I can't really believe I made it through this book. If I hadn't had a long day of mind numbing, tedious chores it wouldn't have happened.
So what's wrong with "Winterkill"? Shallow characters, a scattershot plot line, unbelievable technical details, descriptive phrases that made me cringe, and a marginal reader.
The book seems to start out OK, an interesting premise, a beautiful location and steps in a big pile before the first scene is even over. I mean, if a character is so drunk he can't tell cigarets from bullets it isn't likely he can shoot well enough drop seven fleeing elk, but maybe...and I'd really like to see someone remove a steering wheel with just a leatherman tool, but still..., and then, our intrepid hero tracks the escaped bad guy through the snow, realizes the villain must be hiding behind a tree because the tracks stop at the tree, then, lo and behold, finds the fellow pinned to the other side of the tree by two arrows with..... his throat cut, (by the longest armed murderer in the history of crime literature?). No.
Add to this a description of the rugged, silent, tortured, sidekick's enormous revolver that is nearly pornographic, then later in the, just in case you missed it, he describes it again in the same orgasmic tones. Ugh.
Now include a well stereotyped, bitchy female victim, a schizophrenic attitude toward a group of separatists, (They're worth admiring- they can escape from a shootout in a fleet of old motorhomes and campers, down a forest road which the authorities could only navigate in snowcats and on snowmobiles, Wish I could drive like that), and a host of characters who are only memorable because they aren't.
To be fair to the narrator, he didn't have a lot to work with, but it would have been easier to keep track of the players if he didn't use the same voice for the stalwart sidekick and the evil FBI agent. And, while this is unfair, I just didn't like his voice, he sounded like an extremely "untough" character trying hard to sound tough. Not really something he could help, but it was distracting.
I admire anyone who can write well enough that other people want to read his work, (I certainly can't), and a lot of people like to read Mr. Box's work, so I realize that my opinion is likely to be challenged. If you like this style, go for it, but if you're looking for an intelligent, well crafted, western mystery, approach this book with caution.
This was an uninspired book, listenable, but not very gripping. Well, actually, it really was only just barely listenable. I don't know who directed the audio, but having all the dialog read with a Danish accent was almost, very nearly, just about insufferable. I knew the book was Scandinavian since I couldn't pronounce the author's first name and Adler-Olsen doesn't sound like anything else but, and I read the blurb, so I didn't need to be reminded by the reader's (perhaps) pretty good version of a Danish accent all the way through! Except that all of the characters internal dialogues were in perfect, unaccented English. Huh?? It made a weak story very tiresome, but luckily for this book, I was listening while doing some work that required enough concentration that I wasn't totally focused on the book. I'd have never made it through if I hadn't had something else to occupy my mind.
As far as the story goes, it was pretty mediocre. I want a hero who has some quality I like. "Corl", (as pronounced by the performer), is a sexist, racist misanthrope. That can be OK, as long as he's an interesting sexist, racist, misanthrope, who maybe expresses a streak of dark humor, or unintentional selflessness, or has some redeeming quality, but "Corl" doesn't. The major plot device is impractical and unbelievable, and if you're write a story where a major plot point involves someone being held in total isolation for many years, perhaps a little research about the effect of solitary confinement on an individual is in order.
I can't recommend this one. I reserve one star for books I can't finish, but if a fraction of a star could be assigned this book wouldn't get two.
Ok, I really like this series and this author. Great writing, fun, suspenseful plot, really engaging character development.
But, I have one question, and I'd almost downrate the story another star because of this, it seems such a blatant error in such a well crafted story. In what is the penultimate scene, when the villain has set his diabolical trap, how does he get out of the room?
I really enjoyed this book and give a it solid four star rating. I hadn't listened to any of Hill's work and between the sample and the publisher's blurb expected less from this.
Hill has an engaging style, sometimes writing quite brilliantly. He delivers a real gem in his portrayal of the supporting character, "Johnathan Nutbrown", creating a genuinely amusing man, perhaps a gentle savant, who sees the world with a morality free psyche. A wonderful detail. His other characters are well drawn and nicely likable, or hateful, with plenty of emotional and physical depth for this sort of genre.
