the expat life and being pushed all over the world so that they can't live normal domestic lives: you put this all together and it just bores me to tears. Mr. Steinhauer can write, and Mr. Ballerini is simply a delight to listen to. The book takes place mostly in Cairo, as the title indicates. There are a number of people who work in the CIA office in Cairo, and the plot centers on their involvement with a spook operation called Stumbler. Stumbler is a project whose intent is apparently to kidnap the Libyan revolution against Qaddafi by moving in at key moments and plaacing American personnel in positions of power, so that Libya post-Qaddafi will be manageable, and "friendly to American business interests." Fine. It's a fair bet that any character you might find a little bit interesting will be found in an alley with his throat slashed in just a few pages. There really is no one person who is the protagonist in the book. There are several parts which are named for individuals in the story, like Part I: Stan. Or Part II: John. As a structure for a plot this is dull. There is so much time-shifting that finally you don't care about any of these individuals. I gave up about two-thirds of the way through, which seems to be happening to me a good it lately. Maybe I am hitting the bottom of the barrel in the detective/thriller genre. There are a few writers whom I find wonderful: Tim Hallinan, Martin Cruz Smith, John Lescroarts; and there are a number of individual works by authors whom I generally don't care for, and then there are a few bright newcomers, but there sure is a lot of bad stuff out there, books that cry out for editors, or books that clearly are targeted at groups to which I do not belong. So, once again, this book is going to be exactly the thing for people who like this sort of thing. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful than that.
I started reading Harlan Coben's work about twenty years ago. He was very good then. His first character was an ex-basketball player and now an agent for players. His name was Myron Bolitar. An outrageously Jewish name for a guy who probably had maybe one or two fellow Lantsmen (fellow Jews) in the NBA. Myron was LOL funny. His best friend was a cartoonish rich guy named Windsor Lockehorne something-or-other, a guy who leapt tall buildings with a single bound, lived in a penthouse on the Upper East Side, etc. Myron, at 35, lived with his parents in New Jersey. There were several other supporting cast members in this fictional family. The books were a whole lot of fun. As a result, Harlan Coben is now a phenomenon. You can go to your local bookstore and watch a televised bookstore talk about his latest book, which is this one. The publishing industry lives for guys like Harlen, who makes them rich. Unfortunately, Harlen has now pulled way too many rabbits out of this hat. I sure wish Myron would return, but it ain't gonna happen.
A Myron-like character stars in this book, Six years. I had stopped reading Coben's books quite a number of years ago. Now I understand why. I did listen to the first download and to half of the second download. I just could not get myself to finish it. It's good writing, I suppose, and it will sell like hotcakes (I bought it, didn't I?). But I just did not get interested enough to want to find out what happened to Jake's lost love, Natalie. Jake is the Myron-stand-in. Part of the problem, as many Audible listeners will surely appreciate, is Scott Brick. With Scott, you either love him or hate him. I absolutely loved him in The Ice Limit, which is within my top five all-time favorite audiobooks. Scott regularly amps up the excitement to such insane decibels that you can't hear yourself think. And here we are. Scott's tendency to scream even while he is whispering is just too much, as it is in many other works of his. BTW, he too has become an Audible superstar, and thus he is all over the place. I won't bore you with the plot. If you like these two guys, then have fun. I'll take Tim Hallinan and Victor Bevine, or Edoardo Ballerini and almost any writer over Harlen and Scott, hands down. Harlen already has another one in the pipeline. I think I'll skip it.
The story of Emil Dreyfuss is fairly well known to people like the above. They will no doubt love this book. As for the rest of us, not so much. It's pretty slow going. First, the narrator: David Rintoul's French accent is so good that it's annoying. He over pronounces every French word, street name, personal name and so forth that it actually grates on the nerves. Modern French is a beautiful language, spoken with melodic phrasing, lots of elisions and a casual manner which is hard to master. Mr. Rintoul has done the opposite. He pronounces each word as if it were a royal address in front of an extremely learned and stuffy body. He could really lighten up. The book suffers from his formality and the absence of nuance in his speech. Less would definitely have been more here.
The story of Dreyfuss's conviction for treason, clearly a misstep by the French government of the late 1800's, is sickeningly riddled with ferocious anti-Semitism. The coverup by the military and politicians is as plodding as an elephant. The hero of the story, Major George Picard, is a very easy guy to like, a guy who believes in the truth and is genuinely horrified to see the government turn against him, convicting him in a kangaroo court. Corruption, petty and large, is rampant. Villains are juicy and easy to hate. For those of you who haven't read Robert Harris before, you may be delighted at how deep his research is, how authoritative his voice is, and how you come to fully subscribe to his version of reality. These things just must have happened in this way, because Mr. Harris says so in such an articulate fashion. And, in case there was any doubt about the collusion of the French with the Nazis in WWII, that doubt should be put to rest here. Even though there are over 140n years between the Dreyfuss affair and WWII, the French come off as slimy collaborators. The camps may have been in Austtria, Poland and Germany, but the Jews were rounded up in small towns all over France, stuffed into rail cars and sent off with the utmost cruelty to their unspeakable deaths. It is hard to be romantic about France, a country I have visited many times, and a country which is justifiably proud of its culture, art, music, food, wine, museums, and so forth. To see up close and personal the evils that underlie all of that beauty can be a very tough thing to face. Mr. Harris makes us face it unflinchingly. The book is a tough read, but Mr. Harris continues to put out authoritative, brilliantly researched depictions of some of the most important points in human history. Pompeii is worth listening to. I found this one a pretty rough go.
Matthew Quick wrote The Silver Linings Playbook, which was a wonderful movie. When I listened to the audiobook, I thought that Matthew showed a lot of promise as a writer, and a lot of guts, to put on display an extremely accurate, vivid, unflinching picture of what it is like to have a major mental illness. The movie was hollywood, of course, but the book was written by an author with tremendous skills, I can speculate about whether Matthew has a personal experience of mental illness, particularly the disorder which is called Bipolar Disorder, formerly manic-depressive illness.It doesn't matter whether or not he has that, but if he hasn't, then he is a man of remarkable powers of observation.
He wrote a second book, which I listened to but immediately forgot, not a good sign. The third book is so bad that it is annoying. Neil, the main character, is clearly a seriously deluded man. One of his main goals in life is to have a beer with a friend in a bar. He also hallucinates Richard Gere. He and Richard have daily conversations. This portrait of loneliness is awful enough, but the skill of the writing deteriorated to the point at which it was very hard to listen to, saying nothing about the uncomfortable content. However, in the middle of the book Matthew decompensates to the point at which his words are literally nonsensical gibberish. Matthew introduces a character who has to include the word fuck, or any of its variations, whenever he speaks. I quit at this point. Matthew completely lost me. I just cannot believe that an editor could allow such a manuscript to be published. The words become something like stream-of-consciousness, with the exception that the author is no James Joyce. Still, I root for him. I hope he does better next time, and that for God's sake he finds an editor.
Where do I start here? How about with the protagonist in the book. Her name is Indiana Jackson. Have you ever in your entire life known a person of either gender whose first name is Indiana? Neither have I. A small thing, but it has the ring of false-hood.
I love Edoardo Ballerini. I have listened to about thirty books that he has read, and I've loved almost all of them. Even he can't save this mess. I gave up after four hours, which I think is a decent amount of time to judge whether I am enjoying a book or not. Not. I believe there is supposed to be a murder mystery somewhere in the book, but I heard little about that. What I heard about was a whole lot of she said-she said, and a whole lot about women who go to a lot of yoga classes, plus hydrotherapy, aroma therapy, hypnosis, and so forth. Even in the world of Ms. Allende, these are extremely pampered individuals. And, BTW, I am a psychologist, so I am not at all adverse to hearing about people's experiences in psychotherapy.
I live in the same neck of the woods as Ms. Allende, and I know that she is a major star in the world of Latinas; my wife comes from Colombia. That, combined with the chance to listen to Mr. Ballerini disposed me positively towards the book. No use. It may be the case that millions of women, and maybe a few men, love this kind of writing, but I don't. And I love murder mysteries, detective novels and thrillers: still no good. If you are a fan of Ms. Allende's, then you may well like this. As you have clearly seen by this point: I didn't.
There are a number of people who find Cormac McCarthy too violent for their tastes. It's too bad for them, IMHO, because they miss out on masterpieces like these. The plot grabs you very quickly and holds on tight. John Grady Cole, a sixteen-year-old Texan, is forced off his family's ranch due to his mother's disinterest in finances. She eventually finds her way to the stage, where she acts very small roles. John Grady leaves his hometown with his best friend Easy Rawlins, and they ride south into Mexico. I couldn't possibly give you a fair taste of the plot, but trust me. Cormac McCarthy has been called one of our finest writers, and this is perhaps his finest book. It actually is the first part of a three-book series called the Border Trilogy. McCarthy follows John Grady and Rawlins through several years of their lives, beginning with John Grady leaving home and then riding around Mexico without any direct purpose but with a taste for adventure, the need to see what is over the next mountain, and the bittersweet experience of falling in love. Along the way we meet a large cast of characters, every single one of them described so perfectly that we remember them for years. John Grady falls in love with a young woman who is the daughter of a very wealthy man. The romance is scandalous, as John Grady is light-years beneath the social status of her family. The father likes John Grady, respects him for his skills and his independence and his extraordinary knowledge of horses. However, once the man discovers that John Grady has fallen in love with his daughter, he sends her off to Mexico City, where his wife dominates the social scene; he then sends John Grady to prison, despite the fact that the young man has become his trusted foreman on the ranch. There is no real charge against him, but John Grady and Rawlins find themselves in a truly horrific prison. This is the section where the faint of heart might be stretched to their personal limits. Several thugs are hired to kill John Grady, and they make very serious attempts on his life. We meet the inmate boss of the prison, and learn of the brutal authority structure within the prison. John Grady and Rawlins find themselves in the prison infirmary, from which they are mysteriously rescued. On the streets again, John Grady is determined to find the young woman, and he does. These scenes are achingly romantic, even though we know that they will end badly for him. Nonetheless, they spend two days in a lovely small Mexican town, which is made incredibly beautiful and emotionally warm through the skills of the author. If you want to hear more of the story, it awaits you in the book. You will love it.
