©2001 Andrew Taylor; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
"Maiden ladies who would make Miss Marple smile and villains as vile as Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter populate this witty, urbane but dark third volume in Taylor's Roth Trilogy." (Publishers Weekly)
Office of the Dead is not your typical mystery. The story builds slowly and keeps both the narrator and the reader wondering what is coming next. This is first person point-of-view done as it should be. Our narrator, Wendy, reveals enough about herself to become a well-rounded, sympathetic character. Her observations of Roth, the college, and characters around her draw in the reader. The book is full of interesting and sometimes creepy secondary characters.
While this story stands on its own, I discovered after finishing that it was actually the third book in a trilogy. The trilogy steps backward in time with each volume, which explains one of the issues I had with the story. There are hints of future happenings that are not explained. If the books were read in order, the reader would understand the references.
June Barrie was the perfect narrator for this volume.
"Slowly a mystery emerges"
This is the first part of a trilogy of books that starts in the 1950s. The early part of the book moves slowly as the characters are introduced and fleshed out and one might think it was going to be a simple family saga. However, after a while a mystery, with its origins in the pre-War period, emerges and one realizes that the story is much more complex and gripping. The structure of the book suits being an audio version as the story is largely told chronologically by a first person narrator remembering the past. It is excellently read by June Barry. I shall certainly listen to the next two parts.
"A story devoid of tension, pace or narrative drive"
Confusingly, this is either the first book in a trilogy or the last, depending on whose comments you read.
If it were the last then perhaps the purpose of this book is for answers to the mysteries in the previous books to drop into place. Perhaps those reading it as the third book in the trilogy are constantly emitting sighs of satisfaction as they say to themselves "Ah, that's the reason why that other thing happened in book 1 or 2".
I read it first and found it extremely slow and lacking any tension or narrative drive. For the first 80% of the book, nothing really happens. The narrator stumbles across a couple of unexplained facts, but so what? The narrator is a dispassionate observer with no skin in the game and the author gives us no real mystery to drive the story forward.
As a standalone book, this doesn't work. Perhaps it does in the context of the trilogy.
The narration is excellently and convincingly done.
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