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Madelon Wilson

USA
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The Prostitute's Price audiobook cover art

Women Then, Women Now

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

Reviewed: 02-13-19

A well-written book is hard to put down. By the same token, a well-narrated audiobook is truly binge worthy.
Such are the books in the Jack the Ripper Victim series, by Alan M. Clark, and narrated by Alicia Rose This, the fifth book in the series, elicits a certain dread that makes it as difficult to hear as it is to stop listening. The dread comes from what anyone who has read anything about the Ripper knows of Mary Jane Kelly, the fifth and final victim in the canon. She was the youngest, and by all accounts, the prettiest, and the only one so badly mutilated as to lose all semblance of humanity. As the protagonist of this tale, Alicia Rose's dramatic narration puts you, the listener, into a place you would not want to be. Somehow, using nothing but her voice, she puts you into that place that is Victorian London's seediest. Her rendition of Clark's introductory material, sets the stage perfectly. This is historical fiction that depicts, quite plausibly, the life that Mary Jane Kelly may have lived before it was so brutally ended.

It is important to understand that THE PROSTITUTE'S PRICE is a work of historical fiction, not another book attempting to solve the Ripper murders. It is a book about one woman, who by all accounts was a young, professional prostitute at a time when women were considered chattel no matter their social standing. From beginning to end, we see that Mary Jane Kelly lived by her own set of rules and did not allow male dominance to get in the way. Whether her choices were good or bad, they were her own. Alan Clark has given each of Jack's victims a voice but none more than Mary Jane.

Clark has done a remarkable job channeling his inner feminist. The entire series portrays the strength of women. If you think about what women have done in support of family and children, you will understand that these are not the stories of drunks who were murdered. These are the stories of women who did whatever was necessary to keep body and soul together in the squalor that was London's East End. I promise you that reading these books will change your perspective on this period in history.

If I may interject a point of personal privilege here, in 1999 I was in London. One of the things on my to-do-in-London list was to participate in a Jack the Ripper walking tour which I did with my husband. Our tour guide was Donald Rumbelow, a former City of London police officer, and the author of THE COMPLETE JACK THE RIPPER, which I had read. He is a London Police historian and has written books about crime other than this infamous unsolved case. The first thing to know about these tours is that almost nothing of the actual murder sites remains today. There are no Victorian chills until you get to Artillery Lane, Spitalfields. Walking down this unlit channel, in near total darkness, evokes an almost indescribable dread. When Clark puts Mary Jane Kelly walking on the very street, a street that still exists, I was back on that walking tour remembering the foreboding I felt some twenty years ago.

Whether you read or listen (or switch back and forth), this book, and the entire series, will add to your understanding of a time of great societal change and of the hardships women had to endure while that change was taking place. Think of where we are today. We have fought for and earned rights denied to these Victorian women, yet we stand on the precipice once again. I urge you, man or woman, to read these books to better understand the ongoing plight of women.

Lock and Key: The Gadwall Incident audiobook cover art

Good for the Lemony Snicket Crowd

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

Reviewed: 09-20-18

I listened to this audiobook using the Audible for Fire TV to see if this was a good way to listen to books. I have to say, I would have no problem listening to other books this way.

The book itself leaves a bit to be desired. Perhaps because I am reading a book, on my Kindle, that deals with the very real feminist issues of how women (and girls) are expected to behave with regard to men (and boys), I found the way that Moria interacts with her brother James is a glaring example of how NOT to raise a daughter. She had to play the meek, and weaker, sibling to mitigate his ire. Apparently, we are what we read, and the appreciation of one work heavily depends on the one that came before.

Throughout the book, I thought that the narrator was mispronouncing the name Moira. After listening, I went to my audible library and found that the girl's name, in the book, is Moria. My apologies to the narrator.

I am a huge fan of the Sherlock Holmes legend. I've read the canon, I go to the movies, and I watch the TV shows. I also read the tales written by authors other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Seeing and reading the variations on the original keeps Holmes a contemporary, as well as historic, character. I'm okay with Holmes using a computer and cellphone in 21st century London, as well as Moriarty being a woman. I think that when I availed myself of this free prequel, I expected a bit more than simply seeing the family surname, Moriarty, as the only hint this was to be a precursor to the Holmes and Moriarty rivalry. In fact, I found Moria to be far more cunning than her brother James. Is this to be a case of 'behind every successful man, there is a woman?'

Overall, the story is interesting, however, the narrator sounded too much like she was reading a bedtime story. It was difficult to determine the age group for which these books are intended. My best guess is that they are aimed at the Lemony Snicket crowd (or from my childhood, readers of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys).

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Bodacious Creed audiobook cover art

Steampunk Prometheus

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

Reviewed: 01-29-18

Since I recently read and reviewed the eBook BODACIOUS CREED, I concentrated on the narration while listening to the Audible edition. I have often read print books and then listened to the audio version in the past; however, I have not done this before in such close proximity in time. Where the author of the words in print dictates the tone of a book, it is the narrator that is the tone of the audiobook. D. Golden's use of her voice gives each character distinct personality. Her voice for the nineteen year old sociopath, Corwin Blake, is irritatingly spot on.

I did notice that Ms. Golden pronounced one or two words throughout the book in a way that made me think she is pretty young and unfamiliar with them. Most notably, the way she said 'hearth' which, by some reckoning, might be a somewhat archaic term.

I often wonder if the popularity of audiobooks goes beyond convenience. When I listen, the days of bedtime stories always crosses my mind. This may also be due to the fact that I almost can't go to sleep without reading my own version of the bedtime story. The drawback, of course, to listening before sleep is that one can lose one's place and have to figure out just how far back to go in order to get the whole story. I read the eBook so recently that if I did miss a bit in the listening, memory filled in the blanks. I have also gotten in the habit of noting the Audible chapter number (which always seems to be the author's chapter plus one) before I turn out the light.

So much for the audiobook; on to the book review. Having read and listened just days apart, the following is my review of the book as it appears on Goodreads and Amazon.

When I was a kid, I was a big fan of TV westerns. In my old age, I have become a big fan of steampunk, a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy, in all of its many forms. BODACIOUS CREED is a perfect marriage of the wild, wild West and steam.

As we grow older, it is sometimes difficult to remember those little joys of childhood. I am reminded of a time when I was 8 or 9 years old when I used to play TV westerns with the kid next door. We had bikes for horses and six-shooter cap guns. We became the heroes and bad guys from our favorite shows. We had no grass or dirt paths, but in a child's imagination, even concrete Bronx sidewalks can be dusty trails with tumbleweeds. Jonathan Fesmire brought all that back with his descriptions of U.S. Marshals, bounty hunters, and their horses.

What I am not is a fan of current zombie fiction… no Walking Dead for me. Such zombies are just too nihilistic. I have always had a fascination with Voodoo and its tradition of creating a zombie slaves. As horrible as that may be, at least they don't feed on others to make more of their kind.

So how do steampunk cowboys end up with zombies? Steampunk is a very broad spectrum sub-genre of science fiction. As such, there is an 'anything goes' acceptance of everything so long as it runs on steam and can be described as mechanical. Extrapolate from that the need for gears and levers and add in the ether (or aether) and you have all the ingredients for raising the dead with science rather than ritual.

Although the setting is Santa Cruz, California, there is a Dodge Cityesque saloon run by a "soiled dove." Anna Lynn Boyd is the strong, intelligent woman who happens to be the madam of The House of the Amber Doves. This is her story as much as it is U.S. Marshal James Creed's.

While reading BODACIOUS CREED, the movie "Cowboys and Aliens" kept coming to mind. That was a must see movie for me that I truly enjoyed. There is something about the flavor of this book and that movie that seem to overlap. Also, if you are a fan of the Will Smith movie "The Wild, Wild West" you might just love this book as much as I did.

So without telling the story, what we have here is a well-written tale capable of making an old soul feel young again. That feat of legerdemain is accomplished with charismatic, well developed characters and writing that pays homage to attention to detail without getting bogged down in repetitive minutia.

