San Anselmo, CA, United States | Member Since 2006
I think the only spook book I've ever read was The Spy who came in from the cold, and I read it because I had seen the movie, which I loved, and also because Frank Muller narrated it. I will listen to it again. I bought this book primarily because I love Edoardo Ballerini, who can, in my view, do virtually no wrong. However, the entire genre just does not appeal to me. Liars lying to liars, with multiple layers of lying above and below; cloak and dagger plots which are so convoluted that they are almost impossible to follow; characters who turn out to be uninteresting drones, living the expat life and being pushed all over the world so that they can't live normal domestic lives: you put this all together and it just bores me to tears. Mr. Steinhauer can write, and Mr. Ballerini is simply a delight to listen to. The book takes place mostly in Cairo, as the title indicates. There are a number of people who work in the CIA office in Cairo, and the plot centers on their involvement with a spook operation called Stumbler. Stumbler is a project whose intent is apparently to kidnap the Libyan revolution against Qaddafi by moving in at key moments and plaacing American personnel in positions of power, so that Libya post-Qaddafi will be manageable, and "friendly to American business interests." Fine. It's a fair bet that any character you might find a little bit interesting will be found in an alley with his throat slashed in just a few pages. There really is no one person who is the protagonist in the book. There are several parts which are named for individuals in the story, like Part I: Stan. Or Part II: John. As a structure for a plot this is dull. There is so much time-shifting that finally you don't care about any of these individuals. I gave up about two-thirds of the way through, which seems to be happening to me a good it lately. Maybe I am hitting the bottom of the barrel in the detective/thriller genre. There are a few writers whom I find wonderful: Tim Hallinan, Martin Cruz Smith, John Lescroarts; and there are a number of individual works by authors whom I generally don't care for, and then there are a few bright newcomers, but there sure is a lot of bad stuff out there, books that cry out for editors, or books that clearly are targeted at groups to which I do not belong. So, once again, this book is going to be exactly the thing for people who like this sort of thing. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful than that.
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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