Every state police officer in Boston knows that Arthur McKeach and Nick Cistaro are the most prolific and ruthless practitioners of extortion, fraud, theft, bribery, assault, and murder in the area. What none of them know is how to stop these Michelangelos of crime, who for thirty years have eluded jail - and even arrest. Their secret is at the heart of George Higgins's most searing and shocking dissection of the criminal life yet.
At End of Day lays bare not only the inner workings of a criminal empire, but also reveals the corruption at the heart of American law enforcement. Few writers have mapped the intricate highways and byways of crime with equal vividness and elegance, and with At End of Day, Higgins has created a cast of characters to match his unique gifts. McKeach and Cistaro stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any of Eddie Coyle's friends, and their story solidifies George Higgins' place in the forefront of novelists who write about crime in America.
©2000 George V. Higgins (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
What a shame Audible picked Mark Ashby to read George Higgins's tour de force. After a few paragraphs I was shaking my head; by the end of the first chapter I was completely dismayed. I went back to Audible.com to see what kind of ratings Ashby had received before. There were only a few reviews of any of his performances, and only one commented on him specifically. What surprised me is that the bulk of Ashby's narrations were on books about business and finance! And let me tell you folks, he reads this book as if he were reading a ledger sheet. Flat, dull, monotonous.
Higgins was famous for long, clever, and well paced soliloquies. In some of Higgins's longer passages, Ashby seems to lose the thread about half-way through and lapse into phone-book mode, and of course all of Higgins's substantial artistry is lost. From time-to-time Ashby would stick in a little inflection, stressing one word over the others. I went back and re-listened to those to see if anything special was going on that I had missed, but no, the stress appeared randomly inserted. Maybe Ashby was shifting in his seat. Or maybe someone, the audiobook producer perhaps, had just told him to put some punch into it.
Ashby's Boston accent is completely inadequate--I would put the accent closer to Iowa or Kansas than Massachusetts. If you've read a bit of Higgins, such as his Jerry Kennedy books, you know that the sentence structure of his characters' speech is often pure Boston. Ashby just murders these lines, and there will be no doubt in your mind that he is just reading the sentence in whatever his native accent is.
In fairness Ashby appeared to get a little better as time goes by. Or maybe I just got resigned to the ordeal. Well, yes, there was one character that Ashby rendered quite well! However, this fellow had an artificial voice box that made him talk like Stephen Hawkings. Ashby was a natural for this accent.
I'm usually quite forgiving of narrators, realizing that George Guidall can't narrate every book I want to read. This time though I couldn't stand it. Immediately upon finishing the book I went to my Audible.com Wish List and deleted the other Higgins narrated by Ashby, "The Digger's Game". I've had enough.
If you love George Higgins you'll have to read "At End of Day". It's one of his finest books. All I can say is grin and bear it if you pick this production. A damn shame.
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