Harry George Alexander Bircham: Not necessarily an infamous name in the annals of gay fictional characters...yet. But listeners of Erastes' newest historical novel should prepare themselves for many pages of suspenseful intrigue as the miscreant Bircham, a cultured man of Wildean excesses and humours, will do anything it takes to bend Fate to his will. And that sinister will is to keep the affections and attentions of another English young man. If accidents, if murder, are necessary, then Bircham is just the villain. Or anti-hero, as he is quite the early twentieth-century charmer.
©2014 Erastes (P)2014 Erastes
This is a big thumb’s up for me. This is not your typical boy meets boy M/M novel whose plot lines and stereotype characters plod along to known conclusions. The plot is disturbingly festinating and draws you along to; well you will just have to invest the time and learn for yourself.
The question of will he or won't he that is left in your mind at the very end. You will have to listen to the book to know what I mean by this.
Ryan Kennard Burke did an excellent job voicing the various classes of English accents. He successfully navigates from the most posh “Oh” with an ascending note superiority to the more common, “Thank-e-gov-ner” of the local pub barman. I was very presently impressed with his vocal range and command of the various accents and snippets of French that are dropped in by the upper class to impress others. I do find interesting that not only does Mr. Burke have acting skills but has been on the production side of the audio book business.
Yes, in deed. One is caught up in the twists turns and machinations of the richly textured plot. If I were to give this book a different title it would be, "Dead Man among the Crumpets" LOL
This M/M novel is set in the post WW I ere of a Downton Abby like manor house ominously named Hellsingrs. There are landed gentry, posh manners, class differences, a local village, vicar, pub and the deliciously wicked word play of Oscar Wild sociopath. The classical and literary references in the characters conversations form a delightful repartee backdrop against which the sexual innuendos play out on the stage of the repressed social double standard attitudes of the day.
The action begins when Charles Holland after years away at boarding school and college, takes his college chum, and “special friend” Harry Bircham, home to meet the family; the visit triggers a complex nest of secrets that begin to unpack one by one setting the action for jealousy, intrigue, mystery, mayhem, death, maiming, murder all culminating in arrest and a scandalous public trial. The viewpoint of the book is told in the first person voice of Harry Bircham whose one constant character feature is his absolute adoration of Charles. For his benefit, and to relive the boredom Harry finds the English tight ass class structure he must navigate in and appear part of, drives every action of the Bohemian, wickedly intelligent character. Harry will drive you wild with his studied cold indifference and manipulative skills. One will love Harry or be repulsed by him, but one cannot be indifferent. The plot line has a bit of an Alfred Hitchcock like quality. It can be a bit disturbing and nerve racking to be in that head space.
The M/M intimate scenes between the lovers are rich erotic word foreplay setting the table before the reader / listener to mentally fill in their own preferred menu items to be consumed in the lustful banquet of sex. This type of scene is much more in keeping with the tradition of Mary Renault in her classic “The Persian Boy” then the gritty mechanical blow by blow, leaves nothing to the imagination, approach of Brad Boney in “The Return”. Which approach the consumer prefers is a matter of personal taste?
I lasted less than 20 minutes. By that stage I had no idea what was happening in the story because I was so distracted by the array of bizarre accents. By the time that Torquay was mentioned repeatedly, but pronounced as Tor-kway, I gave up. I am not even sure what the era was, nor the institution in which they seem to live. Public school or Oxbridge college perhaps.
Is there anything worse than a poor accent? It is far better not to try than to miss the mark. I gave the story a rating of 3 stars, but I have no idea what it deserves, of course. I had been so looking forward to this audiobook because I enjoyed the previous Erastes release. I was confident in the quality of the writing, but cautious about the accent. In listening to the first part of the preview I didn't realize the narrator was actually attempting an accent or I would not have bought the book.
It's such a shame that audiobooks are ruined by this continued practice of employing American narrators for books set outside of North America. Surely this is damaging to the authors and the publishers? In some ways I think it might be better not to record them at all. At least then there might be some hope of a decent recording, whereas I expect that once it has been done badly it will not be re-recorded.
Oh well, another one to be returned because of poor narration.
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