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Ilana

Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!

Montreal, Quebec, Canada | Member Since 2011

ratings
226
REVIEWS
110
FOLLOWING
11
FOLLOWERS
63
HELPFUL VOTES
321

  • The Song of Achilles: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Madeline Miller
    • Narrated By Frazer Douglas
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (394)
    Performance
    (362)
    Story
    (360)

    Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

    Cariola says: "Didn't Expect to Like It, but I Was Swept Away"
    "A different take on the Iliad"
    Overall
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    While it does deal with the Trojan war and it's main participants, this is first and foremost a love story about Patroclus, a rather ordinary and not particularly talented or attractive young man, and the god-like hero Achilles. Patroclus tells us about his early childhood as a prince who couldn't live up to his father's expectations and his subsequent banishment, whereupon he is sent to live among a gaggle of boys trained to become soldiers by none other than Achilles's father. All the boys venerate Achilles for his great beauty and grace, for he is in fact the son of a goddess and as such possesses special gifts. Seemingly out of the blue one day, Achilles chooses Patroclus to be his close companion. Why he chose Patroclus, who had nothing to distinguish himself from the others, was shy and uncommunicative isn't made clear in the story, but nonetheless the boys end up spending most of their young lives together while a strong bond is formed, and eventually come to be lovers. When the war on Troy is declared, both Patroclus and Achilles are sought out by Odysseus to join the war effort. Everyone knows that Achilles is destined to be the greatest warrior of his generation, and everyone also knows about the prophesy which dooms Achilles to die shortly after having killed Hector.

    Beautifully told, this story brings mythical characters to life and makes even fantastical creatures, such as a centaur and sea goddess seem absolutely believable as essential elements in the narrative. A very interesting take on a mythical tale, this made me badly want to revisit The Iliad—in fact, I almost wished I'd read it first to refresh my memory, but this is by no means essential to fully appreciate The Song of Achilles. In fact, it may be better to come to this story fresh because I know for a fact Madeline Miller took plenty of liberties with her retelling, which could bother purists. I wasn't particularly taken with the homoerotic elements of the story, but then I'm not a fan of "straight" romance and erotica either as it's all cringeworthy to me.

    Frazer Douglas was an excellent narrator and added greatly to my enjoyment of this book.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Midnight in Europe

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Alan Furst
    • Narrated By Daniel Gerroll
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (40)
    Performance
    (35)
    Story
    (34)

    Paris, 1938: As the shadow of war darkens Europe, democratic forces on the Continent struggle against fascism and communism, while in Spain the war has already begun. Alan Furst, whom Vince Flynn has called "the most talented espionage novelist of our generation", now gives us a taut, suspenseful, romantic, and richly rendered novel of spies and secret operatives in Paris and New York, in Warsaw and Odessa, on the eve of World War II.

    Judith A. Weller says: "Arming Franco's Opponents on the Eve of World II"
    "My first, but not my last Furst."
    Overall
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    Story

    Many readers must come to this book having read quite a few Alan Furst WWII spy novels. After all, as the NYT stated in a recent review, "Mr. Furst has long since carved out this turf and made it his own", and while I've long wanted to start on his Night Soldiers series, I jumped at the occasion to acquaint myself with this novelist with his latest one-off.

    Cristián Ferrar is a Spanish émigré living in Paris and has some clout as a lawyer working for a prestigious American law firm representing an international clientèle. When the novel starts in December 1937, the Spanish civil war is ongoing and the Republicans, fighting against General Franco's fascist army is in desperate need of munitions. Ferrar, with his skills as a negotiator and diplomat is recruited to help in the arms deal negotiations with dangerous criminals and to ensure the shipments actually get into the proper hands. A man of not inconsiderable charms and an amorous disposition, Ferrar quickly falls for the charms of a prim and proper potential client, the Marquesa Maria Cristina. Beneath her chic veneer is a woman all too willing to fall for Ferrar's charm, but is she who she claims to be and does she have ulterior motives? Ferrar is too clever to be played like an innocent in these dangerous times, but he also doesn't miss a chance to enjoy the bounties beautiful women and life in Paris have to offer, as the novel takes him from exclusive swank nightclubs and the famous Parisian landmark, restaurant Lapérouse, to wine and dine, and potentially bribe a necessary contact. From there to negotiations with Bulgarian gangsters in Istanbul brothels and uncollaborative train-yard inspectors in Poland, he and his collaborator, ex arms dealer Max de Lyon, must use all the finesse they can to deliver the arms to Spain or else see the republicans lose to the Fascists in the bigger war that is looming ahead. It took me a while to sink into the story, in which many characters are introduced in the beginning, but once I got in the groove it was a smooth, satisfying ride with plenty of zing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Slaves of the Mastery: Wind on Fire Trilogy, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By William Nicholson
    • Narrated By Samuel West
    Overall
    (13)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (11)

