LISTENER

Eric J. Toll

  • 41
  • reviews
  • 48
  • helpful votes
  • 87
  • ratings
  • Tom Clancy Oath of Office

  • Jack Ryan Novel Series, Book 19
  • By: Marc Cameron
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 14 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,079
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,000
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 990

Freedom may have finally arrived in Iran. As protests break out across the country, the media rejoices over the so-called Persian Spring. Western leaders are ecstatic. Members of Congress and the Cabinet clamor to back the rebels. Only President Jack Ryan remains wary. Meanwhile, he has plenty to handle at home. A deadly strain of flu is ravaging the United States as spring floods decimate the Southeast. An unethical senator wants to bring down the Ryan presidency and is willing to lean on fabricated bot-planted stories to do it.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • There's a whole lot going on here...

  • By shelley on 11-28-18

It's a Jack Ryan novel, sort of

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

Reviewed: 01-11-19

Long-time Jack Ryan fans will want this book as another in the well-loved series. Jack Ryan, Sr., is aging into a more and more secondary role in the series. While there are the usually multi-crisis issues piling up in the White House, Junior saves the world, as usual.

It's a standard formula, with little innovation and less suspense than prior books.That would appear to be t he problem. The books keep being franchised to new authors who do not remain with the program long enough to really understand the characters. Mark Greany has been the best so far. This is Cameron's second effort, and it's well-improved over the first book.

Let's cheer for Cameron's Book 3 and Jack Ryan 20. For Ryan fans, get this book. For those new to the Ryan series, it shouldn't be your first.

  • Primary Target

  • The Forging of Luke Stone, Book 1
  • By: Jack Mars
  • Narrated by: Larry Gorman
  • Length: 10 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27

When elite Delta Force soldier Luke Stone joins a secretive government agency, he is dispatched on the mission of a lifetime: a whirlwind race across Europe and the Mid-East to save the President’s daughter before she is beheaded by terrorists. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Good, but possibly too contrite

  • By Eric J. Toll on 01-11-19

Good, but possibly too contrite

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

Reviewed: 01-11-19

The late Vince Flynn thrilled us all when he wrote the two prequels to the Mitch Rapp series. It wasn't a unique idea, but it was well done and helped answer questions that were always left hanging by the original book series. There was even a movie based on the first book, but only the movie title had any resemblance to the book.

The narration is the same caliber as all the books in the Luke Stone series. Larry Gorman is not George Guidall or Scott Brick, but he will be in that elite group, soon.

Now Jack Mars is joining the prequel world with the Forging series. This would be an excellent book with any set of characters, but it doesn't fit together as well as hoped when starting into the novel. The plot of a kidnapped president's daughter was ruined in West Wing and has been previously written too many times. That could be why this isn't a 5-star story and overall rating.

It's obvious, since this is tagged "Book 1," that Mars is planning additional titles in the series. It should be hoped that future plot lines are a little stronger and less retread.

  • Murder in E Minor

  • By: Robert Goldsborough
  • Narrated by: L. J. Ganser
  • Length: 5 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 176
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 162
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 162

It wasn’t Nero Wolfe’s idea for Orrie Cather to kill himself, but the great detective gave his blessing to his longtime associate’s plan. Cather had killed three people, and it was only fair to pay the price. Though Wolfe reacted to Cather’s death with his characteristic calmness, prize assistant Archie Goodwin could see the rotund genius of West 35th Street was shaken to his well-fed core. Wolfe decided his sleuthing days were finished. The detective’s retirement lasts until the day Maria Radovich walks through his door.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Just love Nero

  • By Marilyn on 08-18-15

Not quite 'Stout' reading, a well-written follow

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

Reviewed: 08-25-18

Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series is the classic gritty hard-boiled detective novel, all 40-some of them before Stout's death. The books portrayed the lifestyle and mores of the eras, and the characters never quite seemed to age in the townhouse on 35th Avenue.

Goldsborough earns high marks for maintaining the character, dialogue and quirks of each Stout character. This is a challenge as many franchise authors eventually lose the originals' personalities in the subsequent novels.

The plot is typically Stout, with twists turns and a "how could I have not figured that" in mind when the grand finale is played.

There is a reference to the novel talking place in 1977, but were I Goldsborough, I would keep the stories in the 30s and 40s, maybe the 50s. The nuances of the characters are quaint when set against the backdrop of 1977, but the actions, use of language, dress, and even building operations are so 1940s. The timeline is incongruous.


Ganser's narrations and character voices are excellent. He has just the right twang for Archie Goodwin's narration, and does quite well differentiating the characters, the accents and the timing.

If you like the Rex Stout series, this will not be a disappointment, but it will not be Rex Stout.