I would highly recommend that upon finishing this book you avail yourself of the short story offer on Jonathan Fesmire's website. "The Obstructed Engine" provides a starting point for some of the characters in the Creedverse.

Oh yes, and I love the cover art.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

Jack the Ripper Victims Series audiobook cover art

Her Mantra, "Something better…"

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

Reviewed: 08-15-17

I generally read everything in a book - the preface, the introduction, the author's note - everything. I find that these extras give me insight into the book as well as into the writer's intent. The author's note in SAY ANYTHING BUT YOUR PRAYERS has confirmed what I thought while reading the other three books in the Jack the Ripper Victim series. These are not novels of the crime and the criminal but rather of the women who only became known to the world by dying at his hand. I use the masculine pronoun for the same reason Alan Clark did… we know the vile murderer as Jack. If I were to classify these books, I would have to say that they are historical fiction not crime fiction.

Elizabeth Stride differed from the other victims in that she was not native to London. She was born in Sweden and was named Elizabeth Gustavsdotter. Going to London, after personal trials in Sweden, was to be her great adventure. Despite hardship, Clark has given Long Liz Stride a somewhat better life than the other victims. She also had a better death. As the third victim, and the first in the double event, Elizabeth did not suffer the same indignities the others did.

I made no special effort to read these in the order of their deaths. Each book stands on its own as a look at how these women may have lived their lives during a time when the haves and have nots were as different as night and day. Again, as in the book about Catherine Eddowes, OF THIMBLE AND THREAT, Elizabeth shows her awareness of the Whitechapel murderer.

Too often, the public at large is obsessed with the perpetrator of heinous acts. Thousands of pages have been written about Jack. Documentaries abound speculating on his identity. In all of this, there are a few public documents available for his victims, and, of course, their autopsy reports. I see the book in the Jack the Ripper Victim Series as a counterbalance to the fascination with evil.

I would be remiss if I didn't, once again, say how much the narrative performance of Alicia Rose enhances the writing. Her British accent adds a certain authenticity to the story of each victim. Despite the accent, she speaks clearly and with just the right amount of emotion to make listening a truly enlightening experience.

I would certainly encourage history buffs to read these books. Also, if you have even a passing interest in the ripper, you will find new context for the crimes. Remember, historical fiction is based in well-researched fact.

Jack the Ripper Victims Series: Of Thimble and Threat audiobook cover art

The Downfall of the Pretty Girl

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

Reviewed: 08-09-17

I have now listened to three of the four books in the Jack the Ripper Victim series, and I see that Alan Clark's fictional biographies of the women, made famous by their murder, are historical treatises on the plight of women in Victorian London. We have be told, when reading about Jack, that his victims were drunken prostitutes, that they had husbands and children whom they abandoned in favor of the cruel life on the streets using their bodies to earn their doss. In other words, to Victorian men, women were less than nothing, mere chattel to be done with as they pleased. Giving a life, replete with emotions, needs and desires, to each of the victims allows us to see these women as the human beings they once were.

Each of the books provides a totally believable scenario for the life of each victim. His account on Katherine Eddowes differs slightly from the other two about whom I have read. Her life had a definite turning point that led her down the path of over indulgence in alcohol and giving in to the need for money by prostituting herself. The history contained here is in some ways less appalling than for Annie Chapman and Polly Nichols. Alan Clark has struck a balance that lends more credence to this series of fictional biographies.

This is the first book in the series where the soon-to-be victim voices an awareness of Jack. In fact, she makes a fairly significant life decision based on that knowledge.

OF THIMBLE AND THREAT gives more of a direct nod to Clark's long standing in the horror genre as both a writer and an illustrator. This is most evident in the more than a little chilling end to Katherine Eddowes life.

I continue to be enthralled with the stories in no small part because of the narrative performance of Alicia Rose. I am inclined to recommend that you skip the written word in favor of the spoken so as to be fully immersed in the experience of Victorian London her reading provides.

