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Richard Delman

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  • Next of Kin

  • By: James Tucker
  • Narrated by: Christopher Lane
  • Length: 8 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 176
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 150
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 151

A New Year's Eve celebration begins with the pop of a champagne cork - and ends with the bone-chilling screams of a killer's victims . Ten-year-old Ben Brook is the lone survivor of the brutal murder of his wealthy family at their upstate New York compound. But from the moment he evades death, Ben's life is in constant danger. Can NYPD detective Buddy Lock keep the boy safe from a killer intent on wiping out the entire Brook clan?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Excellent Loved It - Just Get It

  • By shelley on 10-23-17

Absolutely brilliant.

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

Reviewed: 09-12-18

Don't miss this. Mr. Tucker has written a very moving, thrilling book about a boy named Ben, a NYPD officer who comes to love him, and the woman who loves them both. The plot is complicated but not that hard to follow, because I was glued to my seat for the entire eight and three quarters hours. And Christopher Lane is perfect. Perfect. His voice has become deeper and more nuanced with age. I just cannot say enough good things about this entire production. I feel that virtually any reader who loves a great thriller will be thrilled by this book.
The plot, as above, is so complicated that I can't possibly do it justice here. It goes all the way back to the Holocaust, which becomes the seed of the events here. A family gets extraordinarily wealthy by buying important paintings from Jews, at bargain-basement prices, because the Jews are about to be shipped off to Auschwitz, where millions died and few survived. The present day family of the buyer, the Brooks (I believe that that name was originally Bruch), have become unimaginably wealthy because of their inheritance of the Brook Corporation, which holds some crucially important chemical engineering patents. There are four brothers, with their families, who share in the ownership of the corporation. These people are systematically murdered by a person who will go unnamed. Ben is the ten-year-old son of the first parents to be killed. He spends most of the book being cared for by Buddy Lock and Mei Adams, and they spend most of their time trying to keep him from being murdered. Anyway, this amount of detail doesn't really need to be here. The suspense of the book is gripping as the end draws near. Mr. Lane ramps up the narrative pace, in an extremely convincing way. I was scared sh...less. Few books grab me like this one has. I just pre-ordered Mr. Tucker's next book, a thing that I hardly ever do. I hope you love this book as much as I do. It will hold you in its thrall for hours and hours.

  • Depth of Winter

  • By: Craig Johnson
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 7 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 836
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 791
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 786

In Craig Johnson's latest mystery, Depth of Winter, an international hit man and the head of one of the most vicious drug cartels in Mexico has kidnapped Walt's beloved daughter, Cady, to auction her off to his worst enemies, of which there are many. The American government is of limited help and the Mexican one even less. Walt heads into the 110-degree heat of the Northern Mexican desert alone, one man against an army.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • I miss Vic and Henry!

  • By Nancy R on 09-06-18

Walt is becoming a cartoon character.

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

Reviewed: 09-08-18

Funny title. What the heck does it mean?
Count me among the disappointed. Like most readers, I have eagerly awaited this book, and it has seriously let me down.
Craig Johnson has written the latest in the Walt versus the horrible guys series. And as usual it is George Guidall who is the real star of the proceedings. George is now eighty years old! And still working just as hard and just as brilliantly as he has for his whole career as far as I can tell. I am thinking about listening to him read Crime and Punishment, which is something like thirty-six hours long, translated from the Russian. George is the only narrator alive today who could seriously tempt me to such a Herculean effort. (Mine as well as his. All I have to do is listen. Can you imagine how hard this guy has been working in order to produce the kind and quality of catalog that he has?)
Nevermind. This book stretches credulity way beyond the snapping-off point. Walt’s daughter Cady is kidnapped by a vile, evil villain named Bidarte, who has an appropriately slimy, sleazy henchman named Culpepper. Not to spoil it for you, but these are the kind of monsters who strip the facial skin off of men and then plaster the faces onto soccer balls! Disgusting! Craig! Have you no shame? More importantly, do you have a graphic artist for these cartoons?
So Walt of course takes the bait and goes down into Mexico without any support. Sadly, Vic and Henry and the other support troops stay home, and they are sorely missed. An entire book without Vic and Henry: why? Just so once again Walt can run around proving that he is the world’s loneliest superhero? And with people like Vic and Henry available to him? I say again, why? And, the unkindest cut, where did Walt's sense of humor go?
Walt picks up a bit of support in Mexico, but of course he convinces these folks that he must, must perform his feats of derring-do unaided. He is turning into Dudley Doright. He sneaks into Bidarte’s camp and frees Cady. Along the way we learn that Walt is worth over four million dollars. Where did this come from? Bidarte sets up an auction in which people are bidding for Walt, presumably to torture him and kill him for his bad acts. We know, however, that Walt must live on, else where would the series be? At this point I am expecting Walt to slip into a phone booth (anyone remember those?) and come out with his cape, ready to fly off over the buildings. Maybe with a W on his chest.
I continued listening to this book primarily because George is so wonderful. It is suspenseful, but Craig’s tricks have gotten, not exactly stale, but have begun stretching, as above, the suspension of disbelief to the point at which we have a hard time going along with it. Faces stripped off and sewn onto soccer balls? Really?

