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Doctor Bull

Blacksburg, VA, USA | Member Since 2007


  • The Redbreast

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Jo Nesbø
    • Narrated By Robin Sachs
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    It is 1944: Daniel, a soldier, legendary among the Norwegians fighting the advance of Bolshevism on the Russian front, is killed. Two years later, a wounded soldier wakes up in a Vienna hospital. He becomes involved with a young nurse, the consequences of which will ripple forward to the turn of the next century. In 1999, Harry Hole, alone again after having caused an embarrassment in the line of duty, has been promoted to inspector and is lumbered with surveillance duties. He is assigned the task of monitoring neo-Nazi activities....

    David says: "Bravura writing"
    "This is the one that got me hooked on Harry Hole"

    But what's going on with the pronunciation of Harry's last name?

    This review is a little retrospective. It was the first Harry Hole I listened to, and I have followed up with all the others produced by to-date.

    This book, and its excellent narration, set the hook for me. Harry Hole is a lot like Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, who was my previous favorite hard-boiled cop/ex-cop. Having now read all but the second in the series (not yet available at this writing), I can say that this book is essential for any fan who loves Scandinavian crime-noir. A much tougher character than Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander, he is nonetheless every bit the introspective man. Harry's life is indeed a well-examined one. Above all, he is just a basic policeman at heart, no matter what the situation or conflict.

    Now, about that pronunciation of Harry's last name. Robin Sachs renders it exactly as if it were the English word "hole", like a hole in the ground. Does that sound a little jarring to you? It did to me. Robin Sachs narrates the majority of the Harry Hole novels, and in each he pronounces the name the same.

    Then along came (in order of releases) "Nemesis" narrated by Thor Knai. Thor pronounces the name "Hole" as "hOO-la". No dissonance there, sounds a lot more Scandinavian than Robin's pronunciation of the name. "Hole" apparently is a Norwegian word or name. Google Translate has a pronunciation feature, and if you enter "Hole" as Norwegian it is pronounced just like Thor said it. Maybe with less stress on the second syllable, what the dictionaries indicate with an upside-down "e".

    OK, so who knows? Then, along came the first Harry Hole novel, "The Bat". It's the first in the order that Jo Nesbø wrote them, but the most recent in order of production by In the opening of that book Harry makes it clear that his name is not pronounced like a hole in the ground. Here's the passage, as it appears in the print version (Random House Canada paperback, ISBN 0307361012):

    "The arrivals hall was crowded with travel reps and limousine drivers, holding up signs with names on, but not a Hole in sight. He was on the point of grabbing a taxi when a black man wearing light blue jeans and a Hawaiian shirt, and with an unusually broad nose and dark, curly hair ploughed a furrow between the signs and came striding toward him.

    "'Mr Holy, I presume!' he declared triumphantly.

    "Harry Hole considered his options. He had decided to spend the first days in Australia correcting the pronunciation of his surname so that he wouldn't be confused with apertures or orifices. Mr Holy however, was infinitely preferable."

    Well, you tell me. From Harry's mouth (via a translator) to your ears, or eyes if you read the printed version.

    To confuse the matter further, Nesbø spoke at an authors' breakfast in New York earlier this year and, speaking in English, pronounced Harry's name as "hole"! As this is so inconsistent with his own (translated) words in "The Bat" I expect he, like Harry, gets a little tired of correcting people who mispronounce the name. As a single datum, my Swedish friend Pettersson when, in America, pronounces his name as the English name "Peterson". In Swedish, however, it is far different, more like "Pedder Shown".

    Anyway, you'll learn to roll with the different pronunciations. Robin Sachs is great, the book is great, and there is still at least one untranslated Harry Hole book out there to look forward to. You'll love them all.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Levanter

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Eric Ambler
    • Narrated By Tim Bentinck

    Syria, 1970. Three years after the Six-Day War. Michael Howell is utterly apolitical and genetically programmed for survival, a Levantine of mixed origin with an Italian mistress and profitable business enterprises throughout the Middle East. Life is sweet for Howell until, one night in Damascus, he discovers that his factories have become the clandestine operations base for a fanatical terrorist organization dead set on destroying Israel. Suddenly, Howell is caught in the middle, with nowhere to run.

    Bull says: "Discovery of great new narrator!"
    "Discovery of great new narrator!"

    I have followed lots of references, reviews, and recommendations in looking for new mystery novels at I don't know how I stumbled over Eric Ambler, but I'm glad I did.

    Ambler's story-telling, plot, dialog, pace, -- well, everything that makes a great book great -- are without equal. He is a master, and I intend to audio-read everything he has in's library.

