Assigned to examine a portentous tape sneaked out of Moscow by a mole, CIA Kremlinologist Charlie Stone finds himself in an espionage investigation of staggering complexity. As he hops among three continents, often the target of both the KGB and the CIA, Stone succeeds in vindicating his father, branded a traitor by McCarthy, while nosing out a plot by the head of the KGB to stage a violent coup, during a Moscow summit, that will end glasnost and set the world on its ear.
The audio includes an excerpt from Vanished, the first Nick Heller novel.
©1991 Joseph Finder (P)2010 Macmillan Audio
"The story contains as many chases, murders, conspiracies and uncloseted ghosts as any thriller maven could want, as well as a credible love interest; in all, it's a superbly exciting read." (Publishers Weekly)
Joseph Finder can really write, and Edoardo Ballerini is now my favorite living narrator. Nonetheless, this is not the finest work by either of them. The book is forbiddingly long, and it is really so stuffed with information, names, plots and sub-plots and sub-sub-sub plots (you get the idea) that Mr. Finder seems to be deliberately trying to confuse the reader. Perhaps this is accurate history and only thinly disguised fiction. Still, you can't help but get lost. This is not good. Further, and to the book's perhaps fatal detriment, the editors or producers have responded to this volume of material by forcing Mr. Ballerini to read the book as if he were on speed. Seriously. I have now listened to at least a dozen Ballerini books (Beautiful Ruins is still my favorite) and the pressure here to talk as fast as is humanly possible effectively wastes the narrator's considerable talents. Mr. Ballerini has studied the Russian language carefully, and his pronunciations of numerous Russian names and words is brilliant. How this man can sound so fluent and fluid in so many languages is a wonder. Italian I get, but Russian? And he can do many more. His ear for language and its subtleties is just profound. But you just can't force him to do what is done to him here. It is a waste.
The major plot involves a man named Charlie Stone, a governmental operative in several secret CIA activities (are there any not-secret CIA activities?). The narration switches between Moscow and several cities along the East Coast of the US. I won't even try to tell you about the plot twists, as I would get confused myself. There is a love interest, between Charlie and his estranged wife Charlotte, which I would have liked to hear more about, but Mr. Finder is determined to stuff so much historical fact/fiction into the book that the romance, which is a pleasant distraction, is given short shrift. I have read a lot of books about Russia, as my family goes back to Minsk and Pinsk. However, if you want to understand Russia, Martin Cruz Smith is the absolute master of Russian fiction. His character Arkady Renko is without doubt the most human character in all of Russian fiction. I would recommend that you start there, particularly with Polar Star, Gorky Park, Red Square or Havana Bay. Wolves Eat Dogs is a bit hard for some folks to take, situated as it is in Chernobyl. However, Mr. Smith writes circles around Mr. Finder, with books that are half the length of this book, and they pack way more punch. Sorry, Charlie: your tale is a shaggy dog story.
I have read more recent Finder novels, and loved them, but I didn't realize before I purchased this one that it was one of his first. Consequently, the verbage is a bit off; as it was written 20 years ago. At first I thought it was another of those "American" thrillers written by a Brit or Aussie, given the stilted terminology and strange phraseology; but I did a bit of research on Finder, only to discover that this novel was nearly autobiographical. Finder was born in the US, went to Yale, then the spy business; but somehow the dialogue did not seem realistic. Things were said to be "terribly" funny (or some such, instead of "very"), and "rather" was used the same way.
Maybe I found myself concentrating on this because the narration was so mind-numbingly monotonous; the narrator could have been literally reading it for the first time, aloud; and was rarely expressive. Scott Brick would have done this book justice, and made it as interesting to hear as it must have been to read.
Yes I would. Finder is much better an author than this book would suggest.
really isn't one
For a 17 hour plus book, there is very little to recommend it.
The book tried very hard to explain why it was set against the backdrop of the Gorbachev regime, but I was alive during that time and nothing about it seemed to be the story left untold.
The characters themselves, despite Finder's attempts, never seem to come alive. They are often wooden, and Finder as their puppetmaster drags them from one scene to another solely because his storyline demands it. I completed the book, but the payoff for all those hours of listening was hardly worth the credit I wasted on it.
In fact, it doesn't seem much like a Finder at all. It's more like a first novel written by a middle-level bureaucrat in the first years following his retirement, all the promise of grandeur of these supposed golden recollections tarnished and pitted long before it's completed.
To steal an analogy Michael Connelly once used, this novel is an ancient minivan that pulls to the curb in front of the reader, it's engine missing, its door creaking open uninvitingly. Once underway, it reluctantly proceeds down the highway in fits and starts, only far too late reaching its disappointing destination.
The narration, the plot too.
Figuing out who was working for who.
I hadn't before.
The Truth is Revealed.
I'd highly recommend it.
Best Joseph Finder book to date! Good plot, even unique in spots, great character development, good reading by Edoardo Ballerini . . .wunder why I haven't listened to him before.
Don't miss out on a good one. Buy this one and prepare to enjoy.
I must say this is the least liked of all the Finder's books. It is about an antiquated plot - "the KGB". With the way it was played out, it highlighted how insufferably childish the whole idea was in retrospect, and with an ethos of the "boys' club" interwoven with the secret police in America. Boring, Boring, Boring. Also the dialogue was badly executed and was like a bad B-C grade paper-back. I am truly surprised as I have enjoyed nearly all of Finder's books too!
This is a fairly lengthy book for a spy novel but it's got enough plot for the entire length. There's a lot going on with several plot lines that come together at the end. Job well done by the narrator who maintains a high level of excitement and emotion.
This is the first Joseph Finder book I've heard and I'll be checking out more.
"Over the Top"
I enjoy normally thrillers but I was disappointed in this book . It was an interesting story and an exciting plot but the number and violence of the deaths and killings were , personally, too exaggerated and beyond belief.
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