I find it difficult to imagine that Michael Crichton really wrote this book. The characters seem to have stepped from a comic book; the plot from a radio serial of the 50's and the narrator, while very fine in some of his work, should have stayed away from trying the "languid British aristocracy" style. Very few choices from Audible have disappointed me. This one joins the short list.
I listened to the end because I couldn't believe the writing could become worse in each successive chapter than what had come before. It could and did. The plot is thin and often illogical. The coincidences that save the good guys would be at home in an old Saturday movie serial. None of the characters elicits any level of interest—I just didn't care what happened to them. The characterisation of two of the lead characters—young women—is written in a way that suggests the author had not heard contemporary young women speaking at all.
What a waste of airtime.
I will begin with the one good quality I saw in this purchase—the plot is reasonable. Nevertheless, I had to force myself to continue listening to discover the outcome. There are two things I found so infuriating about the book that I was tempted many time to give up listening. Together the writing and the performance made me wonder at times whether I had bought a Monty Python spoof of a medieval crime story.
The author's biography suggests that she grew up with an interest in medieval history. Unfortunately, that interest did not seem to extend to knowing how people spoke at the time and the words they used. And, it is not just the anachronistic words but the strange use of common words. For example, a "trill" ran through the protagonist at one point; so I assume that a person or bird was trilling very loudly indeed nearby.
The romantic thread to the story reads as if it was written by a student of teenage romance comics. A benefit if you like a character's emotional life to be, at most, one dimensional. If you are looking for a male lead with some complexity of emotional response I don't feel that you will find it in this book.
It seems to me that in contemporary cops shows we hear a detective/cop/vigilante say so often to a suspect "we can do this the hard way or we can do this the easy way" that it has become a cliché. So, it was comforting to hear the hero—a disgraced knight now commoner—saying this to one of the villains.At least I now understood I was hearing a professional crime fighter at work.
Mentioning that the hero was a disgraced knight, very bitter about his lot, leads to discussing the performance. The knight is interpreted by the performer as shouting everything through clenched teeth which, I imagine, lets us know that he is both tough and bitter. Occasionally, the constrained shouting takes on an added edge of hysteria and that, at least, adds some variation. Another character, the Sheriff, who seems to be a large and dominant person much taken to cuffing and bashing the hero, is performed with a strange lisp which is neither evil nor interesting. He sounds like a parody of a not quite upper class Englishman. The performer does the other characters quite well. That is, if you accept that all medieval Italians (the bad guys) sound like the faux Italian waiter at the local Pizza joint.
I will not be spending my Audible tokens on any more of Ms Waterson's books.
I can understand Ted's feelings about the story unfolding slowly, but for me this was the very quality that made it a satisfying story. Some books are driven by the speed of action, others - like Unger's - dig deep into what is being experienced by the characters. If you are an introspective kind of person, I suspect you will like the book.
And, I found the story line believable enough. After all, it was not as if the main protagonist was imbued with unusually great skill, intelligence or strength. Pig-headed persistence was all.
There are parts to this story that are exciting in the best tradition of an "on the run" thriller. There are too many other parts where the author seems to argue an academic thesis through the medium of a thriller. The story drags at these points which far exceed the rapid-paced action sequences.
The heroine is an American, so it makes sense to have an American narrator. However, so many of the characters are British (and the text describes their regional accents), which throws into sharp relief the inability of the narrator to create credible males accents from Britain.
Trimmed to half the length and with a co-narrator to do the many British male voices, this might have been a top-class listen
This book was recommended to me by a friend who had read the paper version. It is, however, on of only two Audible books I have had to trash before finishing. What disappointment!
The initial problem was that the narrator, who would be quite good if he was reading a book about upper-class, stiff-upper-lipped British characters was reading a book in which the hero is half Scot and half Italian and who lives in France.
The accents were most unconvincing even though the narrator seems to pride himself on his pronunciation of French nouns. He no doubt does it well... for an upper-class Englishman.
The writing seemed to me to be trite and, therefore, painful. I had just finished listening to "Diamond Dust" which is well written and well read (British) and then moved to "Stranger in Paradise" (Robert B parker) which also captures the way people might really speak (USA) and the contrast with "The Critic" cause me to review/complain about the latter.
Don't waste your credits.
I bought this book, influenced by the feverish enthusiasm of the majority of reviews. I should have taken more notice of Stephanie from Honolulu who found it less than satisying. While the plot is interesting (if a tad worn) and the location descriptions fairly rich, the characterisation is very poor indeed. I like to be seduced into caring about the central characters in a story and what happens to them. In this book the female lead is ineffectual, her boy friend is a self-absorbed fool and the shadowy FBI agent, who speaks flawless Mandarin, has extraordinary powers of the mind, is a superb magician and has a deep knowledge of science is left to carry the story as a kind of 50's comic book super-hero. Listen if you are easily satisfied.
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