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Publisher's Summary

Sam Acquillo is at the end of the line. A middle-aged corporate dropout living in a ramshackle cottage in Southampton's North Sea, Sam has abandoned friends, family, and a big-time career to sit on his porch, drink vodka, and stare at the Little Peconic Bay.

But then the old lady next door ends up floating dead in her bathtub, and it seems that Sam is the only one who wonders why. Despite himself, burned out, busted up, and cynical, the ex-engineer, ex-professional boxer, ex-loving father and husband finds himself uncovering secrets no one could have imagined, least of all Sam himself.

Meanwhile, a procession of quirky characters intrudes on Sam's misanthropic ways, the likes of which you never knew inhabited the hidden corners of the storied Hamptons: the haves, the have-nots, and the want-to-have-at-all-costs, some of them deadly.

©2005 Chris Knopf; (P)2006 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Knopf's effortless narrative style and sense of humor bode well for the further adventures of Sam Acquillo." (Publishers Weekly)
"Though the mystery drives the plot, it's Sam's rediscovery of himself in middle age that is the real focus in this accomplished debut novel, which also boasts outstanding dialogue and a vividly rendered setting. Expect to hear more from Knopf; he is definitely a writer to watch." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
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Story

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A hero who doesn't work and play well with others.

I'm a glutton for audiobooks - especially mysteries - and I'm surprised I had never heard of Chris Knopf until I stumbled upon The Last Refuge. After hearing it read, I listened to the other four in a week. Five books by the same writer in one week is high praise. But note, these books won't be for everyone. My interest is in the protagonist, a 54 year old mechanical engineer, called Sam Acquillo, who is one of those guys who knows how almost everything works - both manufactured or natural. If he doesn't know, he can figure it out. He's a know-it-all, but he isn't annoying because he DOES know it all. He a good guy to have around, especially if you are tracking down various murderers.

Sam is a former boxer. He's wasn't a good boxer but he's stayed in shape by working out at grimy, smelly boxing gyms. When he meets another man, Sam sizes the man up and decides whether he could kick the guy’s butt. He usually decides that he can and he's usually right. This is largely because most men were never boxers of any sort, and if they were they haven't maintained the physical condition of even a mediocre boxer.

At the beginning of this book Sam runs a R&D Division of a huge corporation. He has a record of going all over the world to fix big problems in huge industrial operations. He's the company's best engineer, in spite of the fact that he doesn't play and work well with others.

The book begins with a corporate board meeting. Sam is invited and is praised for the remarkable job he's do with his division and the terrific revenues his team has been able to generate. In fact, it is so profitable that the Board is thinking about selling it off at a very high profit. Sam knows it's a done deal and is very unhappy to have his division sold out from under him.

Sam's lousy personality emerges. The house counsel, sitting across the table from Sam, starts to read a description of the mechanics by which Sam's division will be spun-off. Sam gets up, reaches across the table, grabs the lawyer's tie, and pulls him far enough across the table to punch him in the face. It isn't a good thing for anyone to do to another person, but Sam has seized the “reader’s attention,” (At least he seized my attention.)

Within twelve hours Sam has quit his job, abandoned his career, and has dumped his dreadful wife. He has also consumed a lot of Absolute vodka (which is a continuing riff). For days, weeks, or months, Sam runs on the wild side. His is committed to a detox. The program doesn't work but Sam gets off the streets and ends up in a small beach cottage he has inherited and which is barely habitable. He lives like a semi-hermit and is starting to FIND himself when he FINDS his elderly next door neighbor, a woman he doesn't like, dead in her bathtub. The police call it a natural death; Sam thinks it's murder because the old gal didn't take baths.

It goes on from there.

I'm giving five's to all of these recordings. They aren't the same kind of fives I give to Dickens novels, but fives to acknowledge a new series with a new protagonist I like the fictional John Deal and Doc Ford and the real-life Australian science-genius: Dr. Karl (who can be heard on a BBC podcast).

