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Kl Love

Wassenaar Netherlands
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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 15-10-17

An exceptionally clever plot

This is another of the lovely 'period' mysteries, whose depiction of time and place is a pleasure in itself. This was a world in which it was necessary to explain what the rearview mirror in a car was, and what it was for; in which tobacco was a universal solace and a celebration supper still consisted of mutton.
But this is also a very cleverly-plotted mystery, with several twists that I didn't foresee (including the last one, which came as a real surprise). The character of Trent is mildly attractive, being a classic, slightly eccentric gentleman sleuth. One does not become deeply engaged with any of the characters, but they are interesting and sympathetic enough to hold ones interest.
The narrator did a excellent job, with good pacing and a pleasant voice. He manages to make the characters distinctive, without straining to 'act them out' in a literal sense.
I found this an unusually enjoyable listen, one of the best of its genre. A real pleasure.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-08-17

A wonderful evocation of a time and place

Like the other George Bellairs book, this is quite a decent murder mystery of the classic English-village genre, with many of the expected characters (eccentric vicar, village busybody, interesting stranger). The plotline is sufficiently ingenious to hold interest, and the denouement is satisfying, both in the sense of feeling 'morally right' and because Bellairs has played fair and laid out the clues throughout the book. Indeed, the outcome is quite obvious well before the end.
But for me, the Bellairs books are a real delight because of the care taken to describe the details of daily life that bring a vanished time and place vividly before you. Minor characters are sketched in considerable detail; minor things like what people are eating, how they are dressed, how their houses are furnished, are worked in lightly and deftly, but they go to making up the texture of life; and descriptions of locations (landscapes, gardens) are just precise enough that you can really visualise them. It was this, more than just the plot, that I enjoyed.
The narrator initially struck me as too dramatic, emphasising every adverb and adjective, but I grew to like him very much. His deliberate pace gives time to appreciate the details in the text, and he has the right faintly upper-class sound of voice that seems appropriate for a book like this.
I hope there may be more Bellairs lurking in the Audible shelves!

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 15-07-17

An absorbing period piece

This is a very classic detective novel, set in a Yorkshire village; but I enjoyed it at least as much for the sense of place and time.

It is set in 1940, with the detective trying to solve a mystery which had happened in 1917, and I greatly enjoyed the descriptions of people, places and the details of daily life in both periods. The 1940's details were contemporary with the writing, while those for 1917 were presented as what people alive in 1940 remembered about life more than twenty years earlier. Often they were small details, such as having 'Water Man' written over a door so that if anyone had a burst pipe they would know who to go to in order to have the water switched off. The characters, too, were depicted as they would have appeared to someone at the start of WWII, with the various village people described and given personalities.

At first I thought the narrator a bit stiff and pompous, with his inclination to emphasise dramatically every adverb and adjective; but he reads very clearly and I grew to like his leisurely pace very much, as it enabled me to create a mental pictures from the detailed descriptions. He also did a quite superb job of giving the various characters their own voices, and presenting the rich Yorkshire accent.

This is one of the few audiobooks that I am listening to for a second time, and I have also just bought the second book by this author.

Audible, I am hugely enjoying these newly rediscovered mysteries, many of which have lain unattended for fifty years or more. Please keep them coming!

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 28-02-17

Really a delight---Harry Potter for grownups!

I had never come across Jodi Taylor's books, but this was recommended and I was looking for something light and enjoyable. This book was certainly that, but spiced with some genuinely interesting historical episodes and a rather wonderfully complete imaginary conception.

My first impression, during the first chapter, was that the author had created a very convincing 'voice' for her lead character. Max---guarded, clever, with a dry sense of humour that never failed her-- was both believable and attractive. Once she settled into St. Mary's I was charmed by the thoroughness with which the author had thought through her idea: her description of a pod (the vehicle used for jumping through time) was entirely real, and she took care of even small details, like the checks made inside and outside the pod before returning to the present, to make sure that nothing from the modern world had been left behind, and nothing from a past world brought back, as to move something out of its own period would endanger the timeline.

