I am actually reviewing the Agatha Raisin series. It seems a bit silly to review each one individually. If you love The Walkers of Dembley you will probably love The Haunted House and the Curious Curate and so forth. If you hate the first one you read, you will probably hate the rest. Kind of like Doctor Who. Either you "get it" or you don't.
Now I realize that Agatha Raisin books are nobody's idea of high literature but for what they are, they are the best. I have read a lot of British cozies and I always return to Agatha. We are "of an age" Agatha and I, which is part of the appeal as I really love finding books about people really LIVING and enjoying life after 45 or 50 years old. The world of love and adventure are not exclusively for the young. And Agatha is so wonderfully and chronically imperfect. If the stars of the British cozy world have one major drawback it is that they are all ultimately so very, very good. Not our Agatha, by golly. She is vain and self-centered and insecure. You know, those pesky human conditions. Sometimes you just want to shake her but you should probably go look in the mirror first.
The setting of the Agatha books is another reason I come back again and again. The little villages in the Cotswolds are such a perfect place to set a cozy. Surely one little village wouldn't really experience quite so many dead bodies but this is serial mystery, not classic literature. If I could retire to one of those little villages and live in Agatha's cottage, I would do it in a heartbeat even if I had to cook for her cats, eat tv dinners and put up with James Lacy as a neighbor. Well, I might not eat the tv dinners, but still.
Penelope Keith does a really wonderful job of bringing the offbeat and often hilarious cast of characters to life. Generally, a woman narrator speaking for a man makes me want to stab my ears but Penelope actually pulls it off. I gave this narrator 5 stars even though I was afraid she was doomed from the start. You see I read a LOT of Agatha Raisin books in print before listening to any and I had Agatha's voice firmly in my head already as Judi Dench. But it didn't take long at all for Ms Keith to pull me in.
I have always loved The Chronicles of Narnia. I homeschooled my children so I had the true pleasure of reading each book aloud to them. They talk about those hours as among their favorite memories to this day and consequently, they hold these books dear as well. I've read them many times over the years but listening to Kenneth Branagh narrate this one brought all the pleasure to life again as if discovering Narnia for the first time.
The recent movies based on The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader were pretty well done and great fun but no movie could ever live up to these books. That being said, after hearing Liam Neeson do Aslan, I was worried about any narrator of the books meeting that standard. They were absolutely inspired to cast Neeson. But Branagh... how could I have doubted. And thank God for a narrator who doesn't make children sound like imbeciles.
I bought this book when I was in need of some comfort; some peace in troubled waters. I got what I needed with a healthy dose of fun as well. I will listen to this book over and over and over, I promise you. And my 29 year old son and his wife downloaded it and are listening to it while on the road for his job. This book is ageless, timeless... pure unadulterated joy.
First, I would actually give the story 3.5 stars if I could. It's better than a 3 but I'm fairly stingy with 4s and downright miserly with 5s. This was a middle of the pack book. I may listen to it again and I will very likely get more of the series just because it was a light read that wasn't silly or boring and sometimes that is exactly what I need. Usually in that frame of mind, I will listen to a British Cozy or a Stephanie Plum but there are only so many of those available;o)
The coincidences just strained credibility. This was a cross country trip but with all the times they kept running into the same people you would have thought the whole thing took place in a small town in Oklahoma. And I know that the RV community is a entity unto itself but people still can't really be THAT immediately and fully trusting of those around them on the highways and in campgrounds. It is still the 21st century after all.
The parts that let you get to know the main character had potential. I can identify with her which is why I plan to read more of the series. Her daughters condescending attitude and her ability to just let it go was kinda great.
If, like me, you sometimes just need escapist reading and you aren't into steamy romances or teenage vampires, this book might be just the thing. Just don't expect more from it than it can give. It isn't great literature and it isn't full of gore or sex, just some interesting characters with a bit of action and suspense.
The story of Abandon had so much potential; a great idea for a story that just went to waste. A small, remote mining town high in the mountains and dual mysteries regarding the fate of the residents who all disappeared without a trace on Christmas night 100 years ago and the modern day explorers who hike up there (at a really stupid, stupid time of year) to try to solve the mystery or at least explore a really tantalizing little slice of history that has been nearly untouched. As a historian, that aspect of the book was the hook that drew me in to my misfortune. The story was quite implausible but I am okay with that to a certain extent. The problem is it really did just seem to be an exercise in abandoning hope, little by little, that the author would do anything at all to redeem this story. A great idea that just devolved into an allegory for the greed and heartlessness of man.The book might have been at least a 3 star read for me with a different ending in either of the time periods. I actually might have recommended it to family or friends who just like books that are a little darker than my preference but the ending of the modern timeline was ridiculous and unbelievable and the ending of the 19th century timeline, especially Lana's story was just plain old hideous. The storyline for the little girl, Harriet, could have been really "good" in a gruesome kind of way but the author didn't really fully develop it or follow through with it. Character development, or the lack thereof, could have been a LOT better in this book as well. He would begin to bring dimension to a character but then go off to something else and never come back. The historical aspect of the book was a letdown as well. Probably the most cruel blow for me personally. It was similar to his character development style in that all he seemed to care about was creating a world as dark and hopeless as possible.
The performance wasn't the issue. Luke Daniels did a decent job although his accent for the "bad guys" of 100 years ago was a bit cheesy.
The concept and the setting. Too bad they weren't put to good use.
For the first time ever with a book from Audible, I wish I could get those hours back.
Report Inappropriate Content