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Ronald
  • Long Beach, CA, United States
  • 07-07-13

Good, down to earth, detective mystery.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

To many people have given up on this story too soon. For me, when I've had too much of the SF, Armageddon, magic, and other thrills, and just want a good book with a character I can get to know and respect, as well as great dialog - read by a narrator who makes it real, you can't beat Chris Knopf and Stefan Rudnicki. There may not be a lot of earth-shaking twists, but it is a good comfortable read that you just enjoy going back to.

What does Stefan Rudnicki bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Rudnicki has great rhythm. I liked his read of Ender's Game and thought he was perfect for telling Sam's story.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Sometimes a good retirement is interrupted by little things like murder.

Any additional comments?

If you need non-stop action, don't read this series. But if you like a good story with great characters you can really get to know - and a few surprises, give the Sam Acquillo series a try.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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I Give Up

After listening to this book halfway through, I give up. The narrator wouldn't be so bad if he didn't try so hard with his female characters. He tends to drop his voice to make them soft and whispery and in doing so, makes them inaudible. After missing most of Amanda's dialogue in the first half, I quit!!! Although the story was interesting enough, it was just not good enough to take me through the second half.

Money wasted on yet another poor narration.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Linda
  • PITTSBURGH, PA, United States
  • 03-02-12

Also almost quit

I also almost quit 3 hours in. It really drags, and the narrator bored me. I persisted, and it picked up. Glad I finished.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A good read (listen)

This is an engaging book. Though I don't usually go for books about contrary "dropouts" this one is told with good humor mixed in with a little self doubt and romance to keep it interesting. It's not hard to guess the whodunit part, but I found it a good companion nevertheless.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Binge listening

I am really enjoying this series. Interesting characters and yes a little dated, but so is the Edmund Dantès, doesn't mean he isn't still outrageously entertaining. No, I am not really comparing the Count of Monte Cristo with The Last Refuge, or am I...

Seriously, just a good mystery without being too serious, just the right amount of quirky.



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Gripping and Well-Written

What did you love best about The Last Refuge?

Knopf's writing is gripping and beautiful at times. His characters are rich and three-dimensional.

What other book might you compare The Last Refuge to and why?

THE LAST REFUGE is noir through and through. With an alcoholic loner narrator prone to getting into fights, mysterious deaths, sexy broads... but modern... a noir for our times. It is masculine and dark and literary.

Any additional comments?

I look forward to reading more of Knopf's work. I'll definitely be continuing on with this series.

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Sam Acquillo, the postmodern Sam Spade

What did you love best about The Last Refuge?

There's an underlying, depressive comedy. How grownups don't have to take themselves or their lives too seriously.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Last Refuge?

The ongoing exposure of Sam's failed career failed marriage and almost-failed relationship with his daughter.

Which character – as performed by Stefan Rudnicki – was your favorite?

Sam.

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

Not necessarily. I'm more of a multiple-dispersed listener.

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Great stories - Lighter side of the Law

This is one of the few novels I have read by this author and I will keep going down his list of books until I have read them all. This book only solidifies his standing in my books. He is a great writer. Chris Knopf writes in a very easy manner, not thick language like Dean Koontz but then who can take that heaviness all the time. Chris has a lighter touch and although the subject matter is murder and legal battles, he is somehow able to feel he has lightened your mood. He has a great gift for a balanced novel with humour, intrigue and even a sprinkle of romance thrown in. His books are well worth a credit !

I also enjoyed Stefan Rudnicki's performance. Listen to the preview. This is a great feature that Audible has added a couple years ago and its great. The novel might be wonderful but if you cannot take one more minute of the narrator's voice then it spoils the whole experience.

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Enjoyable

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

What does Stefan Rudnicki bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I thought Stefan Rudnicki was an excellent narrator, he has a very nice voice and did a great job of doing many different characters.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

laughed a lot, Sam is quick with his comebacks. Reminds me a bit of Elvis Cole novels.

Any additional comments?

downloaded the series after listening to this book.