    Five years have passed. The city of Aramanth has become kinder - weaker. When the ruthless soldiers of the Mastery strike, the city is burned, and the Manth people are taken into slavery. Kestrel Hath is left behind, separated from her beloved brother, Bowman, and vowing revenge. Now Kestrel must find Bowman again, and Bowman must learn the secrets of the Singer people. Only then will they break the power of the Mastery.

    Erica says: "Great Book, Great Series"
    "A Unique and Exciting Adventure"
    Overall
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    I read and listened to quite a few fantasy YA novels in June, and while fantasy and YA aren't usually in my comfort zone, ended up enjoying all of them. This particular trilogy only came to my attention because I've fallen in love with Samuel West's voice and narration style, and so have bought most of the audiobooks he's recorded that are likely to be of interest to me (16 of them so far). Twin sister and brother Kestrel and Bowman Hath are living peacefully in their now egalitarian society after having endured a totalitarian regime most of their lives (this is covered in book 1 of the Wind of Fire Trilogy). However this state of affairs doesn't last long when an ambitious young soldier decides to capture the entire town as slaves for the people of the Mastery. The methods used to keep captured slaves compliant are incredibly cruel, so the people have no choice but to let themselves be led to their new masters. While the raid takes place, Kestrel and Bowman are separated, with the boy and other family members taken in captivity while Kestrel is left behind to make her way to safety. Along the road, she meets a young and extremely beautiful princess travelling in great pomp who takes her under her wing. The twins each use their great intelligence and special skills to get their family back together again while also doing all they can to overthrow the oppressive regime, with the girls also having to fend off the advances of dangerously enamoured men. And exciting adventure story which is rather unique, as was the first book. Both are highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Alison Weir
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    Overall
    (292)
    Performance
    (258)
    Story
    (259)

    This acclaimed best seller from popular historian Alison Weir is a fascinating look at the Tudor family dynasty and its most infamous ruler. The Six Wives of Henry VIII brings to life England’s oft-married monarch and the six wildly different but equally fascinating women who married him. Gripping from the first sentence to the last and loaded with fascinating details, Weir’s rich history is a perfect blend of scholarship and entertainment.

    Pam says: "Deep background for "The Tudors""
    "Divorced Beheaded Died Divorced Beheaded Survived"
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    I became very keen to learn all about the Tudors after reading Hilary Mantel's excellent Wolf Hall, followed by Bring Up the Bodies not long after. At that time I had very little notion about British History, and none at all about Henry VIII and his time, other than the fact he was an oft-married tyrant who had a couple of his wives beheaded. This book was just what I needed to fill some of the biggest gaps in my understanding of a) the reasons why H8 married so often b) who his wives were, with their backgrounds and personal stories and c) why he killed off two of his wives and divorced two more. I also learned in greater detail about d) how and why the break from Rome and the pope occurred, and why there were so many reversals back and forth from Catholic to Protestant beliefs, resulting in the deaths of uncounted masses of people for heresies which were determined according to ever-changing priorities and whims of the great monarch.

    I felt I got quite a thorough overview of each of Henry's six wives, and also that Alison Weir seemed to greatly dislike Anne Boleyn, who came across as quite an unlikeable woman, though I gather this is a widely agreed upon opinion. Catherine of Aragon, his first wife, predictably enough, came across as a saint. Ann of Cleves and Catherine Parr, as the two clever ones who survived marriage to a vile brute. And of course, plenty of information about the monarch himself and his time.

    Recommended for those who like me have an interest in literature about that period with little background on the topic, as I imagine a lot of the material is familiar to those who have a better grasp on English history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Pale Criminal: Berlin Noir

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Philip Kerr
    • Narrated By John Lee
    Overall
    (286)
    Performance
    (157)
    Story
    (160)

    The Pale Criminal brings back Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought he'd seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin - until he turned freelance, and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture. Hard-hitting, fast-paced, and richly detailed, The Pale Criminal is noir writing at its blackest and best.

