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).
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.
I like the idea of a series about a hapless lawyer who survives in spite of it all. But this poor guy - Victor Karl - was for me more hopeless than hapless, and the way it was read made what was poor much worse. I couldn't finish listening and that doesn't happen very often.
1. This is not a Dept. Q novel.
2. This is not like a Dept. Q novel - no delightfully goofy characters.
3. It's a spy story and probably a reasonably good one, but I couldn't remember who was who or who had done what to whom, when.
4. I appreciated the sound of the narrator's voice and the author's (translator's?) words and I got the gist of the story but didn't follow it from chapter to chapter.
5. I didn't play it during a long car trip and it might be good for that. I don't think it would be confusing to read, but I wouldn't put this on a list of books to actually read - ever.
There aren't many 1 Credit books that take more than 30 hours to read. Many by Dickens, several by the Russians and David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest (58 hours without the footnotes!). These are worth reading and they are worth listening too and the duration is a bonus.
I listen to audiobooks for several different reasons. Most of those reasons have to do with being entertained or distracted. If the book and narrator are "just good enough" to amuse, distract, or both, the longer the book the better it satisfies what I want from it.
The structure of this story didn't seem strong enough to support its length, so while it was good enough to listen to for 30+ hours, it didn't say anything that was particularly interesting to me, or if it did, it didn't say it memorably.
If you're painting a room (two coats, trim, prep time, and clean-up) this would be a reasonable selection.
Audible - you don't have to include my rating. I'm using this as a way to ask for $ back. I couldn't sleep last night and needed a book to listen to. This seemed to be brand new but as soon as it started I realized that I had heard it before, that I didn't want to hear it again, and in no event was it a good book to use to help with sleep! In the past I think I've been told by my library when I try to buy a book I've already got. I think there have been problems with the name of this one. Thanks, Brian Burke
If you are hoping for the next episode in the story developed in Case Histories and Started Early Took My Dog, this isn't the book you were waiting for. At least I don't think it is. Atkinson can mystify the reader for several chapters before the narrative starts to hang together, but she has the ability to make the material engaging even though you don't know what's going on. Maybe that's what she's doing in this novel. I wouldn't know because I gave up on it after about 1/2 hour. This very low rating represents my disappointment as much as the perceived quality of the book.
This is a story about death and decay. I'm too old to listen to it and gave up after 1/2 hour.
Listening to Infinite Jest is an experience of hearing the work of a virtuoso performer. These 900+ pages include four-page paragraphs (3000 words) which Pratt reads in a way that keeps them engaging and fresh from beginning to end. The same can be said about his reading of the entire novel.
His accomplishment can't be fully appreciated without reading a few pages of the text while he performs it. I find myself listening to random selections from the download two or three times, and I enjoy listening to the words and sentences without concern about how the fit into something larger. I don't think I've ever done this with another book.
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