Although I have an interest in the characters in this book, I simply can't stand this series anymore. The author has an obvious interest in 'exposing' the oppression suffered by women and the lower classes in Victorian England. However, instead of using her skill to show this through plot-line and character actions, the listener must suffer through Hester's repetitious and strident commentary. Repetition abounds, from her polemics to character's ruminations and turns of phrase that are the same in substance *and in words* from chapter to chapter! Different characters even use the exact same phrases to describe the odd behavior of the children in the book.
Hester's beliefs are quite modernistic and are revealed as such increasingly throughout the books. In addition, I had a hard time accepting the courtroom scenes as being plausible for the Victorian era. I wonder strongly if the 'issue' revealed (I don't want to give anything away, although you will probably guess it nearly immediately as I did) would be handled in such an open and sensitive way.
I would happily have missed most of the scenes in the house of the murder victim, particularly the excruciatingly long dining room scenes, which barely forwarded the plot. How long can one listen to Felicia basically say the same things over and over?
I was also struck by the fact that, although on his past cases, Monk was supposedly 'tireless' and 'brilliant', that in the first three books of the series he is confused, dense, and easily frustrated. The fact that he never interviews the boot boy is very odd, and I think is just a setup so that Valentine (unbelievably) will tell his story in the courtroom.
What a great story this could have been?! So many indications of brilliant writing! If only she had a good editor and someone to tell her to get off the soapbox, I would love this series.
The narrator was absolutely excellent. Top notch.
I must say this series is growing on me! This book has the lightness and humor of the first book, but has an added depth which I enjoyed. Charles Lennox is more ruminative and we are let to know more about the painful emotions he experiences when the murder takes place, and one can see that his consistently light tone is a proper, class-appropriate Victorian cover for his deeper feelings.
I enjoyed his visit back to the haunts of his university days, and his reflections on youth, maturity and his change of perception of family and friends. I guessed most of the mystery, but not quite all! So, there was a bit of surprise at the end. However, I read mysteries more as good stories and character studies, so the complexity of the mystery is not an issue for me.
I was surprised to actually enjoy his description of Oxford, the buildings and the history. Fascinating. These mysteries are giving me a window to the Victorian past, and the author manages to draw parallels to our modern world without making me feel the characters themselves are leaping out of their time-frame to do it.
All in all, I highly recommend this author and this series of books.
Oh -- and by the way, the reading is really top-notch. A British actor who knows how to differentiate the characters without grating on the ear! Lovely. Enjoy!
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