    Old Hippy says: "Esxcellent Historical Fiction; Gripping ..."
    "What Trouble Will Bernie Get Into Next?"
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    While I really enjoyed the first book in the series, March Violets earlier this month, I can't say I felt quite the same about this one. We are now in the Berlin of 1938 and Bernie Gunther is asked to rejoin the police force to work on a serial murder case. Several young girls have gone missing and been found defiled in the most gruesome manner: raped, tied by their feet and drained of their blood exactly like slaughtered pigs. All the girls were around 15, blonde and blue-eyed; the perfect Arian stereotype. Another private case has him uncovering a man blackmailing a wealthy widow, a publisher whose son is a homosexual who (inadvisedly in this age of Nazi power) kept up a correspondence with his lover, some of those letters now being in the hands of the blackmailer. Two very different cases, and no apparent link to the question of the oppression of the Jews in this year which is marked by Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, an organized attack against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria which took place on the 9th and 10th November 1938. But of course we eventually learn that no crime in this time and place could occur without the aim of further oppressing the Jews.

    While I liked the way the case started resolving itself two-thirds of the way in, I've developed a serious dislike for forms of entertainment which centre on serial rapes and murders of women, and the details in this case were truly horrendous. Perhaps because of this, I focused more on little things that bothered me with the first book; endless questionable similes and a main hero who is a typical macho male, which is accurate enough for the period portrayed and amused me the first time around, but here set off against the background of these female victims was distasteful to me. Is that reverse sexism on my part? All the same, solid writing overall (except those similes—why?) and a crime story which places the reader firmly in the heart of Nazi Germany just before WWII. I'll be listening to the third book to see what trouble Bernie gets into next.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • White Queen

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Philippa Gregory
    • Narrated By Susan Lyons
    Overall
    (1052)
    Performance
    (896)
    Story
    (903)

    They ruled England before the Tudors, and now internationally best-selling author Philippa Gregory brings the Plantagenets to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women.

    FanB14 says: "Prep for Starz Drama"
    "Intrigue and Romance and a Good History Lesson"
    Overall
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    My first Philippa Gregory, picked up partly because it was on sale here at Audible, and partly because I was interested in learning more about the mother of the Princes in the Tower and that particular period of British history, which especially came to my attention when I listened to Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time (narrated by the fantastic Sir Derek Jacobi). Reading Tey's book, I was both impressed and frustrated. Impressed because Tey is such a great story-teller, but frustrated because at that point I knew little to nothing about the main characters involved in this political drama and I resolved to find out more about it so I could read it again eventually and feel I had a better grasp on the events and personalities described.

    In that sense, this book has delivered the goods very well. Why go to a work of fiction rather than a no doubt more reliable work of non-fiction? Because I can retain facts much better when they are told to me as a story with interesting characters moved by complex motives. Gergory's work is obviously very well researched and she has a skill for writing compelling stories. Certainly she is never likely to win a literary prize, and I was slightly annoyed when certain details were repeated twice and three times. But otherwise the story of Elizabeth Woodville, who became Queen consort when she married King Edward IV for love—of all things, in an age when marriages were nothing more than political pacts (it was the cause célèbre at the time)—, is here very well told, and from her own perspective so that we get to hear how much influence the women likely had over these great men of power. The story begins in the 1460s, when she first meets the King and compels him to fall in love with her with a combination of charm, great beauty, brains, and if we are to believe the persistent rumours that have always surrounded her, witchcraft as well. She had two sons from a previous marriage to John Grey of Groby, who died fighting for the Lancastrians during the ongoing Wars of the Roses. Her own parents were also Lancastrians, so that while her alliance with a Yorkist King was certainly calculated to promote her and her children's welfare by aligning with the clan in power, it seems this ambitious woman truly loved King Edward and bore him 10 children, including Edward V of England, who was King of England for less than 4 months, and Richard, Duke of York, both Princes in the Tower who disappeared in suspicious circumstances when their uncle Richard III (King Edward IV's youngest brother) kept his nephews imprisoned in the Tower of London in his political machinations to take over the crown. Elizabeth Woodville's oldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, married King Henry VII, and King Henry VIII was one of three surviving children from that union, so that the heroine of this novel is the ancestor of every English monarch since Henry VIII and every Scottish monarch since James V of Scotland through her daughter Elizabeth. A really great read with plenty of political intrigue and romance as well as a good lesson in history. I checked many facts against wikipedia and found everything to be completely in order.