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Oh, the Places You'll Go!

  • By: Dr. Seuss
  • Narrated by: John Lithgow
  • Length: 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 514
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 403
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 398

Here is the incomparable Dr. Seuss' story of an unnamed "you" whose travels through the world involve a series of ups and downs. His ultimate success, however, is "98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!"

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Lovely effects!

  • By Cesar on 11-26-12

What a great way to wake up!

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

Reviewed: 09-07-18

Did you know that Theodore Geisel had to receive forty rejection notices before he got one Yes!? Given that his stuff was so revolutionary, it's not that surprising that publishers were shy of pushing the envelope with this ingenious world of ideas and delightful illustrations. I doubt that any person has ever had the chutzpah to deliver these lines as a commencement speech, but someone should, with appropriate credit given. And while we're at it, I listened to the sample of Ted Danson reading the Lorax, and I gotta tell ya, Ted is no John Lithgow. His voice is wrong, contrived and phony from the git-go. Lithgow once again entertains us with his actorly skills and his knowledge of the world as it is, as opposed to the world as we wish it to be. I love Dr. Seuss. I love John Lithgow. How can one go wrong?

  • Yertle the Turtle

  • By: Dr. Seuss
  • Narrated by: John Lithgow
  • Length: 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 80
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 61
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 62

A modern fable in humorous verse.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • One of the greatest pleasures in the Audible files

  • By Richard Delman on 09-03-18

One of the greatest pleasures in the Audible files

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

Reviewed: 09-03-18

Dr. Seuss and John Lithgow! Geniuses galore. I read these books to my sons and we loved them. John Lithgow gives such a thrilling performance that I can't imagine a finer one. And, although I know that this is completely off the wall, it struck me around two minutes in that the story predicts the current political nightmare. I know, I know, it was written long ago, and recorded in 2006. Nonetheless, Yertle is a preposterous figure. Exactly like someone we know.
If you don't love this, then I just don't know what.

  • Shut Your Eyes Tight

  • Dave Gurney, Book 2
  • By: John Verdon
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 17 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 456
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 404
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 400

When he was the NYPD’s top homicide investigator, Dave Gurney was never comfortable with the label the press gave him: super detective. He was simply a man who, when faced with a puzzle, wanted to know. He was called to the investigative hunt by the presumptuous arrogance of murderers - by their smug belief that they could kill without leaving a trace. There was always a trace, Gurney believed. Except what if, one day, there wasn’t?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • An excellent read

  • By Andi on 08-13-11

Mr. Brick makes my ears hurt.

