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Carol

Classical history buff, but find most of history fascinating. Love books, ballet, and basketball.

Massachusetts | Member Since 2010

796
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 92 reviews
  • 198 ratings
  • 562 titles in library
  • 55 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
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FOLLOWERS
90

  • A Test of Wills

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Charles Todd
    • Narrated By Samuel Giles
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (170)
    Performance
    (144)
    Story
    (145)

    Ian Rutledge returns to his career at Scotland Yard after years fighting in the First World War. Unknown to his colleagues he is still suffering from shell shock, and is burdened with the guilt of having had executed a young soldier on the battlefield for refusing to fight. A jealous colleague has learned of his secret and has managed to have Rutledge assigned to a difficult case which could spell disaster for Rutledge whatever the outcome. A retired officer has been murdered, and Rutledge goes to investigate.

    Carol says: "Difficult to follow the narrator"
    "Difficult to follow the narrator"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Inspector Rutledge returns to his position at Scotland Yard after long and horrendous combat service as an officer in World War I. He has been damaged in soul and psyche, and in ways that make him one of the most fascinating detectives in the genre. This first book in the series is truly special, well written, compelling, and different.

    Unfortunately, I cannot recommend listening to this narration. Even though I've read the book (albeit a number of years ago), I found myself totally confused almost from the beginning as to which character was speaking. We become so used to narrators who handle multiple-character dialog well (even if they don't always sound like we think a beloved character should) that it's a shock to listen to someone with this little skill at voice differentiation. In scenes where Rutledge is conducting interviews, it's almost impossible to follow the flow of questions and answers and the vital information (the plot is fairly complicated) that emerges from these interviews.

    There's nothing "wrong" with Giles's voice, he just doesn't use it well. Read the book, skip this audio.

    16 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • Arabella

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Georgette Heyer
    • Narrated By Phyllida Nash
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (37)
    Performance
    (34)
    Story
    (34)

    When Arabella first arrives in London, she has only one mission: to snare a rich husband. With a mind to beat the competition, she pretends to be a rich heiress and soon finds herself the talk of the town, pursued by the most eligible bachelors in the city. But she has her sights on one man only: the much-hunted Mr Beaumaris. Our feisty heroine puts up a fight and deals the worldly-wise Beaumaris a deft hand in the game of love; at first grudgingly charmed, he soon becomes smitten.

    Nena says: "Delightful !"
    "Don't Believe the Synopsis"
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    Maggie's review on Audible UK summed it up perfectly:

    "Gold stars all round for finally recording Arabella, unabridged, and by Phyllida Nash. Points off for whoever wrote the bland 'publisher's summary' that manages to make the book sound like the diary of a gold-digger."

    The synopsis of this book (as of 10/14) has every aspect of this charming story wrong. Anyone who reads the first chapter will know that Arabella is certainly *not* a gold-digger. And the amusing misunderstanding-leading-to-deception that drives the plot is far more the work of Beaumaris than of Arabella.

    I would say it is with the 1949 publication of "Arabella" that Georgette Heyer completely took possession of the Regency romance in a way that defines the genre to this day. "The Grand Sophy," perhaps her most famous work, followed in 1950, with another 15 years of wonderful books before the stories (in my opinion) began to slide in the late '60s.

    There is some similarity between the plot and characters of "Arabella" and those of the later "Sylvester," but Arabella is unique. The scenes where Arabella quite innocently foists a mongrel dog (to say nothing of the chimney sweep's "climbing boy") into the care of the suave and "dandy" Beaumaris are priceless. Her father and mother, though relatively minor characters, are wonderful.

    For fans of Heyer, this one is not to be missed. These Naxos editions continue to eat my credits for lunch, but I'm not complaining.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Murder 101: A Decker/Lazarus Novel, Book 22

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Faye Kellerman
    • Narrated By Richard Ferrone
    Overall
    (80)
    Performance
    (72)
    Story
    (70)

    As a detective lieutenant with the LAPD, Peter Decker witnessed enough ugliness and chaos for a lifetime. Now, he and his devoted wife, Rina Lazarus, are ready to enjoy the quiet beauty of upstate New York, where they can be closer to their four adult children and their foster son. But working for the Greenbury Police department isn't as fulfilling as Decker hoped. While Rina has adapted beautifully to their new surroundings, Decker is underwhelmed and frustrated by his new partner, Tyler McAdams, a former Harvard student and young buck with a bad 'tude.

