©2002 Olen Steinhauer; (P)2003 Blackstone Audiobooks
"Ned Schmidtke's deep, authoritative voice suits the story. He never gets in front of the action. Instead, he supports this atmospheric tale with well-paced, even reading and a few carefully chosen vocal mannerisms for the main characters. A moody, involving listen." (AudioFile)
I love books!
I enjoyed this book, right from remembering Rober Trower singing the song with the same name as the book. A good setting, eastern Europe after WWII, much despair, a seemingly good description of the life then, a small romance, some intrigue. I keep thinking back to the author's description of the title of the book as it relates to the story. Made me think of Thoreau and his statement of the desparatioon we all have in the lives we lead.
The first book in Olen Steinhauer's series chronicling the cold war through the eyes of an Eastern Bloc homicide squad. The story is brilliant, I thought, and puts the American reader, at least, on a side of the Iron Curtain to which he is not accustomed. A tremendous story that keeps you wondering till the last moment. Sadly the book is, I feel, marred by the narration. Mr. Schmidke keeps a good pace and does a passable job with story. His voice seems to lack the flexibility to handle the different characters in the book, and his female characters sound like Homer Simpson. Some characters don't even sound human. The voice of Emil's partner is particularly unlistenable.
This is a 5-star book. I took two stars off the overall because of the performance. If the performance doesn't bother you, you'll be fine.
I listened to Steinhauer's "Milo Weaver" series a few months ago. I can't say I enjoyed "The Bridge of Sighs" as much, but it was still a good listen. If you want fast paced action, or steamy sex scenes, this isn't a book for you, but if you enjoy escaping into post WW2 central Europe and a grim noir, early cold war setting this book may do that. For me, Steinhauer has not mastered the genre as well as Alan Furst, but he is in the running with David Downing or Phillip Kerr.
The book suffers from being set in an unnamed country. I suppose that takes pressure off the author, who is not forced to work within a set of historic events as a novelist working in a real setting must. And, the characters were a bit thin, but had enough personality to keep me interested. Still, if there were a little more back story included for the main characters it might have been a much richer listen.
I give the performance a qualified four stars. When I come across a male reader who can interpret a woman's voice in a way that doesn't grate, they will be lauded with five stars and a rave review. Ned Schmidtke, unfortunately is not that reader, and his voices for the various characters are somewhat limited, and I found it a little hard to distinguish between the characters, sometimes.
Altogether, not a bad job, but if you like this genre, and haven't experienced them, I'd recomment Alan Furst's work, or for that matter Martin Cruz Smith's "Arkady Renko" series over this book.
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