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

Reviewed: 09-03-18

The second Dave Gurney adventure pales in comparison to the first. Many of the same characters are here. The initial murder is a good hook: plenty gory and well set up. But the book is all over the place, full of so much contrivance and what ifs that it utterly strains credulity.
Particularly while listening to the voice of Scott Brick, the wedding scene sounds reminiscent of Nelson DeMille, which is to say it is utterly without subtlety. Every single thing is wildly overblown. As if what we wish to do is listen to a British coronation. The fabulously wealthy distant suburbs of NYC, where everyone has a castle and a moat and a yacht, etc. When Dave Gurney finally succumbs to the charms of the (of course) luscious Val Perry, agreeing to look for her of course glamorous, genius (IQ=168) daughter, who has been grossly beheaded by the gardener during her wedding to of course internationally brilliant psychiatrist Dr. Scott blah blah Ashton, while being given away by the of course world’s most wealthy and decorated neurosurgeon, who makes the of course average amount for the Zipcode: $44 MILLION per annum (no physician in the history of the universe has ever come anywhere near this insane sum). And there is more and more and more.
And then there is Dave’s wife, Elizabeth Taylor in blue jeans. The contrivances build up and up and up until the entire operation is balancing on a structure that is as flimsy as a spider web: you could just blow hard (mmmm...) and it would collapse completely. Dave comes up with so much pure speculation that the governor and the top cop and his henchmen all fall down! The idea that all of the murders could be based on a play that is so old and obscure, with names transferred and the scheme of the killer and the apparent conspiracy of the women who have left "Mapleshade School" (personally, I think that that is an awful name for a school). Anyway, I gave up on old Dave and on Mr. Brick. Mr. Verdon will have trouble writing a book as good as Think of a Number. He does not have a good feel for what the reader will swallow. I know that quite a number of readers liked this book. You might like it. I didn't.

  • The Auschwitz Escape

  • By: Joel C. Rosenberg
  • Narrated by: Christopher Lane
  • Length: 14 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,282
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3,911
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,917

A terrible darkness has fallen upon Jacob Weisz’s beloved Germany. The Nazi regime, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, has surged to power and now hold Germany by the throat. All non-Aryans - especially Jews like Jacob and his family - are treated like dogs. When tragedy strikes during one terrible night of violence, Jacob flees and joins rebel forces working to undermine the regime. But after a raid goes horribly wrong, Jacob finds himself in a living nightmare - trapped in a crowded, stinking car on the train to the Auschwitz death camp.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Engaging novel of Nazi horrors

  • By Mark on 02-26-18

Christopher Lane is wonderful.

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

Reviewed: 08-31-18

I have said before that I thought I had heard enough about WWII. This book proves me wrong on that score. And I am awaiting the re-appearance of Schindler's List in theaters for its 25th anniversary with a kind of related anticipation/dread as it is such a masterpiece. I'm getting a bit sidetracked here, but here goes anyway. Billy Wilder, a great director and survivor of Auschwitz, said after he saw the movie that the first time he saw it he watched the screen, the second time he watched the audience, and the third time he looked for his mother in the shower scene. This is powerful praise from one master director to Mr. Spielberg, who was in his mid-forties at the time he directed the movie.
In any case, to return, the character of Jacob is the protagonist in the story. The first part of the book, as others have pointed out, happens in France during the Nazi takeover of that country. A family escapes from a ruined town in the north near Belgium and makes its way carefully to the south, where they proceed to shelter many Jews who are escaping death. He (sorry, I have forgotten his name) and his wife Claire soon recruit the entire town to do the same, and they eventually begin looking for a like-minded community to do as they are doing. The second part starts with Jacob as a teenager and protege of his uncle Avi in the resistance movement within Germany. Jacob gets caught during a raid on a train of Jews being brought to the slaughter, and in the raid his uncle Avi is shot down by the Nazis. Jacob is accidentally trapped in the train car, and is off on his traumatic journey, which is only the beginning, as we know.
When we get to the scenes in Auschwitz and Birkenau, it really takes a strong stomach to continue to listen. Mr. Rosenberg spares us almost nothing in describing the unimaginable monsters the German soldiers have become, in their thrall to the madman. The ovens, the horrible stench, the Jews forced to rip rings and gold teeth and any other valuable thing from the dead bodies: if you are at all squeamish, as I am becoming, you will have a hard time listening. In spite of this scenery, so to speak, Christopher Lane is voicing the book in such a fine and masterful way that you can thoroughly enjoy his performance while at the same time being fully disgusted at what is happening in the concentration camps. Jacob manages to get himself a cushy assignment in Canada, the storage area in the camp, which is managed by a sympathetic guy who is subversively saving lives while managing all of the stuff that has been stolen from the Jews. If you are old enough to remember Hogan's Heroes, this is a bit like that, but with none of the humor. We got to watch Hogan and his boys outwitting the idiot Schultz every week. And we laughed. This book is nothing like that.
The pure evil of the individual Nazis is indescribable, frankly. It is hard to understand how people can have so much raw, unthinking hatred in their beings. One would think that it would wear on them. They are ruthlessly beating, as an everyday occurrence, completely helpless human beings with malice and intent to maim. Germany has been an important society over the history of the last few centuries. To hear the names of Mendelsohn, Mahler, Bach, Beethoven, both Robert and Claire Schumann, Heidegger, Von Braun and all the other leaders in their day, one wonders how the extraordinary society that has produced these truly great men could have also created the monsters that we hear about, and how the people somehow managed to approve of Hitler and turn a blind eye to the Nazi atrocities: it boggles the mind.
The fact that the book has a happy ending is nice, but it has taken us a very long time to get there, and the pain involved has been intolerable. I think the book is great, but you have to know in advance what you are getting into. I would be very careful about buying this book. Don't blame me if you hate it. Not my fault. You have been warned.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Corrections