  • Rock with Wings

  • By: Anne Hillerman
  • Narrated by: Christina Delaine
  • Length: 10 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 615
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 559
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 556

Doing a good deed for a relative offers the perfect opportunity for Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, to get away from the daily grind of police work. But two cases will call them back from their short vacation and separate them - one near Shiprock and the other at iconic Monument Valley.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A Navago Mystery Story

  • By Jean on 03-01-17

The plot must have flown with the Rock with Wings

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

Reviewed: 06-19-18

There's nothing tougher for an author than trying to fill in the shoes of an established writer with a strong following. Anne Hillerman has tried, but after three of her books, I'm back to re-listening or reading the original Leaphorn and Chee novels by her father.

Christina Delaine does a decent job of performing the multiple character roles, although Chee sounds a little wimpy and indecisive. Her intonation of the Navajo English patois is as close to reality as I've heard from an audio book performer. If only she had material to match her performance. Even a strong performance cannot save this book.

Rock with Wings drags interminably through the first nearly four hours, which is when I gave up listening and returned the book. There is a whisper of a plot, but most of the effort is spent on a visitor's guide to Monument Valley, a smattering of cultural history, and Bernie Manuelito's whiny relations with mother and sister. There were many minutes wasted in the prior books about her dealings with an aging mother and alcoholic, irresponsible sister.

Okay, enough already. We get it. Alcohol abuse is a real life challenge in the Dinétah. Responsible Navajo family members carry great real-life burdens dealing with dysfunctional family members. If Hillerman wants to writer a sociological assessment of the Manuelito family, just call it that and don't pretend the book is a Leaphorn-Chee mystery.

Leaphorn is an overused aside referencing his recovery from a gunshot wound in the previous book. Marriage for Chee has taken something from his character and turned him into a pliable, rudderless mound of clay that three hours of listening takes away the joy of his former skills and character. His challenge of balancing Navajo tradition with the realities of police work left the series with the death of Tony Hillerman.

Anne Hillerman had an amazing opportunity to take on the role of extending her father's work with Bernie Manuelito as the lead character. Droning for more than three hours with only a reference to two boxes of dirt and a boldly marked desert grave seems to hint there might be a plot and perhaps a mystery.

The true mystery is the purpose of most of the first three hours of the book. And dang, the Rock with Wings, Ship Rock, is one of my favorite places to see in the Navajo Nation.

Give this book a pass.

  • Edisto Jinx

  • By: C. Clark
  • Narrated by: Jenny Jarnagin
  • Length: 12 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 7
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 7

According to Sophie the psychic, beautiful Edisto Beach becomes a hotbed of troublemaking spirits every August. But when a visitor dies mysteriously during a beach house party, former big-city detective Callie Morgan and Edisto Beach police chief Mike Seabrook hunt for motives and suspects among the living. With tourists filling the beaches and local business owners anxious to squelch rumors of a murderer on the loose, Callie will need all the help she can get.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • On this one, get the book, skip the audio

  • By Eric J. Toll on 04-03-18

On this one, get the book, skip the audio

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

Reviewed: 04-03-18

Listening all the way through was excruciating and even a challenge to complete the audio. After the well-performed Murder in Edisto performed by Pamela Almand, Jenny Jarnagin's performance dragged Hope Clark's writing writing.

The plot is formula detective novel, but well structured, fun to read, and has plenty of suspense. The naivete of acting police chief Mike Seabrook is starting to wear a little thin after the first book, but the storyline holds up.

The challenge in getting through the Audible version is the performance. It's never fun to negatively critique an author or performer, but I was tempted numerous times to return this book.

Jarnagin has a pleasant voice, but one that needs a book with fewer characters. Many of her characters are indistinguishable from one another. This is made extra challenging after the outstanding performance by Almand in the first book. The recording levels vary throughout the performance, almost identifying mid-chapter retakes or a chapter that was likely the first of the next day. That's a technical issue, but sometimes character voice traits are lost between chapters, too.

I'd recommend getting the kindle or print edition of this one. But I definitely recommend getting the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Spider Woman's Daughter

  • A Leaphorn & Chee Novel
  • By: Anne Hillerman
  • Narrated by: Christina Delaine
  • Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 711
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 649
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 642

Navajo Nation Police Officer Bernadette Manualito witnesses the cold-blooded shooting of someone very close to her. With the victim fighting for his life, the entire squad and the local FBI office are hell-bent on catching the gunman. Bernie, too, wants in on the investigation, despite regulations forbidding eyewitness involvement. But that doesn't mean she's going to sit idly by, especially when her husband, Sergeant Jim Chee, is in charge of finding the shooter. Bernie and Chee discover that a cold case involving his former boss and partner, retired Inspector Joe Leaphorn, may hold the key.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Disappointed

  • By Andrea on 10-10-13

Performed well, written so-so--worth checking next

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

Reviewed: 03-06-18

Finishing the book about three weeks ago, a digestion period was needed before writing this review. Christina Delaine's performance made up for a lack of character in the novel.