    I only wish I'd checked the chronological order of the stories, as would have probably started the series with The Lady of the Rivers, which is third in publication order but tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville's mother, who sounds like a fascinating lady. Jacquetta of Luxembourg had a scandalous second marriage with a man far inferior in rank, Sir Richard Woodville, who served as her first husband, John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford's chamberlain. Believed to be a descendant of the river goddess Melusina, she also allegedly practiced witchcraft, the knowledge of which she passed on to her daughter. I'll probably be moving on to that one next.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • These Old Shades

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Georgette Heyer
    • Narrated By Cornelius Garrett
    Overall
    (333)
    Performance
    (202)
    Story
    (203)

    Society believes the worst of Justin Alastair, the notorious Duke of Avon who is clearly proud of his Sobriquet, Satanas. It is he who buys Leon body and soul from a scoundrel in a Paris backstreet.

    Sharon says: "The epitome of romance"
    "A Deep Intrigue and a Fun Romp"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'd been hearing about what a wonderful experience it is to read Georgette Heyer's novels ever since I joined an online reading group several years ago. Perfectly researched with great period details, and a great comfort reading experience is mostly what I gleaned from the various comments and reviews I'd read. I must say I agree. As it happened, I was very much in the mood for something comforting and not too demanding either intellectually or emotionally on the day I picked this book up, as I had just moments before decided to abandon a very difficult novel, as I didn't see the point of continuing to emotionally torture myself in the name of literary proficiency. I already had another Heyer novel in the listening stacks, but that day I was determined to find both the storyline and the narrator that most appealed my momentary whims, which is how I came to choose Heyer's third among her Georgian and Regency novels. The book blurb on this site, short and to the point appealed to me, and from the first 11 minutes of the novel, available on the audio sample, I decided this would do the trick very well (though in retrospect, I don't know why Cornelius Garrett made the Duke sound like an old man, when he's only 40). As can be expected, there are beautiful and lavish details of costume, an interesting cast of characters with comical quirks, a deep intrigue, and plenty of romance (although Romance is usually a genre is steer clear from). No, this is not a work of great literary merit, but it's well written, has a great plot, and it's so much fun... who cares?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Janissary Tree: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Jason Goodwin
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (175)
    Performance
    (76)
    Story
    (77)

    It is 1836. Europe is modernizing, and the Ottoman Empire must follow suit. But just before the sultan announces sweeping changes, a wave of murders threatens the balance of power in his court. Who is behind them? Only one intelligence agent can be trusted to find out: Yashim Togalu, a man both brilliant and near-invisible in this world. You see, Yashim is a eunuch.

    Judith A. Weller says: "A Real Page Turner"
    "Exotic and Entertaining"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    In this historical novel set in 1836 Istanbul, a eunuch named Yashim is asked to investigate into several cases. There are four officers who have gone missing (one of which turns up dead in an oversized cauldron a short while later); the sultan's most recent concubine is murdered in her bed; and the sultan's mother's jewels have gone missing. In the case of the officers, Yashim finds clues that seem to point toward the Janissaries as being responsible for the abduction and it's aftermath. The Janissaries had had a powerful presence in Turkey until 1826, just a decade previous to the start of our story. An elite force created by Sultan Murad I in 1383, they formed the Ottoman Sultan's household troops and bodyguards, but Sultan Mahmud II found them to be an unruly and disruptive presence, and wanting to create a modern army to keep up with the Europeans, he disbanded and slaughtered the Janissaries. But it seems there were survivors after all, and Yashim needs to figure out what they are up to to stop more bodies from turning up dead. Aiding him in his search for clues are his colourful and somewhat eccentric friends, the Polish ambassador and a transsexual dancer. A complex plot and an entertaining mystery set in an exotic place which is undergoing a great transition from ancient traditional customs to European modernization. I would have liked to find out more about Yashim himself, but perhaps more is revealed about him in the following 3 novels.