    But recommending Ambler to other readers is like recommending Graham Greene: You already know it's good, and you don't need me to tell you so.

    What this book did for me was to introduce me to the narrator Tim Bentinck. Bentinck has the most versatile and believable range of accents of any narrator I have yet encountered. In this book, I thought many times that there must be multiple narrators.

    With respect to just two of the accents he portrays: I could not decide if he was a Brit able to put on an uncommonly good American accent, or an American who knew how to do Brit especially well.

    Bentinck's range is phenomenal. The best part is, he sounds completely natural in whichever accent he delivers. What I mean by that is, say, consider George Guidall. He is one of the finest narrators in the business. But when you listen to him narrate, you always know it is Guidall! With Bentinck, not so. He really does sound like a lot of different people.

    Disclaimer: If it turns out that there really were multiple narrators used in the production of this book, then, as Roseanne Roseannadanna would say, "never mind".

    I have downloaded a few other of Bentnick's Ambler narrations. I'm currently into one in which a Dane is portrayed. So far, no reason to change anything I have written. He's good.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Robert B. Parker's Bull River: A Cole and Hitch Novel, #6

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Robert Knott
    • Narrated By Rex Linn
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    After hunting down the notorious desperado Alejandro Vasquez, Territorial Marshal Virgil Cole and Deputy Everett Hitch return him to San Cristóbal to stand trial. No sooner do they remand him into custody than a major bank robbery occurs and the lawmen find themselves tasked with another job: investigating the robbery of the Comstock Bank, recovering the loot, and bringing the criminals to justice.

    Bull says: "Bad choice of narrator"
    "Bad choice of narrator"

    I loved the first of Robert Knott's "Robert B. Parker's ..." novels (Ironhorse). It was very faithful to the style of Parker, along with being a great yarn. In particular I liked Titus Welliver as the narrator. Welliver did all the previous Cole-Hitch books, and he was excellent. Rex Linn, not so much.

    Linn does a fair job of sounding like a Gary Cooper playing a old time western marshal, as Cole and Hitch are intended. But they sound identical in his rendition. In fact almost everyone sounds the same, with the exception of the Mexicans in the story who sound the same but with an atrocious Mexican accent.

    Mexican accents aside, there were other problems with the narration.

    You know those parts in dialogs where the author inserts things like "he said", "Hitch replied" (and every prepubescent boy's favorite, "Jack asked")? Welliver did a great job of easing those into the background. WIth Linn, they have the same emphasis as the dialog, and it is jarring.

    Equally jarring were the very often repeated one-word responses from Cole or Hitch (Hitch: "It's what we do." Cole: "Is.") Linn just can't pull these off, and he makes Cole's "Is" sound clumsy and inappropriate to the dialog.

    I liked the story fine (despite wondering if Parker would have given a woman the nickname "Slingshot"). But given the narration, this book would be a lot better in print than narrated by Linn.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Half of Paradise

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By James Lee Burke
    • Narrated By Mark Zeisler
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In this intense, fascinating story, Burke follows the lives of three young Louisiana men, each of whom finds himself in desperate circumstances. There's Avery Broussard, the last survivor of a family of once-prosperous land owners, who has a weakness for alcohol; J.P. Winfield, a poor singer and guitar player who rises to fame as a country music star, only to be destroyed by drug addiction; and Toussaint Boudreaux, a black longshoreman who moonlights as a heavyweight boxer.

    Bull says: "Excellent early Burke ruined by terrible narration"
    "Excellent early Burke ruined by terrible narration"

    This book is probably Burke's first novel, first published in 1965. It consists of three stories loosely interwoven in Louisiana's seamier sides, including the fight game, blues singers, and prison camps. Early Burke sounds a lot like later Burke so far a tone, mood, and dialog. It's very good writing. But caution: these are not an uplifting stories. The prison camp in particular conjures up images of Cool Hand Luke's camp.

    Except for the fact that everyone talks like some bland character from a TV family sitcom.

    Not the dialog, Zeisler's narration. Escaped prisoners being chased through the marsh: they all sound the same, like a couple of frat boys talking about cars. Passionate lovemaking? Same thing. The woman even sounds the same, not like any woman I know and certainly not passionate. There's not even an attempt made to make some poor Louisiana coon-ass sound authentic. They're all the same, speaking with near monotone delivery. Everyone sounds like Zeisler ordering a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

    Well, all but one. For some reason Zeisler has to take a shot at a British accent. It's terrible, and the story doesn't even need a Brit. Zeisler could have just gone on with his coffee-ordering delivery and no one would be the wiser.

    The only reason I can see that Simon and Schuster Audio picked Zeisler for this read is that he does a pretty good job singing some of the blues lyrics sprinkled throughout the book, or at least he has the guts to try. They should have used him for just the lyrics and got someone else, almost anyone else, to do the narration.

    If I had it to do over again I would get the print version and try to imagine Will Patton or Mark Hammer narrating it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Sycamore Row

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By John Grisham
    • Narrated By Michael Beck
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten, will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County's most notorious citizens, just three years earlier. The second will raises far more questions than it answers. Why would Hubbard leave nearly all of his fortune to his maid? Had chemotherapy and painkillers affected his ability to think clearly?

    Brock says: "Grisham at his best (again)"
    "Excellent story and narration."

    Grisham takes us back into the courtroom, a setting in which he excels: The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, and on and on. Including, of course, the wonderful A Time to Kill (1989) with attorney Jake Brigance. In Sycamore Row Jake is back, this time wrapped up in defending a holographic will.

    This book is a sequel to A Time to Kill only in that the same lawyers -- Harry Rex Vonner, Lucien Wilbanks, Jake -- are back in the same small Mississippi town, but if you've forgotten the earlier book you won't have any problem reading this. A few references to the trial in A Time to Kill are used to establish Jake as a stand-up guy, which is how he gets dragged into the business with the will in the first place. There are also some KKK types who threaten and harass Jake and his family over his defense of a black man in the earlier book, but all the needed backstory is provided.

    The plot is tightly woven and well paced. There are a few elements that seem there just to provide color, like the slick Memphis lawyer who tosses a race-grenade into the courtroom, but then slips from the scene. I do wish Grisham had followed through a bit more with the rednecks, especially the one who was released on parole. I thought for sure that firebrand would be back, and I just love it when they get their comeuppance, but he too was written out of the plot.

    It's a different kind of law than what we usually get in courtroom novels. It centers around a holographic will handwritten by a man on the eve of his suicide by hanging (from a sycamore tree, a fact you should keep in mind). It's established pretty early on that his kids, son and daughter, don't have much time for the old man, so you won't be surprised to learn they don't make out too well in this will. And of course, there's an earlier will out there, all lawyerly and notarized, in which the kids fare much better. Which will wins? Read on.

    Michael Beck is excellent. He has a nice, unaffected style when he's just narrating, and then shows a great range of characterizations of the southerners portrayed here. From my short time living in Mississippi I can say the accents seem quite authentic. Beck gives each of the major characters his own distinct voice and keeps them consistent throughout the book.

    No more free passes for Mister Grisham, not after the hugely disappointing The Broker. Now I approach every new Grisham book as a I would a new author. Interestingly this book is a sequel to one Grisham wrote when he was a new author and yes, it's just as good.

    34 of 42 people found this review helpful
  • What Doesn't Kill Her: A Thriller

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Max Allan Collins
    • Narrated By Dan John Miller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Jordan Rivera is an ordinary kid with an ordinary family, until a vicious killer takes it all away, sparing her, but leaving her broken. The murders of her father, mother, and brother destroy something inside Jordan, who spends ten long, mute years in an institution. Catching a glimpse of a news report about another family slaying, Jordan at last breaks her silence. Now she's out, and she molds herself - body and mind - into an instrument of justice.

    Bull says: "Did Max really write this?"
    "Did Max really write this?"

    Somewhere in the first chapter I went back to Audible to make sure I hadn't bought a book by someone with a similar name. Nope, Max Allan Collins it says. I checked the copyright date, thinking this must be a re-released version of really early book, but no, 2013 it is.

    The dialog is strange. One second a person is screaming hysterically, the next speaking calmly to the killer, then more hysteria. And what a strange plot - a traumatized teenager is institutionalized and doesn't speak one word for ten years, then sees a news report on TV and is instantly as normal as apple pie. Well, maybe rhubarb pie.

    I had read almost everything Collins has written and loved it. This book was a big disappointment. It is so different from his usual tight plots and sparkling dialog that I wondered if he hadn't collaborated with someone but forgot to mention it to the publisher.

    It seems to get a little better as time goes on, but sure never rose to the level of good. I think listening to Dan John Miller kept reminding me of the many hours I spent with him and Nate Heller, and that kept my hopes alive.

    If you've never read Collins before, do yourself a favor and don't start with this one. Read everything else he's ever written first, you'll thank me.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Hamlet, Revenge!: An Inspector Appleby Mystery

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Michael Innes
    • Narrated By Matt Addis

    At Seamnum Court, seat of the Duke of Horton, The Lord Chancellor of England is murdered at the climax of a private presentation of Hamlet, in which he plays Polonius. Inspector Appleby pursues some of the most famous names in the country, unearthing dreadful suspicion.

