I started with the first Cork O'Connor book and have very much enjoyed WKK's writing and his characters. This was the first one about which I have been less than enthusiastic. The characters and mystery plot were, in my opinion, hampered by the attempt to bring religion into it.
I wasn't expecting such a leap. There had been sufficient prior mention about certain characters' beliefs to individuate the characters and their points of view. It was disappointing for him to start diving so deeply into that theme. If it continues and especially if it increases, these novels will cease to be mystery novels to me. If these turn into Cork's quest for the existence of a god, I won't read any more of them.
I have come to understand the previous reviewers. This book is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it attempts to be an exploration of that era's severely repressed sexual and societal expressions, when shaped by an oppressively narrow religious doctrine on top of the deep superstitions of the time, added to prejudices springing naturally from our baser human nature--all of which we still struggle with as a species. And of course, all from the point of view of a well educated, but not privileged-by-birth, and definitely hormonal 19 year old young man. It can be a bit overwrought, especially the time spent in Matthew's head--but, since there's no one else there for him to talk to, his internal dialog (though not first person) is how we see the world he's living in. On the other hand, this is a story about an unusually self-possessed young man's journey into manhood and, it's also a mystery. There is humor and light-heartedness here and there but not a lot, until one realizes that there is some tongue-in-cheek from the author. It's not Umberto Ecco, but it's a quick, entertaining read and I've already started on the next one. As for narration, Ballerini is excellent, save for the truly sub-par Scottish accent.
Jane Eyre, Lorna Doone, and Wuthering Heights were three of the novels that by 8th grade I had read way too many times, and after which I modeled my own pre-adolescent attempts at being such a novelist. But then I didn't read them again for many decades. I still love many of the rich descriptive passages in Jane Eyre, but the over-the-top romantic melodrama no longer appeals to the much older me. It did not bring me to tears as it once did. I am still sympathetic to the love-starved, experience-starved young Jane (or rather, Charlotte), to whom every thing, every word, means so much more than it ought. However, her tale this time no longer seemed real to me; but merely an invention of a fertile imagination, a captive of a time when women must seek their drama and adventure in affairs of the heart and social interaction. The narrator had a lovely voice-- but the accents heard during Jane's stay at Moorhouse with her new-found cousins were abominable and terribly inconsistent; sounding more like a bad version of an Irish accent than anything found in the moors of northern England. I doubt I will read this book again but I'm inclined to try Wuthering Heights to see how it affects me all these years later. As a comparison, I could and do, easily re-read all of Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, and Oscar Wilde again and again. Even so, I would unhesitatingly recommend Jane Eyre to any reader who has the sense to appreciate the environment in which young women were raised back then.
I left off expecting an easy listen after the first couple of books. They are rich in very atmospheric detail, such as anecdotes about the characters, culture and geographical area which all add layers to an already complex plot. I love these books and the characters, despite the less-than-perfect editing, Burke's iffy relationship with females in his novels; and the requirement that all major characters be Vietnam vets. Now he's even gotten rid of Bootsie, and effectively, Alafair. But if all that, and Mark Hammer's 'gramps with a mouthful of cornbread' style of narration, and especially Nick Sullivan's narration, haven't dissuaded me from listening, there's no doubt I will finish them all. I am very happy to see the next book is narrated by Will Patton again...whew! Burke's and Patton's voices are much happier together. I love getting on Google Earth and finding the places mentioned in the book; this area of our country has been a complete mystery to me until Burke's novels. Regarding Burke's compulsion to cast everyone as a Vet, I'm aware that Southern boys made up a disproportionate number of soldiers in Vietnam even when the draft lottery started, and maybe in Louisiana it was a matter of southern pride for all young men to respond to any military call...what do I know? But that was my generation too, and while I knew many who went, most of my friends were in college and got deferments. There was a great range of after-effects. I've lost Vet friends from alcohol, drugs, and self-destructive behavior, but know more who saw combat and still lived full, healthy lives. Note...one thing that keeps coming up in the books and kind of niggles at me..."the touch of malaria". MAYbe, but after my many bouts of malaria (from living in the middle east), my take is that "a touch of malaria" is kinda like "a touch of pregnancy".
I've read all Burke's Robicheaux books so far, and in order. First: narration. Will Patton read the first two, then Mark Hammer took over. At first I didn't like Hammer after the nearly pitch-perfect Patton, but by the 4th book, I realized how good he was. The one thing that makes Hammer not work for me, however, is that there is no getting around the fact that he sounds too old for Robicheaux. And for the women who are hard to distinguish from the men. Now we have Nick Sullivan. He has a pleasant voice and I'm sure he does well on other books, but he is not the reader for this series. And really, how is it our Dave the Cajun, Bootsie, Alafair and Clete don't have ANY accents, but everyone Else has some kind of southern-ish accent? I'm looking forward to Mark Hammer again, and then yes! Will Patton.
As for the books themselves, they deserve a very close listen. I needed something easy but good to 'read' while working on this fixer-upper we have. I'd heard about Burke for years, so I started with Neon Rain--not at all my favorite. But I kept going. And soon came to realize how much texture and complexity is in each book and how VERY much I enjoyed the little background and contextual jewels which are such great insights into the Bayou/Southern culture. Burke has a remarkable touch with this technique of building a story. Even though he could have used a better editor on this series (too much "protean", "fecund", "ceramic or porcelain", "gibbous", "come/came a borning", and skin-around-eyes-tightening, et al), I never got tired of listening to the rich, descriptive prose--especially as a context for the tightly wound, taciturn protagonist. I also love the moments of humor tucked so subtly into the writing.
There are other flaws. Any male worth his salt in this series is a Vietnam Vet, sometimes the "damaged warrior" gets a bit overdone, there has not been one female role so far which excited me, and sometimes I want to slap Dave upside the head. Last criticism. Using Dave as first person narrator puts the intricate descriptions of events occurring out of his presence into some question, but in the end it's not bothersome. None of these issues seem to impede my enjoyment of the series, thoroughly liberal feminist though I am.
One thing I found very interesting...the time frame. I don't know if it's because of the author's age which pretty much coincides with his hero's, or if it's because in some ways the South is just that much stuck in it's past, and though the time period is obvious from information in the books, I often feel sucked back into the '50's. I am looking forward to the rest of the series, and then a re-read or two down the road.
I read this ONLY because no one had an unabridged audio version and was developing an interest in this writer and character. I failed to look at the rest of Audible's Burke books. I just noticed that almost ALL the Robicheaux books are abridged. I had been looking forward to finding another detective series to read, but having them all be abridged is not only ridiculous on Audible's part, but now I have no intention of reading this series in this format. And considering how long this series has been available, I have to wonder--if it hasn't been made available YET in unabridged versions, then why would it happen now?
I first listened to A Case of Redemption, liked it and so got this one. I don't think it was any less well-crafted than the first book I read, but my judgement is distorted by the distraction of an incredibly amateurish reading by LeDoux. He has a pleasant voice, but seriously needs acting lessons. It also took a long time to care much about the protagonist but he did grow during the twists and turns of what is basically a legal procedural. There was enough character development to make it more than just that however. There were some times I bewailed the editorial and proofreading needed, but that is usual in most genres anymore it seems. I do think to really give this book a fair review I'd have had to read the actual book myself, though in his defense the narrator doesn't seem to have bothered others so much, so perhaps it's just me. I think the novel itself is definitely worth a read, especially if one enjoyed the other of Mitzner's.
These Fjallbacka mysteries are all very well-crafted police procedurals, which I like. They probably don't have enough action for some, but they hold my attention easily. A myriad of mundane details support good character development along with the mystery. This book may have more of that than previous books; but I wasn't put off--I just got to know some of the characters better. While narrator David Thorn did a good job on the earlier books for the most part, I never got over his very Swedish people and place-name pronunciations--especially poor Patrik's name. Maybe when someone is speaking Swedish, Pawtrik or even Pohrtrik is right, but among all those British accents it sounds very out of place as did Ear-ica (Erika). I was relieved when Vance actually said Patrik and Erika as a Brit would. I was hoping to find the next book, but it looks like I get to wait. I also recommend reading the books in order; they have the same characters.
I noticed that this audible book is no longer available. What a shame. I say buy the book. It was my intro to Huston. And hooked I was. Straight on to the Joe Pitt series, and finally Sleepless--another stand alone novel. I have read all of Huston's full-length novels, including the paper versions of the Hank Thompson trilogy. Problem is, now that I've exhausted all Huston's books, it's tough to find other mystery writing that grabs me as much as Huston's. (OK...the original Millenium Trilogy, except they're nothing alike). I would read another Adrian McKinty or Tana French in a heartbeat, but have read all those too, some more than once. But there is something very unique about Huston. His plotting is very good and often graphically violent, his writing is witty, dark, cynical and a bit twisted. His main characters are complex, very screwed up, and often at the whim of bizarre circumstances. His books, to me, are hard to put down once started. And this book, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, was what started it.
Adrian McKinty and Gerard Doyle make a good team. Doyle brings McKinty's characters to life and his voice is great to listen to. As soon as I saw this second book in The Troubles series, I re-read "In the Cold Cold Ground" and then went on to the new one. It didn't disappoint in the least, and had a surprise at the end. Now I can't wait to find out what happens next to our friend Sean Duffy. He's an interesting, likable character and I would love to see how he develops under McKinty's skilled use of language and plot.
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