The British paperback title of this book is Medicus and the Disappearing Dancing Girls, which probably gives a better idea of the lively nature of this story about a divorced military doctor stationed in Roman Britain in 117 AD faced with the mysterious murder of local tavern girls.
The author has very good comic timing as Gaius Petreius Ruso tries to cope with all of the problems attendant on being on the edge of the civilized world, as the Romans knew it. Whether it involves buying his first pair of wool trousers or his efforts to find a good cook or dealing with hospital bureaucrats, Ruso's trials provide an entertaining diversion.
The narrator is Simon Vance who also narrated The Fourth Bear. His occasional reuse of a voice from that other book is a bit disconcerting, however, overall he does very well indeed.
This book is narrated by Elisabeth Rodgers who is a new-to-me reader; however, I did enjoy the voice she gave to this fantasy novel with a hint of an accent that lent verisimilitude to the narration. I'll be watching for her name in the future.
As for the book itself, I enjoyed it-- a lot. Lee deals delicately with the issue of abuse while not minimizing its impact on the survivor. Her heroine, Kate Archer, shows growth through the narrative as she learns to pick up responsibilities and discard past baggage. I particularly liked the fact that although there is a thread of romance, emotions are not used as a solve-everything panacea. Lee's use of faery and magic combines both traditional fairy tale tropes and contemporary issues.
I checked Lee's website and noted that there may be at least one future book set at Archer's Beach-- I certainly hope so.
Conclusion? Way better than average borderlands (the border of the mundane world and the world of magic) story with a strong, fresh narrator when it comes to the audio version.
As I listened to this book, at times wishing for the ability to skim some sections, it occurred to me that this story would benefit from a Young Adult label. While many young adults might find it as unexciting as I did, it is an undemanding sort of book which would please some parents looking for a book that has little violence or sexual content.
The first thing that tells the reader that he or she is not in any type of accurate historical mystery is the highwayman's nom de guerre of The Crimson Cavalier. The sad fact is that most highwaymen, if they did have nicknames, did not have romantic ones. They had nicknames like Galloping Dick or Blueskin. Second, except for a tedious amount of thieves' cant spoken in certain scenes, the cadence of speech does not readily suggest the Regency period. Finally, the motivation of the characters is weak at best.
As for the narration-- Ann Cater has a pleasant voice and makes the character voices sound different enough to distinguish them although there's not much of a period feel to her accents.
One problem with audio versions of written books is that it is unforgiving of writerly tics that an author may employ. In this case there seems to be long conversations with the servants where the servant's side of the conversation is usually made up of "Yes, miss" said repeatedly.
If you are looking for a pleasantly narrated, undemanding sort of story with little explicit grue and no explicit sex then this is the book for you.
This is not meant to be a cozy read. In the first scene of the book the reader is introduced to characters and themes that inform the entire book-- the sacred place, the lore of the place and the struggle between newcomers and those with deep roots in the village of Ledwardwine, a village that was once renowned as the village in the apple orchard. The remains of this once extensive orchard is a plot outside the Churchyard, hence outside of consecrated ground where suicides, excommunicates and others who died outside of the church would be buried.
Remember that Rickman attaches weight to every symbol be it gesture, word or figure.
Actually I liked the narrator so any problems with understanding Emma Powell (who is not the listed narrator) might be a problem with audio equipment. Emma Powell is a British actor and voice over artist.
One of the best parts about this book was the way Davis caught the standard annoyances of swanning around the country as part of a tour group. In this case Falco's family group is chasing after a tour on which a young woman had been killed. Touring was quite popular in the Roman Empire during Falco's time and even now it is possible to find Roman graffiti on ancient monuments thus proving that the urge to leave some personal mark cuts across the ages.
Anyway there are shady tour operators, annoying and importunate guides, bad lodging, worse food and lots and lots about Greece.
The narrator does a fine job of giving Falco a believable voice.
Ingrey Kin Wolfcliff is one of Bujold's wounded heroes. He begins in this story as a man who carries within himself the bound spirit of a great wolf. This makes him unholy but tolerated within the bounds of the religion of the Five Gods.
His earthly uses include being set to tasks that other men shun. Thus he was sent by the Royal Sealbearer to straighten out the mess that the young Prince had made of his death. It appears that the Prince had been engaging in forbidden sorcery. The situation though becomes more complicated when Lord Ingrey realizes that the young female prisoner he was to return to the capital for judicial disposition also bears an animal spirit as a result of the prince's malfeasance. Further when the complicated theology of the Five Gods and the tangled history of their land becomes involved the situation seems to spiral out of even Lord Ingrey's ability to control.
While the narrator at times seems a bit rushed and every so often it is not perfectly clear which character is making which comment, this is mostly very well done technically and a most enjoyable book.
Even knowing that there was some major anachronisms in this book, I was dragged into this tale and, willy-nilly, enjoyed it very much.
Ok-- the medieval Body Farm in Salerno was a bit much. But still, I found I could grin at the concept and go on reading an interesting twist on the familiar medieval story of William of Norwich, a young tanner's apprentice discovered slain in a wood with signs of violent death. The story is known from the writings of Thomas of Monmouth. William is made into Peter of Trumpington, whose murder sets in motion a series of events that cause Henry II to send for a Master of Death from the learned physicians of Salerno in order to set matters to right in Cambridge.
Simon of Naples, a fixer, and the titular Mistress of the Art of Death arrive in England in time to join with a group of pilgrims returning to Cambridge from the shrine of Thomas a Becket and the adventure begins.
The narrator was good or I would not have been able to stick this one out.
Beside the heroine obsessing on her sad lovelife, the family ghost obsessing on the heroine's lovelife and the heroine's best friend and PI partner obsessing on her lovelife, the mystery doesn't have a lot of room. Luckily it is a very thin mystery.
There was also some factual errors that were just due to sloppy research. For instance, it's been decades since anyone has had to go to Sweden for a sexual reassignment operation.
I nearly didn't listen to this book when I realized it was published by Harlequin (Mira line). My experience with Poison Study and Magic Story was not good. However, I was pleased to find that this was a fun historical mystery and that the romantic aspects did not overwhelm the mystery.
While I thought I knew who the villian was early on it wasn't confirmed until very close to the end. I enjoyed that the heroine while espousing current thinking on a number of issues did not go a great distance over the line of opinions held by the most forward thinking Victorians. One of the things that did not feel quite right was the fact that her family was so highly situated. Her father was not only an Earl, but also an intimate of Queen Victoria's. She did not seem to fit into that type of a milieu.
Anyway, if you want something a little lighter and fluffier than Anne Perry then you should sit down with this one (or travel or do your housework while listening to it.)
Not different from the author's other works, but with a certain Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Black Adder, Monty Pythonesque flair that had me laughing so hard I nearly ran off the road. Other than being careful when driving, the only other warning I would give to American readers is that you need to brush up on your Edward Lear poetry in order to fully appreciate characters such as the Dong with a Luminous Nose.
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