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The Various Haunts of Men audiobook cover art

I won’t read another book in this series

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

Reviewed: 05-21-19

I haven’t read “A Woman in Black” (though I saw the stage play and loved it) and I knew that Susan Hill was a renowned writer of gothic ghost stories, so when I saw that she had a written a detective series, I thought that it would be a really great read. Wrong.

I spent almost the entire reading of the book trying to figure out whether it was going to be a ghost story or crime story or a gothic detective story. I also wondered why this book was billed as “a Simon Serrailler mystery”, when he had almost no role in the story and was possibly the least interesting character in the book. I still don’t know, and now I no longer care. The ending was so ridiculously unconvincing and unsatisfying and the final plot twist so irritating that will not waste any more time with this series.


The majority of the book is told from the perspective of Serrailler’s underling, DS Freya Graffham, new to Lafferton PD. Freya is far and away the most engaging character in the book. I remember thinking, why did they name this series after the guy, when the female “sidekick” is clearly the most interesting character and makes a much better protagonist.

** spoiler alert**
Because they killed Freya off at the end, that’s why!!! WTF! It didn’t help the story, in fact it only got more implausible and ridiculous as the book wrapped up. Like many readers, I hate it when a writer kills off a sympathetic character. But I appreciate it is the author’s prerogative, so I trust the decisions they make to shape their characters or drive a narrative forward. Even if an author’s plot choices cause me to weep or throw a book across the room, I come back to the story because there’s something compelling about the the writing or the story or the characters. (George RR Martin’s “Song of fire and ice“ series, for example.) That is simply not the case here.

Freya’s death at the end of the book felt like a betrayal, a manipulative attempt at a plot twist that served no purpose. It couldn’t salvage the ridiculous motivations of the killer or his unsatisfying end, they completely lacked credulity. Nor did it make the emotionally flat, unengaging, and unsympathetic Simon Serrailler any more uninteresting or drive his actions or character development in anyway. I don’t get it.

Why kill off arguably the most engaging character in a book for no discernible reason? It seems not only stupid but a betrayal of trust.

Double Mint audiobook cover art

Stupid

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

Reviewed: 04-23-19

The first couple of books in the series were OK. This one started off silly and just ended up absurd, but not in a good way.

The Paragon Hotel audiobook cover art

Wow.

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

Reviewed: 03-02-19

Love, love, love this book! Smart, witty, tragic, beautiful, hopeful novel. I mourn for and want to know all these characters.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

The Girl Who Drank the Moon audiobook cover art

Fantastic!

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

Reviewed: 03-10-17

I bought this a couple of months ago, but it took me a while to get into the mood to listen. I expected a typical fantasy/fairytale pastiche for kids. I originally bought it looking for something fun to listen to with my nephews. I like a good kids book, but I didn't really expect too much engagement for myself. Boy, was I wrong! I loved it so much, I immediately bought the hardback version for myself. This is one I will want to read and share over and over.

Well written, it manages to be hopeful and inspiring without being trite. So much more than a fairy tale. It manages to hit the perfect balance, blending familiar fairy tale and fantasy tropes with nods to Harry Potter, Roald Dahl,Ursula LeGuin, Diana Wynne Jones and Neil Gaiman's Stardust that results in an entirely original and completely delightful story.
It explores themes of loss, love, compassion and forgiveness in ways that will resonate with children as well as adults. I can't wait to listen to this with my nephews.

AND...the narration is fantastic! Each character is perfectly drawn and recognizable. I will definitely look for more books narrated by Christina Moore. Her characterizations are clear, and her reading draws the listener in, hitting just the right tone to engage, never lapsing into that over-the-top style so common in narration of books for kids.
Highly recommend!

Death and the Redheaded Woman audiobook cover art

A lighthearted, fun (and funny) mystery.

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

Reviewed: 09-11-15

I love mysteries that don't take themselves too seriously. Unfortunately, many of the ones I read are so silly and contrived that I can't listen too long without rolling my eyes. This one manages to avoid many of the cliches that I find so irritating.

I suppose Death (pronounced Deeth) the ruggedly handsome, but wounded ex-marine is intended to be the book's protagonist. He is a likable enough character, funny and sensitive but self deprecating enough not to irritate, a hero with a tragic past.

However, I found Wren, Death's love interest, a far more compelling character. Quirky and capable, she rather than Death, tends to be the one to "save" them in their encounters with the "bad guys. I loved that Wren defends herself with only an atlatl, a slingshot and her bare hands in these skirmishes. As an anthropology major, I had to chuckle and give extra points to the author for introducing the atlatl (a sort of prehistoric spear thrower) as a weapon.

Most enjoyable was the witty, mischievous banter between Wren and Death. It managed to balance playful and roguish in a way that was reminiscent of Nick and Nora in the Thin Man movies.

This is definitely "light reading", but nonetheless fun. I look forward to the next installment.

The Paying Guests audiobook cover art

Perfect!

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

Reviewed: 06-01-15

Until the last paragraph, I was on the edge of my seat, convinced the story would end ambiguously or tragically or just wrongly. And yet somehow Ms. Waters was able bring it to a close in such a way that was perfectly fitting, satisfying and right.
I loved these characters so much - appealingly complex, infuriatingly contradictory, and utterly realistic as they followed their hearts more than their heads.
Sarah Waters' writing is pitch perfect - sensual, evocative, and just plain beautiful to listen to. Juliet Stevenson' narration is spot-on perfect.

The Final Cut audiobook cover art

Worst book I've ever listened to

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

Reviewed: 04-25-15

I forced myself through till the end to search for any redeeming value, but found none. It's practically a caricature of the worst excesses found in thriller and romance genres. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

The performances were decent, each reader was able to manage multiple accents. However it was read so slowly, I had to listen at 1.25x speed to make the dialogue seem natural.

Spellman Files audiobook cover art

Funny, funny, funny

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

Reviewed: 01-30-15

I love books that make me laugh out loud.Great story, funny characters, terrific narration. Charming, dry humor, decent mystery. Read it.

Night of the Living Deed audiobook cover art

Modern day "Topper"

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

Reviewed: 01-04-15

Light-hearted mystery/ghost story reminiscent of the book and film "Topper". Believable vs. irritating sarcastic humor (actually funny, not grating). Mystery aspect was very light. Good narrator with a light touch, but very distinct voices for each character.