    Loved Stephen Hoye's narration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • March Violets

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Philip Kerr
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (467)
    Performance
    (250)
    Story
    (249)

    Hailed by Salman Rushdie as a "brilliantly innovative thriller-writer", Philip Kerr is the creator of taut, gripping, noir-tinged mysteries set in Nazi-era Berlin that are nothing short of spellbinding. The first book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, March Violets introduces listeners to Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought he'd seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin - until he turned freelance and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture.

    King says: "Nazi Noir"
    "Gritty. Graphic. Gripping"
    Overall
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    A gritty, noir thriller, and the first of what promises to be a gripping series. Bernie Gunther has left the police force and struck out on his own as a private investigator. What makes his work interesting is the time and place: Berlin, 1936 when the Nazis are in full power and preparing for the Summer Olympics. His services are more or less forcibly retained by a millionaire industrialist who has just lost his beloved daughter and her husband to a fire in their home. Both bodies are found in their bed, and the safe containing a priceless diamond necklace has been broken into. Was this a straightforward murder and burglary or is there more than first meets the eye? As Gunther investigates local jewelry vendors, he can't help but be horrified at how the Jews are being taken advantage of, with glaring anti-semitism at it's peak. Desperate to sell their valuables to get away from the repressive measures taken against them (most professions are banned to them, and everyone is quick to add "German" as a preface to their profession on their business cards to indicate they are of good Arian stock), they are forced to sell their belongings well below the market price. Trying to find out anything in this repressive system is bound to bring about all sorts of complications, and when Bernie's widowed secretary is too scared to return to work after being bullied by Nazi police officers, he's delighted to find a beautiful and single replacement for her in ex-journalist Ilse, but their romantic involvement is bound to render him that much more vulnerable. “March violets” was a term used for late-comers to the Nazi Party after the passage of Hitler's Enabling Act which rendered him a dictator on March 23, 1933. In May, the Nazi Party froze membership, and those with the lowest membership numbers were given preferential treatment, though everyone was eager to be seen as a Hitler supporter. Not so Bernie, who has Jewish clients and doesn't care for the views of a party he never chose to support, which is dangerous in and of itself because dissidents are daily being sent to concentration camps, where few are expected to survive the harsh conditions. I loved every bit of this private dick story set during a very dramatic period in history. Those who've enjoyed the more recent John Russell series by David Downing are bound to find this precursor highly satisfying. I'm very much looking forward to the next book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Adoration of Jenna Fox

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Mary E. Pearson
    • Narrated By Jenna Lamia
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (152)
    Performance
    (93)
    Story
    (96)

    Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn't remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?

    A. J. Mcdonald says: "Great YA Fiction"
    "Who Is Jenna?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Like most seventeen-year-olds, Jenna Fox is still trying to figure out who she is. Only she probably has more existential questions to deal with than most teenagers, because Jenna has just woken up from a year spent in a coma following a horrific car accident that nearly killed her, and she can't remember anything at all about her past or who she was. She has to rely on a bunch of videotapes recorded over the years by her parents to see for herself what she was like growing up, and she's not sure she can continue being the perfect and adored child she seemed to have been for the first 16 years of her life. Her grandmother Lilly seems to mistrust, even dislike her, though Jenna has no idea what she's done to deserve this cold reserve. Day by day, she begins to recover memories from her past, including some memories which she shouldn't have, such as when she was baptized when only a few months old. She's curious to know why they are now living in California when her and her parents had spent all their lives previous to a few weeks ago living in Boston, where her father is still working. Little by little, she recovers her memory, but still things don't seem to add up, and she isn't quite sure there is a connection between the Jenna before the accident, and the one who has woken up a year later. There's very little else I can say about this book without revealing a major spoiler.

    A very well written story with an intriguing premise and and intelligent development which is suitable for young and old adults alike. It's a short novel to begin with, but I created lots of listening time and finished it in just two days because I was dying to know how things unfolded. Jenna Lamia, who narrates the audio version, is a great narrator and is convincing as a teenager with her girlish voice and the maturity she brings to the reading of a complex character. This is book is part 1 of a trilogy, but it's great as a stand-alone too. Definitely recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Seven for a Secret

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Lyndsay Faye
    • Narrated By Steven Boyer
    Overall
    (101)
    Performance
    (96)
    Story
    (95)

    From Edgar-nominated author Lyndsay Faye comes the next book in what Gillian Flynn calls, "a brilliant new mystery series." Six months after the formation of the NYPD, its most reluctant and talented officer, Timothy Wilde, thinks himself well versed in his city's dark practices - until he learns of the gruesome underworld of lies and corruption ruled by the "blackbirders," who snatch free Northerners of color from their homes, masquerade them as slaves, and sell them South to toil as plantation property. The abolitionist Timothy is horrified by these traders in human flesh.