    Carol says: "New Town, New Narrator, Same Saints"
    "New Town, New Narrator, Same Saints"
    Overall
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    Story

    "Murder 101" is much better than "The Beast," the book that preceded it in the Decker/Lazarus saga--but then, almost anything would be. That said, as a longtime fan of the series I enjoyed this one, including the new setting, new characters, and the new narrator.

    New setting: Peter Decker has left the LAPD and taken a "semiretirement" job as detective for the Greenbury, NY police department, a quiet town whose claim to fame is being the host of five small but prestigious colleges (hence the academic reference in the title). The move means Peter and Rina now live within easy driving distance of their myriad (and multicultural) kids and grandkids. Rina is still hosting Shabbos dinners, teaching Hebrew, and baking cookies. Peter has not acclimated quite so well, but perks up when a local art theft leads to murder and he's suddenly pulling all-nighters, living on coffee and bagels, and getting shot at again.

    New character: Decker is also back in his Wise Old Dad role. His new partner, Tyler McAdams, is a Park Avenue trust funder, a recent Harvard grad who is resisting the law school road his loudmouthed, overbearing, 1-percent-entitlee father insists on. Like Chris Donati and Gabe Whitman before him, Tyler is a young man with a chip on his shoulder and daddy issues. And, like Chris and Gabe, he soon comes to respect and admire Saint Peter and to venerate Saint Rina (if I may be excused the mixed religious metaphor in referring to the Orthodox Jewish Deckers).

    New Narrator: I really like Richard Ferrone's narration. Upbeat and energizing, yet easy to listen to. The one (minor) flaw is that he does not even try to do feminine voices, and I was often taken aback to realize that Rina had been the one speaking. Peter and Tyler sound a little too much alike, but interestingly all the minor characters--college frat boys, New York art dealers, Park Avenue matrons, Boston police, and Harvard profs--are subtly and neatly distinguishable.

    I think if you’ve enjoyed other books in the series you’ll probably like this one. It’s not the place to start the Decker’s long story, over which they’ve aged in real time (among the very few series regulars to do so), although Rina at 50-something is apparently still quite astonishingly beautiful.

    There was one aspect of the book that I found distracting at first and eventually just found amusing. The fictional town of Greenbury and its fictional 5 colleges is at different points in the book described as being in upstate New York; closer to Boston than to Manhattan; about 1.5 hours by car from Boston; *and* closer to the Hamptons than to Manhattan. Now, I’m not geographically challenged, but I couldn’t triangulate any location in the northeast that met all those criteria. But I enjoyed my visit anyway.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Corinthian

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Georgette Heyer
    • Narrated By Georgina Sutton
    Overall
    (90)
    Performance
    (86)
    Story
    (85)

    The accomplished Corinthian Sir Richard Wyndham is wealthy, sophisticated, handsome ,and supremely bored. Tired of his aristocratic family constantly pressuring him to get married, he determines to run away after meeting the delightful, unconventional heroine Penelope Creed. Penelope - literally - falls into his life late one night as she hangs from the window of her aunt's house - she too attempting to escape the pressures of forced marriage.

    Carol says: "Fun on the Run"
    "Fun on the Run"
    Overall
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    Naxos releases another Heyer classic. This one is a short, fast, fun read. Our hero and heroine, both being pressured by family to enter marriages they find abhorrent, "meet cute": Penelope has shorn her hair, donned men's clothes, and is climbing out the window at 3 a.m. when she is rescued by a "bosky" Sir Richard, who is walking home after drowning his sorrows at White's Club.

    Stirred by the idea of disappearing--and thus not having to propose to "the iceberg" his mother is pushing on him--Sir Richard (in his elegantly inebrieted state) agrees to pose as the gender-disguised "Penn's" tutor so that he can escort her to her childhood sweetheart's family estate.

    By the time our hero sobers up, he and "Penn" are travelling on a public stagecoach, where they meet with an interesting assortment of the common folk (no fancy dress balls or evenings at Almack's in this story), and an especially interesting assortment of highway robbers. Mystery and danger ensue, but we know what will happen in the end--which is part of the joy of these books, at least for some of us.

    Georgina Sutton's narration is top-notch; all the Naxos narrators are competent, but she's exceptionally good.