A Brutal Chill in August audiobook cover art
  • A Brutal Chill in August
  • A Novel of Polly Nichols, The First Victim of Jack the Ripper
  • By: Alan M. Clark
  • Narrated by: Alicia Rose

The Demon Within; the Danger Without

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

Reviewed: 08-05-17

In his introduction to A BRUTAL CHILL IN AUGUST, Alan Clark adds some historical context that I never knew before, despite being an avid follower of the Whitechapel killer. That fatal August was pretty chilly due to the eruption of Krakatoa that spread fine ash over the northern hemisphere. As I read this, I mentally bemoaned the inadequacy of history texts in presenting events in a broad enough context. My motto is that any day that I learn something new is a good day… so today is one of those days.

Although this is part of the Jack the Ripper Victim Series, each book is a standalone novel not about Jack but about one of his victims of which the canon tells us there were five. A BRUTAL CHILL IN AUGUST is the story of Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols, Jack's first victim. In creating a biography from what is known of the victims, Alan Clark has obviously done his homework with regard to the history of Victorian London. He explores the ways of superstition and religion in that time period in such a way that his background as an artist and writer in the horror genre add just the right flavor to the tale, No doubt, Jack the Ripper is the narrative of an unsolved murder spree, but Jack himself has become a time-honored trope in horror.

Let's forget about Jack for the moment because he is truly peripheral to the point here. Polly Nichols comes alive in a world beset by the ills of adherence to class structure. If you are poor, you live and work with others of your class. This class structure led to such travesties as the workhouses which were little more than forced labor prisons for those in need.

This series has led to some personal experimentation with listening to audio books without having read the text. The narrator, Alicia Rose, does a five-star job of reading. Her British accent enhances the story by putting you there, in London. She speaks clearly and with the right emphasis to bring Polly Nichols to life. I could be easily persuaded to listen to anything she might perform.

The story ends as you would expect, no change in history here. However, if you read this book on Kindle, you will miss out on the chilling musical rendition the Audible edition provides.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Apologies to the Cat's Meat Man: A Novel of Annie Chapman, the Second Victim of Jack the Ripper audiobook cover art
  • Apologies to the Cat's Meat Man: A Novel of Annie Chapman, the Second Victim of Jack the Ripper
  • Jack the Ripper Victims Series
  • By: Alan M. Clark
  • Narrated by: Alicia Rose

Murder Is the End of Her Story…

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

Reviewed: 07-31-17

There are a few things that have always made me stop and take notice: Sherlock Holmes, vampires, New Orleans, and Jack the Ripper. When in London, in 1999, for just a day, the must do things were the bookstores on Charing Cross Road, dinner at The Hard Rock Café and the Jack the Ripper Tour. One might even say that I am obsessive about these favorite things.

The narrator of APOLOGIES TO THE CATS MEAT MAN, Alicia Rose, is excellent. Her British accent sets the mood while the words remain clear and unambiguous.

As a general rule, I enjoy audio books once I have read the paper or ebook; I find that knowing the story helps me follow the narration better. This is an experiment in listening without having first read the book, and I would say that as experiments go, this was a rousing success.

I have long admired Alan M. Clarke as an artist, and now I can say that his writing matches or exceeds his art. He makes it perfectly clear at the outset that APOLOGIES TO THE CATS MEAT MAN is not another tale of Saucy Jack. It is a totally believable fictional biography of Jack's second victim, Annie Chapman. Her story will never be fully known, after all, she was a poor woman and no one would have thought her worthy of a biography. The tale Clarke weaves is totally believable to anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with Victorian era England. We know for a fact that she was poor, married to John Chapman, had children, drank too much, and was murdered. None of this is in dispute; however, no one is just what is available in the public record.

This is Dark Annie's narrative where Jack the Ripper is a mere cameo at the end.

APOLOGIES TO THE CATS MEAT MAN is the fourth book in the Jack the Ripper Victims series. It is not a series that needs to be read in order, so I am now looking forward to reading or listening to the other books in this series.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful