A bit different for Jo Nesbo. This story is less twisted (not to be confused with less complex) and brutal; instead a little more gentle, and strangely touching. Very heavy on the character development of both Sonny "The Boy", the placid, riding-the-rap-for-other's-crimes-in-exchange-for-heroin prison inmate whose discovery about his father completely turns his life in a different direction--escape and revenge, and Simon, the cop who is searching for him. Not wanting to give away all the turns this story takes, nor what is very much an unexpected ending, I will only say if you are a Nesbo fan, then I believe you will like this very much. If you are new to Nesbo, it's a good place to start.
Unlike a number of reviewers, I liked Gildart Jackson's narration. I was dubious at first, with the hesitant, sometimes word-at-a-time delivery, but soon it felt like the right choice, especially the more I got to know Sonny and Simon.
Small rural British village where the existence of the computer age is irrelevant, check. Small cast of quirky characters, check. Intelligent, dogged detective (Scotland Yard here), check. Multiple murders in a contained setting with violence at a remove, check. Many very polite interviews in pursuit of information, check. No sex whatsoever, check. This gentle series looks like a good fit with Louise Penny, Charles Todd, Ian Rankin, Agatha Christie et al. I've heard people call them English Cozies, or something like that; I believe it. This one is not as cleverly written as some of the aforementioned, but it was an easy and enjoyable few hours of listening--to a very pleasant narrator. I'll try another one and then see. Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his Sgt Gemma Jones are very traditionally drawn British detectives, except that so far they seem healthier than the average copper. While Kincaid is lonely and on the lookout, and Gemma is a somewhat harried single mother, neither of these two likable characters is a smoker, an alcoholic or obviously tortured and self-destructive. If you like Louise Penny, Anne Perry and their ilk, want something better written than MC Beaton, or need a break from the complexity, violence and intensity of a Jo Nesbo, Greg Iles, or even the occasional James Lee Burke or John Sandford, then this might do the trick.
What in the world caused Ms French to think that anyone would enjoy having every other chapter in a 20 hour book comprised of the simpering, sniping of a group of adolescent Irish Valley Girl wannabes? Even the hard-to-understand breathy, little-girl voice of Lara Hutchinson couldn’t damage the grating dialogue further.
Don’t get me wrong. The structure of this book is a beautiful thing. Having all the players trapped in a confined area while the detective weeds through the witnesses and suspects in an unsolved murder case, playing them against each other even as the detective is being played, is a tried and true device and was worth the effort. Fifty percent of the chapters show off Ms French’s well known talent for interpersonal interaction and dialogue, as prickly and unpopular (i.e., won’t play along with the sexual hazing game) female Detective Antoinette Conway with chip on her shoulder, and murder squad aspirant, Detective Stephen Moran are thrown together for one intense day of frustrating interrogation at an exclusive private girls’ school.
For all I know, aping Valley Girl behavior is what Irish school girls are into right now. But in my opinion, it was an unfortunate distraction from what should have been and could have been (if severely edited) an important part of this story—the interaction between the students. I’m sure it will ruin the book for many. Also bogging down the story were a few irrelevant sidetracks. The mystical touches, (the lights, the spinning bottle caps) which seemed to me most likely meant to reflect psychedelic drug experiences, were neither integrated well, nor explained at all, so who really knows what they were about and should have been left out altogether.
I didn’t have any trouble finishing the book, but by the end I was ready to pull out my hair. The use of the irritating dialogue might have been cute in “Clueless”, but it just trivialized French’s considerable talent. I’m hoping she does better on the next one. Totally.
Any chance this mediocre book had of drawing me in was completely destroyed by the narrator. And since the rest of this series seem to be read by Bruce Miles, I doubt I will buy any more of them. I read mediocre literature all the time; for us Mystery, Crime and Thriller fans, there just aren't enough quality choices out there for prolific readers. But narration can make or break average writing. Take The Dresden Files for example. The writing, while better than this, is nowhere close to great literature, yet James Marsters' narration takes them to another level. Not so here...
I got as far as chapter 10. Neither the plot, the writing, nor the dialogue was able to get me past Mile's narration. His default voice is pleasant enough and so the narrative parts were acceptable, though the cadence was too sing-songish. But for some inexplicable reason almost ALL dialogue, also too sing-songish, whether male or female, was delivered in some variation of a high pitched, strained rasp which just grated on my nerves until I could no longer pay attention to the story. The most irritating were the females. Everyone sounded the same and had the same inflection, except some were louder than others. The tone of this narration did not suit a crime novel at all.
