San Anselmo, CA, United States | Member Since 2006
Martin Cruz Smith has been one of my favorite authors for a long time now. I have felt that Arkady Renko was the most brilliantly nuanced, perfectly created, utterly realistic characters in all of fiction, not just the detective/thriller novels. However, IMHO, Mr. Smith has finally run out of gas. I have tried several times to pick up this book after some weeks of leaving it alone, and it has just not held my attention. Renko now seems old and tired. The plot, which is based on the actual killing of a Russian journalist, is nonetheless scattered and rambling. Minor subplots lead us nowhere. The theme of a notebook full of coded messages which are decoded by Zhenya and his girlfriend (aha!) just does not grab me. We all know that Russian oligarchs have raped their country's natural resources in the way of brutal gangsters everywhere. Tatiana does nothing to further develop our understanding of these monsters. One of them now owns a team in the National Basketball Association! Washing your ill-gotten gains through the NBA! Brilliance in real life, but there is none of this in Tatiana. Smith's "Wolves Eat Dogs" was a true masterpiece which showed us these guys in a remarkably informative light. The sheer audacity of setting a novel in the area around Chernobyl: this kind of thing is what has endeared Mr. Smith to millions of loyal readers. Tatiana does nothing to further our love of the author and of his most important creation. The first three or four books in the Renko series (Gorky Park, Red Square, the absolutely incomparable Polar Star, Havana Bay and Wolves Eat Dogs: I guess that's five) form a tower of literary accomplishment which few authors can aspire to. There were a couple of misses (Three Stations, and now Tatiana), but I suppose that this shows us that everybody's human) which nonetheless do not detract from the whole. I have probably listened to Polar Star five or six times by now, and it is still 100% compelling and full of rich humanity. Even knowing the whole book, it still thrills me. I know I will read it again. And again.
Henry Strozier does a yeoman's work. Sadly for him, Frank Muller read three of the first books, and that is a comparison which very few authors can even think about satisfying. Actually, Edoardo Ballerini has now, again in my opinion, reached and surpassed Muller's genius at narration. Any of you who do not know Mr. Ballerini yet are in for an amazing surprise and revelation. Mr. Ballerini is responsible for my doing an absolute 180 on Robert McCammon's Matthew Corbett series. At first I was unimpressed; now I am utterly delighted by the richness and all-around virtuosity of both the writing and the narration by both of these remarkable men.
Apparently I have strayed from Tatiana. No surprise. I looked forward to this book for several years. (I actually asked his son, who works at a bookstore near us) how long it would take for this book to appear, and that was about two years ago. You might like this book more than I do. I hope so.
The above is a quote from Robert B. Parker, a guy who should know. I am now in the process of reading all of Mr. Perry's novels, and I am sad to say that there are only a couple left. The man is remarkable, and again, Michael Kramer is the perfect voice for these amazing books. Mr. Perry is the opposite of formulaic. His creativity and inventiveness seem to know no bounds. This book starts with a killing, and takes almost the whole book to solve it. Through the book we get to know a number of people who are so much flesh and blood that we might actually know them in real life. The villains, however, are so scary that we are glad not to know them. Each time I listen to one of these, I just can't imagine how Mr. Perry is going to top this one, and yet, he does. At times here the suspense is literally unbearable. The plot quickens to the point where I had to put it down to make it last longer, if you understand. I was tempted to just sit and listen to the whole thing, but summoned up enough will power to let it be. Once again Mr. Perry writes with wit that is sometimes understated and sometimes just hilarious. He skewers a rich man who is also a monster, and also his sycophantic wife, and their lives of sheltered unreality. This man hires a killer to stalk the wife of the detective who dies at the beginning, and the contest between the two of them is a war of wills and wits. Emily is another extremely well drawn woman, something which Mr. Perry does easily while other male writers struggle with their inability to write nothing but cardboard women. At first I thought that The Butcher's Boy could not be topped. Now I know that Mr. Perry's talents are truly limitless. Enjoy yourselves. Mr. Perry cannot be beat.
Robert B. Parker was one of this country's most prolific authors, in league with Elmore Leonard. Like Leonard, he simply wanted to entertain us, and he succeeded almost every time out. Likewise, Michael Prichard was an amazingly prolific performer (and may still be). And Joe Mantegna is also an incredibly prolific and likable actor and narrator. Choosing between these two narrators is like trying to choose between the best apple pie and the best peach pie: very hard to do. In Sixkill, Parker again puts Spenser in his usual slot: a very tough guy on the outside with a very tender inside. The dialogue is, as always, witty and brief. You start chuckling right out of the gate. Mantegna seems to have a little more trouble with the repetitive "he said, she said" stuff than Prichard. I seem to notice that less when hearing Prichard. Mantegna, OTOH, is a face many of us know from movies and TV, and his voice is that of a friendly guy who might live next door to you, who happens to be one of the best storytellers anywhere. The plot of Sixkill is really just an excuse for Spenser to act, to play the tough guy when he wants to and the tender lover of Susan Silverman when he needs to. Not that the plot is trifling: it is clever and tugs at your heartstrings, in some ways. Sixkill is a huge Indian who once played great football, but then fell down a terrible slide. Spenser takes him on as a project, and between Spenser and the talk-about-tough-but-silent Hawk, they reclaim Sixkill in a way that is very humane and caring. Parker was a genius. Both Prichard and Mantegna make him sound wonderful. I have only tried to listen to one book narrated by David Dukes, and I hated it. Sit down with Parker and have a great time.
This is Mr. Perry's first book, originally published in 1982. Although it's a little dated (a full gas tank, 12 gallons, for $10!) that is the only flaw I can find. Michael Connelly, one heck of a writer himself, has written an introduction to the book, which accurately describes Perry's awesome talent and assuredness. Connelly uses the word "velocity" as a description of plots that delight us, and this is the perfect word for Perry's plot. There are only two main characters, the unnamed professional hitman, and the Justice Department agent Elizabeth Weiser, plus many other characters. Perry cleverly alternates chapters between these two characters to hold our interest, and this is a very successful suspense device. The book flies by. The hitman takes on the Las Vegas mafia families single-handedly, and you believe that he can manage it. He is no non-human superhero, though. He is believable in every way. Likewise, Elizabeth is also a real human being, in the field reluctantly for the first time, and simultaneously doubtful and self-confident. You just have to read Perry's work to see how smoothly he creates these characters. He also sees Las Vegas as what it is, or was thirty years ago. The narration is flawless. Mr. Kramer understands the writer, and has narrated all of Mr. Perry's books. He is fluid and entertaining. He builds the suspense for us. You can never guess the plot's twists and turns. You will at one moment fully suspect that someone with a gun will sneak in the door, and then Mr. Perry surprises you. Even Elizabeth is surprised and hoodwinked. This is a terrific book, and I am sure that I will eventually listen to all of Mr. Perry's books. Great entertainment!
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