    Carol says: "A Marvellous Classic"
    "I liked it so much I bought the print version"

    I bought the print version for one main reason: to give to my wife, who always figures out the whodunnits while I am still floundering amid the clues and red herrings. Let's see her sort THIS one out!

    You won't be able to say that the clues are obscure or concealed. Inspector Appleby reviews the facts and summarizes the case frequently, just in case you might have missed something. There was one bit that I thought was downplayed a bit for all its significance, but since my wife is an RN she should probably pick up on it. We'll see.

    Anyway, it's classic stuff, English manor house, motives, means, opportunities, spies, a very clever mystery writer guest, and an even more clever inspector. There's an anagram that's about as subtle as Rumred, and a little forensic stuff for good measure. High society and political bigwigs in antebellum (WWII) England round out the cast.

    Some knowledge of Shakespeare's Hamlet will help, maybe just the Cliff Notes or Wikipedia version.

    Great narration. My first Matt Addis, and I'm looking forward to many more.

    The only downside to reading this book is, I feel a little like I did when I first read Ngaio Marsh and then discovered that she had written scores of like books! Innes wrote a lot of books too. So many great books, so few credits remain. Maybe Audible will let me renew early.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Robert B. Parker's Ironhorse

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Robert Knott
    • Narrated By Titus Welliver
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    For years, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch have ridden roughshod over rabble-rousers and gun hands in troubled towns like Appaloosa, Resolution, and Brimstone. Now, newly appointed as territorial marshalls, they find themselves traveling by train through the Indian Territories.

    Louanne says: "Ho Hum"
    "A Seamless Transition from the Parker Series"

    It's not completely clear whether this book is all-original by Robert Knott, or his completion of a Robert B. Parker manuscript. The title sure suggests Parker started it, and the text copyright is given as "the estate of Robert B. Parker". But an author interview online makes it sound like Knott wrote the whole thing. Knott does appear to be uniquely qualified to pick up Parker's torch, as he co-wrote (with Ed Harris) the screenplay for Appaloosa, based on the first book in the Parker series.

    In any case, if it didn't have Knott's name on it you wouldn't guess it wasn't written by Parker. It's written completely in the style that Parker developed for Marshall Virgil Cole and his Deputy Everett Hitch - tough, laconic, fair-minded, decisive, courteous to the ladies and the bad guys' worst nightmares. A little like having two Gary Coopers in High Noon. Virgil does have a breaking point though. He would normally not kill a man unless he was looking him in the eye, but this one SOB abused horses, so ...

    Virgil and Everett are back, wrapped up with train robbers of the meanest sort and damsels in distress of the purest sort. The book's a classic western in the tradition of Eastwood's spaghetti westerns. There's never any doubt that the good guys are going to prevail, but it's a lot of fun to watch them do it.

    Titus Welliver has narrated every book in the Cole-Hitch audiobook series, and he's the perfect man for the job. Some of the dialog between Virgil and Everett consists of a series of one or two word statements (they never quite say "yup"); Welliver delivers these lines flawlessly, and you're never aware of the author's "Virgil said" or "Everett said". It's like listening to a dialog in a movie.

    Newcomers to the series shouldn't miss out on much by starting with this book or any other in the series - the back-story is suggested but not necessary to enjoy the book. Virgil's girlfriend Allie French doesn't make an appearance, but there are several references to her, none necessary to the plot.

    This is a great read. I hope Robert Knott carries right on with this remarkable series.

    P.S. One quibble: Virgil and Everett backtrack along a railroad line to find Bloody Bob Brandice, who jumped off a quarter-mile back. When Everett says they walked "about a hundred furlongs or so" that tells me he's never watched a horse race. Maybe a hundred rods, if he wants old English measures.

    6 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • To Try Men's Souls: A Novel of George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Newt Gingrich, William R. Forstchen
    • Narrated By William Dufris, Callista Gingrich, Eric Conger
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen have turned their sharp eye for detail on the Revolutionary War. Their story follows three men with three very different roles to play in history: General George Washington, Thomas Paine, and Jonathan Van Dorn, a private in Washington's army. The action focuses on one of the most iconic events in American history: Washington crossing the Delaware.

    George says: "Bloody Feet and All"
    "Just a dramatized history lesson"

    Gingrich and Forstchen had a great idea when they came up with what they called "Active History": examining how history would have changed by altering a single pivotal event. What would have happened if Robert E. Lee had won at Gettysburg? What would have happened if the Japanese had pressed their immediate advantage at Pearl Harbor and wiped out the Naval Base's ship repair facilities? It's a wonderful concept, and made for many hours of fascinating reading.

    This book is just a history story. Nothing is changed. They have just taken the bare facts of Washington's assault on Trenton and puts words in the mouths of the characters, some historical and some fictional. They tell us how cold it was, how ill-equipped the troops were, and generally they try to add verisimilitude. They let us listen in as Thomas Paine, sitting by a camp fire, hears some soldier talk about how trying the times were, trying his very soul ("Catchy phrase - maybe I can use it!")

    The narration was way over the top. I kept getting flashbacks of Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live in his role as "Master Thespian", flinging out his arm and declaring "Acting!" Dufris narrates as if he were auditioning for some stage production, playing each character and scene as larger than life.

    A mighty big disappointment to me. I won't be reading the rest in this series. Maybe G&F will come up with some more "active history" and win me back.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Presumed Innocent

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Scott Turow
    • Narrated By Edward Herrmann
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Presumed Innocent brings to life our worst nightmare: that of an ordinary citizen facing conviction for the most terrible of crimes. Prosecutor Rusty Sabich is transformed from accuser to accused when he is handed an explosive case - that of the brutal murder of a woman who happens to be his former lover.

    Glen says: "Excellent Book, Gripping Entertainment!"
    "Ready for the Musical"

    Nobody's reading reviews of this book trying to decide if it's worth reading. Scott Turow's fame plus the fact that Presumed Innocent was made into a Harrison Ford movie pretty much guarantees that.

    But is it worth reading again? Absolutely. I had previously read the print version and seen the movie, and now I've listened to the audio version. Knowing whodunnit from the outset didn't take anything away from Turow's artistry - it's just a treat to hear a great storyteller tell a great story. And Edward Herrmann is just the right guy to give voice to this excellent bit of courtroom drama.

    So, if they make it a musical, I'll go see that too!

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Billingsgate Shoal

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Rick Boyer
    • Narrated By Christopher Lane

    First, a fishing trawler runs aground on the Massachusetts shore. Then, a young scuba diver sent to investigate the wreck is found floating lifeless in the water. Doc Adams, the unhappy friend of the unlucky aquarian, has just been launched through the stormy seas and blood-flecked sands of the Cape Cod coast to plumb a murder he should have prevented. There he uncovers a hidden treasure in illegal arms and barely survives a near-fatal confrontation with a gun.

    Bull says: "Better writing than plotting"
    "Better writing than plotting"

    I picked this book up from Audible's list of Edgar winners (best in show, 1983). I was drawn to the publisher's description of a protagonist who sounds a lot like Randy Wayne White's Doc Ford. Both called Doc (Ford a PhD, Adams a surgeon), both live on the water, both are a lot smarter than the villains who surround them. Boyer's Doc Adams is not an ex-black ops guy, but he seems to have picked up some moves somewhere that Doc Ford would appreciate. I expect Rick Boyer would like to have had White's success, but he hasn't, and this book may hold a clue to why.

    The plot seemed weak and not particularly credible. I was never convinced that Doc Adams had any good reason to set out trying to locate the boat he initially sees high and dry on the novel's eponymous shoal. The police in the novel were portrayed as amiable dunces, willing to go along with Doc Adams and usually defer to him. The incident in which Doc Adams' wrist is broken comes out of the blue, making you think it's something sinister. It's not, and it makes no serious contribution to the plot, except to give the hero time off from work to be a hero.

    It's become obligatory in the genre for the good guy to suffer grievous bodily harm at the hands of the bad guys. Doc Adams does. A lot of authors describe these beating in detail. Boyer just says, through Adams' voice, that he couldn't describe it. And, like all those other beat-up good guys, Adams comes right back, complaining every few paragraphs of this ache or that pain or of feeling woozy. Not credible.

    That said, Boyer does paint very fine scenes for his characters to act in. The atmosphere of New England's waterways and watermen is compelling. You can feel the rain and wind when Adams is off on his solo quest to find the missing ship. The dialog is good too, intelligent, and witty when needed. This sort of textured writing would make a decent plot into a first-class book.

    Christopher Lane has one of those radio announcer voices that are very easy to listen to. He has a good range of different characterizations that let him consistently identify the character speaking. His female voice is pretty good too, although if I heard it in a singles' bar I would definitely be sneaking a peek at the old adam's apple.

    On the whole, a book for a slow day.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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