  • A Novel
  • By: Jonathan Franzen
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 21 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,855
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,589
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,600

The Corrections is a grandly entertaining novel for the new century--a comic, tragic masterpiece about a family breaking down in an age of easy fixes. After almost 50 years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fantastic novel by Franzen

  • By kurdis teed on 01-02-18

Uniquely divisive book.

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

Reviewed: 08-27-18

I had heard that Jonathan Franzen was a darling of the New York critics. I didn't listen to this until now, 2018, partly because I have trouble generically listening to heavy tomes, and I also am skeptical of the stuff that the New York establishment is selling so hard. Nonetheless, Franzen and George are a marvelous twosome. The humor in the book is astonishing. Franzen's writing skills are captivating. I keep wanting to remember particular sentences and phrases, how sharply funny his descriptions are, and how George is able to turn the material into some of the funniest stuff I have ever read. I know that some readers will violently disagree with me. Nonetheless, I feel that the characters in the book are so acutely drawn, so deeply understood and explained: I can't think of another book that comes close to this. I laughed continuously at the "Axxon Corporation" road show, and at Gary's rage at his father for accepting a mere $5000 from them for his idea, an idea that is so complicated that I couldn't begin to decipher the techno-chemical-brain transmission jargon being paraded before me. And, Gary's incredibly poignant slip into depression when he has this completely lovely wife: so terrible and yet so brilliantly communicated. And the one son who has become so unbelievably spoiled that his parents are actually afraid of him! Frankenstein lives!
The portrait of New York City and the adventures of Chip, the man who is sliding down the academic slope so far that he winds up going to Lithuania with some criminal/politician: once again just amazing. The scene in which Chip runs away from his apartment where Enid, Alfred and Denise have all come to have lunch with him, solely to chase his cute little sex object and to try to rescue the nightmarishly bad manuscript that he has written: I was stunned. You can have Philip Roth, or John Cheever, or even Richard Russo, whom I love. Franzen is a true prodigy. I remember how funny it was when Portnoy made love to his family's dinner. It seems quaint now. When Gary slobbers all over himself fantasizing about his own wife, and is repulsed by the women who like him and approach him at work: his tension is truly palpable. I am reluctant to use the word genius, and I imagine that it will alienate the disapprovers in the crowd, but this is talent unlike other authors, even the ones who inspire awe and deep admiration in me. Tom Perry is one of these, a man who has effectively invented his own genre, who has compelled us to identify with and root for a man who is a cold, hired killer. I am not comparing these two men, but I am thrilled to live in a time when we can enjoy such gifts as these.
I cautiously recommend this book to you. You may well hate it. If you give it a chance, though, it will reward you with love and pathos and writing so funny that you will laugh, if not out loud, then quietly, with sharp appreciation.



  • Justice Lost

  • By: Scott Pratt
  • Narrated by: James Patrick Cronin
  • Length: 7 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 431
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 370
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 366

Darren Street faces the most personal and ruthless vendetta of his life. After forfeiting years serving time for a false murder conviction, former criminal defense attorney Darren Street finally got his freedom back and is trying to build a regular life. But when an unthinkable tragedy shatters his hard-earned normalcy, Street is left reeling from the devastating blow.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The eleventh Scott Pratt legal thriller!

  • By Wayne on 02-13-18

Incredible. As in not credible.

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

Reviewed: 08-27-18

I am with the folks who dislike this book. I know that there are many people who feel that the series is great. I have read three or four of the books. This one is the weakest. Several reviewers point out the specific weaknesses. Darren Street has become a serial killer and also an asshole. To read that he just offs these people because he feels like it and gets away with it: I don't think so. Anyone who pisses him off is in the line of fire. Further, the possibility of this hardened criminal being elected District Attorney of Knox County, Tennessee: the author must be mad. Nothing personal, and obviously Mr. Pratt doesn't likely read his critics, but this level of lunacy just really fails, in every way. Thrillers need some kind of credibility, and there are so many phenomenal thriller writers: Robert Crais, Tim Hallinan, John Lescroart, Tom Perry, Owen Laukkenan, Stuart Kaminsky, William Kent Krueger and others. A few of them actually have excellent senses of humor as well. Mr. Pratt takes himself very seriously. I didn't even giggle. I will say that the death of Grace and the infant in utero is a very involving way to grab the reader, and I responded to it like other readers did. But the rest of the book was such a downer, so repetitive, with such an unlikable protagonist. I can't see myself listening to another Darren Street audiobook. I will give the Joe Dillard series a try. I'm not that hard to please. Even jokey stuff like Paul Levine is fine with me, and Leonard Shames is so funny that his books make me laugh out loud, and who really cares about the plots?
The narrator was OK. I found the book so off-putting that the presentation of it was something I didn't pay much attention to. The material itself needs to be worth reading. Otherwise, one is putting lipstick on a pig.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Straight Man

  • By: Richard Russo
  • Narrated by: Sam Freed
  • Length: 14 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 934
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 614
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 618

Russo's protagonist is William Henry Devereaux, Jr., the reluctant chairman of the English department of a badly underfunded college in the Pennsylvania rust belt. In the course of a single week, Devereaux will have his nose mangled by an angry colleague, imagine his wife is having an affair with his dean, wonder if a curvaceous adjunct is trying to seduce him with peach pits, and threaten to execute a goose on local television.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Shockingly good

  • By Jeffrey A. Sherman on 01-09-04

Our best living American novelist.

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

Reviewed: 08-24-18

Someone of great wisdom and as well a judge and consumer of terrific writing said that. I am wholly with him. 100%. I love Richard Russo, and have felt that way for a very long time. He writes in a way that most authors could only dream of doing. Russo's sense of humor is so wicked, and at the same time so loving and gentle, that you find yourself giggling and chuckling almost continuously. Really good humor is a rare thing indeed. Russo makes fun of himself, of his characters, some of whom are stand-ins for himself, and also of others who populate his novels. His sense of humor extends to life itself. I could describe some of the scenes that he creates, but it would not be nearly as funny in the reading. In this book, as in a few others, Russo takes aim at academia, and hits bullseye after bullseye. He spent a bit of time in this milieu, and so he knows whereof he speaks. A friend of mine once said that in capitalism, the prize is money. In politics, the prize is power. But in academia, who on earth knows what the prize is? Truer words...
Hank "Lucky Hank" Devereaux is the main character here. He and his father have the same name. Hank's glorious wife is Lily, whom he loves unreasonably. The couple have three daughters. Hank is the acting chair of the English Department at something like Western Pennsylvania State College in Railton, PA. I know that that is not quite accurate, but I will leave it up to you to correct me. I think that Railton is nearer Philly than Pittsburgh. The English department contains a small zoo of likely suspects: ineffectual schmucks, vicious predators, social climbers, failed poets, one-book novelists (one of whom Hank is) and so forth. The group spends hours upon hours tossing around many subjects without ever coming to a single conclusion. There are meaningless rebellions. Not much back-stabbing, as most are truly fond of each other. There is one hater, a guy named Roark, but he turns out to have no claws, like a spayed and domesticated cat. You absolutely must not miss the scene in which Hank, who has thoroughly peed his pants, is trapped up in the rafters above a room in which his colleagues are debating, among others things, his ouster. They say, "why does this room smell like urine?" They take a vote, and Hank blithely drops a voting slip down through the ceiling and onto the table. We never know whether Hank votes for or against his own ouster.
The predator in the department is a sad fifty-ish man who seduces female students and media reporters in his hot tub. With California wine, weed and other stuff. There are shaky marriages, good ones, divorces, reconciliations. Through all of this, Russo clearly loves his creations and never stabs them heartlessly. I had never heard of this narrator, Sam Freed, but I really admired his delivery of such fantastic material, which could easily fall flat in less skilled hands. Or, voices. Lungs, throats. Like that.
You cannot not like Mr. Russo. I won't hear of it.