I'd say if someone wanted to read this series, the hard copies are likely to be more enjoyable.
I started this series at the beginning, got sucked in, and I'm going the distance, knowing the road will be, as in most long series, uneven. Overall, they are well-written, with fairly intricate plot lines, good, not great, editing, and decent development of major characters. Lots of detailed but interesting police procedural; though I don't know how accurate it is, it sounds pretty believable to me.
I think this was one of the better tales from Connelly so far, but no thanks to the narrator. It would have been a really solid 4 stars with Hill. I've heard Peter Giles before when I read the Mickey Haller books, and likely some others. I don't like the Haller series as well--some of that may be due to the narrator. Giles 'reads' the books, Hill 'performs' them. Giles makes little distinction between characters, but mostly, it's that I don't like the voices he gives to either Bosch or Haller...they are kind of flat and monotonous and for some reason he seems to think they need to be breathy/raspy. (Other characters are not).
But. To be fair, while mediocre (not terrible by any means), Giles didn't keep me from enjoying this particular story; it was that interesting. I notice the next book is yet a different narrator; I'm keeping my fingers crossed, as I have become quite attached to Hieronymous Bosch and his story by now.
I am giving nothing away. This book was everything I love: good writing, 3 dimensional, compelling characters (I didn't say likable), a complex and twisted plot, and an outcome I couldn't second guess. The first part of the book was the set-up where, piecemeal, the details of the relationship and related events were disclosed. Second part, the ride. Unaware until it was too late to turn back, I was drawn out to sea, pulled by a growing riptide of Flynn's deft, dark imagination, to where I never expected to go. I both loved and was disturbed by this clever work; I will be reading it again, and most definitely checking out the rest of of Flynn's work. The excellent narrative duo suited the protagonists very well, and helped sell an unusual tale.
After so many reviews, there is no need to summarize the plot. The premise of the going to seed, damaged detective or cop has been done and done. But, in Cuckoo's Calling, it didn't feel old. Strike is intelligent, clever, persistant and extremely likeable. That story is well constructed, the plot develops without contrivance, the author's famous sense of artiface and affinity for the grotesque are evident in the characters whose stage is an acerbic take-down of the world of high fashion, music and the attendant paparazzi. In The Silkworm, the world of literary publishing gets it turn at being skewered by the author (who, I assume knows it very well by now), but not nearly as cleverly as in Cuckoo's Calling--this book is caustic, but without the wit. And though the damaged detective theme is overwrought in this one, the book holds up, with some exceptions, until about two-thirds through.
While there was some development in the relationship (professional) between Strike and Robin, his assistant, we learn almost nothing new about Cormoran Strike--and we want to. (We do get to know Robin better). This time the issue with his leg gets burdensome and contrived. Why doesn't he see someone about the fit? It makes no sense, as much as it interferes with every aspect of his life that matters to him. I'd also like to stop hearing so much descriptive hyperbole regarding Strike. We have been given enough actual facts about him by now to know that he is exactly 6'3", and overweight by precisely two stone. Which means at that height, he comes in at about 230--maybe less. That is not "massive", nor "huge". Are men over 6' really that rare in London? With all those rugby players? I don't think so. The author often implies that the fear and awe Strike evokes in others is about not just his size, but his face. Considering the number of women angling to get him into bed, none of that really rings true. The author is the one who makes his physical appearance an issue in both these books; so the inconsistencies matter. I'm being drawn word-pictures here, after all. Another issue: the cast of characters in this book are not nearly as fascinating as those in the first book. Finally, the gore of the murder and the sexual perversion of the novel within the novel doesn't feel like a good fit with the particular suspects in this investigation--making the ending feel somewhat abrupt and grafted on.
The book loses steam around the time our detective needs to start closing in on the evildoer. Instead of continuing our access to all the clues laboriously dug up by Strike and Robin as in the first book, the author suddenly and regrettably resorts to secret plotting between the two of them along with a couple of oh-so-handy relatives and friends, who just happen to be in the right profession or social standing to be of particular use to Strike's investigation...and, information starts to be withheld from us. The author has shown an ability to write a tight mystery without resorting to such devices, so this is disappointing.
I'm not yet ready to give up on this series--not at all--but I'd like more of the clarity and cleverness of writing/plot, and character development found in The Cuckoo's Calling. I'd like to see Strike move on from the emotional sinkhole of Charlotte. I'd like him to get his prosthesis fixed.
A condensed version of this book should have been the beginning chapters of the next book. What we got isn't good enough on it's own to be on it's own, and not short enough to be the beginning of the next. It's filler...filled with an astounding number of maudlin soliloquies and almost no plot. It was during this book that I finally became really tired of the very affected and artificial mystery accent our boy from a New York orphanage managed to end up with; perhaps that was the narrator's choice. While Ballerini has a lovely voice and good delivery his accents are pretty atrocious; I'm not sure how he thinks Corbett should sound. Ballerini's own voice and natural accent would be much more appropriate and less irritating. That's how empty the plot was; I focused too much on details like Matthew's accent, which has been only subliminally bothering me til now. I'm already into this series for 5 books now, and until this book I've enjoyed it well enough to continue. I'll wait until I see the reviews before I go further.
I hate to say this because I have loved every Stegner I've read so far. But Joe Allson's tedious self-absorption grated on me after a while; don't see how his wife put up with it. The excellent narration only emphasized the petulant whining of the protagonist. I'm of an age where reflections, whether sweet, bitter, regretful, angry or content, are to be expected of me, and I comply. But while I may be approaching the end with some trepidation, and spend way too much time contemplating life and not always positively, I refuse to allow myself to be an Allston. Perhaps it's because unlike Joe, I still have work which I will inhabit until I drop; it keeps me joyfully and necessarily occupied. I may finish the book one of these days; right now it just irritates me.
I wasn't going to. Not at all. Not another going-to-seed, emotionally and psychically broken, cop/detective/policeman take your pick! Ex-military cop, now PI Cormoran Strike has lost part of a leg in Afghanistan, and his difficulties with it are essential to the character. He's out of shape, dead broke and has just split up--very dramatically-- with Charlotte. And of course Cormoran smokes (but at least he's not an alcoholic). The physical picture painted of our hero is somewhat appalling. A clue; the name Cormoran comes from the Cornish legend of Cormoran the Giant. We hear huge, bulky, hairy, boxer's face. Repeatedly. I'd never heard "pube hair" applied to someone's head of hair before. Gross--I mean, my hair is frizzy, but if anyone had ever called it pube hair I'd have clobbered 'em. In any case...recall the Potter books. This is part of the author's penchant for the grotesque we should be familiar with by now, only this time it's not PG. But Cormoran's personality, with his gentle patient manner, and impressive intellect won me over. And anyway, it turns out that a number of very attractive women are drawn to our hero--this man the author paints as huge, hairy, and even ugly--so, maybe not so ugly, maybe a rough, more hirsute combination of say, a John C Reilly and Sebastien Chabal of rugby fame. (I'm a visual reader, and I LIKE my heroes physically appealing--so, sue me). The author constantly references his huge bulk and hairiness, but eventually we find out he is just 6'3" and while he may be out of shape, carrying some extra pounds, he looks good in an Italian suit, and when he sees himself in a mirror he has hair on his chest and arms, but not all over...so again, the author's love of visual hyperbole.
This plot itself involves celebrity and fame, and those who feed it and from it. Knowing Galbraith was actually Rowling was provocative. I take it she had some bitterness resulting from her own catapult into celebrity to get out of her system, which she does here and then some. We saw the potential for caustic wit in the Potter books; here it is full blown. The author paints a colorful, but often mean and tawdry world of high fashion, drugs, music and hangers on.
While I absolutely loved the Harry Potter movies, the books themselves were a bit over-rated, in my opinion. (I've heard however that the audio versions are outstanding due to narration). Writing for adults seems to enhance the author's facility with character development...allows for deeper digging. The plot is not filled with suspense, there is little to no action, just good ol' plodding detective work, amid the fascinating evolution of a quirky to bizarre cast of characters, which by contrast paint Cormoran and his temporary assistant Robin in a downright normal light.
The mystery unfolds through sheer doggedness on the part of Cormoran--and Robin. The plot is character and dialogue driven, the use of TA Robin eliminating the need for much expository narrative. While we are privy to all of Cormoran's discoveries, the conclusions are available only to the natural detectives among us. We don't spend an inordinate amount of detecting time in his head; we hear instead about his personal issues including the beautiful and of course, damaged, Charlotte--ex-fiancée. That way many of us can be surprised at the outcome, without the device of keeping the audience in the dark.
The final reason I was compelled to love this book was Robert Glenister, whose face and voice I remember from BBC's "Spooks" (MI-5 to American viewers), among other productions. His skill with accents and emotions is outstanding--in short he was perfect for this performance--and performance it was. I am looking forward to The Silkworm--with Glenister. If the author's creative pattern holds, we may be seeing a new one per year. I can hope...
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