Much of the activity falls into the category of 'swashbuckling but innocent adventure story' but the characters are well-drawn; the reality of life in other time periods is imagined in vivid and informed detail; and some of the underlying ideas are really intriguing: what if we could move through time? What practical issues and moral conundrums would it raise?

Like Harry Potter, this is a delightful melding of the real and the imaginary, but so skilfully done that I almost wish I had a pod! (Just as my 8 year old, years ago, tried out a wand 'just in case it worked'.)

The book is extremely well-served by Zara Ramm as the narrator. She has a very pleasant voice, her pacing and expression are very good, and she managed to get the balance of elements in Max's character just right.

I have actually listened to the first four of the books in this series now, and can't wait to start the fifth.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-11-16

On of Audible's very best

This was one of the most enjoyable of my hundreds of Audible books. It is something of a coup that Robert Harris manages to create real suspense and involvement despite there being no sex or violence, no car chases or romantic locations, except the Vatican itself. (All the action takes place within the Vatican over a period of three or four days ) Harris' mastery of ecclesiastical detail---not just in what he knows, but how he uses it to create mood, to make a scene real, and to control tempo in the narrative---is impressive. He creates characters who are interesting and believable, and whose cross-currents we recognise, even though they are almost all elderly Catholic cardinals.

He is excellently well served by Roy Mcmillan as narrator who, without ever lapsing into caricature, created a distinctive 'voice' for each of the main characters. His pacing and diction make listening effortless, and his involvement brings the written word to life.

I'm not sure how to put this, but this is also a positive book, one that leaves the reader feeling heartened. Although the people are all flawed, the author actually likes and understands his characters, so we do too; and whether or not one believes in the theology, one can recognise the importance and integrity of the exercise on which the characters are engaged.

Although as a minor quibble I found the very final plot twist did not ring true, I immensely enjoyed this book and its performance. I'm off now to see what else Audible has by Richard Harris!

Thanks by the way to other reviewers, without whose encouragement I probably wouldn't have tried this book.

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2 of 4 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 21-07-16

Unexpectedly absorbing

What made the experience of listening to Murder of a Lady the most enjoyable?

I have been enjoying the release of some of the older 'classic' detective stories, and this is one in that vein. At first I thought it would be a 'mental puzzle - locked room' book, which in a sense it was; but the characters were more interesting than is normally the case in that genre. Then I thought it might tip over into post-Victorian 'blood and thunder' romanticism; but while that was a real risk, and the story is dramatic in the classic sense, with lots of stuff about 'the Highland character' somehow it managed to rise above that and remain genuinely engaging. Perhaps this was partly because it was a convincing example of the thoughts and opinions that were prevalent at the time of its writing, which gave it a kind of authenticity of its own.
At any rate, I found myself gripped both by the twists and turns of the plot and by the characters, romanticised though they were.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Murder of a Lady?

I particularly enjoyed the character of the doctor who is the leading detective. He managed to remain thoughtful, rational and kindly. Some of the plot developments were genuinely surprising; I won't go into any details as I don't want to spoil other readers' pleasure, but they will know them when they encounter them!

Have you listened to any of James Bryce’s other performances? How does this one compare?

This is the first performance I have heard by James Bryce. As soon as I finish this review I am going to so look for others by him.

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

This being a detective story, it operates on a cerebral rather than an emotional level. Nonetheless, the central emotional situation, which turns on the manipulative character of the lady in the book's title, is surprisingly believable despite its dramatic exaggeration.

Any additional comments?

Possibly because of my family connection to Loch Fyne, I greatly enjoyed the way the setting was used as part of the overall drama. Small details about life there at the time of the book (e.g. the way the steamboats of fish merchants would go out to meet the fleet as it returned) added colour without breaking up the narrative.
I don't often listen to books a second time, but I will do so with this one. I'm not quite able to put my finger on why I found it so absorbing, but this one really gripped my imagination.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-07-16

A enjoyable (and to me, unknown) classic

If you could sum up The Sussex Downs Murder in three words, what would they be?

This is an early classic mystery, from the days when a detective story was above all an intellectual puzzle. The detective is gentle and well-drawn, without the convoluted personal life that is de regular in modern whodunnits. The author plays fair with the reader, and doesn't fall back on the device of introducing totally implausible backstory to explain the denouement. He takes you with him as the though processes unfold.

What did you like best about this story?

This is classic old-fashioned detective fiction, in which the reader is invited to follow the thought processes of the police. There are quite a number of twists and turns in the plot, some of which I 'got' and some not; but that's what makes this kind of book fun.

Have you listened to any of Gordon Griffin’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Gordon Griffin is a very accomplished narrator. He has got just the right inflections for English of this period, and suggests the different characters by a subtle and effective change of voice. A joy to listen to.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I don't expect to be 'moved' by a detective story, but the denouement of this was clever.

Any additional comments?

I'm afraid I have not followed instructions and answered the questions set, but they didn't frame the review I wanted to give!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-07-16

Too sloppy to be convincing

Would you try another book written by G.M. Malliet or narrated by Michael Page?

I have listened to all the Max Tudor series, and while it began promisingly, this book is a disappointment. Obviously these are stories set in the classic legendary village in Nevernevershire; but there are some basic conventions that need to be respected to allow the 'suspension of disbelieve' that makes fiction enjoyable. Unfortunately in this book the rampant Americanisms are really distracting: no aged English nun is going to use the word 'scads', and most English people will remember the Famous Five rather than the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. The character of Max Tudor too has become thinner and flatter and far less interesting, despite the attempts to introduce excitement by the improbable device of an Anglican priest concealing from his bishop the fact that he is going to have a pagan wedding with the local white witch.
Stock characters, sloppy writing, a plot so improbable as to be uninteresting----I was quite sad, this book marked a definite step down.

What will your next listen be?

I will go back to some of the classic mysteries that are being recorded---I've enjoyed listening to books by some of the early authors whom I didn't know.

Have you listened to any of Michael Page’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No; but while he reads with good pace, he has trouble with women's voices, which always sound whiney.

Was A Demon Summer worth the listening time?

Alas, no.

Any additional comments?

I probably won't bother with any more Max Tudor books.

And by the way, this format for reviewing books is really awful. It means there is often no opportunity to say what one would really like to say about a particular book!

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-06-16

A classic whodunnit

Would you consider the audio edition of The Ponson Case to be better than the print version?

This is actually a silly question: if I had read the print version, I wouldn't be listening to the audiobook!
However, this book works very well in audio, thanks in no small part to the very good narrator. Stephen Critchlow manages the different voices and accents well so as to give colour to the characters and to make them easy to tell apart, as well as giving a good clear account of the actual story.

What other book might you compare The Ponson Case to, and why?

This is similar to many of the other classic mysteries of the period by people like John Bude: the process of working out the answer is convoluted, and the evidence unfolds before the reader in the same way it does before the detective. Unlike some writers of the period (notably Agatha Christie), Crofts 'plays fair' and doesn't make the denouement depend on some unknown event that is logistically feasible but psychologically impossible.

Which character – as performed by Stephen Critchlow – was your favourite?

The inspector's dogged courtesy and tenacity make him very likeable.

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

It is intellectually entertaining rather than emotionally moving, but I found it absorbing and enjoyable.

Any additional comments?

I do wish we could write free comments, rather than the stilted, pointed questions. They so often are inappropriate to books I would like to review!

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-03-16

Another engaging myster

Would you consider the audio edition of The Woman in Blue to be better than the print version?

Not having read the print version, I have no idea; but this series has transferred well to audio format. There is a good balance of dialogue and narrative so that it keeps moving on well.

What did you like best about this story?

I am particularly enjoying the ongoing development of the backstory, as the main characters (Ruth, Nelson. Clough and the rest) continue through their lives. The author has also chosen another interesting sidelight as the setting for her mystery, in the Walshingham Shrine. As other reviewers have mentioned, Ruth has far less to do 'professionally' in this book (there is little archaeology can add to the investigation) but to be honest I felt the author's aracheological knowledge was beginning to become a bit repetitive as the series went on, so it may be wise of her to broaden out if she wishes to continue to develop these characters.

Which character – as performed by Jane McDowell – was your favourite?

I very much enjoy the depiction of Ruth; she is an honest character: not beautiful, not always right, but intelligent, thoughtful , kind and believable, and I always want to know how life develops for her.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful