I read so many books and my tastes are catholic that it is rare that I come across a novel that is startlingly original with a protagonist who is unique. Keep with it even if you aren't intrigued in the beginning. I almost stopped listening because I thought the narrator was just goth with no real reason for being so miserable. Thankfully, I stayed with it because I would have missed out on a little gem. The characters are fully fleshed individuals, even the minor ones and this is the true pleasure offered here.
I am completely bemused as to why Audible which has such high standards has offered this book to its discriminating readers. I don't know about the plot since I had to abandon the book because the production values were so poor. I could actually hear the pages being turned! And the reader stumbles quite frequently over pronunciations and all these errors are left in. After wincing for the tenth time or so in the first few pages, I thought perhaps this was a joke on the reader but when I skipped ahead to random points, the stumbling and page turning continued. Save your credit for anything else.
I have followed Leon through the Brunetti series and--dare I say it--she and I seemed to be getting a bit tired of his problems. This new stand-alone, though, was a delight. There are all the same insider tidbits about Venetian life and the historical references woven into the story were superb. The reader Cassandra Campbell is clearly a fluent speaker of Italian and it showed; no halting pronunciations as have made me wince in other books. Leon is supremely understanding and forgiving about the foibles and obsessions of human beings and this wonderful quality is clearly evident in this academic puzzle focusing on Caterina and her sisters. Brava!
To be fair, I don't know how to rate this book on the story or overall. The 'theater performance' which is how the reading is described is so dreadful on the ears that I couldn't get through more than 5 minutes. The background music causes one to strain to hear the reader and then the 'action' switches to a ball game with cheering crowds. Some listeners may enjoy the distracting (and unnecessarily loud) background sounds but I subscribe to Audible in order to listen to the author's words. This book was described as light and amusing and it may be but I couldn't bear the production.
I was a fan of this series from the first book. The witty comments which overlaid the sometimes dark corners of the characters' lives offered just my sort of entertainment. But I became a bit disillusioned around the third book; it seemed to be rote and mechanical and the jokes seemed too familiar. I almost didn't buy this one but I would have missed out because this one is as good as the first. I also love the way that the characters grow (or not) and make life-changing decisions in each of the books. If you have fallen off the Lutz train, make it to the next station in order to climb aboard.
This book opened with an arresting scene but unfortunately the rest of the novel could never match the beginning. I enjoy introspective works but there must be some sort of insight to fill the lack of a plot. This novel offers only pedestrian observations: it takes time to recover from an unexpected death; an alcoholic partner needs to be turned out in order for him to reform. Ummm, okay. The reader is excellent but she is far better than her material this time.
This book definitely does not follow predictable plot lines and is well-written and beautifully read. I would characterize this work as intelligent entertainment and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The jumps in time, however, are frequently sudden and if you are not paying attention (or have fallen asleep!) you may be a bit confused about what is taking place.
The narrative concept of this novel is unique and clever in execution. It is rare that an epistolary style can be maintained without becoming intrusive and artificial. Having said that, though, the ending disappoints and feels rather rushed. Most works in this genre have this problem but I don't know the answer. I would be angry if authors didn't tie up the questions with a plot conclusion but I am rarely satisfied. This ending was no exception--a bit too neat and unlikely--but the book itself I really enjoyed enhanced by a talented reader.
It may be that the novel works so well because the author clearly is taken with the definition of self. Are we the sum of our memories or is personality something contained and separate?
It is rare that I get so caught up in a novel that I listen to it straight through like I did this one. My final opinion is that this novel is sort of like life: absorbing in spots and at times terrifying but ultimately unsatisfying. :)
I have to agree with the previous review on the poor quality of the narration. The reader sounded as if she has downed a quart of whiskey with her two packs of smokes a day for years. She did seem to even out over the course of the book, but she is particularly irritating in the beginning. My advice is to soldier on because the story is terrific with many unexpected twists in the plot. This is one of the rare instances where I will recommend listening to this book despite the narration.
Morag Joss is a good writer but she is sadly ill-served by the female narrator of this book. The reader struggles to approximate some sort of British accent and succeeds only in distracting the listener from the story. The reader fails even further when the listener realizes that the protagonist is Scottish!
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