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Dave

Glenview, IL, United States
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  • Sinclair: The World's End Murders through the Eyes of a Killer

  • By: Ryan Green
  • Narrated by: Steve White
  • Length: 3 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 21
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 20
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20

On October 15 1977, Christine Eadie and Helen Scott left the World's End pub after a fun-filled night with two men in their arms. They had their whole lives ahead of them. They had nothing to fear and everything to look forward to. Their naked bodies were discovered the following day. They were found six miles apart from each other. No attempt had been made to conceal their bodies, and both girls had been beaten, gagged, tied, raped and strangled. The case attracted widespread media attention and despite the Police's best efforts, they were unable to identify a culprit.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • fascinating story of a serial killer

  • By Christine Newton on 04-02-18

Interesting Approach to a True Serial Killer Story

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

Reviewed: 06-05-18

I've read (and listened to) a lot of true crime, including many of Ryan Green's other books. But I've never come across a true crime story told in quite the same way Green tells this one, and I found it fascinating. Green not only investigates and reports on the acts of this truly horrific serial killer and seriously bad dude, but he actually INHABITS the killer, telling the story from that unique, disturbing and very interesting perspective. Viewing these events through the killer's eyes also allows the author to fill in a lot of the informational and motivational gaps that -- by its very nature -- limit 3rd person reporting. And that subjective detail added a lot to the narrative. Lots of fiction writers use this kind of 1st person perspective in their storytelling, in part because it deepens and personalizes the narrative. I felt it had the same effect on this true story about a series of terrible rapes and murders in England in the late 70's.

How could the author possibly know what the killer might have been thinking? I don't know. Frankly, while I was listening to this story I really didn't care. Because it is a compelling narrative, horrifying in the most interesting, compulsively readable way, and the 1st person style was a big part of that. I hope more true crime writers use this narrative technique in the future, but only if they can pull it off as seamlessly as this author did in "Sinclair." This audio book was given to me for free at my request, and I provided this voluntary review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Courtroom 302

  • A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse
  • By: Steve Bogira
  • Narrated by: Mark Kamish
  • Length: 16 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 31
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 26
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26

Courtroom 302 is the fascinating story of one year in Chicago's Cook County Criminal Courthouse, the busiest felony courthouse in the country. Here we see the system through the eyes of the men and women who experience it, not only in the courtroom but in the lockup, the jury room, the judge's chambers, the spectators' gallery. From the daily grind of the court to the highest-profile case of the year, Steve Bogira's masterful investigation raises fundamental issues of race, civil rights, and justice in America.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fascinating Account of a Year in One Courtroom

  • By Dave on 02-27-18

Fascinating Account of a Year in One Courtroom

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

Reviewed: 02-27-18

I absolutely loved this audiobook, and it is still on my mind weeks after listening to it.
The author tells the simultaneous stories of the defendants, victims, lawyers, guards, families and the one particularly interesting judge who heard all of the cases assigned to Courtroom #302 at Chicago's notorious Cook County Courthouse in the course of a single typical year. But no crime or trial is typical to the people involved in it, and Courtroom 302 does a beautiful job of conveying that simple truth.

Like a wartime reporter embedded with a military unit in Iraq, the author is essentially embedded in this courtroom and given remarkable access to everyone who spends time in it during a single year. He follows the cases from the commission of the crime through the arrest, jailing, prosecution and aftermath, jumping from one participant's perspective to another to give a sort of 3D view of the whole process. It's Law and Order on steroids, taking that concept beyond just police and lawyers to include everyone touched in some way by the event. The details of the various crimes and their impact on all of the different people involved were obviously compelling, although not all of them were necessarily notorious or headline-grabbing.. But that's part of what made this such an unusually interesting book, because the stories were about everyday people whose lives converged with other everyday people in this one courtroom.

In fact, one of the most intriguing aspects of this account was the way it contrasted the life-changing urgency of appearing in Room 302 to the defendants and victims with the workaday normalcy of that very same place and time to the judge, lawyers and guards who make their living in that room. To some, it was the most important day of their lives. To the people who defended, prosecuted, guarded and judged them, it was just another day at work. Admittedly serious work, but work nevertheless. The author tells all of these stories with warmth, humanity and even some humor, but treats everyone involved with a reporter's eye for human detail and the seriousness with which we all view our own lives.

The narrator is excellent, and perfectly suited to the material. There's an unexpected cadence to his narration that you notice at first, but like most good narrators he drew me so fully and comfortably into the story that the narration itself practically disappeared. I quickly forgot I was being read to at all.

I received a free copy of this audiobook at my request in exchange for an unbiased review, and I was surprised that it turned out to be one of my favorite non-fiction reads this year. If you're looking for a very interesting true story that isn't like every other true crime book, this is a great choice. I can't recall listening to another book that is quite like it. If you're interested in how the law really works in real-life practice, this is also a great choice. For me, this one book about one year in one Chicago courtroom taught me more about the American legal system and it's flaws, brilliance, humanity and inhumanity than the 4 years of Pre-Law classes I took in college. And if you're just looking to spend a few hours with an engaging cast of real-life characters caught up in real-life dramas, this is a great choice yet again.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Assassination of Heydrich

  • Hitler's Hangman and the Czech Resistance
  • By: Jan G. Wiener
  • Narrated by: Mark Kamish
  • Length: 5 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 29
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 29

If you only listen to one book about what it felt like to be present during the worst time in modern human history, a time when your life could be snuffed out for having the mere thought of opposition against the Nazi regime, this should be the book. It is told by survivors and by one of the greatest survivors of them all, Jan Wiener.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • "Red posters on the walls ..."

  • By Norma Miles on 11-29-16

A Very Personal History of a Very Important Event

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

Reviewed: 01-07-18

This is the incredible true story of Operation Anthropoid, the Czech underground's mission to assassinate Rheinhart Heydrich, the 3rd most powerful man in the Nazi Reich and the primary architect of the "Final Solution." I was familiar with the broad historical strokes already, and this remarkable story has been told in other books and movies, but never in such a personal, firsthand manner. The story and characters unfold in the form of individual accounts from people who were actually there, which gives it a depth and meaning that a typical historical non-fiction account rarely provides.

While the planning, execution and repercussions of the assassination attempt is the heart of the story, it was all the lesser-known details and personal vantage points that make this such a compelling book. In fact, the titular assassination attempt is roughly in the middle of the narrative, and yet the most memorable parts of the story are on either side of the main event: the individual accounts of the participants, the Czech resisters' harrowing infiltration into Prague, the planning and adjustments to the assassination plot as circumstances changed, the horrific, murderous retribution inflicted on the Czechs by the Nazis afterward, and the final confrontation between the Nazi's and the Czech resistance fighters. Those are the details that stuck with me, in part because they were new to me, and in part because they were so intimately portrayed by actual survivors (including the author himself).

The narration is excellent, . It took me a moment or two to get acclimated to his cadence, but I quickly found myself completely immersed in his style of storytelling (and consistently impressed with his pronunciation of names and places). By the end of the audiobook I couldn't imagine anyone telling this story better, and I have since searched out other books narrated by Mr. Kamish.

There is a lot going on in this book -- including a number of people and places with Czech names that were unfamiliar to American ears -- and as such it rewards attention. I could tell early in the narrative that this was not a book I wanted to drift in and out of. But I never found myself lost, and there were so many interesting people and events going on throughout the entire story that I never found myself drifting. I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and voluntarily left this review, and I'm glad I did because I might not have stumbled onto this great book otherwise. Now that you have, give it a try. It's an amazing story, very well told.

  • The Truro Murders

  • By: Ryan Green
  • Narrated by: Steve White
  • Length: 3 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27

The Truro Murders presents the shocking true story of Christopher Worrell and his accomplice, James Miller. The events in this audiobook unveil one of the worst serial killing sprees in Australian history. Over the course of two months 1976-1977, seven young women were brutally raped and murdered. Worrell and Miller met in prison and upon release developed a dominant and submissive relationship that centered around feeding Worrell's sadistic urges towards women.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Things We Do For Love . . .

  • By Polly Poizendem on 12-02-17

Chilling True Story of an Unlikely Pair of Killers

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

Reviewed: 12-27-17

I really like the way this author tells a true crime story, and this unique tale of a handsome, charming young Aussie rapist/killer and the older man who is so in love with him that he finds himself acting as his willing accomplice is no exception. I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review. With that said, this is my 5th True Crime book by Ryan Green, most of which I gladly bought on Audible. He's quickly risen to the top of my "Gotta Have" list.

The author tells the "what" part of the story very well, giving the reader just enough detail of the crimes to feel their ugly weight but not so much that the ugliness overpowers everything else. He de-emphasizes the goriest details and step-by-step crime-scene-log chronology in favor of painting a word picture of the "who" and "why." As a result, with each progressive chapter and page we learn more about the characters and personalities who are involved in --- and affected by --- these terrible crimes. In other words, the author is writing a book about complex, unusually motivated people instead of a compendium of dozens of awful crimes, and he does a good job of showing how committing these crimes affects both the criminals and the lives they touch. He does this in part by telling the story from the vantage point of the accomplice instead of the killer, and that unique twist in perspective made this even more interesting. The narration was perfectly suited to the material --- I was so immersed in the story he was telling that I literally forgot it was being read to me, and that's the greatest compliment I can give a narrator or an author.


1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Texas 7

  • A True Story of Murder and a Daring Escape
  • By: Gary C. King
  • Narrated by: J. Scott Bennett
  • Length: 6 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26

"You haven't heard the last of us yet..." These were chilling words on a note left behind by seven armed and dangerous inmates who escaped from the John Connally prison in South Texas on December 13, 2000. Their promise has apparently been fulfilled. The inmates, now known as the Connally Seven, are suspected of having first robbed a Radio Shack in Houston, and then, days later, on Christmas Eve, of having fatally shot and run over a young police officer during an assault on a Dallas sporting goods store. For six frantic weeks, a massive manhunt with a significant reward had only turned up dead ends - until a tip came in from someone who had seen the gang on Fox TVs, America's Most Wanted. Authorities arrested four of the seven prisoners, including suspected ringleader George Rivas, in Woodland Park, Colorado, and a fifth inmate shot himself during police negotiations.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting true crime story

  • By Rabid Reader on 09-12-17

Well-Crafted Account of a Notorious Escape

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

Reviewed: 09-16-17

This is a compelling account of the notorious prison escape of the Texas 7. It jumps right into the action on the day of the escape, detailing how the guards were overcome and the escape itself accomplished. Perhaps the most interesting part of the story was the prisoners' extended evasion of authorities and the crimes they committed while on the run. There was a definite feeling of impending disaster, since most of the 7 escapees knew they were never getting out of jail again and would appear to be willing to do whatever it took to extend their escape. With that firmly established by the author, I found myself almost wincing in anticipation of something even more awful occurring whenever the narrative followed the escapees into an interaction with an unknowing civilian. Sadly, something awful did occur.

The narrator was perfect for the material, rolling out the story at a compelling pace in a gentle southern accent. It was almost like sitting in a bar or restaurant listening to a friendly Texan tell the whole story over a rack of ribs. I would definitely listen to other books narrated by J. Scott Bennett or written by Gary King.

The story is primarily told from law enforcement's perspective, which is interesting. But I would have loved more detail from the escapees perspective, and perhaps a bit more on the trials. I was left wanting to know what these guys were doing the whole time, where they were staying, who they encountered, what the internal conflicts and power dynamics might have been. It didn't lessen my enjoyment, and I like when a true crime story is engaging enough to make me want even more detail. On the other side of the coin, I was taken a little aback by a number of Appendixes in the last 40 minutes of the book. I understand why they were there, but that kind of repeated, extensive detail coming after the narrative is over and the author thanks all the people who helped him research and write the book feels a little like overkill.