Being that this is Anne Hillerman's first attempt, the second book will be given a shot. The Leaphorn-Chee series is one that had such an influence on this reader's life that "Thief of Time" generated a trip to Chaco Culture National Historical Park and an AAA Indian Country map is in my collection.

Many premiere authors are using surrogates to continue franchises after retirement or author death. Kyle Mills writing for Vince Flynn; Mark Greany for Tom Clancy; Ace Atkins for Robert Parker...the authors have done extremely fine jobs of maintaining character in transition.

Transitioning Officer Bernie Manuelito into prime protagonist with Anne Hillerman as author should be a natural move. It's awkward in "Spider Woman's Daughter." The title is a reference to a nickname used by Manuelito's mother.

Christina Delaine does an excellent job with the voices and challenging New Mexico and Arizona Navajo pronunciations. This would have been a five-star performance had she used a little more of the vocal characteristics of Jim Chee, standards set in earlier Tony Hillerman books converted to audio.

The problem is in the plot, subplot and character capabilities. Essentially, Chee is dumbed down. At a point in the story where it is so obvious which character is the antagonist, Chee is without a clue. This is not in keeping with his capabilities from the many books previously written.

Semi plot spoiler warning: At the climax, which takes place at a ministorage facility, Manuelito allows the now-known, armed, antagonist to get behind her. Considering the floorplan of the typical residential storage units, even "double wides," it would be very poor police work allowing a perpetrator to circle behind in the scene as written.

There are other annoyances. The relationship between Manuelito, her mother and sister is unnecessary and adds nothing to the movement of the book.

Another challenge is the landscape description. Tony Hillerman had a way of weaving the descriptions into the book's tapestry in a natural and seamless manner. Anne Hillerman drops the landscape descriptions like large rocks into a pond. The ripples are pretty, but disruptive.

All in all, it's a first effort to pick up a well-burned torch and carry it further. Sometimes it takes a second effort to get into the flow.

  • Origin

  • A Novel
  • By: Dan Brown
  • Narrated by: Paul Michael
  • Length: 18 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 39,388
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 36,012
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 35,897

In keeping with his trademark style, Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code and Inferno, interweaves codes, science, religion, history, art, and architecture in this new novel. Origin thrusts Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon into the dangerous intersection of humankind's two most enduring questions - and the earthshaking discovery that will answer them.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Formula over fiction

  • By Evan M Carlson on 11-01-17

It's formula, it works, it's good

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

Reviewed: 01-28-18

Dan Brown books are a similar formula each time. The celibate professor Robert Langdon (well, he's always paired up with the world's most beautiful women, and rarely gets a kiss), despite being Harvard's most eligible bachelor), is back with a murder, a code, a beautiful woman, and smattering of symbols, the Catholic Church, a twist, a turn and far too much architectural touring.

The book is delightfully mindless entertainment interspersed with history, a tour, and a talking computer that is the offspring of Siri and Alexa and talks like Gary Oldham.

Knowing that, it was still a fun listen, very well narrated by Paul Michael. "Origin" is not of the same caliber of The Da Vinci Code, but it was definitely better than the one about the tatooed man, which title I cannot recall.

"Origin" has all the hallmarks of a Brown book.It periodically grips you, often informs you and has several plot twists to keep you guessing. There are a subplot or two that are really unneeded, such as the King's secret, and a strong woman who is able to leap tall buildings in her stiletto shoes and evening gown.

This book is worthy of the wish list, a contender for a library, and as long as enjoyed mindlessly, it will be enjoyed.

If a worth sequel to Da Vinci code is expected, expect to be underwhelmed. If a good escape is the agenda, it'll fill the bill.

  • Sold Out

  • By: Stan R. Mitchell
  • Narrated by: Jay Snyder
  • Length: 8 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 437
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 405
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 402

This is the book you've been looking for: a deep, dark conspiracy that should delight those who loved the Jason Bourne movies, as well as fans of authors Vince Flynn, Tom Clancy, and Stephen Hunter. You won't believe what happens when free speech slams into the messy realities of national security. Meet Nick Woods, a former Marine Scout Sniper, who used to be one of our country's greatest operatives. Meet Allen Green, a ballsy reporter in his fifties, who's desperate to break the biggest story since Watergate.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • If you like Greaney or Woods this book for you...

