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Publisher's Summary

A chance meeting with Jenny at an Oxford party leaves 17-year-old Chris with hope for a summer romance - and no premonition of trouble. Busy with his job and soon in love with Jenny, whose cheerful surface belies the dark uncertainty of her past, Chris misses all the signs of danger. Before he knows it, he's caught in the sinister web of a criminal whose desire for revenge crushes all those who stand in his way.

©2011 Philip Pullman (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about The White Mercedes

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Journey into misery

Philip Pullman is a wonderful story teller, but this one stinks. You know that the victim is the heroine from the first sentence, you go through the romance of a 17 year olds first love, then you watch him turn into an imbecile and the heroine dies. That's about it. The last hour of this was really hard to take.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A great body leads to an unsatisfying ending.

I quickly finished this book in 3 days, I was so enamoured. Moody got to the point, eliminating much unneeded background to allow the story to advance as quickly and reasonably as possible. The problem came near the end. The last sentences of the book came to me as an odd attempt to portray something disgusting as a moral lesson for the reader to take away. It forces the character Jenny, from the perspective of Chris, to act in a way that she never would. The ending is not congruent with the theme of the book as a whole, and it left me wanting.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Yikes!

This novel is reasonably well-written in terms of language, imagery, etc. - it IS Philip Pullman - but good God, the plot. There are vast black holes here that just sucked all that imagery away into nothingness.

First, I really struggled with the incredible obtuseness of the main character - I know he's a 17-year-old boy, but that's not a good excuse for what seems to be stark stupidity. Since I don't think anyone who wasn't raised in a cave in Borneo could possibly be so "innocent," "innocence" seems to become a euphemism for "idiotic."

I found one example of this idiocy particularly grating. This boy's parents have recently divorced, because his father began an affair with his very young secretary. After months of depression and suffering, his mother has fallen in love with another man. However, for no reason at all, the son is angry with his MOTHER. Dad? Dad the homewrecker? Oh, he's fine! And so's the girlfriend. It's MOM who sucks. We understand that Son (Chris) hates the new man in his mother's life, but the only reason we're given for that is that he's "political," meaning here that he cares about things like human suffering and environmental issues. That BASTARD! I find this constant blame-the-victim mentality SO wearisome. Pullman never really provides any basis for this fury toward Mom. In addition, her social justice-seeking boyfriend is drawn in a very unflattering way, for no apparent reason. One comes away with the sense that the author, as well as his main character, sees this mother-hating behavior as entirely reasonable. Dad's just following the call of Nature, but Mom, in failing to either drink herself to death or become obsessively involved in her son's life, is just Failing.

This novel happens to exhibit another pet peeve I have about some English writers. No one talks, no one asks, no one challenges the behavior or statements of others, all in the service of that great English rule: Do Not Pry.
I should insert here that I tend to love British writers. I usually find - and greatly admire - a degree of scholarship, thoughtfulness, and sense of humor that I typically don't find in many American writers. And yet. Particularly in novels by authors of a certain age, I frequently encounter plotlines that depend upon this refusal to pry. (Often the same authors will, in other places, disparage the American tendency to psychoanalyze others, or our obsession with self-improvement, etc., etc. While I admit that we can be tedious with this, I'd point out that at least we're TRYING to connect.) It would appear that, at least until recently, hanging on in quiet desperation is indeed the English way. It depresses me to encounter this, sometimes to the point that I abandon the book. In the hands of deft writers such as P. D. James, it implies a world of extreme and terrible loneliness. (I think that at last this refusal to question or pry seems to be drifting slowly away; while it does occur in the novels of younger writers, it usually isn't to an extent that leaves me aghast.)

In this novel, parents fail to pry into the changed behavior of their children. Why? Just don't wanna go there, I guess. I found this annoying, because it's used as a plot device. Maybe British readers wouldn't hear a sour note, but to me it seems unusual that loving parents - and they are - would fail to investigate.

That sour note in plotting is, alas, only one of many. A lot of the events in this novel occur as a result of extremely peculiar thinking on the part of intelligent characters, startling memory lapses, and inexplicably dramatic personality shifts in the previously well-balanced. I was frequently startled or irritated enough to shout "WHAT?" or "Oh, come ON!" to my (luckily) empty house. (Or possibly to the cats, who, I am sure, shared my annoyance. In their sleep.)

This is a truly flawed novel from a typically VERY capable and fascinating writer. I really, REALLY love the "His Dark Materials" series as well as the Sally novels - "The Ruby In The Smoke," etc. - and I eagerly await the third book in the Dust series. (I was shattered to find, upon recently finishing "The Secret Commonwealth," that as of October 2019 he hadn't even BEGUN writing it.)

My suspicion is that, upon the huge success of His Dark Materials, his publishers dug into their files to resurrect his early work. This happens far too often; sometimes authors have little or no ability to affect it. An object lesson for all new writers: don't let that flush of gratefulness -"They LIKE it! They WANT it!" - cloud your thinking. Be careful what rights you sign away.

(Another issue has recently arisen over the fact that self-publishing on Kindle has become quite lucrative for many writers. Those who have previously sold work to publishers, however, can find it VERY difficult to regain control over it. I imagine that nothing is more frustrating than to watch your good work descend into the maw of the publishing industry, only to see it regurgitated into the wrong market, with the wrong cover, midlisted and unsupported - or worse, to have it vanish completely. Buying it doesn't mean they have to publish it. When these authors attempt to extricate their work in order to self-publish, they often find themselves fighting an extended legal battle.)

But I digress... My lavishly flogged point is, if work you never heard of by a writer you love suddenly appears, there's probably a reason you never heard of it. Caveat emptor.