It would be difficult to single out one Aubrey/Maturin series novel that shines above the rest, but _The Thirteen Gun Salute_ would definitely be a candidate. Perhaps it is because I have read or listened to all but one of the previous books in the series, and can therefore feel as though I know O'Brian's characters on a level of great familiarity, but I do not think so. This book represents O'Brian at the top of his game, with humor and wit at an all-time high. Patrick Tull, as always, delivers a great performance.
Seldom does an audiobook's narrator make himself into such a transparent conduit of the author's words. Well read, well written, this book that made Morris famous is at the top of my audio memoirs. The only real flaws come in those moments where the abridged version has eliminated material. I looked forward to a retelling of TR's Badlands outlaw posse days, but it has been completely removed from this version.
Burke is better known for his Robicheaux series and westerns, but he had a personal interest in embarking on this work of historical fiction. Willie Burke, the key protagonist is the author's ancestor. Unfortunately, the characters in this work lack the depth one finds among the underworld misfits that populate the Robicheaux novels. Will Patton does a creditable job with characters' voices, but the combination of his slightly pedantic narrator's voice with Burke's uncharacteristically flat prose makes third-person description occasionally sound like a partially-interested car salesman describing the features of a used Oldsmobile. This may be due to the fact that while he is an expert on Cajun culture since 1950, Burke is clearly not as well versed on the Civil War, or even the nineteenth century, for that matter. Civil War buffs will find much of the plot surrounding camp life and combat somewhat hackneyed. These include a battle scene that will remind the listener of something done by Stephen Crane a century eariler in _The Red Badge of Courage_. Throughout, the imagery and description found in _White Doves_ seems superficial in comparison with the richness one has come to expect in his crime novels. Perhaps I am too critical, as I so enjoyed the Robicheaux series that this book came as a let down.
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