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The Speaker of Mandarin

A Chief Inspector Wexford Mystery, Book 12 (Unabridged)
Narrated by: Michael Bryant
Series: Inspector Wexford, Book 12
Length: 6 hrs and 11 mins
4 out of 5 stars (81 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

There were some things about Chief Inspector Wexford's trip to China that he could never have dreamt of: That an old woman would haunt him from one city to the next. That a man would be tragically drowned. Or that, back in England, he would be investigating the murder of one of his fellow tourists.

©2009 Ruth Rendell (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

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Under-appreciated gem of mystery writing

Any additional comments?

This is one of Rendell's very best, in my opinion. Wexford goes on a trip through China. This is the China of the 1980's--tourists have minders and travel conditions are far from luxurious. Wexford experiences the journey almost as a dream. The heat, the long hours on trains, the unfamiliar food, the complete dislocation from his ordinary life, and most of all the repeated glimpses of an old woman with bound feet--combine to create a sense of being in a hallucinatory haze. Back from his journey, he gets involved in a murder connected with one of the people on his tour. Rendell succeeds brilliantly in creating an unforgettable and spellbinding atmosphere.

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Quite dated but good suspense

Ruth Rendell was obviously an educated and widely read author, as authors need be. I so enjoy her quotes from esoteric poets and references to other authors, and learn something from each book of hers that I've listened to, which by now is quite a few. It is disappointing, though, when educated people resort to racial epithets, and it's difficult to live in these times and not feel strongly about her casual use of them. I think it's safe to suggest that novelists in whatever genre should assiduously avoid talking about any culture not their own with any kind of disdain. These days, it seems to reveal in the speaker or author a small mind, however many books they might have read.
Still, the book is well done, with a good plot twist that isn't out of left field. I did think that I should have seen it coming.
The performance suffered a bit from unevenness of accents for each of the two main Inspectors, the voices for whom the actor barely changed inflection, cadence, or tone, so it was almost impossible to sort out who was saying what at any point, but luckily there wasn't much conversation between the two men so it didn't ruin the listening experience.

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  • William Thomson
  • 08-03-18

Clever plot, though stretching it a bit!

Pretty typical R. Rendell, good plot, great characters, a few romantic meanderings along the way. The narration is good, on the whole, but as someone who is on a mini mission to listen to all Wexford's in order (yes I know, must be on the spectrum somewhere) I was a little puzzled as to why he choose to characterise Burden as a bit of a yokel. In previous audio books (and on the page, I think) Burden is usually the narrow minded/stuffed shirt middle class counterpart to Wexford's worldly and cultured commoner. He is usually the one with the posher voice, but here almost reversed. Feels like the voice actor didn't do his research. Anyway, minor annoyance and didn't spoil the arc of the tale with the usual plethora of red herrings and final revelation that you never quite get right (or at least I don't) She usually has a knack of making the unbelievable somehow believable and just about manages it again, but personally I found this solution a bit too convoluted.

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  • pea
  • 04-10-15

Enjoyed

I enjoyed this book although old I still enjoyed it the narrator is ok but good value for the cost