Cave Creek, AZ USA | Member Since 2014
I got hooked on author Charles Todd through is Inspector Ian Rutledge series. The Bess Crawford Mysteries are ALMOST as good, with the usual early murder in an unlikely location, followed by an amazing number of twists, turns, and red herrings which keep the reader off kilter until the very end. This is the 1st in the series. I say this so you don't start out of order. Each book can stand on its own but subsequent ones make reference to prior crimes.
Bess is the only daughter of a highly decorated British colonel who has chosen nursing on the battlefields during World War I, rather than a comfortable, if loveless, marriage to a gentleman of her class. While she lacks the training and knowledge of Rutledge (a well-educated member of London gentry who chose law enforcement before fighting as an officer in the same war), Bess' criminal deductive skills come from what I took as "female intuition", a bit of a condensending insult to women then and now. This choice by Todd gives the Bess Crawford series less of an overall impact, especially since it takes place before the acceptance of such rudimentary criminal forensics like fingerprints, ballistics, the information provided by rigor mortis and livor mortis - all which would become critical components just a decade later. Bess kinda "stumbles" her way into solutions with the full force of the considerable resources and access to military and government documents and databases provided by her father.
The narrator is out of league here. While Landor is great with Regency, Edwardian, and Victorian romance books, her range of voices and dialects is limited, especially with respect to males. All of her men sound like upper-crust fops talking like their buttocks are clinched so tight that a hungry man couldn't get a shilling from between the cheeks. A major flaw is with the dialogue between women of the same class. If more than 2 are talking, the normally irritating "Bess said" or "Lady Stiff-Upperlip remarked" is sorely needed just to keep your place or you'll find yourself rewinding repeatedly throughout the book.
That said, this series is still worth listening to. Try to get them on sale if you can and start with Bess Crawford before the Rutledge books. Comparatively, she is merely a tasty appetizer to Rutledge's outstanding main course. (NOTE: I will post this same review for the others in the series, only changing the chronological order.)
I'm not going to write a long review on a book that's about 20 hours too long. Historically, it's interesting and compelling. I could even deal with the length if the writer hadn't chosen to use prose to tell it. Just imagine 37 hours of Shakespeare. There's just so much "Out, out, damned spot" or "My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee" that a listener can stand, especially in an historical account about a cruel, oppressive, racist prisoner-of-war camp. There is nothing poetic in statements like "Dem Yankees is as shiftless and lazy as de niggers"! This would have been better told in plain Civil War era English.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series. Lightweight crime story but entertaining. The second book wasn't quite as good yet bearable. However, this one is a hot mess! The plot line is all over the place, making no sense at all. Why would the city of NY expend resources for an elite squad to waste time and money on the ridiculous "crime" depicted here? Det. Zachary Jordan spends more time obsessing over wanting more sex with his police psychologist girlfriend and/or fantasizing about having ANY KIND of sex with his partner and unrequited love, Det. Kylie MacDonald. ENOUGH, ALREADY!
I love historical fiction, particularly books which take place in Tudor England. But this is probably one of the worse books I've ever read in this genre. The cover of the book and the synopsis leads the reader to believe that it is another like the ones written by Philippa Gregory or Alison Weir. NOT EVEN CLOSE! This is a book written by a man which caters to the sexual appetites of a male. Rape, sodomy, and abuse run rampant from start to finish. The main character, Alice Petherton. is portrayed as a slut who deserves the ill treatment of an old fat smelly Henry VIII, the sexual harassment and retaliation of Sir Richard Rich, and debasement by just about every male and pimp she comes into contact with. The way the book is written, one almost agrees.
I am in no way a sexual prude but some things are unnecessary in telling a good story. Unless you are looking for perverse pornography. Trust me, that is not what I bought into when I purchased what I thought would be be just another story about the Tudor court. There is no respite from the depravity depicted here. Alice, a mere maid of honor (as opposed to the more noble lady-in-waiting) is the poster child for low self-esteem golddiggers who think that they are controlling the world with what's between their legs. She refers to her monarch's abuse of her body as "making love" and constantly makes excuses for every male who takes advantage of her. She justifies her own poor choices by convincing herself that she's the one in control when anyone with a smidge of sense knows that females of that era were hardly free to do anything since they had no rights other than those provided to them by their fathers or husbands - or, in this case, the King of England. Alice calls the King's 3rd wife, Jane Seymour, delusional and stupid and a whole bunch of other names but the rest of us call her "The Queen" - at least Jane had enough sense to get old Henry to put a ring on it!
I am sure that there is a market for this kind of book but Audible needs to be a little bit more honest in its own presentation. This is NOT a "love story". This is NOT a tale of beautiful maid of honor who catches the eye of a King. This is NOT a book which would interest any self-respecting woman with an ounce of pride about herself. This is just Tudor Trash! If you like listening an indepth account of a woman being sodomized and raped several times a day, day after day, then have at at it! I'm requesting a refund!
Here is yet another really depressing story about black people in this country who are doomed from birth. Alex Kotlowitz tells a compelling tale of 2 young children, Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers, trying to survive with their parents, siblings and peers in one of the worse project in the country - Chicago's Henry Horner public housing.
My parents also moved into the projects in Washington DC in the 1950s, the same time as the family of the mother of these boys. LaJoe Rivers and I are about the same age. However, I wasn't subjected to becoming the second generation of my family living in the projects after the country stopped caring about the inner city war zones created by the government. At the age of 8, my mother and father were able to move us into a single-family home in an upper middle class neighborhood, where I went to school with the children of DC's "black aristocracy" such as the late Dr. Earle Matory, high profile criminal defense attorney Theodore V. Wells, and Dr. Drew Tuckson. As a result, I went on to college and law school. But my parents were in a city where black people could find work - my mother as a civil servant in the federal government and my father in maintenance at Howard University. We weren't well off but we had food, clothing, and a clean home owned by my parents. My father's tenure at Howard enabled me to get a first class education, tuition free.
However, the young children in this book didn't have a chance, growing up in a complex controlled by rival gangs and abandoned by the city. Children were subjected to seeing their young friends shot down during open air gun fights in the wretched playground or killed in cold blood by over-zealous police officers. By the age of 14, the children of the Henry Horner projects had been to more funerals than weddings. Narrator Dion Graham is his usual magnificent self, giving us a great sense of the hopelessness and helplessness felt by young Lafayette and Pharoah, both really bright young children.
This book was made into a film in 1993 by Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios. While I appreciate Ms. Winfrey's short-term interest in the appalling living conditions in her home town of Chicago, I'm question her motivation since she took the role of LaJoe Rivers, the boys' extremely beautiful and tiny but overwhelmed mother. With Winfrey looking just like a stereotypical "Madea" welfare mother with 8 children, I didn't really get LaJoe's frustration in having to raise her kids in such an awful environment. With her looks, in another situation, she might have been able to break the cycle of poverty. Unfortunately, like the critically acclaimed HBO series "The Wire" (which depicted a drug infested project in Baltimore MD - just 45 minutes away from the nation's capital - in which young black children were just thrown away like garbage, neither this book nor the film got much exposure. They are just too real and too embarrassing. These stories make white people uncomfortable. Accordingly, they would rather watch fantasy Mafia shows like "The Sopranos" rather than accept that our children are being raised in war conditions similar Iraq or Afghanistan.
Anyway, this book ends like all such stories of this kind. It is sad and disheartening to know that the most wealthy country in the world created, cultivated and perpetuated an environment where politicians made it impossible for these people to break free of a condition which is the same as slavery. Only now, black people are not making this country rich with the exportation of cotton, picked and baled on with the blood, sweat and tears of an enslaved, oppressed, raped, and murdered race. Even after freedom, blacks were denied the same rights as other citizens who came here more than 200 years after us. Now the United States has no use for us. Yet it refuses to accept the fact that it has bred a generation after generation of black men who either die before age 21 or who are incarcerated for life. This is a journey into the abyss for Lafayette and Pharoah.
I'm confident that many people won't like my review. But I always tell it like it is - from front to BLACK. However, as negative as my review may sound to the readers with selective liberalism, with intentional blinders on their eyes, and who want to hide with from the truth with their heads in the sand when it comes to what American is REALLY about, the end result is that this book is a keeper. Read it and weep....... I know I did.......
This is a story about 2 young women in London for the season, looking for husbands. Then why does the narrator sound like Miss Marple?!?! I couldn't finish it.
This is the 5th book in the series I've listened to. Well researched and masterfully narrated. I look forward to future books like this from CJ Sansome. A big thumbs up!
I thought this would be a more serious account of Empress Elisabeth but it's like a way too long fairy tale. The narrator is really bad. There are so many characters and accents, male, female and children, that it becomes confusing. Really awful "chick lit".
I expected more from the author of "Shuuter Island" - although, in that case, the movie is the rare example of being much, much better than the book. But this book made no sense at all. It's about a private investigator who somehow gets himself in a war with local black gang members. This is Boston, not South Central, but I have never seen, known, read about or had any knowledge of any black gang - much less black people - who act like we are depicted in Lehane's book. It's as though he's never met a black person in his life, much less a gang member. The interaction, dialogue and speech patterns are so wrong. Is this Lehane's fantasy idea of our people?. Surprisingly, the only likeable (?) and well-developed character in the entire book is an overtly racist redneck guy named Bubba!