  • By shelley on 01-17-16

Like Rapp? Appreciate Gentry? Love NickWoods

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

Reviewed: 10-27-17

Take one part Mitch Rapp; add some Woodward and Bernstein; then equal parts Cort Gentry and Luke Stone. Toss in some Rambo and spice the dialogue. Now you've got Stan Mitchell's Nick Woods.

"Sold Out" is a well-written, creative political intrigue. It has all the parts required for the genre formula, but a riveting narrative, excellent performance and well-crafted dialogue makes for a really well-written book and performance.

Jay Snyder is able to deliver multiple voices, maintained throughout the book. He's not a George Guidall or Dick Hill, but is definitely close in class. Snyder's voice characterizations are realistic and not cartoons.

Mitchell's plot is intricate and entwined nicely with several subplots. Woods is the character-flawed protagonist. The rogue government agent antagonists, and of course the evil Southern Senator, are a little close to stereotypical, but the characters are viable and believable.

For political intrigue and spy novel fans, Nick Woods deserve space on the hard drive or a place on the bookshelf.

  • House of Spies

  • A Novel
  • By: Daniel Silva
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 13 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,334
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,070
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,047

Four months after the deadliest attack on the American homeland since 9/11, a terrorist plot leaves a trail of carnage through London’s glittering West End. The attack is a brilliant feat of planning and secrecy, but with one loose thread. The thread leads Gabriel Allon and his team to the south of France and to the gilded doorstep of one of the richest men in the country, Jean-Luc Martel, and his companion, Olivia Watson. A beautiful former British fashion model, Olivia pretends not to know the true source of Martel's enormous wealth.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • YES! This is what I want and expect!

  • By Dr. Meggin McIntosh on 08-27-17

Great words, fine voice, long night without pause

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

Reviewed: 10-26-17

When the cold November winds blow (or December, January or summer heat), clear half a day and snuggle up with the headphones. This is one of those rare books that once you press play, you'll not want to pause.

Silva's Gabriel Allon series has built book-by-book a series of maturing characters evolving in sophistication and skill with each novel. Oh sure, disbelief must be set aside, but the plots, subplots and intricacies are Silva at his best.

Suspense and tension are well-paced and listening while driving may find hands tightly gripping the steering wheel. An unfinished chapter may result in driveway time to not break the spell.

No spoilers here, but the plot features incompetent officials, rogues operatives, creative solutions, nasty bad guys, and a dramatic climax.

If this is to be a first experience with Allon and his team, it would honestly be better to start at the beginning of the series, or at least with the two preceding books--as both have plots carrying into this novel. Starting with book 1 is best to follow the evolving character development.

There isn't much that can be said about George Guidall's performance. He has this genre down pat, and smoothly differentiates character voices, offers exceptional sense of timing and carries the story as perfectly as any 1930s radio drama.

  • The Midnight Bell

  • Sean Dillon Series, Book 22
  • By: Jack Higgins
  • Narrated by: Michael Page
  • Length: 7 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 127
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 111
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 109

In Washington, D.C., on a night full of rain, a woman is struck down and killed by a hit-and-run driver. But she is not just any woman - she is the assistant to the head of the secret White House department known only as the Basement. And she had secrets of her own. In the Virgin Islands, former president Jake Cazalet receives a warning. He is recuperating on a diving trip after successfully helping Sean Dillon and the rest of the "Prime Minister's private army" defeat an Al Qaeda operation in London.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • A reunion of old friends

  • By A04171 on 04-02-17

The Keystone Cops ultimately beat ISIS

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

Reviewed: 10-24-17

Jack Higgins books are normally extraordinary. Well researched, carefully plotted and filled with twists and turns. Even the Sean Dillon series is one where each next book is eagerly awaited.

Until now.

"The Midnight Bell" doesn't toll for thee or for a good book either.

It's almost a Keystone Cops meet ISIS. The secret army bumbles its way through one thing after another that even the most green spy would figure out. The dialogue is really weak, but the most annoying aspect of the novel is the ISIS antagonist on his barge in the Parisian Seine.

ISIS or Al Queda, it's never clear which, seems to be able to get anybody's unlisted satellite phone and make untraceable calls. The terrorist organization has extraordinary intelligence capabilities making MI-5 and MI-6 seem as capable as Maxwell Smart. And when ISIS makes the call, the protagonists respond like a president on Twitter at 6 in the morning.

In nearly all Dillon books, after he jumps from the IRA to Ferguson's secret army, there is always a transition where Ferguson reveals he withheld information critical to making plot and subplots come together. Since this is expected, it's always fun trying to figure out when the general is going to say, "Oh Sean, by the way..."

In this book however, Ferguson's role seems to be ... well it seems to be a role without a mission or purpose. But then, most of the plot seems to be without a mission either.

The book is finishable, but not pleasurable. If those are words.