    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Rubicon: A Novel of Ancient Rome

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Steven Saylor
    • Narrated By Ralph Cosham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (13)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (12)

    As Caesar marches on Rome and panic erupts in the city, Gordianus the Finder discovers, in his own home, the body of Pompey’s favorite cousin. Before fleeing the city, Pompey exacts a terrible bargain from the finder of secrets: to unearth the killer or sacrifice his own son-in-law to service in Pompey’s legions - and certain death. Amid the city’s sordid underbelly, Gordianus learns that the murdered man was a dangerous spy. Now, as he follows a trail of intrigue, betrayal, and ferocious battles on land and sea, the Finder is caught between the chaos of war and the terrible truth he must finally reveal.

    Carol says: "May You Live in Interesting Times"
    "May You Live in Interesting Times"
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    The first five novels in Stephen Saylor’s “Roma Sub Rosa” saga span almost 30 years, from when Gordianus the Finder met Cicero the Advocate (“Roman Blood,” set in 80 BC) to the murder of Clodius (“Murder on the Appian Way,” 52 BC). Gordianus rubbed shoulders with historical bigshots while he solved crimes, got married, acquired children, and watched as the Roman republic crumbled. In "Rubicon," the sixth book of the series, he (and we) reach the era of outright civil war--early 49 BC, as Julius Caesar and his legions “cross the Rubicon” in defiance of the Roman senate and its leader, Pompey Magnus (“the great,” a title Pompey apparently bestowed on himself).

    “Rubicon” opens with Pompey’s nephew found murdered in the atrium of Gordianus’ own home. “Pompey is going to be mightily pissed,” moans Gordianus, now 60 and retired. He has tried to avoid taking sides in the civil war, despite the fact that his son Meto is Caesar’s close adviser and literary amanuensis. Gordianus the Finder has given way to Gordianus the Father (and grandfather), paterfamilias of a unique family that he loves deeply and is desperate to protect. But of course the startling murder drags him into the thick of things. Pompey, about to lead his own army against Caesar, takes Gordianus’ son-in-law hostage and will return him only when Gordianus finds the killer.

    Especially considering that it’s one of the shorter entries in the series, the plot of “’Rubicon” is complex. There are secret love affairs and coded messages and disguises and blackmail and a climactic battle. The ending reveals the killer but opens up a whole new mystery that will play out over the next few books.

    The Roman Republic-into-Empire era epitomizes the curse “may you live in interesting times.” Saylor’s books portray the uncertainty, violence, and chaos and its effects on ordinary citizens with verve and scholarship. The parallel but somewhat less earnest SPQR books by John Maddox Roberts feature the same timeframe and events, starring a young aristocrat who is prone to stumble across murders. Both series are treats for the classical history lover.

    In terms of audiobooks, it’s unfortunate that the early Gordianus novels were *extremely* poorly narrated. Ralph Cosham takes over the narration for Rubicon and later books, and I enjoy him (once I get over wondering how Inspector Armand Gamache--a trademark Cosham character--got from modern Quebec to ancient Rome). The SPQR books are narrated by Simon Vance and John Lee, both great old hands at this type of material. We who are about to listen salute you!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Agamemnon's Daughter: A Novella & Stories

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Ismail Kadare
    • Narrated By Clinton Wade, Allan Robertson, Jeremy Arthur, and others
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    In this spellbinding novel, written in Albania and smuggled into France a few pages at a time in the 1980s, Ismail Kadare denounces with rare force the machinery of a dictatorial regime, drawing us back to the ancient roots of tyranny in Western Civilization. During the waning years of Communism, a young worker for the Albanian state-controlled media agency narrates the story of his ill-fated love for the daughter of a high-ranking official.

    Carol says: "Three Stories, Each Unique"
    "Three Stories, Each Unique"
    Overall
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    The title novella in this anthology by Man Booker Prize recipient Ismail Kadare is a reference to the Greek king Agamemnon, who lured his daughter Iphigenia to the altar with promises of marriage to the hero Achilles, only to seize her and sacrifice her to the gods so that his army would be allowed to sail away and attack Troy. The narrator of Kadare’s novella, a broadcast journalist in totalitarian socialist Albania during the early 80s, finds the ancient story of Iphigenia strangely resonant. He is hurting because the woman he loves has recently left him, allegedly because her father did not find their relationship politically expedient. He has also received a last-minute ticket to a grandstand seat at the May Day Parade--a high honor he cannot refuse--and his romantic musings as he walks to claim his unsought “exalted” position are interspersed with paranoid reflections as to the meaning behind the anonymous invitation. Is it really a reward (and if so, for what?), or is it a trap?