Although I've always been a voracious reader, Jame Patterson never did it for me. Maybe because I started with one of the books in the Alex Cross series, "Roses Are Red". It took place in Washington DC and the main character, Cross, is black. I am black - born and raised in DC - a graduate of Howard University. I have a child who is a career police officer. Maybe it was just me, over-thinking it, and having way too much intimate knowledge, combined with the constant hype about the author, which caused me to not really be blown away by my first foray into the Patterson repertoire. But I hung in there and next tried "Violets Are Blue". It was actually worse! So I was done with James Patterson years ago!
However, I picked up this book in one of Audible's clever "Discover A New Series" promotions (which have cost me HUNDREDS of dollars in the past!). Here, we are presented with a male and female detective team, part of an "elite" task force, NYPD Red. I don't know how ELITE these cops are - they just seem to be doing their jobs, with the focus on the "1%ers" (and I'm not referring to motorcycle gangs). These cops waste much needed resources on the rich and famous in an era where police officers are over-worked and underpaid just trying to keep the peace among regular citizens. But, I digress....over-thinking again! For sheer LIGHT FLUFFY entertainment, this story was pretty good, although implausible in some places - kinda like a Marvel comic book. Nothing too intelligent, just a great ride. The plot line is thin but there are twists, turns, and surpises with well-crafted dialogue. There IS a co-author here, Marshall Karp. Ghostwriter? Protégé? Whatever - he does add a different, albeit subtle, component to the overall effort.
The narration is good, considering the different races, ethnicities and accents involved. My only complaint is with the head of the team, a black female captain who always talks like she's delivering Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. Just imagine Dr. King in line at Starbucks, ordering an expresso con panna, shouting "I'LL HAVE A CREAM!!!" Hey, Rev! We got you! 😄
This is not a story as exciting as many other police thrillers but if you want a "light meal" with that espresso, this book will satisfy you.
The author doesn't give us an objective account of the city of Chicago. He spends 24 hours telling us over and over and over again how fantastic, innovative, brave, beautiful, compelling, unique, unsurpassable, incomparable, etc. Chicago's history is, to the point where I just got sick of it. It took him 17 hours and 18 chapters just to get to 1893!
I would have liked to hear a more indepth account of the REAL Chicago, i.e., the slums, the immigrant population, the corrupt politicians, the renowned "red light" district, etc. How can you tell the story of Chicago and not have at least 3 hours about the famous high-class brothel, the Everleigh Club and its owners? What about the contributions to the fabric of the from the Polish and African-American communities? This book is all about the money-grabbing white upper-class with no regard for the common people who actually kept that city running every day. Servants, boot-blacks, coachman, ladies maids, streetcar drivers, butchers in the meat-packing district, the black porters in George Pullman's railroad cars, clerks, shop girls - THEY were the true blood of that city, yet each group was mentioned in passing while Heller literally brown-nosed every rich person he could think of.
He was alright but only because the book is so disappointing. He has the perfect Midwestern twang for a story of a city grown out of the prairie.
Heller totally disrespected the Native Americans who were cheated, raped, murdered and oppressed by whites who also dessimated the buffalo, prairie flora, and other wildlife. However, he did give a small history to the Kaskaskian tribe, ancestors of my husband and our children (they are of black Créole descent - a French Canadian trapper married a Kaskaskian woman, then they eventually settled in New Iberia, Louisiana where their son married his mulatress slave). I learned more about them here than in 10 years of my own research. Even then, Heller only mentioned the great people because of their help to the pioneers and missionaries like Marquette and Joliet. He doesn't tell us how the Kaskaskia and other indigenous Illinois people were wiped out due to not only senseless slaughter but also the diseases carried by the filthy unhygienic white men from which the Natives had no immune system. Heller made the Native Americans look like drunken ignorant savages when it was the whites who introduced liquor and guns to a race who had survived for centuries on their own.
The real problem with this book is the lack of objectivity, combined with the preening and fawning way the story is written. Chicago IS a great city, yet Heller makes it sound like the the younger child of a second marriage. For example.....Chicago's father's first children are London, Paris, Berlin, Venice, and Florence. His wife dies after those kids are grown so he remarries a younger woman who give him a new family: New York City, Boston, and Washington DC. Right before the father dies, his new wife has one last "change of life" baby that neither expected - Chicago. Poor fatherless Chicago spends his whole life trying to prove that he is as great and successful and good looking as his older siblings. But everyone wants to ignore his bad habits (gambling, whoring, fighting, cheating, corruption, murder) by insisting to everyone around that "Chicago is really a good boy in his heart. Why, this morning he actually picked up the poop dropped in the front parlor by his pack of hunting hounds." REALLY, CHICAGO!?!? Try Erik Larson's "The Devil In The White City" or "Sin In The Second City" by Karen Abbott.
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