I have read each of the books in sequence in this series and am very fond of the main characters, Gemma Jones and Duncan Kinkaid. The highly competent detectives' personal lives provide the subplots that enhance the storyline. These are "real" and "normal" people. Each of them and those around them seem to grow and change in each work as their professional and personal relationships and associated dilemmas ring very true. This one is one of the most satisfying reads in the series with a compact plot and believable resolutions. Crombie's emphasis on character and human nature provoke deserved favorable comparisons with P.D. James and Ruth Rendell. I didn't give this five stars because I was confused about the timing of the plot. Erika, Gemma's good friend, was a key character here. If this book was set in real-time (published in 2008), she was a very active senior who was well into her 90s. Jenny Sterlin gives Gemma a wonderful, sensitive voice but it is sometimes hard to differentiate between her male voices, particularly Duncan Kinkaid and his associates. Minor quibbles .... as this truly is one of those series that I hope keeps on going and going...
Fiona is in the driver's seat of both her personal and professional lives but she is also aging and world weary. She is a highly respected judge, beloved wife and accomplished musician, but is also selfish and self-absorbed, and at times not very likeable at all. Fiona skirts oblivion, however, as her husband throws down the gauntlet hoping to shake her from her malaise at the same time a young man at the center of a life or death legal judgment stirs her humanity. It is her enlightened understanding of these relationships that utimately restores the balance at the convergence of the personal and professional. The story satisfies in the end, but that end, we know, is still only a respite somewhere on a bittersweet and ambiguous road.
Ian McEwan got it right this time. The Children Act is a novella really, short and tightly structured, and introspective and private, like a good piece of chamber music. Lindsay Duncan, the narrator, does a nice, unobtrusive job.
This has to be an award-winner in waiting. It will certainly fall in the top 10 best book lists of 2014 next January. It is a poetically beautiful story that anyone and everyone might be enriched by. The work is entrenched in historic reality but at the same time has a thick atmosphere of "magic realism." Although it is touching, there is nothing falsely sentimental or maudlin about it and even the most abhorrent characters have a shred of humanity that draws empathy. At the same time, I never have read a book that made me feel what it is like to live idaily life controlled by "occupying forces." The "magic" is subtle and makes one understand that it is always there with us in this beautiful world even in the most horrendous of conditions.
It is easy to understand why this German suspense novel is an international hit. It is a page turner (or whatever the audio equivalent is called). It has a bit of everything - sex and violence and sort-of necrophilia. But the titillation is all pretty mild - nothing gratuitous or shocking as that of the many other recent Nordic sensations which explains why others regret that it can't be compared with Stieg Larssen's novels.
The narrator has a flat American accent but renders the occasional German (mostly names) with precision. It works most of the time but sometimes when the plot hits one of its many convoluted twists he sounds a bit naive (as if he is relating a fairy tale?). The story isn't much of a fairy tale but the author does owe some debt to other works of German literature for the theme of small town narrow-mindedness and conformism.
What makes Snow White Must Die worth the long listen is in the human relationships of the central characters - the accused - Tobias, his father, the wild teenager Amelie, and the honorable but very human detective partners, Pia and Oliver. Each of these is an attractive, sympathetic character, and I will happily come back to visit with the police officers.
P.S. It is too bad that American readers have met Pia and Oliver in book four of the series. Perhaps the publisher will give us the earlier ones in order so that we can catch up.
Now I understand why Beautiful Ruins was rated so favorably and was so popular. I held off listening to this one since it sounded a melodramatic and improbable, but was swept along once I started to listen. The main characters are very endearing and other minor characters, including celebrities, are colorfully drawn. Some of its impact may be lost on readers not old enough to remember the perpetual presence of Liz and Dick on the front page of supermarket tabloids through most of the '60s. I would recommend Beautiul Ruins for no other reason that it is the rare book that pulls you up and down an emotional gamut - not the least of which are parts that are laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Sansom has compelling characters in lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak as he has they navigate interesting mysteries and subplots during the time of Henry VIII. Shardlake crosses the path of most of the significant political and royal figures of the time. Heartstone perhaps has one of the most contrived mystery plots of the Shardlake books but includes the tale of one of the most dramatic historical events - the tragedy of the Mary Rose battleship.
I gave it four stars overall because the story wasn't as suspenseful as previous books in the series and although Steven Crossley read the others and I'd be happy to hear him read anything, I had a hard time distinguishing between many of the male voices. I don't remember having this problem in earlier books, but perhaps there were just too many minor characters here.
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