The readers who follow me know how I feel about Frank Muller. He was the greatest narrator who ever lived, and this book is one of his finest achievements. I have listened to this about four or five times, and I will continue to do so for years to come. His feeling for the ambience of the West is remarkable. He speaks slowly, with a perfect Texan accent. He voices all of the characters in such a masterly way that it is really hard to believe that he can call up all those voices whenever he needs them. You have to listen to him in order to appreciate the breadth of his skills. He died about ten years ago, and it was a tremendous loss. Stephen King once said that he wrote for Frank's voice. If you are interested, another Frank Muller masterpiece is John Grisham's "The Testament." A completely different book, but just as powerful a story, again told by the greatest story teller we have ever known.
I bought this book because Edoardo Ballerini reads it. I had never heard of Mr. Jansma. Now I know why I've never heard of him. His writing is the definition of boredom. I listened to three and a half hours of it, giving it the old college try, but after that I could take no more. There are a few cute scenes in it, as near the beginning when the narrator describes himself as a boy, watching an old watchmaker in an airport kiosk fixing watches. I should have stopped there. By the time I quit it, I did not care a whit about any of the characters, and I could not, or did not, follow the plot at all. It seems to be something of an F. Scott Fitzgerald wannabe. It becomes very trite very quickly, piling up all sorts of artsy, wealthy Manhattan socialites of many nationalities, all of whom meet at cocktail parties. One of them opens up the trunk of his car and finds cases of caviar, which he and the narrator eat while they sit on the car's bonnet. Whooppeeee! Your time is way more valuable than any attempt to listen to this, and there are literally thousands of books in this genre. Please don't buy it. If you do, don't say I didn't warn you. Mr. Ballerini still reigns, but you just cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
So, if my title is true, then I have to ask myself this: why did I listen to almost six hours of it? In days gone by, when in St.Louis we only had three TV channels, and you had to get up and walk over to the TV to change the channel, my mother used to love watching her "stories" when she got home from teaching school. Apparently, the apple don't fall far from the tree.
The leading review of this book is by a person who totally loves it, calling it a superb, thrilling mystery murder, or words to that effect. I do like listening to Joe Barrett's voice, even though his range of voices is not that wide. And the writing, given the genre, is not all that bad. However, after a while it just got to be too much: who is in love with whom, which couple is breaking up, who is the housewrecker, what are the toxic nature of mother-daughter relationships, isn't it sad about unrequited teenage girl/adult man love, and blah and blah and blah. I never accepted Hillary as a detective; she is just a woman who is fiercely in love with her husband and can't even consider the possibility that he might have killed one girl, not to say two of them. The book is a small-town story, where everybody knows everybody's business. I certainly have no problem with those kinds of books. I just really can't explain why I lost interest in this book pretty early, and then just sat there and listened to it for so long. I am shocked (shocked!) about it. Maybe I had a lot of time on my hands, or I was shirking some kind of responsibilities, or I don't know what. You may love this book. There's room for all kinds of opinions in this world, thank God.
Lawrence Block has become a highly prodigious writer. He gives an afterword to this audiobook which is quite explanatory and very enjoyable. He wrote the book under a surname, Paul Kavanaugh. The book is based an two serial killers, John Starkweather and Carol Fugate, who murdered a number of people in Kansas for no reason other than their severe psychopathy. I want to say that Alan Sklar's voice is beautiful, gravelly, and perfectly tuned to the characters and the plot. The male, Jimmy John, is a pure psychopath: there is absolutely no reason for killing the people that he kills. The woman, Betty, is basically taken along for the rides. Jimmy John also steals dozens of cars, in order to evade the police, who eventually catch up with him. At first Jimmy John is completely repellent. You don't ever really like him, and Betty is a cipher. However, Mr. Block and Mr. Sklar make an excellent team, and the book becomes compelling reading in spite of our complete distaste for Jimmy John. Block never makes the mistake of trying to "nicen him up," or make him sympathetic in any way. He is just a loser, and so is Betty. It happens that Terence Malick made his memorable movie "Badlands," about the Starkweather/Fugate story, and Block candidly admits the classic betrayal by the denizens of Hollywood. He obviously wishes that the book had made it to the screen, and it is quite cinematic. Malick won that contest, and Block may have been better off, as he never again wrote with half an eyeball on a movie contract. Block's tone and pitch of the plot are perfect. He keeps the suspense moving and keeps us reading. Nothing is really "explained" about either of the characters, and even though that has been the fashion of more recent crime novels, Block somehow knew that he didn't need to do it. He also didn't need to create a dogged detective in pursuit of the criminals, a style which has driven hundreds of crime series since. This was a one-off, and it is better off for it. Block's move to New York and his development of the character Bernie Rhodenbarr, the bookshop owner/detective, has really never held me in the way that this book did. You might hate this book, as the primary character is completely repellent with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. However, I found it a very enjoyable read. I do like action, although of course I like thought as well. In this book you get a whole lot of the former and very little of the latter. Don't say I didn't tell you.
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