The Rope is everything you expect from the best of Nevada Barr -- and then some. Lots of white-knuckle moments, when you have to stop whatever you're doing and just listen, afraid to even move lest you miss a word. Lots of interesting stuff about the outdoor life, hiking, 'canyoneering', about Lake Powell and 'Dangling Rope'.
I had some trepidation: first, not hearing the voice of Barbara Rosenblat took a little getting used to. Rosenblat's wry, little-bit-hoarse voice, tinged with good humored, self-deprecating sarcasm, has come to mean 'Anna Pigeon' to me, and I thought I'd miss that. But no, Joyce Bean does a very credible job -- in fact, it might have been smart to have someone else read this 'prequel' to the rest of the books, when Anna was young and foolish.
Foolish? Indeed. Anna as a young woman proves herself not to have been any different from any number of other young protagonists -- an older and wiser Anna would never have gone off -- twice! -- on dangerous hiking/canyoneering trips with questionable people, when she knew very well that someone out there had tried to kill her several times. Okay, okay, so sweet young protagonists have to do those kinds of things, because if they didn't, there wouldn't be much of a story. Still, for the canny Anna we've come to know through the other books, it took some adjustment to think she'd be dumb enough, naive enough, to do such a fool thing.
So it's a great book. I enjoyed it. That said, I'm starting to see why it is that I'm liking the more sophisticated quasi-cozies these days than the kind of hard-boiled stories like this one. Why? There's too much animal torture involved. Authors can't seem to stay away from it. Look: humans are fair game in these books. They fight, they die, we know it's just a story. Most of us probably have never met someone who actually murdered someone else. But to include too much animal torture gives me the willies -- I have a feeling that this is giving too many sick people out there ideas. I don't like it. Leave the animals alone. And as I've said before, to find detailed descriptions in a paper book is one thing -- you can flip the pages. Much harder to duck it in an audio book -- I take my ear buds out, then check in periodically to see if they're done yet, but that doesn't leave me with good feelings about the book, in general.
So I'm gravitating to other authors -- Susan Rogers Cooper, Julia Spencer-Flemming, Deborah Crombie -- any of the British authors, actually -- Alafair Burke, Carol Lea Benjamin, all of the books by the late Phillip Craig, all of these writers turn out great mysteries, great reading. And none of them doom innocent animals to death by sick sadists.... much better, for me, at least.
I'd never read the book -- I did see the film, of course, but now, decades later, I remembered only two scenes, probably the same ones you remember. But this is a fine novel by any standard -- much more complex and nuanced that I ever expected. Back then, I guess I was too engrossed in the green puke and turning heads to realize that there was a real story here, and a good one. The struggles of Father Damien are really touching. Quite a story.
But really, what made this book among my favorites -- and yes, I will listen to this one again -- is the author's narration. I actually had to go look, to see if William Peter Blatty had acting experience in his background -- and no, apparently not, but wow. He's seriously talented -- famed as a scriptwriter, director and novelist, but apparently he stayed on the other side of the camera. But Blatty as narrator is absolutely excellent -- one of the best narrations of anything I've ever heard. He manages the Irish brogues, the Brooklyn cant, the whole panoply of DC accents with aplomb, worth a listen for that alone, see how a master really interprets a novel. The whole thing, every scene, just comes alive.
Not to be missed, this one.
But still, for at least the first 3/4 of the book, I was totally hooked. I liked the premise -- girl disappears into Mexico when a cruise ship docks, and her sister set out to find her. There are a couple of really neat, even shocking, plot twists I thoroughly enjoyed. But then toward the end, it really went off the tracks, and with Scott Brick's usual over-the-top dramatic reading, it started to verge into melodrama, to the point that it was laughable. I wondered if it was going to end with a rousing rendition of "East Lynne".
Also worth noting is that there really is only one sex scene -- consensual, not rape -- but even at that, it is the among the most disgusting and repulsive things I've ever heard on audiobooks. Way too kinky for me -- and yes, I stay away from "romances" in general and even from books with an excessive amount of kissy-face parts, but this one scene was beyond comment. Truly disgusting. (Now I suppose about half of you will immediately click "buy", while the other half will move along -- ha!) Anyway, be warned -- if you care about such things.
Finding a Joanna Brady book I hadn't read? Wow. And the first one -- really? How did I miss it? But what a happy thing I had missed it -- got to listen to it now for the first time.
I love this series -- I appreciate the whole crowd, not just Joanna, but Jenny (called more formally "Jennifer" in this first book) who's nine years old here, Marianne the minister, Joanna's viper-tongued mother, who reminds me so much of one of my female relatives I listed to those parts over and over, laughing every time. Boy, Miz Jance nails these nasty-mother characters just perfectly. We even meet both dogs, and learn how Tigger came into the family.
And it's here we meet the sadder but wiser Annie Kellogg, too, who plays a big part in several subsequent books. I hadn't realized she'd been there from the start, even her love for birds is shown here. Who knew?
It was fun to see where it all started. And interesting, too, because Jance is unique among authors who have written as many books as she has: this first book and the last ones are equally good. Joanna and the whole crowd age, they go through normal life cycles, but Jance never seems to run out of unique material to occupy them all.
That's unusual. The norm is -- or seems to be -- that after a few books in a series, authors either start to fade away, losing interest in their own characters. Or they struggle to find new situations to mess around with, getting more and more extreme, to the point the books are just no longer interesting. Some authors get better, of course -- like John Sandford. His early Luke Davenport books are very different -- Luke in the beginning is an angry, violent guy, and only over time does he get to be the wisecracking hero, still just as creative and brave, but without the hard edge of anger displayed in the first books. But Joanna? She doesn't change. She's just as smart, dedicated, honest, brave and interesting in the last books as she was in the first.
But now I have indeed read them all. Nothing to do now but wait for new ones!
I guess because I loved the "Royal Spyness" series, and thought this would be just as good.
That would be wrong.
Okay, so in 1905 NYC policeman Daniel sends Irish wife Molly off to Paris for her safety -- some gang warfare in NY he's trying to protect her from - together with baby Liam, which stretches credulity, right there. A woman and baby traveling alone to Paris is safer than remaining somewhere in the States?
But Molly arrives -- after both Molly and Liam suffer serious bouts of food poisoning and/or sea sickness, and have to wait several days after leaving the ship before traveling on to Paris. But alas, when Molly finally does arrive, the artist friends she was planning on staying with are missing. Gone from their apartment with no indication of where they went. Or why.
So this gives Molly the opportunity to engage in the activity that makes up maybe 60% of the book: she stashes Liam with the baker's wife, who just happens to double as a wet-nurse, then spends her time running around the city, seeking out other artists, presumably to ask if they knew her friends, and if so, where might they be.
For the reader who loves French painting and/or painters, maybe this is a treat, getting to listen in, so to speak, on fictional conversations -- make that rants -- from these various artists. I found it supremely boring. I am no Frankophile, but the unrelieved depiction of these artists as wild men, ranting and raving, every one of them with nothing to say other than to run down the artistic talents of other artists, to be more than a little overtly hostile. Together with the nasty and scheming French landlady, one gets the impression -- right or wrong, I have no idea -- that France has to be anger capitol of the world. Author Bowen doesn't miss a beat in making France unappealing -- all of one's anti-French prejudices are catered to, missing only the description of the stink that must have emanated from the cumulative armpits of these starving artists as they waved their arms around, describing in repetitive detail why no one else other than they deserved to be called "artist."
In fact, in artist Mary Cassatt's walk-on appearance, Bowen allows her to sum it all up. Cassatt, invited to a social event, declines to attend, saying, "I find these young artists to be supremely tedious."
Got it in one, Sister. "Tedious". That's it. This whole book is tedious. I quit listening two hours from the end, with a firm resolution to stick to the rather excellent -- and funny -- exploits of Lady Georgie instead. 'Feh' on Molly Murphy and her friends -- never again.
I'm about half through -- enjoying individual parts, but the narration makes it very difficult.
Narrator Clare Corbett reads all the characters with the same quick, breathless, inflection, and I found -- at one point -- I was deep into "Lorraine's" story -- the detective -- without realizing we'd left Chloe and Zoe, the mother-to-be and the nanny, the two women who are supposed to be at the center of this story. How we got into the police detective's tale I don't really know.... and I've already backtracked twice. I'll just have to figure it out as we go along.
And yes, there's another problem too: this is another narrator who doesn't pause between these various segments of the story, which makes it even more difficult to follow.
No, I'm not quitting. As I say the various story lines are interesting and compelling enough. I just wish narrators -- who are presumably professionals -- would take the time to make the story more comprehensible, not less.
I don't ask for a thousand voices, I can understand the difficulty of that. But surely just a momentary pause -- one second, maybe -- between the ending of one character's story and the beginning of the next isn't asking too much. Is it?
I wanted to read this book so much I pre-ordered it, something I've done only once before. As a former ND'er, I've been fascinated by the "man camps" serving the state's booming oil industry, and often thought that the whole setup would be a good setting for a novel. When I saw "The Missing Place" reviewed in Country Life magazine, I immediately looked to see where I could find it, and there it was, on Audible. Was I disappointed? Yes and no.
The parts of the book -- the early parts -- deal mostly with the man camps and the whole culture that has sprung up overnight, almost, with the thousands of men, mostly men, who move there to work in the daunting and dangerous mining business. I've read everything I can find on the camps, on life in that part of the State, and thought Littlefield did a very good job in "reporting", as it were, what life is like there, what the people are like, how native residents and the newcomers all manage to live together is such chaos. I enjoyed that part immensely -- in fact, in those early parts of the book, maybe most of the first half, the writing is nothing short of brilliant. Excellent, just excellent, the way she captures the scene, the emotions, the loneliness, the lack of access to most of the things we take for granted in other parts of the country. There aren't any heroes here -- no one comes off as saints, either, which is probably the way it is.
But then something happens -- can't even identify exactly what the problem is, but the book abandons the original tale (two radically different mothers, both searching for sons who have gone missing) and ranges off into something like conspiracy theory, weighing in on who, exactly, might have been responsible for the missing men. The mothers take leave of their senses, and in several totally ridiculous scenes begin showing up and accusing all sorts of people and institutions of evil acts, including (of course) the drilling company, but also the local Indian tribes, the BIA and assorted other interested parties. All of that is nothing short of bizarre -- the only mystery being why some of those tough customers didn't take legal action (or worse) against these two nutty women who barge unto private property and began throwing accusations of criminality around, all with no proof whatever.
From there, the book never really recovers. The "missing son" element is resolved, and from there, the book moves into a mother-love chronicle, which some readers might like, but wasn't what I had in mind. I finished listening, but the glow was most definitely gone.
Bottom line: Littlefield is to be commended for having broken ground with a novel set, at least partly, in the absolutely unique man camps of North Dakota. I presume she had to actually go there, to come up with such an accurate account -- which couldn't have been easy. That part of the book is brilliant, absolutely fascinating and deserves to be read.
Having said that, she would have been better off ending the book at a certain point -- which point I won't specify, for fear of giving spoilers, but anyone who reads the book will see where it changes from one story to another very different tale. There were two books here, and combining them wasn't the best idea.
While I'm glad I read it. I don't see myself going back to listen to this one again. I'll be waiting for more novels set in this highly unique location.
It's good to remember how good these early Scarpetta books are, before the dreadful Lucy co-opted the series with her myriad of woes. "All That Remains" has Scarpetta at her best -- dedicated to her job, interesting with her cooking skills, open and friendly -- and most of all, being nice to Marino -- as compared to latter books, where she openly makes fun of him. I suppose Patricia Cornwell took a lot of heat from her feminist friends, for her early books like this that had Marino as a "good' character, in spite of his rough exterior. Too bad Cornwell caved in. I like Marino, always have. And in this book, you can see why.
Interesting, too, to hear this book read -- first time for me, although I've probably read it twice, maybe more. For Scarpetta fans, we know that Benton Wesley continues to play a major role throughout this series. In print, he seems like an okay-enough guy, maybe as good a counterpart for Kay as any man could be. But hearing how narrator C. J. Critt renders him, the voice she gives him, he comes across as a total loser as a human, friend or certainly love interest -- he sounds cold, nasty and self-absorbed. No criticism of Miz Critt intended -- her interpretation is just as valid as mine. It was just interesting to see this character in a very different way.
Good listen. I enjoyed it.
Not my usual genre, but I remember the whole issue, if not the book, from the 1970's. I don't think I ever saw the film. Maybe I read the book, but if I did, it surely didn't affect me as much as having had it read to me now by Ray Porter, who really does an outstanding job. His voice alone lends credibility to the horrendous tale -- really fine narration.
As I recall, back in the '70's, I was an uber-confident young toots who thought she knew pretty much everything -- silly, but that's what being young and pretty successful does to you. I'm reasonably sure I would have poo-poo'ed this story back then, written it off as pure fiction. Laughed at it, maybe -- enjoyed it, without ever seriously considering that it might be true.
Today, I'm older and wiser and I don't know nearly as many things as I did, back then. So now? I'm more inclined to believe it than not. In the ensuing years, I've seen a lot of things I never would have thought were possible -- not angels, demons, UFO's or anything like that -- just things that I would have pronounced "impossible" back then, that I now understand to have actually happened. I've learned a lot in coming to understand how little I know.
Which made this book all the more troublesome -- in the sense of frightening -- to me. Twice, I had to stop listening, go do something else, before I could return to it. If you allow yourself to offer even the tiniest bit of consideration that it just might be true, you're in for a heck of a ride.
Whatever -- it's a great listen, not to be missed.
It's almost impossible to listen to. I got just over five hours in -- about two of which were spent backtracking -- before finally giving up. But because this is a local author for me, and because the series is getting great reviews, I bought the book again for my iPad. Reading from my iPad, it's an excellent book, really good -- it's just not suitable for audio format, at least by this narrator.
Two issues: first, there are about a dozen young women who enter into the story, with roles of varying importance. And that's in addition to protagonist Lizzy, her sister Cathy and her assistant Jessica. Maybe because there are so very many young female players, the narrator makes no distinction whatever in their voices -- how could she, after all? It would range on impossible to create differing voices for each and keep them all straight. So she just reads straight through.
But second, that plays into another issue: Each chapter is divided into a great many sub-parts. In the print version, some are set off by bold day/time headers, some are divided by three little dots, some only by extra spacing between one and the next. These separations are critical -- usually they mean we're switching from one person's story to another's. But again, the narrator reads straight through, with no significant pause between them.
The result is an incomprehensible mess. Whose story is being told at any given time is up for grabs -- Who's talking, now, anyway? How do you know it's not just a continuation of whatever story came just before?
This doesn't work for me at all -- almost always, I listen to audio books when I'm doing something else. Maybe if I had the time to just sit and listen, concentrate, and maybe take a few notes, I could keep up with it, but as an audio book? This book just isn't suited to the genre.
Having said all that, this really is a good book -- I'm looking forward to all the other Lizzie Gardner book, but only for my iPad.
I wonder if the time will ever come when authors will structure their stories with audio book performances in mind? I look forward to that day!
I never buy a book featuring dog characters unless I can find out, first, if the dog survives. There are too many things to be sad about, without weeping over fictional dead dogs. I saw this book, with a gorgeous dog on the cover and was tempted. Fortunately, some other compassionate reviewer hinted that yes, the dog was alive and wagging his tail at the end, so I clicked on "buy".
Well, okay. I liked the dog -- "Joe" -- whom she acquires in a totally hilarious situation, one of many parts of the book that are so funny I laughed till I cried. If you've ever owned a BIG dog, you'll love these tales -- they're very funny, and absolutely true. That was the good part.
But sad to say, the major focus of the book is Van's -- the protagonist -- life-long infatuation with a weak and shallow character named Peter, who, in the beginning of the book, is getting married to Van's best girlfriend. There's not much to recommend about Peter -- he has his moments, maybe, but really, he's not worth it -- so listening to Van mope over him for the better part of the book got a little silly.
If it hadn't been for the great 'dog' stories in this book -- and the promise of more, if I'd just keep listening -- I'd have given up on the love story, because indeed, a more worthy man came along. And as you might expect, there was all the traditional, tried and true, scenes of fighting and making up with this new guy -- but at least he was a more worthy human than Peter had been. No hot erotic scenes that I recall, just a lot of mental lust that really didn't interest me -- all I wanted was to hear more about the dog.
So? The parts about Joe, the dog, are really good. I'm still laughing at the memory of some of them -- they make the book itself well worth the credit. As for the rest? Eh.
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