I'm a glutton for audiobooks - especially mysteries - and I'm surprised I had never heard of Chris Knopf until I stumbled upon The Last Refuge. After hearing it read, I listened to the other four in a week. Five books by the same writer in one week is high praise. But note, these books won't be for everyone. My interest is in the protagonist, a 54 year old mechanical engineer, called Sam Acquillo, who is one of those guys who knows how almost everything works - both manufactured or natural. If he doesn't know, he can figure it out. He's a know-it-all, but he isn't annoying because he DOES know it all. He a good guy to have around, especially if you are tracking down various murderers.
Sam is a former boxer. He's wasn't a good boxer but he's stayed in shape by working out at grimy, smelly boxing gyms. When he meets another man, Sam sizes the man up and decides whether he could kick the guy’s butt. He usually decides that he can and he's usually right. This is largely because most men were never boxers of any sort, and if they were they haven't maintained the physical condition of even a mediocre boxer.
At the beginning of this book Sam runs a R&D Division of a huge corporation. He has a record of going all over the world to fix big problems in huge industrial operations. He's the company's best engineer, in spite of the fact that he doesn't play and work well with others.
The book begins with a corporate board meeting. Sam is invited and is praised for the remarkable job he's do with his division and the terrific revenues his team has been able to generate. In fact, it is so profitable that the Board is thinking about selling it off at a very high profit. Sam knows it's a done deal and is very unhappy to have his division sold out from under him.
Sam's lousy personality emerges. The house counsel, sitting across the table from Sam, starts to read a description of the mechanics by which Sam's division will be spun-off. Sam gets up, reaches across the table, grabs the lawyer's tie, and pulls him far enough across the table to punch him in the face. It isn't a good thing for anyone to do to another person, but Sam has seized the “reader’s attention,” (At least he seized my attention.)
Within twelve hours Sam has quit his job, abandoned his career, and has dumped his dreadful wife. He has also consumed a lot of Absolute vodka (which is a continuing riff). For days, weeks, or months, Sam runs on the wild side. His is committed to a detox. The program doesn't work but Sam gets off the streets and ends up in a small beach cottage he has inherited and which is barely habitable. He lives like a semi-hermit and is starting to FIND himself when he FINDS his elderly next door neighbor, a woman he doesn't like, dead in her bathtub. The police call it a natural death; Sam thinks it's murder because the old gal didn't take baths.
It goes on from there.
I'm giving five's to all of these recordings. They aren't the same kind of fives I give to Dickens novels, but fives to acknowledge a new series with a new protagonist I like the fictional John Deal and Doc Ford and the real-life Australian science-genius: Dr. Karl (who can be heard on a BBC podcast).
The connection between Conan Doyle and Robert Koch is pretty tentative, but this is much more than a limited dual biography.
It's a history of science with respect to germ theory. For nearly fifty years I've actively wondered why Semmelweis (the guy who suggested that doctors wash their hand(s) before doing a pelvic exam on a woman about to give birth) was ignored (and died in obscurity) while Pasteur - with essentially the same insight - is still an international hero. In other words, why couldn't Semmelweis promote his discovery and Pasteur could promote his, when they were both variations on Germ Theory.
This book explains with convincing detail how and why Germ Theory was an exceedingly difficult scientific "truth" to "sell," rather like the Global Warming of its day.
Catcher in the Rye is the most enduring novel I read in high school and every time I re-read a part of it, I wonder about the number of drafts Salinger must have written to get the dialogues so trimmed and on pitch.
For Esme with Love and Squalor - also after repeated readings - remains a perfect short story.
These three 'early stories' are: bad. They are not indicative of what will come later.
All young writers can rejoice.
I read a lot of history, but I can't think of another book - academic or "popular" that's so engaging.
For years, History of the Peloponnesian War, Crime and Punishment, and The Distant Mirror sat by my bed. I couldn't read them and I couldn't give up on them. Eventually I finished Thucydides and Dostoevsky. The Tuchman book is gone too. I never read it, but eventually I had to get rid of it.
I "finished Thucydides but gave up on Tuchman's Distant Mirror." In light of what follows that's quite a statement.
I selected this audiobook because it was long - a big bang for the buck. After an hour or two I was so engaged that bought The Book to read with, in front of, and catching up to the audio. The compelling way she selects and assembles the zillions of available factual reports from the opening days of WWI is brilliant.
I don't know how she did it, but if I wanted to pursue history as a career - even as an academic - I wouldn't start until I had was convinced that I had figured it out and could emulate her methodology - even if I couldn't compete with her style.
John Lee is superb in this as in all of his performances.
I've listened to a lots from the Scandinavian mystery genre and have enjoyed it. I suspect that the completion of the Jens Lapidus trilogy may be the apogee for my appreciation. One reviewer wrote that all other Scandinavian mysteries (e.g. procedural, suspense, modern detective, sad-sack but winsome drunk) are preparation for Lapidus who takes the familiar tropes to the limit.
It's possible that plots turning on transatlantic flights are worn out before they are written. Regardless, Bad Blood seemed like 'more of the same.'
In spite of weak material John Lee is always an excellent, soothing, and confident narrator.
Purchased on sale; not interesting to me and I'm not a good judge of anything in this genre.
Purchased on sale. Futuristic, end of the world, evil doctor - not interesting to me.
Young, brilliant lawyer leaves big firm and does something stupendously good – not very likely. I read only two or three of the first novels, but this seemed to be the flavor of Early Grisham. Implausible stories populated with cardboard characters. I avoided his books thinking him closer to Dan Brown than skillful writers like Scott Turow who also have a deep Feel for the Law, how it works, and the possible outcomes when it's infused with imaged facts and people.
Then I stumbled on the Mature Grisham with plots extreme but possible and instructive and each with the right Feel. Examples include Sycamore Row, The Racketeer, and The Appeal. The Appeal is a superb fictional equivalent to Jonathan Harr’s brilliant non-fiction account of A Civil Action (Not in Audible’s inventory; set of CDs from Amazon = $149.00! It’s not that good but worth a reversion to Reading.).
I looked forward to Gray Mountain as another from the Mature Grisham, but it had the characteristics of Early Grisham: predictable, implausible and tiresome. It was as though he had an old, rejected manuscript, and he didn’t have the heart to toss it. Now, as a best selling writer who has mastered The Craft, he cleans his story up and out to his agent. Of course it’s going to be published, but it isn’t good; it lacks The Feel. I hope he’s run out of old manuscripts.
The narrator was fine but she didn't have enough to work with.
I’ve listened hundreds of audiobooks and this is one of the best, and the best revenge story since the Count of Monte Cristo.
Here’s the setup: [It’s not a spoiler. The plot has too many (good) twists for me to count.]
The protagonist is 72. He and his wife are moving from the East Coast to live out their lives in the “kinder climate of Santa Barbara.” A team of men in neat, clean uniforms arrive with a big moving van. The geezer thinks they are a day early. The team leader, polite and intelligent, checks his clipboard carefully and confirms that today’s the day. The geezer’s wife appears and says the van and crew are a early.
The geezer thinks he’s made a mistake – after all he’s 72 – and his wife got the date from him. He assures her that today’s the day. The crew packs up the house carefully and efficiently. The leader asks the geezer if he and his wife have a place to stay. Yes, the geezer assures him, he and his wife will spend the last night in the house just as they spent their first, with nothing but a blanket and candle. That's nice - I'd like to know these people.
The next day the real movers arrive.
I’m 71 and live in Santa Barbara, and I relish the suggestion that the thieves who prey on geezers who recognize their own potential for getting a date wrong, may made a mistake in the selection of their victim. Yes, he and his wife have accumulated beautiful and valuable furniture to steal. It was insured, and they are the kind of people who have never a single claim on their homeowner's policy. They know and feel that what they lost was just STUFF They will be well compensated for their loss, and they are moving to Santa Barbara. They can and should enjoy every minute of the rest of their lives.
But the thieves may have made the mistake of stealing from a geezer who has spent his entire adult lifetime repressing his Inner Badass.
Excellent writing and well performed.
This is a full-on "mature" Dismas Hardy story. You get what you pay for and the value is good. This is a bit of a clean up story for Hardy fans who read and remember the over-the-top 'on the pier' shoot out where Abe, Dismas and Moses kill a lot of bad guys (six?) and SPLIT. (Only in SF.) Well, this story starts off with everyone worried that Moses is going to start talking six years after the fact and it goes on from there.
The Incident at the Pier is more or less central but so is the date rape of Franny's niece, who happens to be Moses's daughter who may or may not have murdered the man responsible. There seems to be an underlying premise that most fathers would want to murder a man responsible for the date rape of his beautiful and very sexually active twenty-something daughter. I doubt it's the attitude of most of those men or very many of those daughters.
Then, there's a muddled conclusion with muddled implications that should haunt Dismas for the rest of his life even though it was none of his doing. As I recall, Moses was kind of interesting as a philosopher bartender, but he doesn't wear well during his trial with either the other characters or with the reader.
This is classic Lescroart. It's set in San Francisco - probably a San Francisco of yesterday but he describes a crazy place I knew and liked. He's not a lawyer but he gets the procedural stuff and the sense of criminal law practice as well as anyone in the writing business. Dismas and Fran are getting older and in a way, they are both getting cooler.
David Colacci is, of course, the voice of the series and does for Lescroart what Richard Ferrone has done for the Prey Series.
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