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John

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  • 180
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  • The Golden Ball and Other Stories

  • By: Agatha Christie
  • Narrated by: Hugh Fraser, Christopher Lee
  • Length: 8 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 185
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 166
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 165

Is it a gesture of goodwill or a sinister trap that lures Rupert St. Vincent and his family to a magnificent estate? How desperate is Joyce Lambert, a destitute young widow whose only recourse is to marry a man she despises? What unexpected circumstance stirs old loyalties in Theodora Darrell, an unfaithful wife about to run away with her lover?

In this collection of short stories, the answers are as unexpected as they are satisfying. The Queen of Mystery takes bizarre romantic entanglements, supernatural visitations, and classic murder to inventive new heights.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Surprise - Great Stories that I hadn't read

  • By Kathy on 06-11-13

Not What I Expected, But a Pleasant Surprise

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

Reviewed: 01-08-19

These fifteen stories range everywhere, from light romance to the occult. Apparently, the queen of mystery could turn her hand to other subjects besides bodies in libraries and types of little-known Asiatic poison. Even without such riveting centerpieces to a story, Christie is able to create engaging characters and entertaining plots. In the light of the American Psychological Association’s recent classification of masculinity as a disorder, it’s interesting to note that several of these tales revolve around a male character discovering and asserting his masculinity—to the surprise and delight of the women in their lives.

The switch from Hugh Frasier’s smooth, even delivery to Christopher Lee’s more rugged reading was, at first, a jar, but both do a superb job. The stories assigned to Lee do seem to suit his particular approach.

  • Christmas Eve, 1914

  • By: Charles Olivier
  • Narrated by: Cameron Daddo, Xander Berkeley, Cody Fern, and others
  • Length: 1 hr and 13 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10,443
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,573
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,536

In 1914, the war which was to have been wrapped up by Christmas had - in reality - only just begun, as all sides entrenched themselves deeper into the Great War. Christmas Eve, 1914 follows one company of British officers as they rotate forward to spend their Christmas on the front lines, a mere 80 yards from the German guns. Upper- and working-class men and boys are thrown together into one trench and struggle to survive.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Beautifully "illustrated"

  • By anonymous on 12-25-14

Documentary, Fiction, or Both?

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

Reviewed: 12-31-18

Yes, I know the Christmas Truce happened. Just wondering if the letter that frames the drama is real or imagined. If real, it's one hell of a true story. If imagined, it's pretty good, too; Charles Olivier obviously knows his stuff. But I admit to preferring history to historical fiction. What actually happened always strikes me as more powerful than anything we can imagine. And having just seen "They Shall Not Grow Old", I'm probably less wowed by this than I would have been had I not seen that film.

  • The Mind of Mr J.G. Reeder

  • By: Edgar Wallace Peter
  • Narrated by: Peter Newcombe Joyce
  • Length: 5 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2

The enigmatic Mr Reeder investigates eight cases involving baffling burglary and blackmail, mendacious and merciless murderers, and cruel convicts and convincing cons, using his criminal mind to solve these unusual and peculiar mysteries. A lot of his inquiries involve Margaret Belman, a very pretty and appealing young lady who lives nearby, and the detective finds himself more and more attracted to this femme fatale. Surely these feelings cannot be mutual....

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Impossible Not to Be Thrilled by Edgar Wallace

  • By John on 12-28-18

Impossible Not to Be Thrilled by Edgar Wallace

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

Reviewed: 12-28-18

That’s the verdict of Lucius Pim, Bertie Wooster’s rival for the hand of Gwladys Pendlebury in P. G. Wodehouse’s short story, “Jeeves and the Spot of Art”. And I’ve always wondered who Edgar Wallace was and exactly how thrilling his output is.

Turns out he was the author of almost a thousand short stories, over 170 novels, and the man behind the whole concept of King Kong. While the story Lucius Pim is reading involves a cobra dropped down a heroine’s chimney, the Mind of Mr. J. G. Reeder is somewhat less melodramatic—but no less satisfying.

If anything, these stories succeed by playing with our expectations of what a thriller should be (one is even titled, "Sheer Melodrama"). Middle-aged, quaintly dressed, somewhat fussy, Mr. Reeder falls into that class of fictional detectives who don’t look the part. His methods are just as innocuous; for example, faced with a mortal threat from a gang leader, Mr. Reeder defuses the situation with a series of quiet, well-timed meetings with his erstwhile nemesis. True, the final story involves some classic peril in a cellar, but overall I was vastly entertained rather than petrified, a sensation due in large part to Peter Joyce’s pitch-perfect performance.

And yet, with all that going for it, this book loses one star for organization: these eight stories are spread over three two-hour "chapters", none of which bear any relation to where the stories start or stop.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Beware of the Trains

  • And Other Stories
  • By: Edmund Crispin
  • Narrated by: Philip Bird
  • Length: 6 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 24
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 19

Who burglarised the train heading for Victoria Station and whatever became of its conductor? Did the village idiot or Mrs Foley murder the mean-spirited Edgar Foley? Or could the constable be responsible for the devious deed? Who on earth will be able to untangle the affair of the disappearing car, the black necktie, and the abortive theft?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I Have a New Favorite Golden Age Mystery Writer

  • By John on 12-28-18

I Have a New Favorite Golden Age Mystery Writer

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

Reviewed: 12-28-18

Oddly enough, he was the friend of one of my favorite 20th Century poets, Philip Larkin. Be that as it may, judging from the quality of these 16 short stories, I now have a series of superbly-written, superbly-performed mysteries to explore and enjoy. Edmund Crispin richly deserves his niche as the last of the great practitioners of Golden Age detective fiction. His creation, Gervase Fen, professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford, is the beau ideal of amateur sleuths--even though the last two stories in this collection get along very well without him.

During the first few minutes of the first story, I feared that Philip Bird's pace might be a tad too quick. Either he slowed down or I got used to it, because I'm looking forward to listening to him again and again.

One note: the organization of this volume is clear and rational: each story gets a track, with the exception of the final mystery, which covers the last two tracks. Good to know as one plans one's listening.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Striding Folly

  • Three Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries
  • By: Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Narrated by: Ian Carmichael
  • Length: 2 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 103
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 85
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 86

Three perplexing puzzles - and three inimitable Wimsey solutions - told with wit, humor, and suspense. Narrator Ian Carmichael, the quintessential Lord Peter, provides great entertainment with his talented performance of these three stories. In "Striding Folly", a frightening dream provides a haunting premonition. A house numbered 13 is in a street of even numbers, and a dead man was never alive in "The Haunted Policeman." And "Talboys" sees Lord Peter's own children accused of theft.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Lord Peter as a Father

  • By Jerri C on 01-08-18

Settled Pleasure

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

Reviewed: 12-26-18

I may enjoy Dorothy Sayers’ short stories even more than her novels. You get Lord Peter’s trademark wit, acumen and literary allusions, plus an unexpected resolution, all in less than an hour.

In this case, you also get Ian Carmichael, the man whom, for those of us who grew up watching Masterpiece Theater, simply is Lord Peter Wimsey.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • 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 116
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 107
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 105

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 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4

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 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4

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 556
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 512
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 513

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
    3.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 3

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.