That said, this is a great true crime story written and narrated in a compelling, interesting way. If you're even a little interested in true crime or in this particular case, I would definitely recommend this book. A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher at no cost in return for this unbiased review, but after listening to it I can say that if I had bought it I would have been very glad I did.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • When Churchill Slaughtered Sheep and Stalin Robbed a Bank

  • History's Unknown Chapters
  • By: Giles Milton
  • Narrated by: Giles Milton
  • Length: 5 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 87
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 81
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 80

In When Churchill Slaughtered Sheep and Stalin Robbed a Bank, the second installment in his outrageously entertaining series, History's Unknown Chapters, Giles Milton shows his customary historical flair as he delves into the little-known stories from history, like when Stalin was actually assassinated with poison by one of his inner circle; the Russian scientist, dubbed the "Red Frankenstein", who attempted to produce a human-ape hybrid through ethically dubious means; and much more.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Great Trivia Source

  • By Jean on 11-14-16

Indescribably Delicious

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

Reviewed: 02-25-17

I really loved this book, and I loved the author's other book that had a similar title concept and structure. But when I tried describing it to book-loving friends I found it difficult to convey --- it is really hard to put the things that make these books so incredibly fun and interesting to read over and over again into an elevator speech (and I enjoyed both books as much or more the 2nd time I listened to them, as I'm sure I will the 3rd). Suffice to say that the author finds genuinely fascinating, obscure back-stories behind often well-known events and interesting, often famous people, and tells them in bite-sized chapters that leave you fully sated . . . but still somehow compelled to Google each story to see if there is any more detail out there somewhere.

See? Really hard to explain. But its very easy to recommend it to you if you like history, sociology, or just well-written non-fiction. Or if you, like me, could listen to someone with that refined, melodious British accent for hours and hours on end, simply because they make you feel more refined and intelligent yourself just for the listening. And the fact that the author/narrator's name is Giles Milton -- I mean, seriously, who could resist?

  • Without Mercy

  • Obsession and Murder Under the Influence
  • By: Gary Provost
  • Narrated by: Kevin Pierce
  • Length: 8 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 502
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 459
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 458

On any Sunday morning in the Florida Redlands, Dee Casteel might have served you pancakes at the IHOP. She was a hard-working, cheerful waitress, one of the nicest people you'd ever want to know. She was also a three-bottle-a-day alcoholic, hopelessly in love with the IHOP's manager, Allen Bryant. Bryant wanted his live-in lover, IHOP owner Art Venecia, dead. And Dee Casteel helped him to arrange it.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I Thoroughly Enjoyed This Book

  • By Stephanie on 02-08-17

An Unexpected Favorite

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

Reviewed: 02-25-17

I received this title for free in exchange for an unbiased review, and I honestly might not have read it otherwise. The description seemed a little . . . unspectacular, maybe? But from the first paragraphs it was clear that this story was in the hands of a stylist, a genuine writer instead of just a crime reporter. The opening completely grabbed me, and the story never flagged, never once slowed. If you read a lot of non-fiction crime books as I do, you know that isn't all that common even in the good ones. The stories often drag in parts before picking up again a few chapters later. But the story of this alcoholic IHOP waitress, her fascinatingly immoral boss and the people they killed for the most mundane --- and therefore horrific --- of reasons kept my attention from beginning to end.

Perhaps it was the bizarre juxtaposition of fairly drab, hyper-normal people --- this could literally have been about the waitress who served you your flapjacks the last time you were at an IHOP -- with the unbelievably despicable and horrifying acts they committed that made it so compelling. Nothing against IHOP at all, of course --- I've always enjoyed my meals there, and the waitresses all seemed like truly lovely, non-homicidal people. But the thought that these murderous conversations could have been taking place in the kitchen while I was wiping the last of the syrup off my plate with a pancake makes the whole sad, sordid story more personal and a lot more intriguing. Perhaps it was also the slow, inevitable slide that the characters took -- going from one easily avoidable bad judgement call to another, going from being moms, lovers, waitresses and restaurant managers to being multiple murderers. It was like watching a multi-car crash in slow motion, from the moment the first average, everyday driver looked at their cell phone a moment too long, through the resulting collisions that envelop car after car, to the aftermath of unimaginable mechanical and human carnage. Whatever the reason, it all added up to one of the most unexpectedly compelling, well-written true crime stories I've read in a while. I'm also really glad I listened to it rather than reading it, because the narrator was excellent, and nicely suited to the material.

So if the description of this book looks at all interesting to you, I think you'll enjoy it. If the description seems a little . . . unspectacular to you, I think you'll enjoy it even more -- the surprise certainly made an already great book even more enjoyable for me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Betrayal in Blue

  • The Shocking Memoir of the Scandal That Rocked the NYPD
  • By: Burl Barer, Frank C. Girardot Jr., Ken Eurell
  • Narrated by: Kevin Pierce, Burl Barer
  • Length: 6 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 96
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 91
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 91

NYPD officers Mike Dowd and Kenny Eurell knew there were two ways to get rich quick in Brooklyn's Lower East Side. You either became drug dealers, or you robbed drug dealers. They decided to do both. Dowd and Eurell ran the most powerful gang in New York's dangerous 75th Precinct, the crack cocaine capitol of 1980s America.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Do not waste your money enriching a felon!

  • By Wayne on 05-27-18

Interesting Deep Dive into Police Corruption

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

Reviewed: 02-01-17

With many true crime books you happily spend a few hours listening to the facts and details of the case, but find yourself at the end still trying to figure out exactly what made these people do the often heinous things they did. The authors of Betrayal in Blue certainly lay out all the facts, and the story itself is incredible, but they dig so deep and so honestly into the characters and the history of the NYPD and crime in New York that you come out really understanding the context, motives and environment the scandal occurred in. It helps that one of the authors was personally involved and the other authors are among the most respected writers in the genre. For instance, I thought one of the most surprising and interesting parts of the book was the storyline involving Ken Eurell's wife, Dori, and her love and loyalty to her husband through a situation that would destroy most couples. I'm not sure we could have gotten that aspect of the story with such candid, brutal and deeply personal honesty if both the actual participants and two professional reporters weren't all involved in telling the story.

It may be my unfamiliarity with New York in the 80's, but at times the deep background into New York police and criminal history felt just a little too detailed, especially in the beginning, and I faded a little bit from the story. But the writing was so good and the narration so seamless that it always pulled me back in. And I'm glad it did, because I would have missed the roller coaster ride that followed. I've felt the same thing when I read some of the best books in the genre -- like Wambaugh's "The Onion Field" -- and this book paid off patience and persistence in much the same way.

I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge, but this is a book I would have bought from the description, read with relish and been very glad I did. If you are interested in crime, the police, the history of New York -- or the winding paths that can lead otherwise normal people to follow other people off a cliff, this is a fascinating, comprehensive exploration of all of those themes. Maybe the background went a little too deep for me occasionally, but it also proved to be one of the best aspects of this story. It set the stage for --- and gave a real human context to -- the facts, events and participants in this brutal, personal story of crime and corruption. Check it out, and hang in there if you're wondering when the crazy stuff will happen --- it definitely does.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Richard Cottingham

  • The True Story of the Torso Killer
  • By: Jack Rosewood
  • Narrated by: Gaius M. Thynne
  • Length: 2 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 32
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 30
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 29

The prostitutes working New York City's Times Square were more than a little bit nervous. A deranged serial killer who apparently melted into the crowd was picking up hookers and sadistically torturing them, leaving some girls wondering if there was a real-life Dr. Frankenstein out there attempting to create his own personal plaything from pieces of his dismembered victims.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • What a Butcher! Yikes.

  • By Polly Poizendem on 11-18-16

Great Book, Distracting Narration

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

Reviewed: 11-30-16

This was an extremely interesting, well-written book about a fascinating and truly horrible sexually sadistic serial killer. The author does an excellent job of pulling the reader through the story, and added lots of interesting facts and background on the overall subject matter. It's great true crime writing on a subject that begs to be told.

I only had one issue. The narrator has a number of potentially distracting tics --- adding verbal punctuation in sentences where it doesn't belong, mispronouncing words, and a tonal inflection that seemed to emphasize the wrong words or turns statements into questions --- that kept pulling me out of the otherwise compelling story. Over and over again these narrative tics pulled my attention from the writing, and I found myself losing the narrative thread. It may just be me --- listen to the preview and see if the narration has the same effect on you, because if it doesn't distract you then you're in for a really compelling audiobook.

I was voluntarily provided a free review copy of this audiobook by the publisher, and despite the one issue it turned me into a fan of an author I was not familiar with. If you like true crime stories, this is absolutely one of the better ones. But definitely check out the preview.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible

  • The Surreal Heart of the New Russia
  • By: Peter Pomerantsev
  • Narrated by: Antony Ferguson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 393
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 357
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 356

Professional killers with the souls of artists, would-be theater directors turned Kremlin puppet-masters, suicidal supermodels, Hell's Angels who hallucinate themselves as holy warriors, and oligarch revolutionaries: welcome to the glittering, surreal heart of 21st-century Russia. It is a world erupting with new money and new power, changing so fast it breaks all sense of reality, home to a form of dictatorship far subtler than 20th century strains, that is rapidly rising to challenge the West.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Loved it!

  • By Elle Kay on 11-25-16

A Great Book That Took Me Totally by Surprise

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

Reviewed: 11-23-16

I wasn't sure what to make of this book from the description. But it got my attention in the first few pages and just kept getting more interesting from there. I really enjoyed this book, from start to finish.

This is not a scholarly treatise on the culture or geopolitics of Russia. It's more a documentary about the people who inhabit it, told by a writer with a TV documentarian's eye for quirky, fascinating details that taken together tell the larger story better than any intellectualized, scholastic study could. The narrator enhances that documentary effect, telling the story in a clear, intelligent style that works well with the material (although the Russian accents were sometimes a bit strained). Instead of just TELLING you about the New Russia, the author lets the reader discover it by introducing you to people and letting them tell the story through the lives they are living. He doesn't try to explain the whole crazy, wonderful, country, but instead takes small slices and watches them with a practiced, interested eye. It's the epic, unexplainable story of modern Russia told one interesting person at a time.

People like the young, beautiful woman from a small industrial backwater town who, along with scores of similar young girls, comes to the city to meet wealthy men (they call them "Forbes" for the Forbes magazine's rich list). Meeting her and seeing the world through her eyes gives you a sense of both the desperation and the hope that seems to permeate this entire society. Or the wealthy, famous gangster who the author watches and interviews while the gangster is making a film . . . about himself. This clever concept allows the reader to see this character and his world as it appears to an outsider, while the film he is making sheds light on the way this man sees himself.

You see these people head on, in the full light of day, but the book is also full of little vignettes and sideways glances that provide context and detail to the landscape that straight, descriptive non-fiction storytelling often doesn't. For instance, in the chapter about the gangster/filmmaker the author mentions almost offhandedly that many of the gangsters who dominate the Russian economy and culture today were in jail during the heady days of Gorbachev, Perestroika ("restructuring") and Glasnost ("openness"). As a result, they were completely insulated from the massive political and societal upheaval that changed so many aspects of Russia, its people and their world view. These men came out of prison very much the same old-school Russians that went in, although the world had fundamentally changed around them. He didn't spend a lot of time on this fascinating tidbit, but it made me stop the audiobook and think about it, which to me is the sign of the very best writing. In a few short sentences he gave me a world of insight, and changed the way I saw his subject.

Again, I wasn't sure I was even interested in this book at first. It seemed like one of those books that intrigue you just enough to put it on your wishlist but you never get around to buying and listening to it. But I was lucky -- I was voluntarily provided a free review copy by the publisher, and I thought I'd give it a chance once it was in my library. It turned out to be my favorite book of any genre that I've read this year. So if you are already deeply interested in Russia, its people or the way they live and view the world around them, give this book a try. It should add some worthwhile context to your knowledge. And if you're not sure if this subject is all that interesting to you, you might just want to try it, too. A great book is so much more enjoyable when you don't expect it to be. And this was a great book.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful