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Original Point Of View. Disturbing but Effective

Au global
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Histoire
4 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2022-01-23

This is an exemplary semi-Noir 90s Police Procedural - following Minneapolis PD Lieutenant Lucas Davenport as he hunts down a forensics-conscious serial killer known as the "Mad-dog". The writing is creditable, the characters are complex (Davenport is a 'Dirty Harry' archetype, for example: a frequently over-the-edge dedicated cop - but also both an expectant father and a philandering prick), the setting is gritty & strikingly dark, and the plot is well-crafted & sinuous
..but lots of mysteries fit that description.

The most remarkable aspect of this story is that it's partly told from the perspective of the killer - a gamble that works reasonably well. We get to see the detective examining evidence, conducting interviews, and trying to outwit the killer - but we also see how the bad guy tries to get away with it.
Of note, John Sanford immerses us into the sexual-sadist psychopathology of the killer.. but beware: it's uncomfortably realistic (to the point that if you are feint of heart, you should probably avoid this book).
Altogether, it has some drawbacks, but I liked the technique.

Richard Ferrone contributes to the enjoyability of the story with very effective narration. He has a gravelly baritone timbre that is comfortable to listen to for hours; his matter-of-fact tone, diction, and rate of reading are flawless; and his voice-acting is commendable (although female voices are a little weak).
My one issue is with Ferrone's cadence: he takes deep, sighing breaths frequently (I recommend avoiding earbuds). Regardless, Recorded Books Inc. did well to cast Mr. Ferrone.

This book was offered for free as a monthly Editor's Pick, and it was a wise download: I likely wouldn't have tried this enjoyable crime thriller otherwise - and it's an 8.5/10 star recording (good enough to prompt me to download Book Two). If you can tolerate the occasional bout of unpleasant sex & violence.. 'Rules Of Prey' is worth your time.

Informative.. but Dry. Painfully Dry.

Au global
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Histoire
2 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2022-01-22

This book is ambitious: it tries to tackle the political/economic/cultural development of the Western World over 1000 years (500AD - 1500AD). In that, it's remarkably successful. Unfortunately, Oxford Professor Emeritus Chris Wickham also states at the outset of the book that he intends to write for a casual audience, but largely fails in that goal. What we get instead is a survey (extensive and full of cross-references but still a survey) that's a little bit too academic to satisfy the public and a little too cursory to satisfy scholars.
To his credit, Wickham writes with commendable prose & vocabulary, presents an authoritative case with defensible posits, and generates a logical, syllabus-quality organization.. but much of the topic discussed is frankly mind-numbingly boring.

Derek Perkins reads very professionally with enough emotiveness to blunt some of the yawn-worthy aspects of the text. His diction, cadence, timbre, and tone are spot-on. Blackstone Audio did well to cast Perkins for the project and provide creditable technical support.

Some readers may be looking for an audio textbook - and will likely be disappointed with Wickham's approach in this book. I, however, was looking for a more commercial presentation - and 'Medieval Europe' isn't that either.

I rate the book 4 stars out of 10. It's a fair listen for some interesting facts, but doesn't bring a fascinating segment of history to life by any means. If you can get it for free - as I did - it's not crazy to give it a try, but this book is not worth money if they ask you for it.

ATTN PRODUCERS: This product would be improved considerably with a PDF Appendix/Maps/Timeline.


Cracking Good Mystery-Thriller

Au global
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Histoire
4 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2022-01-20

The "Detective loses his memory" plot device has been done before, but Michael Robotham does it exceedingly well. 'Lost' presents a very good, twisty mystery involving London Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz trying to find an abducted child who was assumed dead (and for whose murder a pedophile was convicted), after being wounded in a shootout he can't remember.
Psychologist/Sleuth Joseph O'Loughlin puts in an appearance helping his once accuser/now friend to recover his memory and solve the case.. but this is a D.I. Ruiz procedural. Fortunately, it's also a very well-contrived/well-executed whodunit (O'Loughlin fans won't be disappointed).

Narrator Ray Lonnen does an impressive job reading the book. His diction, timbre, cadence, tone, and rate of reading are spot-on. The main drawback to the performance is a dry mouth - occasional swallows and lip-smacks mar the delivery - but Lonnen's superior voice-acting nearly makes up for the deficiencies (emotive, distinctive, and largely free of affected accents). Bravo to W.F. Howes Ltd. on the casting choice and sound quality (although I recommend avoiding earbuds).

This most enjoyable mystery merits 9 stars out of 10. Do not hesitate to spend the Credit.

Lufthansa Robbery, Yes.. but mostly a Matrix

Au global
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Histoire
4 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2022-01-19

..around which to describe the New York Mafia in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond. This well-written and extensively-researched documentary basically picks up where C. Alexander Hortis's 'The Mob And The City' leaves off (The Appalachia Conference). Reporter Anthony M. DeStefano presents a nicely-paced logical exposé of the Mob in NYC. This book uses the 1978 $5 Million Heist (as presented in Scorsese's 'Goodfellas') and the 2015 trial of Vincent Asaro as an excuse to generate a fascinating discussion that would make for a great college course on Organized Crime history. It nicely describes how 'Omerta' collapsed and the Mafia essentially imploded. The vocabulary/prose is creditable, the information is punctiliously accurate & captivating, and the organization is syllabus-quality.

Blackstone Audio did a great job selecting Keith Sellon-Wright to read the book. His performance is unspectacular but more than serviceable. To be certain, I found running playback at 1.15X was needed to yield the optimum enjoyment - but the reading is otherwise commendable.

I am grateful to Audible for offering this quality in-depth exploration for free (as a 'Plus' selection).. because it's actually worth a Credit.
If you can get it, downloading 'The Mob And The City' (also a 'Plus' option) is highly recommended - and listening to it first would improve your understanding/enjoyment of this book considerably.
Regardless, 'The Big Heist' is well-worth a listen for those - like me - that are fascinated by Cosa Nostra lore.

Information-packed. Poorly Oriented

Au global
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Histoire
4 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2022-01-17

This book isn't quite sure what it wants to present. Historian John Toland exhaustively researches this book - filling it with eyewitness testimony, police interviews, and courtroom transcripts - but there are far too many examples of crimes and criminals from 1930s America. Consequently it feels like he's trying to paint his picture of chaotic lawlessness by presenting scrupulously accurate biographies.. while providing *single* criminal events to inform them (he discusses such figures as Ma Barker, Bonnie & Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Machine Gun Kelly with remarkable precision but questionable accuracy). This book consequently comes across as a superficial survey dressed up as an in-depth exposé.
Fortunately, John Dillinger serves as an exemplar for Toland's theme of anarchy during the crime wave of the Depression.. so Toland concentrates his considerable talents on the enigmatic "gentleman-gangster". The author punctiliously documents his subject's childhood/crimes/stints in prison/co-conspirators, the text is liberally-sprinkled with excerpts from letters written by Dillinger himself, and the author's insights are perceptive. There are so many names and locations that it's occasionally hard to follow, but most of 'The Dillinger Days' is, in fact, captivating.

The narration from Grover Gardner is reasonably good but unspectacular. His rate of reading is positively glacial (I found playback at 1.25X was the most comfortable speed), but Gardner's diction, timbre, cadence, and tone are creditable. The performance neither adds nor detracts from the quality of the production.

Each of the criminals/criminal gangs referenced in this book are worthy of extensive biographies on their own - and there are, indeed, excellent books available on each of them. An aggressive editor likely could have convinced Toland to limit this project to the life & crimes of John Dillinger - and it would have improved the book markedly.

As it stands, I rate it 6.5 stars out of 10.
As a free offering, it is well worth a download, but I wouldn't spend money on this somewhat scatterbrained effort if they asked for it.

[ATTN PRODUCERS: The sheer number of names and dates in this book are overwhelming. An accompanying PDF would improve this product considerably]

Typically Great King Idea. Passable Execution

Au global
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Histoire
4 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2022-01-15

This is definitely a King novel: unsurpassed visceral description, guy-next-door relatable characters, commendable prose/wordsmithing, brilliant pacing, and an underlying supernatural/paranormal theme. This one doesn't have the horror/suspense of other offerings but is instantly recognizable as a King novel. In 'The Institute', a group of children from all over the USA with psychic powers (telepathy or psychokinesis) are kidnapped by a secretive cabal, shipped to a secret facility in Maine, and held for mysterious reasons. The kids team up (à la 'It') to uncover the conspiracy and to escape while one of their number enlists the help of a small-town lawman. The enjoyably-written book falls apart somewhat when the bullets start flying, but explores a scenario typical of Stephen King's unmatched imagination.
Unfortunately (besides the poorly-executed action sequences) the author's touch is far too light: most of the book is a sarcastic-humor-filled exploration of plucky kids as seen through the eyes of a precocious genius-IQ 12-year-old.

The opportunities to build tension in 'The Institute' aren't exactly abandoned.. but they're definitely underutilized in this book. Despite an intrinsically terrifying scenario (ie. child abduction), there is very little King-quality "horror" in the offering.. largely providing more of a 'Stand By Me' coming-of-age tale with a King-esque background and a cataclysmic fantastical conclusion.

Thankfully, Santino Fontana's narration improves the recording (Simon & Schuster Audio cast the project brilliantly). Yes, his reading rate is a little slow - I recommend playback at 1.15X - but Fontana delivers exemplary diction, timbre, cadence, and tone. His voice-acting is likewise commendable - performing very good South Carolina accents and giving voice to characters that are realistic & instantly distinguishable, for example. Given a choice between a text version of this book and the audiobook iteration, choose this one.

Altogether, this book doesn't have the spinetingling impact of so many King novels, but it still rates 8 stars out of 10. It would be a great choice for a cross-country drive or a few quiet night shifts.

[I must say King dropping his pro-Hillary/anti-Trump sentiments into the story is distracting. It likely contributed to my feeling of being taken out of the illusion (I was strikingly aware that I was listening to a work of fiction at times)]

Effective Suspense

Au global
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Histoire
4 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2022-01-14

After discovering Riley Sager about a year ago, he has become a go-to Psychological Thriller author for me.
Sager's characterization is impressive (although he inevitably writes flawed females), he makes his prose feel like the storyteller is sitting on the stool at the end of the bar (although dropping frequent modern/pop-culture references dooms his work to being dated someday - honestly, who is even going to know who 'Oprah' is in 50 years?), and the only thing predictable about his plot resolution is that it's going to be unpredictable (although I guessed this one).

'Final Girls' fits that pattern reliably. Quincy Carpenter - the lone survivor of a Slasher-Flick-styled massacre -  is a mysterious protagonist with suppressed memories & psychological damage, the sinuous plot is engrossing & relatable (and nail-biting), and the twist at the climax of the story is shocking but plausible.

Erin Bennett beautifully reads the First-person (modern-day) parts of the book, with Hillary Huber impressively doing Third-person perspective descriptions of the terrifying events in Quincy's past. Both readers provide admittedly imperfect but far above-average performances. Penguin Audio did a marvellous job casting this project.

I rate this Sager effort 8.5/10 stars. It's definitely worth a Credit if you're looking for a quality Thriller.

Storytelling Technique A Touch Overdone

Au global
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Histoire
4 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2022-01-13

Michael Crichton admirably takes his writing very seriously. He carefully and punctilliously researches the Science/History surrounding his subject - offering imaginative fiction but ensuring that it has a genuine sense of veracity. This novel is no different: providing plausibility and a sense of authenticity while essentially retelling the mythical legend of the beast in 'Beowulf'. The plot is engrossing, the pacing is peerless, and the themes are thought-provoking.
Unfortunately, Crichton takes his storytelling device (Dark Ages testimony from a discovered Muslim manuscript) too seriously, spending an inordinate amount of effort making it sound scholarly (including footnotes, for example). Yes, it lends feigned legitimacy to the tale, but sadly also renders an action-driven fantastical story somewhat dry at times.

Simon Vance's narration is outstanding, however. His interpretation of the text - from tone to voice-acting - is spot-on. Brilliance Audio hired a true professional to read the book.

The spectacular presentation improves my rating of this production. The unnecessarily academic book probably rates 6.5 stars, but I give this recorded version 8.5 stars out of 10 (if you are given a choice between a Paper/eCopy of this book or the Audiobook iteration, take this one hand's down).
It is still an imaginative & entertaining book - well worth your time - but 'Eaters Of The Dead' isn't Crichton's best work.
If you're a fan, it belongs in your library. If you're new to the author, however, spend your Credit on 'Jurassic Park', 'Sphere', or 'The Andromeda Strain'.

Somewhat Disappointing Follow-up

Au global
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Histoire
4 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2022-01-12

This book has the same basic ingredients that made Dean Koontz's 'Odd Thomas' so unusual and refreshing: The chief character is distinctly average (a short-order cook living in Anytown, USA), the underlying premise - a guy who can see and communicate with the dead - is imaginative (and naturally implies interesting plot threads/twists), even peripheral characters have genuinely weird attributes (six fingers, a rare disfiguring disease, or an overpowering Elvis obsession, for example), and Koontz has obvious fun with the scenarios (the text is largely lighthearted & quirky - he doesn't take himself all that seriously). This is unlike any other fiction out there - but the story still somehow works. The writing is of the highest quality, the occult-based theme (voodoo-fed this time) is intriguing to readers like me, the plot is well-conceived & well-executed, and the descriptions are mind's-eye vivid.
Unfortunately, 'Forever Odd' doesn't match the great pacing of the first book, the sardonic protagonist comes across as moderately disingenuous (he's not taking the situation seriously *at all*), and this installment lacks the pathos that made Book One emotionally effective.
(Aside: With that twist ending, one wonders if the first book wasn't intended as a one-off.)

David Aaron Baker's narration is likewise lacking in this effort. His reading remains far above average (diction, timbre, cadence, voice-acting, and reading rate are all spot-on), but Baker sounds moderately bored for some reason.

Don't get me wrong: this effort is still worth 8 stars out of 10 - and you should for sure give it a listen if you enjoyed 'Odd Thomas' - it's definitely a unique storytelling experience
..but it simply doesn't meet the standard set by the first book of the series.

First ⅓ Brilliant..

Au global
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Histoire
4 out of 5 stars

Évalué le: 2022-01-11

..but 'Phantoms' eventually descends into the hard-to-swallow.
I never saw the film treatment.. but after listening to this story honestly don't have any desire to seek it out. The story starts with a legitimately captivating discovery of a small California town that "disappeared" - 500 residents - and their pets - either completely gone or found blackened and dead (or posed provocatively/chopped into pieces). It reminded me favorably of Michael Crichton's 'The Andromeda Strain', John Carpenter's version of 'The Thing', and short stories by Richard Matheson and Stephen King.
As he introduces them, Dean Koontz's characters are interesting/relatable, his plot is well-structured and well-paced, and his descriptions are gut-punch affecting.
Unfortunately, when he starts developing the Lovecraftian cause of his fantastical scenario, the book falls apart. The revelations about 'The Ancient Enemy' (that it shapeshifts into animals, preserves it's victims from decomposition, and eventually sheds absorbed bullets/eaten jewelry like drops of sweat, for example) get too clever by half. The Metaphysical also starts to overwhelm the Action. Koontz probably should have shelved the book after Chapter 17 and come back later to finish it.

Contributing to my overall rating of the audiobook as "passable" is distinctly average narration: Buck Schirner is consummately professional and his voice-acting is outstanding.. but a fairly uninterested tone and plodding pace render the performance unspectacular (setting playback speed at 1.15X improved the experience somewhat).

Altogether, this is a 7.5/10 star recording. I bought it as part of a BOGO sale.. but your Credit is well-spent if they ask you for it. Just be aware that there are better options available for those looking for a paranormal-fed suspense story.