I really do enjoy these well-narrated Agatha Christie novels, and this one doesn't disappoint. Although I'm not a huge fan of the egotistical Poirot, I am a big fan of Christie's mysteries and her (other) characters and, yes, Poirot is growing on me, if only as a somewhat laughable genius.
This mystery involves a series of alphabetical murders - the person's name and their town, running down the alphabet - that have been fortold in a series of taunting letters sent to Poirot, daring him to stop them or solve them. For reasons that later become apparent, it takes Poirot to the fourth murder (in Doncaster) to solve the problem and find the murder. In the interim, there are suspects, witnesses, red herrings, subtle clues, and a roulette wheel.
I recently found out that the character of Arthur Hastings (Poirot's friend who chronicles many of his adventures in several Agatha Christie novels) was played for almost 25 years on TV by the narrator of this book, Hugh Fraser. A nice match.
I had really been looking forward to this one, but I wish someone had warned me about the milquetoast characters, the cliches, and the ridiculous emotions of the protagonist. This is like an attempt by a love-sick 14 year old school girl to write a script for an long episode of Criminal Minds. The protagonist is a Detective Sergeant - well placed in the police department - but she has no concerns about having a crush on her boss and mentally gushes like a teenager (she didn't want to delete a voicemail message so she could keep a recording of his voice). Of course, she is sure she will be the one woman who can turn him from his history of bad relationships so he will become a man of emotional substance and fidelity. When confronted with a suspect in her home, she asks politely for her cell phone that he had taken ("could you give that back please") and thinks about escaping to run and shout manically into the night for the police, apparently forgetting that she IS the police and should have better resources than that. I thought her an embarrassment to the police force, not just to female detectives.
There seemed to be an awful lot of emphasis on physical appearance and superficial surroundings, with frequent descriptions of everything from bodies and hairstyles, to food and decor. One detective was repeatedly referred to as being unattractive (I think the phrase "his monkey face" was used several times), while a victim was almost never mentioned without reference to her either being overweight or having acne. Is that what we''re supposed to focus on about these people? Is that supposed to make the more "real",interesting, or sympathetic? It makes me roll my eyes in exasperation. Then add in the occasional conversation on the glories of motherhood or the wonders of small-town living, and it gets even more juvenile, in my opinion.
The villain in cliched, the setting is cliched, the doctor is cliched, and the depiction of the police is either sexist or comically inept. I'd recommend you take a pass.
Even though this book was written over 80 years ago, there are certain underlying themes, dreams, and events that remain true today.......the more things change, the more they remain the same.
A man of humble beginnings raises a family and rises in wealth and power, only to watch his sons abandon the family business when he grows older and longs for nothing more than peace in his home. The family business is owning land and farming, the home includes not just a wife and children, but a concubine and servants, and there are other particulars specific to the time and place (rural China early 1900s), but it's all still about recognizable hopes and dreams.
Yes, the pacing is slow, but I'm pretty sure life was slow in rural China in the early 1900s, so that's appropriate. It helps to set the tone and feeling for Wang Lung's life and times. Yes, there are prejudices on class and gender lines, but that's also appropriate for the times. This was a slow, subtle road that was, in the end, ultimately very worthwhile.
The narration was wonderful. This is the second audiobook I've heard by Anthony Heald, and he's done a great job each time.
I have seen two of the movie versions of this book, and still there was an element to it that I didn't expect........Even though the author always claimed he had no political message in the book, I definitely heard more of it in the book than I ever saw in the movies.
This version is more psychological horror and suspense than it is about a physical monstrosity - the "pod people" are physical duplicates, not any abhorrent visualized mess. They are not filled with inhuman rage, they don't eat living flesh, they don't make blood sacrifices. Visually it's a creepily calm but otherwise normal-looking situation. But, what Finney seems to mention again and again, the "pod people" (for lack of a better term) seem devoid of the human emotions, including the emotions that make people want to improve and change things. The real fear of changing is that the changed become stagnant emotionally and psychologically, doing only what is necessary but nothing that is desired since - without emotions - nothing is desired.
To me, that's more than a "good read" as Finney said was his goal, that's a small-p political statement about the state of humanity.
Yes, it's a sci fi thriller with good pacing, heroic characters, and a ticking clock of impending doom. But it's more than that, and not really what I'd expected.
At first I was a little bit disappointed by the slow movement of the story, but as I listened it became more intriguing and involving, and I found myself unwilling to turn it off and listening more avidly. It was not because it is thrilling with a lot of action or unexpected turns - in fact, virtually the entire story is told in retrospective analysis by the friend and psychiatrist of the protagonist - but because of the psychological suspense. It kind of creeps up on you and takes you by surprise.
Narration, by the great actor Ian McKellen, is terrific, and no doubt adds to the subtle creep of the suspense.
I purchased this title on a whim during a sale - I probably wouldn't have found it otherwise, and I'm glad I did.
I'd had this book on and off my wish list several times -- there was something intriguing about the main character, as she was described. So, I finally decided to bite the bullet and purchase it, hoping for an interesting listen. Sadly, Frieda wasn't very intriguing, and not very likable either........She betrayed her patients' trust and her professional ethics, she is blind to her own psychological issues but overcritical of others', and she's often dismissive of her own friends but seems to have no problem asking patients and acquaintances to help immediately whenever she feels the need. I was not at all invested (or even much interested) in her and what she was doing, including solving the puzzle and finding the missing child.
That said, it wasn't badly written and the plot of the actual mystery was interesting. But that's about the best I can say.
The narration was worse -- the narration always seemed to upbeat and young for the seriousness of the events and the status and age of the characters. Sometimes it almost seemed child-like, even for some of the male characters (what does it say when the deepest and most "masculine" voice with the most serious tone belongs to Frieda's teenaged niece?)
This was a difficult review to consider, because I really liked the historical setting, the story, and characterizations of the minor characters, I really didn't like the major characters very much. They were either cliched (hooker with a heart of gold) or not very likeable (war veteran resting on his laurels with anger problems). But the ancillary characters are good, the writing of the environment and life circumstances are good, and so is the story. Enjoyable while it was there, but not something I want more of.
Wow, David Tennant did a wonderful job narrating this book......not just because his (own) Scottish accent was a good fit for Bond (and brings in memories of Sean Connery as Bond), but because he also did wonderful voices for the other characters and the exposition (including bits of French or German). The right pacing, the right tone....all 'round wonderful.
As for the story......I liked this one more than many other Bonds, even though the movie version was hampered by the wrong actor. This is a more human, fragile, and emotional Bond - saving a woman from suicide, falling in love, getting married........all while saving England from catastrophe, of course. There's action in the high alps (lots of skiing and bobsledding), negotiations with a mobster, and even some undercover work requiring too much knowledge of ancestry and heraldic arms.
All greatly spun together by Tennant.
I love how Tana French writes complex but still very believable and real characters, and they're the center of this story - murder comes a distant second. In fact, the protagonist isn't even part of the Dublin police's Murder Squad - he's actually on the undercover squad. But it's his family and friends, past and present, that create most of the environment and narrative. Yes, there was the disappearance of his girlfriend over 20 years ago that brings him back to his old 'hood and into contact again with his estranged family, but it's not really about that mystery or that girlfriend.....it's about a young man who planned and made an escape from what he saw as a dead-end life and an abusive and dysfunctional family, and then has to face his unresolved feelings when he has to deal with that same neighbourhood and family again. About how he tried to keep his daughter apart from those bad memories and experiences, but has to deal with their lives crashing together. All of that, and solve the murders of loved ones, past and present.
This is a lightweight and fun beach read, even though that term is usually reserved for chick lit.........Super cop Joe Ledger faces a bioterrorism weapon that can turn people into zombies, able to rise from the dead with just enough brain function to search out, kill, and eat other people, turning them into zombies too. He's brought into a super-secret military organization to destroy the undead threat, and I presume he continues with that group all through the series of novels. He's strong, fit, smart, fast, and deadly.....essentially, he's Jack Bauer in the first season of 24, over-the-top but good fun as a hero. Add in terrorism, conspiracy theories, traitors, technology, and zombies......well, who wouldn't have a great time?
Good narration makes it that much more fun.
I'll start with the narration, which was my biggest problem with this audiobook. There are two narrators - one is fine, but not especially good, but the other is horrible. Bland intonation and slightly elongated pauses - Stuart McLean uses a similar pacing for comedy, but they just don't work for narrating a murder thriller. I thought the book was kind of painful to listen to, but my sister urged me to go on because of the quality of the story.
The main story line is a good one, involving brothers after the death of their father. One is a political cartoonist, the other is a schizophrenic with obvious autistic spectrum signs who spend his days and night obsessively memorizing street maps from around the world from the computer website. When he sees what he thinks is a murder taking place, it reveals a past and starts a string of future events. That's great......but what isn't great is the myriad of back-stories and subplots that do nothing to help the characterization or clarity and simply add bulk and uninteresting information. A really strong editor would have been an asset.
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