  • After the Monsoon

  • An Ernst Grip Novel
  • By: Robert Karjel
  • Narrated by: David Colacci
  • Length: 14 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 14
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 14

A Swedish army lieutenant drops dead on a shooting range in the desert. Was it an unfortunate accident - or something more nefarious? Ernst Grip, an agent of the Swedish security police, is sent to the Horn of Africa to find out. Once he’s on the ground, however, he quickly discovers he’s on his own. No one wants him snooping around - especially not the US Embassy’s CIA station. Which is no surprise, given that military transport planes are leaving from the base carrying untraceable pallets loaded with cash. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Difficult book to review. Pulse-pounding? Not.

  • By Richard Delman on 08-18-18

Difficult book to review. Pulse-pounding? Not.

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

Reviewed: 08-18-18

The publisher's blurb of this book makes it sound much more exciting and gripping (sorry) than it actually is. In spite of that, and probably because I just love the voice of David Colacci, I stayed with it and learned quite a bit about Sweden, Somalia and the other countries in the Horn of Africa, about which I knew virtually nothing before. I did know about the Somali pirates. They make a dramatic appearance in the beginning of the book, which is well-written. A ridiculously wealthy Swedish family has made the decision to drop out of the rat race, after making tons of money in the venture capital game. Karl-Adam worked for many years at Scandinavian Capital, a company in which the partners line their walls with multimillion-krone works of art. Karl-Adam was never a partner, but he still managed to compile a tidy fortune. He and his wife and kids appeared in many publicity shots at balls and yachting races and other enjoyments of the wealthy, and the publicity about these events turns out to be a horrible thing for them. Karl-Adam and Jenny have a daughter, Alexandra and a son, Sebastian. Sebastian suffers from epilepsy. The couple decide to take a trip around the continent of Africa and then, presumably, back up north to home in Sweden. In the process, though, they sail right through an area which they have been told to avoid, in no uncertain terms. This part of the Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa is the lair of Somali pirates. The family is kidnapped in a violent struggle. They are then held as victims of a $10 million ransom demand. They are tortured, beaten, given exactly one bucket of water a day to address all of their water needs. We feel intensely sorry for them. They did nothing to deserve this, other than sail in an area of the ocean which is infested with human sharks. The attempt to rescue this family (I won't even try to spell their last name) is one of the two foci of Inspector Ernst Grip, a Swedish cop who is sent down by himself to solve the murder of a Swedish man on a firing range. The trip to the range is kind of a lark, thought up by a Swedish lieutenant who decides that it would be fun to take along some of the Somali men who help them at their small military installation. On the firing range the Swedish lieutenant gets murdered by one bullet in the head. Inspector Grip spends the rest of his time in the book trying to solve both of these very knotty problems. Much of the book concerns spy stuff that doesn't really hold my attention very well. It reads a good deal like John le Carre. Codes and lies and people in disguise and calls to upper management in Sweden who have no real idea of what is going on. I could have skipped a lot of this, and it would have, IMHO, helped increase the pace of the novel. The torture of the kidnapped family is described in small detail, and it is not fun to read. Not that it should be fun, but it could have been briefer. It is very fortunate that David Colacci narrates so well. I have listened to him read many books, almost the entire Abe Glitsky-Dismas Hardy series written by John Lescroart. Those books are some of my favorites, and Mr. Colacci bears a good deal of responsibility for that. In this book he voices many characters of both genders and a variety of ages, and you just do not hear a false note. There is a romantic-ish development near the halfway mark of the book between Insp. Grit and a woman named Iona, a half-black woman who plays piano in high-end hotels. She does some low-level spy work for Grit that becomes high-level work pretty quickly, just as the attraction between her and Grit develops. In the end, both crises get resolved, albeit with lots of drama and bloodshed and torture on our way there. Some of the torture is Byzantine, involving a bad guy being tied to the floor with ropes so that he can't stand or lie down, for days, until he melts into a puddle of animal excrescence. Pardon me. For the very squeamish, you might want to skip this part.
Anyway, the book is well-written and very well-narrated, and I am thinking about listening to another one in the series, if it is available. However, fourteen hours is a long time. The book could easily have been cut down to about nine hours, and it would have improved it immensely. An illustration of one of my favorite principles: addition by subtraction. If you think about this, it applies all over the place. Think of weeding a garden, or going into therapy and losing some bad habits, or cleaning the junk out of your house and finding that some open space is beautiful. Etcetera. I see it everywhere.

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