    “Agamemnon’s Daughter” is Kadare’s no doubt autobiographical mirror of the conditions prevailing in Albania from 1944-1985, under the rule of dictator Enver Hoxa (referred to in the story as the “Supreme Guide”). During that time Albania achieved unprecedented economic and agricultural success; the people were said to be “tax-free”; education (within rigidly prescribed socialist contexts) was available to all and literacy skyrocketed. By the May Day described, it is also a society where personal privacy, independence, family loyalty, and love itself have been sacrificed to absolute political authority. It is all the more chilling for having been drawn from reality.

    The second story, “The Blinding Order,” explores the paranoid psychology that grips people when a “witch hunt” is on; in this case, the hunt involves seeking out those who possess the “evil eye.” It was an original approach to a topic that’s been covered many times.

    I found the last and shortest story, “The Great Wall,” to be the most interesting. Set in the 14th century, it documents the internal musings of two men, one an engineer called to work on shoring up China’s Great Wall against an attack by Tamarlane’s army; the second man is a scout for that army. It’s not exactly action-packed, but it’s an interesting take on fear, conquest, and psyching out the enemy.

    This collection was an unusually literary choice for me; I tend to listen mostly to genre fiction, which these stories definitely are not. If this had been a novel I probably would have found it, well, boring, but the length of these pieces made each of them an intriguing change of pace. I was a little put off by the coarse, even misogynisitic, language Kadare uses when describing women sexually, but aside from those brief instances I found the writing admirable. All in all, a worthy selection, especially for anyone interested in political history.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • An Echo in the Bone: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (45 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Diana Gabaldon
    • Narrated By Davina Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5776)
    Performance
    (3949)
    Story
    (3958)

    Jamie Fraser knows from his time-traveling wife Claire that, no matter how unlikely it seems, America will win the Revolutionary War. But that truth offers little solace, since Jamie realizes he might find himself pointing a weapon directly at his own son - a young officer in the British army. And Jamie isn't the only one with a tormented soul - for Claire may know who wins the conflict, but she certainly doesn't know whether or not her beloved Jamie survives.

    Charles says: "Read all of Gabaldon's stuff before this one"
    "When Last We Saw Them..."
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    It has been five years since "An Echo in the Bone" was published, and the long awaited Volume 8 is finally imminent (June 2014). Although readers are now five years older, the forthcoming "Written in My Own Heart's Blood" will apparently pick up the story on the same day (well at least one of the same days) "Echo" ended.

    I started listening to this series four years ago and listened to them all in sequence (along with the Lord John Grey books--and a lot other books in between). I just recently finished "Echo," so I guess I timed it right. I can't imagine how frustrating it's been for fans of the series who read "Echo" when it came out to have had all those cliffhangers hanging all this time. You've probably re-read the book in anticipation of the new one; it's certainly a good idea to do so.

    After three books set claustrophobically in frontier North Carolina and stories centered almost exclusively on Jamie, Claire, Roger, and Brianna, in "Echo" we *finally* get off of Fraser's Ridge--with a vengeance! If almost nothing happened in "Fiery Cross" and the action was slow (and mostly depressing) in "Snow and Ashes," then "An Echo in the Bone" seems determined to make up for it. Not only do characters from previous books (notably Ian, Lord John, and William) now take center stage right along with J,C,R&B, we are suddenly world and time travelers again. The action covers much of the American east coast, has great scenes in Scotland (in TWO story lines, 200 years apart!), and for kicks throws in several scenes in London and France. We meet historical characters, including Benedict Arnold and a naked Ben Franklin. Even Rollo the Wolfhound gets featured actor status.

    The mind reels and the plot jumps can be hard to follow, but I enjoyed "An Echo in the Bone." I'm especially grateful for the action-packed pace after the previous two snoozers. I think you do need to have read "The Brotherhood of the Blade" in the Lord John series to fully appreciate "Echo," but that should not be a hardship; in my opinion, "Brotherhood" is, all things considered, Diana Gabaldon's best novel to date. And I'm glad I won't have to wait five years to find out what happened in Philadelphia that day.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Venetia

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Georgette Heyer
    • Narrated By Phyllida Nash
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (149)
    Performance
    (139)
    Story
    (139)

    Venetia Lanyon, beautiful, intelligent and independent, lives in comfortable seclusion in rural Yorkshire with her precocious brother Aubrey. Her future seems safe and predictable: Either marriage to the respectable but dull Edward Yardley, or a life of peaceful spinsterhood. But when she meets the dashing, dangerous rake Lord Damerel, her well-ordered life is turned upside down, and she embarks upon a relationship with him that scandalizes and horrifies the whole community.

    Carol says: "Heaven for Heyer Fans"
    "Heaven for Heyer Fans"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Hard on the heels of Naxos releasing "The Grand Sophy" and "Sylvester," two of Georgette Heyer's greatest, comes the equally wonderful "Venetia." All three books were written at the peak of Heyer's career. "Venetia" has a bit more melodrama than "Sophy" or "Sylvester," partly because of the reformed rake with a painful past that is the the hero, Lord Damerel.

    All her life Venetia has heard oblique references to her "delicate position," along with veiled warnings that she must be especially protective of her reputation, "so as not to be thought to be...." At which point her well wishers generally trail off and say something like "....but I must say no more on that head," leaving Venetia puzzled, to say the least. The arrival of the charming but brooding Damerel increases these warnings to a fever pitch, for reasons that the reader will probably guess before Venetia solves the mystery.

    During her lifetime Georgette Heyer was said to resent the fact that her Regency romances were so much more popular than her mysteries or her historical fiction. I agree her mysteries are underrated (particularly "Envious Casca," which I think is a minor masterpiece that Masterpiece Mystery should dramatize immediately), but, whether she agreed with the assessment or not, her Regencies are in a class by themselves. The best of them -- including Venetia -- stand head and shoulders above the pack. Enjoy!

    21 of 21 people found this review helpful
  • Hollow World

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Michael J. Sullivan
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (229)
    Performance
    (211)
    Story
    (211)

    Ellis Rogers is an ordinary man who is about to embark on an extraordinary journey. All his life he has played it safe and done the right thing. But when he is faced with a terminal illness, Ellis is willing to take an insane gamble. He's built a time machine in his garage, and if it works, he'll face a world that challenges his understanding of what it means to be human, what it takes to love, and the cost of paradise. Ellis could find more than a cure for his disease; he might find what everyone has been searching for since time has begun.

    Hassan says: "A Good Read!!"
    "We Aren't in Riyria Any More"
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    Story

    If you are a huge fan of Michael Sullivan's "Riyria Revelations" (as I am), you may be disappointed by storyline of this book. If you love Hadrian and Royce and Gwen and Arista (as I do), you may be disappointed by the characters in this book. If you are simply a fan of Sullivan's writing (as I am), or if you like thought-provoking social commentary with offbeat sort-of science fiction, you may like this book.

    Elements of the book reminded me of "Looking Backward," an 1888 book by Edward Bellamy. It is a change to see a vision of the future that had at least some elements of utopia, rather than the bleak and brutal dystopian futures portrayed in most 21st century novels. But 2,000 years is a long time (trying to go 200 years into the future, our MIT-trained protagonist miscalculates by an order of magnitude), and this future is indeed weird.

    Definitely a change of pace for Michael Sullivan, and not something I would have chosen if he hadn't been the author. "Hollow World" lives up to his high standards as a novelist, and I'm not exactly sorry I listened to it, but, unlike the "Riyria" books, it's not something I'd want to listen to a second time.

    13 of 16 people found this review helpful
  • The Invisible Ring: Black Jewels, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Anne Bishop
    • Narrated By John Sharian
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (128)
    Performance
    (86)
    Story
    (89)

    Jared is a Red-Jeweled Warlord bound as a pleasure slave by the Ring of Obedience. After suffering nine years of torment as a slave, he murdered his owner and escaped - only to be caught and sold into slavery once again. The notorious queen who has purchased him, known as the Gray Lady, may not be what she seems. Soon, Jared faces a difficult choice: his freedom, or his honor.

    Tango says: "Save Your Credit"
    "Bad Queen, Good Queen, Warlord Prince"
    Overall
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    You should only consider getting this title if you're already a fan of the Black Jewels trilogy ("Daughter of the Blood," "Heir to the Shadows," and "The Queen of Darkness," hereafter referred to as BJT), and even then I wouldn't recommend "The Invisible Ring."

    The BJT is a mix of magic, epic fantasy, sadistic evil, adventure, romance, and erotica (both romantic and BDSM). Its world is one of multiple planes (Terreile, Kaelaer, Hayll, and the Twisted Kingdom) and different races (winged humans, humans who live for centuries, regular humans, "black widows," and undead sorta vamps). Jewels are the source of magic, and the darker the jewel the more potent the magic. Women hold the dominant sexual power and evil queens enforce it by forging "rings of obedience" onto the … anatomy … of any powerful Warlord Prince they can get their hands on.

    If you're still reading this after the above description, you might enjoy the BJT books, which are unique, intriguing, exciting, romantic, and often erotic. But "The Invisible Ring," a prequel to the BJT, is none of these.

    The marvelous, fully developed characters of BJT are absent. Instead we have the callow Jared and a pretty young pre-queen who may, if Jared and his buddies can manage to save her from the hideously evil Red Queen Dorothea, develop into a full-fledged Grey-Jewelled Queen (grey jewels being pretty high-powered items in this world). Dorothea is the only major character from BJT who shows up (well, BJT' s hero Daemon has a cameo, but it's so pale you can overlook it). Dorothea's scenes are truly gruesome--she is one corrupt witch queen!--but mostly the book is just boring and trite, and very unlike the books of the trilogy.

    P.S. The review of Invisible Ring by Tango is spot on. I have been meaning to post this "warning" review for a while, and her excellent summation has just beaten me to it!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Paradise City: A Joe Gunther Mystery, Book 22

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Archer Mayor
    • Narrated By William Dufris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (13)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (9)

    Joe Gunther and his team at the Vermont Bureau of Investigation are alerted to a string of unrelated burglaries across Vermont. Someone, in addition to flatscreens, computers, and stereos, has also been stealing antiques and jewelry. Meanwhile, in Boston, an elderly woman surprises some thieves in her Beacon Hill home and is viciously murdered. The Boston police find that not only is the loot similar to what's being stolen in Vermont, but it may have the same destination.

    Carol says: "The Names of the Streets are Real"
    "The Names of the Streets are Real"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Archer Mayor's mysteries featuring Joe Gunther are "regionals" depicting life and crime in Brattleboro and other locales of the upper Connecticut River Valley of Vermont, along the Interstate 91 "ski-way." This installment takes Joe south down I-91, into the Western Massachusetts part of the Valley--which happens to be the region where I happily hang out. The action centers on Northampton, the self-proclaimed "Paradise City" of the book's title, which is generally regarded as the fine arts and fine dining center of Western Mass. (Snobs from Boston need not comment on that statement, thank you.)

    I enjoyed reading the portrayals of Northampton, Amherst, Greenfield, and other haunts of my stomping grounds. Most of the places described are real--from Coolidge Cafe to the Summit House, from the abandoned Strategic Air Command post hidden inside Mount Tom to Amity Street and Potwine Lane, the accuracy of the locations was fun (at least for a "local" like me). The art and jewelry gallery that is crucial to the story is fictitious, but certain (noncriminal) elements of it were recognizable in real establishments.

    Even though the "taste of home" kept me reading, I found the overall story less than compelling. I also found it very hard to follow the characters. We are introduced in rapid succession to Billie, Willie, Mickey, Bobby, Tony, Jimmy, Dan, and Ed, to name a few. One's a victim, some are cops, and the rest are bad guys. We also have Mina, Anna, Donna, Nancy, Sammie, and Lou. It was a relief to meet Li Anming, an artisan "smuggled in" from China and kept as slave labor, re-setting and re-crafting stolen jewelry; her character at least I was able to recognize readily.

    I remember reading a couple of the early Gunther books, and that I enjoyed "Borderlines" and "The Skeleton's Knee." But the series never grabbed me, and there are 15 or 16 books in between "Knee" and "Paradise" that I never read; so it's partly my own lack that I didn't know the characters (beyond Joe Gunther himself) who are series regulars. But even discounting the regulars, the rather flimsy plot seemed overburdened with players. It's a fairly short read with some interesting scenes. Not awful, not great.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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