A dark, ultra-contemporary, and relentlessly paced debut thriller about a London society woman trying to put her secret criminal past behind her, and the hit man who comes to her with an impossible job she can't refuse.
Charlotte Alton is an elegant socialite. But behind the locked doors of her sleek, high-security apartment in London's Docklands, she becomes Karla. Karla's business is information. Specifically, making it disappear. She's the unseen figure who, for a commanding price, will cover a criminal's tracks. A perfectionist, she's only made one slip in her career - several years ago she revealed her face to a man named Simon Johanssen, an ex-special forces sniper turned killer-for-hire. After a mob hit went horrifically wrong, Johanssen needed to disappear, and Karla helped him. He became a regular client, and then, one day, she stepped out of the shadows for reasons unclear to even herself.
Now, after a long absence, Johanssen has resurfaced with a job, and he needs Karla's help again. The job is to take out an inmate - a woman - inside an experimental prison colony. But there's no record the target ever existed. That's not the only problem: the criminal boss from whom Johanssen has been hiding is incarcerated there. That doesn't stop him. It's Karla's job to get him out alive, and to do that she must uncover the truth. Who is this woman? Who wants her dead? Is the job a trap for Johanssen or for her? But every door she opens is a false one, and she's getting desperate to protect a man - a killer - to whom she's inexplicably drawn. Written in stylish, sophisticated prose, The Distance is a tense and satisfying debut in which every character, both criminal and law-abiding, wears two faces, and everyone is playing a double game.
©2014 Helen Giltrow (P)2014 Random House Audio
In British author Giltrow’s riveting debut, the rich sophisticated Charlotte Alton is the alter ego of Karla, who operates a high-tech information network. Eight years earlier, Karla established a new identity for Simon Johanssen, a hit man fleeing gangster John Quillan. Now Johanssen wants her help infiltrating the Program, a prisoner-run society in a heavily guarded London neighborhood...the attraction between him and Karla, as well as other unexpected connections between damaged characters, add depth to an already satisfying read." (Publishers Weekly)
"Fast, hard, and very, very good." (Lee Child, internationally bestselling author of the Jack Reacher thrillers)
How refreshing to be challenged by an audiobook!
I heard about The Distance on a podcast, where the critic chose it as one of her top 'undiscovered' books of 2014, and compared it favorably with Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels. Having enjoyed them (mostly), I clearly had to check it out. I can certainly see why the comparison was made, but in other ways the books are far apart. I found The Distance far more engaging, and demanding of my attention to follow the plot. In the Reacher novels, my mind can wander, but the text and plot are sufficiently simple that my peripheral attention has kept me up to speed, and I don't feel that i've missed anything when my focus returns. Not so with The Distanct, where I enjoyed the mental stretch of keeping track of the plot.
This was my first exposure to Rachel Atkins, but at least my 100th audiobook. Her performance was marvelous, and amongst the best that i've listened to.
I saw this book on a recommended reading list on NPR. I like a good intrigue / mystery book and had high hopes for this one.
I can summarized my review easily: It's a tribute to the basic story that I listened to the book twice straight through. It's a shame that because the reading and the crafting of the story were both so poor that I needed to listen to it twice straight through.
First - the performance. Rachel Atkins used a number of, um, techniques that I found difficult to cope with. The worst thing was when (as often happened) her voice would raise in pitch and volume during the tensest passages. This was helpful as far as projecting the anxiety of the situation. But often after a particularly loud sentence, her voice would drop to an unintelligible whisper. I drive an electric car - it's quiet, but I needed to use the skip-back button so many times I nearly wore it out trying to catch the name or word that might have helped me make sense of the story if I could have caught it the first time around. And the accents wore me out. Scottish, Cockney, Welch, London, Newcastle, American. Sheesh - it was hard enough keeping track of the characters (more on that in a sec.), but decoding these accents was nearly impossible to me. Maybe there were just too many characters to represent, but I don't know. It just didn't make for an easy listen.
The story skips willy nilly through the various times / characters / aliases / situations so quickly that I simply missed many important connections, I found myself befuddled a good bit of the time. Who beat whom to a pulp this time? Why was that again? Was there a reason for the beating this time or was it just to prove again and again and again who pathological someone can be? Wait! Now who is this speaking? I was just listing to a conversation to these two people, and suddenly it jumped like a packet of quantum story-telling to a different time, place, and set of characters. But was the last conversation over? I don't remember (and I had such a hard time just hearing it....). Better back up and listen to that again. And again.
The thing is - I actually liked the story and I like the main character Charlotte Alton / Karla. The fundamental story, if one cuts through all the needless convolutions, is really quite good. But MY GOD, it takes a difficult path to get from point A to point B.
I'd like to say that it's me, that I am a bit hard of hearing and I have a touch of tinnitus that affects my hearing sometimes (which I do). But no. I have a 2 hour daily commute in my car and I listen to audiobooks almost exclusively. I listen to a lot of non-fiction on technology and science, a lot of history, and also many novels. I just don't normally have this kind of trouble following a story line or a dialog at all, except for this book. Around the same time I listened to this book I also listened to the complete Tom Clancy Jack Ryan Jr. series, read by Lou Diamond Phillips. I didn't have any of the same difficulties with hearing or with the continuity of the story, and I don't think those books suffered do to their relative continuity. Actually, it was just the opposite.
This book was Suspenseful, it kept me interested the whole way through the read. It has a great definition and development of characters. It has a unique storyline that seamlessly guides you through the entire story and the unorthodox scene & setting. There aren't any unbelievable instances or impossible threads. It is definitely worth the read.
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