I'm actually pretty torn on whether or not to give this five stars. I think with every series, no matter the author, the progressive books never seem as good as the earlier ones. This is probably because the freahness of the idea behind the books tends to wears off. However, I would have to give the complete 3 book series five stars.
It's amazing the way this story comes together in the end, especially the last paragraph (I'm imagining it's the last paragraph since this is audio). I guarantee you won't see it coming.
The bottom line is: if you've read the first two books, you can't not read this one. If you haven't read the first two, what are you waiting for?
This 27 plus hour book isn't long enough. There isn't dull moment, in fact there are countless parts of the adventure where, if you listen in your car like me, you'll find yourself sitting outside your destination waiting for what happens next. It's nearly non-stop. The author couldn't have picked a better true life adventure with its larger than life protagonists to start his Audible offerings (I hope there'll be many more to come). There's trickery, betrayal, harems, sex, drugs, slave traders, hostile and friendly natives, wild rivers, seething jungle, and clever, idiotic, ruthless, and honorable people on all sides, in other words, real life. This book is a great triumph for both the author and the narrator who delivered an outstanding performance. I have listened to over a hundred audio books, and this is one of the best.
I didn't realize there was a choice of narrators for the first 2 books of this series.. I'm going to excahnge my Tull version for the Vance version and listen again. A quicker paced narration will probably raise this book to a 4 or 5 star overall rating. To prove my point, Tull's version: 16hrs 39mins, Vance's version: 13hrs 17mins. Both are unabridged. The sad thing is that from book 3 on there's no choice of narrator. What a pity. I had just finished CS Forester's great series, and after the disappointment of this first book, I went on to Alexander Kent. The only problem with Kent's series is that not all of the series is recorded, but at least what's there moves along and keeps you interested.
I've listened to Empire Falls, Nobody's Fool and Bridge of Sighs and I loved each one of them. John Irving used to be my favorite for this genre of novel, but Russo has nudged him aside. Until someone else comes along, Russo is the best at revealing human nature in such a creative, unexpected, close to the bone, sad, serious, humourous, and relateable way. For more on Richard Russo read my review of Empire Falls.
I enjoyed this story as much as A Man in Full. Part of what makes a story great is the adventure of learning things you never knew about a culture and a region, interesting things, and often fascinating things. I was completely captured over and over as this story careens from one cultural clique to another. We follow an unwilling and unlikely protagonist in Nestor Camacho a pumped up Cuban and Miami cop, almost a Keystone cop in the way he tries his best just to keep from screwing up yet winds up time and again as the center of Miami's media focus - as both a hero and a villan. Great story. Great characters. Great performance.
My first and only other Reginald Hill book was The Woodcutter which I loved. Wanting more I tried Dream of Darkness. It was OK, but nowhere near as good as the Woodcutter. I wish there was someway someone could let me know if any of his other books measure up.
After listening to The Power of One, which I recommended to everyone I know, I went on to listen to Tandia, Brother Fish, Four Fires, and the Australia trilogy, all of which were great. Then came this, the last book Bryce wrote before he died. Sadly he seems to have had nothing left. This book is largely a rehash of stories contained in his earlier books: Harmonica player, piano player, poker player, even a rehash of the great mining story at the end of The Power of One.
The other problem with this book is the narrator. As it is, you have to overlook the fact that all of Bryce's protagonist are Boy Scouts, but Humphrey Bower's narration just exacerbates this problem. I would describe his voice as Jocular. Even when something bad is happening he sounds upbeat about it.
I gave all the aforementioned novels five star ratings, and I'll be forever grateful to Bryce and his enormous talent, and because of this, I feel a little guilty about panning this book, but that's the way I see it.
I recently read Clapton's autobiography and found it a complete bore. Almost the entirety of the book was about his failed relationships and lifelong addictions - who cares. Neil Young, on the other hand, is a fascinating well rounded personality. Not only does he get into the music and musicians of the most musically influential period of our time, but we find out about his obsessions with model trains, electric cars, and a new high resolution digital music delivery system as well as his battle with epilepsy.
Neil Young obviously wrote this book without any help and it shows. The story wanders from subject to subject and jumps around in time like a sci-fi movie, but somehow it all works. I never got lost and never lost interest, however, I doubt that non-fans would find this book worthwhile.
This story has it all, especially unforgetable characters. It's completely unpredictable and never takes a boring turn. I don't want to revel anything about this surprising book, so just take my word that you won't regret putting this one in your shopping cart.
Most subjects Courtenay writes about I find interesting if not fascinating, however the large middle section of this book about the woman's training to please her captor held almost no interest for me at all. But that's just me, you may love this part of the book. This was my least favorite Courtenay book to date.
Hill has created a fascinating character in Wolf and Jonathan Keeble does a wonderful job in portraying him. The story, pacing, and well fleshed-out supporting cast make this book a winner. I'd love to see Wolf in another adventure.
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