I give a solid four stars to the story and no more, because I found the whole ax thing a little difficult to swallow. I'm older than the hero, and have spent a fair amount of time in the woods, and it's really unusual to find anyone using an ax in a traditional way. The idea that the lead character was brought up a master axman needed to be fleshed out in some way to explain this, because without that, it seems a little contrived.
In addition the denouement seemed weak and a little hurried, not as craftfully sculpted as much of the rest the story. Some elements of the scene didn't have much to do with the rest of the story and some of it seemed, well, awkward. It wasn't bad, but, judging from the quality of other sections of the book, it could have been better. That scene is the culmination of the story; for a five star rating it must be exceptional. And, I'm not sure that the opening scene was particularly pertinent, or very necessary.
Five full stars to Johnathan Keeble. He does a beautiful job, one of the rare male readers who, when voicing women, doesn't create a world full of six foot tall transvestites sporting 5 o'clock shadow. A rare talent. His other voices are very good. They must still teach elocution somewhere in the British Isles.
This is a good one.
I was really excited about buying this title. Charles Siringo is a fascinating character, and because all my knowledge of the Yukon gold rush comes from Jack London, I was eagerly looking forward to learning about the actual history and people involved. I bought the book without listening to the sample, a mistake I won't make again.
I will admit I couldn't finish this book, made it through 3/4s of it and gave up. I found Blum's style excruciating. I can only say that he nearly rivals Franklin W. Dixon's powers of description and character development, but not quite. In fact, my history teacher wife overheard some of the book and thought I was listening to a badly written young adult thriller. It's that bad. I'd give some examples of the horribly awkward analogies, but I can't stand to go back and listen again. (I picked up on the "walrus locomotives" one of the other critical reviewers caught, though I thought it just bad writing and the other reviewer points out it's a bad fact, that walruses don't even live in that area). There's stuff that's just wrong. The author states that after the first frost the ground will be iron hard. If you've ever lived with winter, there's quite a long period between the first frost and the ground freezing solidly, and unless you're in permafrost, the ground only will freeze a few feet deep, so you won't need to build a fire at the bottom of a deep shaft to thaw the earth there. I could go on and on, but several Alaskans have reviewed the book and done a fine job of pointing out some of the many mistakes and factual errors in the book. Their reviews are well worth reading before you buy.
I am intensely offended by a book which claims to be a true story and isn't! We're dumb enough as a society without being misled by lazy, slapdash writers. If you're writing about the Yukon gold rush, or a fascinating character like Siringo and you aren't imaginative enough tell an exciting story without using distortions and fabrications, you should be writing some vacuous potboiler. Plenty of people will enjoy it, and no one will mistakenly think they are learning anything.
This book does a real and inexcusable disservice to the legacy of Charles Siringo. Inexcusable, because even the smallest amount of research shows him to be a far more intelligent, complex, and interesting character than can be imagined by his portrayal in the "Floor of Heaven". Prior to joining the Pinkerton agency, Siringo had already written an extremely popular book about his experiences as a cowboy. He joined the Pinkertons out of his deeply held political concerns with the growing Anarchist movement, spent undercover time with the Hole in the Wall gang, defended Clarance Darrow from a mob, was present at much of the terrible anti-union strife in the western mines, and ended up writing several more books, one of which was a scathing condemnation of the tactics of both the Pinkerton agency and the union organizations. In Blum's book he comes across as a drunken, whale shooting dolt, casually selling liquor to the Native tribes when it forwards his own narrow ends. I'm not saying I think Siringo was a good guy, (I don't know, and can't trust any facts in this book), but he is a character who should be easy to mine for literary gold, and all Blum manages to pan from the such rich history is a little gravel and horse manure. And that's not even addressing the other two main characters.
I gave the reader an extra star. He was laboring under a heavy burden and I respect him for getting all the way through.
I listened to Steinhauer's "Milo Weaver" series a few months ago. I can't say I enjoyed "The Bridge of Sighs" as much, but it was still a good listen. If you want fast paced action, or steamy sex scenes, this isn't a book for you, but if you enjoy escaping into post WW2 central Europe and a grim noir, early cold war setting this book may do that. For me, Steinhauer has not mastered the genre as well as Alan Furst, but he is in the running with David Downing or Phillip Kerr.
The book suffers from being set in an unnamed country. I suppose that takes pressure off the author, who is not forced to work within a set of historic events as a novelist working in a real setting must. And, the characters were a bit thin, but had enough personality to keep me interested. Still, if there were a little more back story included for the main characters it might have been a much richer listen.
I give the performance a qualified four stars. When I come across a male reader who can interpret a woman's voice in a way that doesn't grate, they will be lauded with five stars and a rave review. Ned Schmidtke, unfortunately is not that reader, and his voices for the various characters are somewhat limited, and I found it a little hard to distinguish between the characters, sometimes.
Altogether, not a bad job, but if you like this genre, and haven't experienced them, I'd recomment Alan Furst's work, or for that matter Martin Cruz Smith's "Arkady Renko" series over this book.
I bought this book through a 2 for 1 deal, and it is worth half its list price, but not more. It's a very topical treatment of the piracy incident; I'm sure there's some way to make a good nautical pun about it being shallow, for it is.
Captain Phillips, his life, and his family are mildly interesting, so this is a mildly interesting book. An examination of the modern merchant marine: the sailors, their culture, and their lives; the ships: their cargoes, machinery, the dangers of the sea: piracy, modern and historic, the extremity of the culture which creates and tolerates piracy, the lives and families of the pirates; the Navy: its mission regarding piracy, its tactics, the lives and training of the sailors; and finally the economics and politics of modern day piracy; any or all of these topics could be covered in light of this particular incident and would make fascinating reading. Unfortunately, none of these issues are covered, other than in a very shallow, cursory fashion.
I found myself bored, skipping through the book. It's an OK true story about a fascinating incident and if you're focused on Captain Phillips, it does a good job of telling you who he is, where he was, and what he did. But that story is just not all that engrossing, at least not 8 hours worth of engrossing, and I find myself frustrated, deeply curious, and disappointed by this book.
The reading is very adequate, but not inspired. It complements the book well.
Well, the performers were pretty marginal. The first reader either couldn't read, or was trying to give the impression that Brown Dog, the main character was learning disabled, (BD certainly is not!) One of the later readers was so ignorant of rural life that he pronounced "mow", as in "The hay mow in the barn" as "moe", like "mow the grass". Are there no editors?
I enjoyed the sedately paced story of a free man dealing with the modern world. It is set in the same country, rivers and woods as Hemingway's "Nick Adams" short stories, but several generations later and from a very different, but oddly sympathetic viewpoint. The stories did nice job of taking me to the deep woods of the Upper Peninsula, with their natural beauty and the idiosyncratic characters who inhabit them, and showing me the world through the eyes of a man with far fewer inhibitions than I. Because I found Brown Dog"s view rather appealing, I'd be a little wary of recommending this as a good read to my very feminist wife. I might well get in trouble for even identifying with, much less, rather liking Brown Dog. A good, if not great book. Well worth the time and money.
In the Sharpe series, Bernard Cornwell sort of writes one book again and again and does it very, very well. Even if the plot line is predictable, I find these stories, with their charismatic heroes and evil villains very enjoyable and I really appreciate Cornwell's research and attention to historical detail.
I've worked my way through the John Russel series, by David Downing, and enjoyed all of them. I don't understand why the whole series isn't available. I bought the paperback of the missing book so I could maintain the story line. I suppose the series can be read out of order, but it is really more of a single long novel and more enjoyable to read in order. This book did a nice job of summing up and closing the series. If you've enjoyed the story and characters in these somewhat slow paced, but well written books, I think you could enjoy this one.
But,,,,(and it's a significant but), the reader is nearly awful. The book is full of mispronunciations. I can ignore a lot of that, but the reader sometimes pronounces the proper name "Thomas" in the ordinary way, (tomas), but then, inexplicably will pronounce the Th, (thomas, as in Thermos), Again and again. It's really annoying.
So, if you can find this book performed by another reader, buy that version. If you can't, well, the story is a good solid David Downing story and important for closure to those of us who follow a series, so you'll just have to try to turn a deaf ear to the narrator, and do your best to enjoy the writing.
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