    Amy says: "A Solid Sequel to Gods of Gotham"
    "Both Harrowing and Compelling"
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    This is another harrowing story by Lyndsay Faye, the follow-up to The Gods of Gotham, which had one of the first New York City "Copper Stars" Timothy Wilde chasing after a ring of child murderers during a wave of Irish immigrants escaping the great potato famine. Faye certainly knows how to write a compelling story and this novel takes place just six month later, in 1846, in and around the same neighbourhood of NYC formerly known as Five Points, notorious for it's squalid conditions*. This time a beautiful young woman charges into Timothy's police station to declare that he family has just been abducted. It turns out the young woman in question is born from a white father and black slave mother, and the plot centres around the "blackbirders", Southerners who snatch free black people from the North and, claiming they are escaped slaves, deliver them to plantation masters for a large fee. This is presumably what happened to Solomon Northup, who later went on to write Twelve Years a Slave, though I've yet to read that book (currently sitting on the massive TBR) . Our good Timothy is of course an abolitionist at heart, and does all he can to find and release Lucy Adams' little son and her sister, but in the process gets tangled in a messy and dangerous political quagmire, not least because the practice of returning escaped slaves to their owners is what the law of the time is designed to enforce. With the best of intentions, he is horrified when he comes to realize that by his very actions which were aimed at protecting those coloured people he'd taken under his wing, he managed to lead them all instead into an awful tragedy. Timothy's older brother Valentine has a large role to play here, as he did in the first book. Heavily involved with the Democratic party, Valentine has pull and is the one who got Timothy a job in 1845 with the newly founded New York police force, when Timothy had lost everything to the fire which burned out a large part of the city, Timothy's workplace and home and savings, and also part of his face. Where Timothy is essentially a good guy with high moral standards, his older brother is completely dissolute; a morphine addict who sleeps around with prostitutes and anyone he takes a fancy to, including men—at a time when such sexual practices were punishable by death; but all this of course makes him a very intriguing character, not least of all because he also happens to be a brawler and a volunteer firefighter, when both brothers have lost their parents to a terrible fire.

    I believe we're in for another instalment sometime in future. I was a bit shocked just now when I googled to see if I could find any info on the next book, that several reviews panned the first book unmercifully, including at Bookslut, whose reviewer was of the opinion that it should never have been written in the first place. Along with the Edgar Award committee (The Gods of Gotham was an Edgar Award Nominee in 2013), I obviously don't agree with Sam Ashworth ("Lyndsay Faye's mistake is that she has staged a generic episode of Law and Order: SVU in a setting that demands far more authorial spine and ambition than she is willing to commit."), and where he finds Faye spilled too much of her research onto the page with little discernment, I find on the contrary that the historical details ring true and add much to the story, and especially enjoy her inclusion of quotes and passages from news articles and publications of that period pertaining to abolitionism and the treatment of slaves, as she did in the first book, which focused on the Irish immigrants who were reviled by locals at the time, all of which adds a factual historical dimension to her narrative. But beyond all that, for my money, she writes the kind of compelling story that I just want to keep reading with as few interruptions as possible.

    Steven Boyer does a great job with narration.

    * Charles Dickens described Five Points in 1842 in his book American Notes for General Circulation:

    "What place is this, to which the squalid street conducts us? A kind of square of leprous houses, some of which are attainable only by crazy wooden stairs without. What lies behind this tottering flight of steps? Let us go on again, and plunge into the Five Points."

    "This is the place; these narrow ways diverging to the right and left, and reeking everywhere with dirt and filth. Such lives as are led here, bear the same fruit as elsewhere. The coarse and bloated faces at the doors have counterparts at home and all the world over."

    "Debauchery has made the very houses prematurely old. See how the rotten beams are tumbling down, and how the patched and broken windows seem to scowl dimly, like eyes that have been hurt in drunken forays. Many of these pigs live here. Do they ever wonder why their masters walk upright instead of going on all fours, and why they talk instead of grunting?" (From Wikipedia)

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