Karen Williams

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  • A Man Lay Dead

  • By: Ngaio Marsh
  • Narrated by: Philip Franks
  • Length: 5 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 263
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 235
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 237

Wealthy Sir Hubert Handesley's original and lively weekend house parties are deservedly famous. To amuse his guests, he has devised a new form of the fashionable Murder Game, in which a guest is secretly selected to commit a 'murder' in the dark, and everyone assembles to solve the crime. But when the lights go up this time, there is a real corpse....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Classic Upper Crust Mystery

  • By Laurence G. Byrne on 02-25-16

Good Cozy Mystery Made Great With Franks Narration

5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-15-16

What made the experience of listening to A Man Lay Dead the most enjoyable?

After exhausting the Hugh Fraser narrated Agatha Christie books, I turned my attention to Ngaio Marsh novels. I knew Inspector Alleyn from the 1990s Alleyn Mystery series, but nothing about the books. I decided to listen to the series in order. Lucky for me, Philip Franks narrates the first book in the series. He takes this 1934 detective story and makes it such fun. Franks' interpretation brings a breeziness to the story (especially in the way he voices Alleyn) that adds wit and charm. In a later novel, Artists in Crime, narrated by Franks, his interpretation of Alleyn's mother adds a dimension of character and wry humor that other narrators do not deliver. Mama Alleyn's analysis of the suspects is rewind and listen again funny. Franks delivers the lines as people actually speak. Franks performs this audiobook, he doesn't read it. The other predominant narrator in this series, James Saxon, seems to me, to read in such an overly melodramatic fashion that makes it much less enjoyable. In Saxon's readings, Alleyn comes across as stern and humorless, even though the books are filled with sardonic descriptions and conversations.

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

Not really, it's a good representation of the cozy mystery genre. I enjoy that genre for telling a story without being gory. The development of the characters is the jewel in this series. That being said, Marsh is probably a better representation of what society was like in the 1930s (that's the decade I'm currently on in this series) than Christie. Much more acknowledgement of sex, drugs and language than Christie.

What about Philip Franks’s performance did you like?

Everything. He's a gem and perfectly suited to this material. He's able to perform distinct voices (in a novel with a lot of characters) so that you know who is talking. Like Hugh Fraser, his female voices are very good (although Angela's voice changes from her first scene where she has a deep voice to a lighter "girlier" voice later that's much better). He interprets Alleyn, Fox, Bathgate and Angela in a way that makes you just love them.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It was. I didn't, but I could have.

Any additional comments?

This is a solidly-crafted cozy mystery that brings a lightness and wink-wink, nudge-nudge, we're-all-having-fun-now element to it. Well worth the time and easy to listen to multiple times.** Audible: If you will re-record the Marsh novels with Franks reading, I will re-purchase every one of them - truly.** He's perfect.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • The Plantagenets

  • The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England
  • By: Dan Jones
  • Narrated by: Clive Chafer
  • Length: 20 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,014
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,836
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,825

The first Plantagenet king inherited a blood-soaked kingdom from the Normans and transformed it into an empire that stretched at its peak from Scotland to Jerusalem. In this epic history, Dan Jones vividly resurrects this fierce and seductive royal dynasty and its mythic world. We meet the captivating Eleanor of Aquitaine, twice queen and the most famous woman in Christendom; her son, Richard the Lionheart, who fought Saladin in the Third Crusade; and King John, a tyrant who was forced to sign Magna Carta, which formed the basis of our own Bill of Rights.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent Narrative History

  • By Troy on 08-07-13

Annoying narration distracts from content

4 out of 5 stars
1 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-06-15

If you could sum up The Plantagenets in three words, what would they be?

Self-absorbed, ruthless, greedy

What did you like best about this story?

The subject matter is fascinating. I was looking forward to an in-depth accounting of the Plantagenets and their impact in Britain. Jones presents (possible) personal motivations of these monarchs and the way in which they ruled. The description of the struggles involved in surviving this time period (regardless of your station in life) were thought-provoking. It also illuminates why the Founding Fathers enumerated so specifically the rights of the people and the limitations of the government in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Would you listen to another book narrated by Clive Chafer?

Never. The sing-songy nature of the narrator made this book annoying, frustrating and almost unlistenable. Also maddening is when Chafer directly quotes something and uses a tone and inflection that is reminiscent of the voice one uses to read all the parts in a fairy tale to a 3 year old.

At some point, the content got lost because I was focused more on Chafer's phraseology and intonation. Waiting, waiting, waiting - when will the stilted monotone transition to the sing-songiness of the end of the sentence. I know I must have missed interesting parts of this book, but I don't think I can bring myself to listen to it again.

Chafer really diminished the enjoyment of this book for me. There are several other books I'd like to listen to, but since he's the narrator, I'll skip them.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Would I have liked to? Yes. Would it have been possible? No. The performance of the narrator required frequent breaks and a sense of foreboding when I hit the play button again.

Any additional comments?

I don't write reviews, but I feel compelled to about this audiobook.

I purchased this book after watching Dan Jones' series Britain's Bloodiest Dynasty on Acorn TV. I thought the book would go into depth about this period of history that time constraints of the TV series wouldn't allow. It did, however it was difficult to get through because of the narration.

I'll try other Dan Jones books in the future and hope for a more enjoyable experience.