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  • Joy to the World

  • How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does)
  • By: Scott Hahn
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey
  • Length: 4 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 107
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 98
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 97

What could be more familiar than the Christmas story - and yet what could be more extraordinary? The cast of characters is strange and exotic: shepherds and magicians, an emperor and a despot, angels, and a baby who is Almighty God. The strangeness calls for an explanation, and this book provides it by examining the characters and the story in light of the biblical and historical context.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Joyful

  • By mgh on 12-29-14

Putting Christmas in Context

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-12-18

I intended to use this as a chapter-every-other-day meditation guide through Advent. Instead, I blew through it in a few days (and plan to do it again, somewhat slower). At a mere 4 hours and 21 minutes, that might not sound like much of an achievement. But Hahn, a master at making the complex understandable, packs an awful lot into those 4 hours and 21 minutes, discussing towering concepts and connections that require us laymen to occasionally pause, catch our breath and digest.

The best part is, those complex ideas, towering concepts and connections, aren’t his own, as he reminds us repeatedly. Using Scripture, Tradition, the Church Fathers, ancient history and centuries of Saints and scholars, he puts the Christmas story in the context of its time, which is the clearest way to understand it’s meaning for all time.

I admit to being put off by Arthur Morey’s delivery when listening to the audio sample. But one reviewer said he was perfect for this book and after a few minutes into chapter one, I agreed.

  • Sister Bessie or Your Old Leech

  • By: Cyril Hare
  • Narrated by: Gordon Griffin
  • Length: 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3

A short story from British Library Crime Classic The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories. Each year the Christmas card arrives from 'Leech', an unknown member of Timothy Trent’s family asking for money in return for their silence. But this year he’s determined to find out who is behind the cruel Christmas request and put an end to it once and for all.... 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Christmas Story for the Whole Family

  • By John on 12-06-18

A Christmas Story for the Whole Family

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-06-18

Your alcoholic stepbrother. Your old maid stepsister. Their faded, helpless mother. And that other stepfamily member, the one who found that compromising letter.

This is a superbly-written, chilling little tale. An underlying sibilance in the recording had cost one star, until I played it at home on Alexa and realized the problem was due to earbuds on public transportation. As with everything from this publisher, Gordon Griffin is once again pitch-perfect.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Motive

  • By: Ronald Knox
  • Narrated by: Gordon Griffin
  • Length: 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 3

A short story from British Library Crime Classic The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories. As Sir Leonard Huntercombe tells the elaborate story of one of his clients, listeners will love piecing together this strange locked-room mystery set on a sleeper train to Aberdeen.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Another Nugget from the Golden Age

  • By John on 12-05-18

Another Nugget from the Golden Age

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-05-18

On the strength of Tony Medawar's Bodies from the Library, I pre-ordered this story unaware that it, and a whole lot of other stories like it, appear in an anthology entitled The Christmas Card Crime. But this one is so good I may have to spring for the whole collection anyway.

What makes the Golden Age of crime fiction so golden is (at least for me), the wit of the writing, the playful banter between characters, and the general sense of serious fun. What makes this particular story so good is that it is a puzzle within a puzzle. And Gordon Griffin’s performance makes it even better. Took one star away for an annoying sibilance in the recording that makes it harder to enjoy on public transportation.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Secret Adversary

  • A Tommy and Tuppence Mystery
  • By: Agatha Christie
  • Narrated by: Hugh Fraser
  • Length: 7 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 550
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 506
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 507

Tommy and Tuppence, two people flat broke and out of work, are restless for excitement. They embark on a daring business scheme - Young Adventurers Ltd. - "willing to do anything, go anywhere." But their first assignment, for the sinister Mr. Whittington, draws them into a diabolical, political conspiracy. Under the eye of the elusive, ruthless Mr. Brown, they find themselves plunged into more danger than they ever imagined.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A wonderful listen with marvelous characters

  • By Stephen on 03-07-13

They Make a Pretty Pair Working Together

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-04-18

That’s how Mr. Carter, a discrete, highly-placed gentleman, describes our heroes to the Prime Minister. And I agree. They do make a pretty pair: Tuppance, all intuition, balances Tommy’s almost too level head. The result is a suspenseful, satisfyingly brisk yarn imbued with the humorous repartee that is a hallmark of the best Golden Age crime fiction.

Apropos of a much later book, one critic observed that Agatha Christie was not at her best when she “goes thrillerish on you”. Things are different in the case of Secret Adversary (1922), a fine, somewhat less violent specimen of the post-Great-War-patriotic-amateur-goes-up-against-fiendish-master-criminal school of writing, the greatest exponents of which are John Buchan and Sapper.

The usually faultless Hugh Fraser gets four stars here for an inability to always draw a distinction between Tommy and Tuppence, especially during their frequent exchanges of persiflage (listen carefully). Also, the recording suffers throughout from a lack of complete crispness and clarity. Nothing serious, but definitely noticeable.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Pattern of Revenge

  • By: John Bude
  • Narrated by: Gordon Griffin
  • Length: 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 2
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 2
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 2

A short story from British Library Crime Classic The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories. A brutal murder and a shocking deathbed confession - the love triangle of Karen Garborg, Thord Jensen and Olaf Kinck proves deadly on the Norwegian ski slopes.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Nahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...

  • By John on 12-04-18

Nahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-04-18

Tony Medawar's Bodies in the Library whetted my appetite for lesser-known Golden Age crime fiction. Unfortunately, after my pre-order for this one went through (along with two other stories), I discovered they all appear in a collection called The Christmas Card Crime. Yes, I read that in the write-up for this story; no, it never occurred to me to see if that collection was available on Audible in its entirety.

I felt pretty foolish until I listened to this one on the way home. The mystery is pretty much non-existent--any whodunnit that I can figure out halfway through is no mystery at all--and the recording, though performed by the gifted Gordon Griffin, suffers from an overbearing sibilance.

  • Parker Pyne Investigates

  • A Parker Pyne Collection
  • By: Agatha Christie
  • Narrated by: Hugh Fraser
  • Length: 5 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 226
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 197
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 198

Mrs. Packington felt alone, helpless, and utterly forlorn. But her life changed when she stumbled upon an advertisement in the Times that read: "Are you happy? If not, consult Mr. Parker Pyne." Equally adept at putting together the fragments of a murder mystery or the pieces of a broken marriage, Mr. Parker Pyne is possibly the world's most unconventional private investigator. Armed with just his intuitive knowledge of human nature, he is an Englishman abroad, traveling the globe to solve and undo crime and misdemeanor.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Not a detective in sight

  • By ktkat1949 on 11-09-14

Jeeves’ Alternate Career Path

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-25-18

As in any Bertie and Jeeves story, so here: someone has what seems to be an insuperable problem. They take their troubles to Mr. Parker Pyne. As Bertie often says of Jeeves, the man’s mere presence radiates a sense of aid and comfort, like the lights of a pub after a long country ramble. And, again appropriating Bertie’s imagery, with one swish of Parker Pyne’s magic wand, all difficulties vanish like breath off a razor blade. If Jeeves wasn’t already established as the most capable gentleman’s personal gentleman in London, he and Mr. Pyne could have formed a very profitable partnership.

That should give you some idea of the delight these 12 stories impart. Unlike Jeeves, Mr. Pyne has a small staff of capable assistants to help him in his chosen work of creating happiness where no happiness exists. And in the later stories Mr. Pyne plays the detective as well as the fixer. But in all he displays a Jeeves-like grasp of the psychology of the individual. While not as rollicking as an outing with Wodehouse, neither do these stories plumb the depths of the human heart. They are proving to be the perfect light, cozy, cocktail entertainment for an extended Thanksgiving break.

Finally, it goes without saying that Hugh Fraser turns in his usual splendid performance.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Modern Scholar

  • Literature of C. S. Lewis
  • By: Timothy Shutt
  • Narrated by: Timothy Shutt
  • Length: 7 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 43
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 30
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 29

In this course, we will look at Lewis's life and examine the influences that would help to shape Lewis both as a man and as a writer. We will take an in-depth look at Lewis's science fiction trilogy, his Chronicles of Narnia, his apologetic and scholarly works, and his other writings. In doing so, we will come to understand the major thematic elements that mark Lewis's work.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Worthwhile for anyone interested in Lewis

  • By Steve and/or Jodene on 09-28-13

An Academic Appreciation

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-25-18

There is one unexpected interlude in the general academic analysis. At the beginning of lecture 13 Professor Shutt rightly identifies the heart of Lewis’s apologetic approach: addressing the social and professional cost of Christian faith. After detailing the price Lewis paid, Shutt outlines our current cultural situation: how faith is only an option for those weak in the head, while any faith but Christianity is “fashionable”, from Buddhism to Materialism. It’s a startling dose of truth, even from one who has always been conspicuous for his lack of reflexive antagonism to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Reviewing the smorgasbord of intellectual objections to Christian belief, Shutt gives primacy to the old Marxist canard that religion is a tool with which the powerful maintain their power. Unfortunately, he doesn’t close the loop: disapproval of Christianity is now used by the powerful for the very same ends. However, he’s right about all “intellectual” objections; they merely cover our unwillingness to conform to the moral demands of faith—especially those concerning human sexuality. It’s an instance of the same unnerving insight with which he credits Lewis’ apologetics.

But overall, this is (as it should be) an academic appreciation of Lewis’ literary output. Shutt is, after all, a professor, not a theologian. And it’s a tribute to Lewis’ popularity that Shutt assumes we’ve read the novels under discussion, sometimes even asking us, “What do you think?”. Still, I got less out of these talks than I expected. Most of the class time is spent on the Chronicles of Narnia; we learn something of their literary and intellectual background which may inspire me to try them again, but I fear it’s too late; man or boy, in spite of their universal appeal they’ve never appealed to me. In three lectures on The Space Trilogy, the first two volumes receive high marks while the third—my favorite—receives fainter praise. Most disappointingly, the single talk on Till We Have Faces didn’t really advanced my understanding of that novel to any great extent.

The single cursory lecture on Lewis’ apologetic books dwells largely on the Kantian underpinnings of his thinking rather than the works themselves. The final lecture on Lewis’ academic writings is, in it's way, touching; you can hear something very near reverence as Shutt describes them. There's interesting stuff throughout these lectures, but those moments of epiphany that are usually Professor Shutt’s stock in trade really aren’t here. Or, at least, not for me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Paddington Mystery

  • Detective Club Crime Classics
  • By: John Rhode
  • Narrated by: Gordon Griffin
  • Length: 5 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 25
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 23
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 22

When Harold Merefield returned home in the early hours of a winter morning from a festive little party at that popular nightclub, the Naxos, he was startled by a gruesome discovery. On his bed was a corpse. There was nothing to show the identity of the dead man or the cause of his death. At the inquest, the jury found a verdict of ‘death from natural causes’ - perhaps they were right, but yet? 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea, But I Enjoyed It

  • By John on 11-22-18

Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea, But I Enjoyed It

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-22-18

Mostly because I have a soft spot for that between-the-wars world of P. G. Wodehouse, when, before the Internet, life was less instantaneous, gentlemen were still expected to act gently, women were ladies and fictional crime, even when tinged with the lurid, was written of in a hands-off manner that robbed it of most of its voyeuristic thrills. Also, I have absolutely no objection to a mystery in which, before the final summing up, I’m able to figure out some—not all, but some—of the solution.

I bought this one on the strength of a short story by John Rhode in Tony Medawar’s Bodies from the Library, a collection of until-now lost or forgotten mysteries from crime fiction’s Golden Age. And I will continue to use that helpful volume as a Baedeker to the works of the less-remembered lights of that era.

For all that, I do have some reservations. Chiefly, The Paddington Mystery lacks that buoyant sense of humor that sustains the storylines of the better Golden Age works. And I admit that, at times, I did feel the story could have moved a tad more quickly. Finally, through 13 chapters Gordon Griffin sounds as if he has a stuffed-up nose. Then, at chapter 14, he suddenly gets better: crisper, cleaner. It’s not his fault, of course; someone was asleep at the soundboard. In spite of that, he still does a fine job; characters are easily distinguishable, and he understands and can express the shape and cadence of well-wrought English sentences.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Bodies from the Library

  • Lost Classic Stories by Masters of the Golden Age
  • By: Tony Medawar, Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, and others
  • Narrated by: Philip Bretherton
  • Length: 8 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 64
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 58
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 58

This anthology of rare stories of crime and suspense brings together a selection of rare tales by masters of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction for the first time in book form, including a newly discovered Agatha Christie crime story that has not been seen since 1922. At a time when crime and thriller writing has once again overtaken the sales of general and literary fiction, Bodies from the Library unearths lost stories from the Golden Age, that period between the World Wars when detective fiction captured the public’s imagination and saw the emergence of some of the world’s cleverest and most popular storytellers.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • two stories missing

  • By Jerri C on 08-29-18

HOW GOOD? I NEVER USE ALL CAPS, THAT’S HOW GOOD.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-18-18

To rescue lost tales of malfeasance penned in crime fiction’s Golden Age is, in and of itself, highly laudable. Listening to them is like floating on a cotton candy cloud over an ocean of bliss. But beyond the unadulterated enjoyment of these 14 stories, Tony Medawar has done people like me another very great service.

I enjoy a good Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie or Josephine Tey. However, once familiar with each writer, I pine for other voices. Problem is, those other voices, though prominent in their time, aren’t very well known now (at least not to me); selecting from their works is, to use an appropriate metaphor, a shot in the dark.

Now I know better. Bodies from the Library is a sort of criminal sampler, wherein we get a good taste of John Rhode, Christianna Brand, Arthur W. Upfield, Freeman Wills Crofts, Georgette Heyer, Anthony Berkley, A. A. Milne (yes, that A. A. Milne) and C. Day Lewis, writing under the name of Nicholas Blake (like P. G. Wodehouse’s Percy Gorringe, Lewis found that crime paid better than verse). It's not just the story, of course, that sets these stories apart. It's the writing, the characters, the good humor, the overall sense of serious fun. And the best part? Specimens from each author named are available on Audible. And if that wasn’t enough, Phillip Bretherton’s performance behind the mic is pretty darn near perfection. He is a reader to whom it is a joy to listen.

The only fly in this grade-A ointment is an occasional but silly political correctness. Before one story we are warned, for example, of offensive attitudes about race. Ironically, the offending passage gives credit to Aborigines and Europeans for their salient strengths as detectives (diversity, right?). More, it is spoken by a man descended from both races, explaining his own superior powers of detection. If not forewarned, I don’t think I’d have noticed it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Northanger Abbey

  • By: Jane Austen
  • Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,884
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,493
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,489

When Catherine Morland, a country clergyman's daughter, is invited to spend a season in Bath with the fashionable high society, little does she imagine the delights and perils that await her. Captivated and disconcerted by what she finds, and introduced to the joys of "Gothic novels" by her new friend, Isabella, Catherine longs for mystery and romance. When she is invited to stay with the beguiling Henry Tilney and his family at Northanger Abbey, she expects mystery and intrigue at every turn.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Awesome

  • By Johnny on 08-01-09

Nurse, Quick! Get Me 300 CC’s of Anti-Udolpho!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-12-18

To more fully appreciate a great writer, take a look at their contemporaries. As good as they can be, Marlowe and Kyd just make Shakespeare look that much better. Similarly, my recent excursion to Udolpho made me pine for Jane Austen—and wonder what it was about Northanger Abbey that ever led me to believe Udolpho would be enjoyable.

I mean, any book that can keep an Austen heroine up late ransacking wardrobes can’t be all bad. Alas, (and ironically) a good part of my disappointment with Udolpho was, I now think, due to the expectations built up by Northanger Abbey. The lurid tortures, chilling specters, secret passages and shocking family secrets Catherine Morland assumes from her extensive and rather trashy reading play almost no role in Udolpho.

Having come out of my coma of disappointment, I must admit that familiarity with Udolpho does make Northanger Abbey even more enjoyable. And Northanger Abbey is the FDA-approved emetic to clear the head, put a smile on the face, and reassure one that life isn’t all limp poetry, locked chests, fainting girls and scenic mountain views. There are also characters like Henry Tilney and writers like Jane Austen. I think I’ll be alright now.

In the course of my recovery, Juliet Stevenson evinced a wonderful bookside manner. She gets Jane Austen: every nuance, every joke, every barb, every cringe-making speech or laughter-inducing monologue. Superb.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful