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Ben

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  • 20
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  • 37
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  • Pandemic

  • The Extinction Files, Book 1
  • Written by: A. G. Riddle
  • Narrated by: Edoardo Ballerini
  • Length: 18 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 289
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 271
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 271

In Atlanta, Dr. Peyton Shaw is awakened by the phone call she has dreaded for years. As the CDC's leading epidemiologist, she's among the first responders to outbreaks around the world. It's a lonely and dangerous job, but it's her life - and she's good at it. This time she may have met her match. In Kenya, an Ebola-like pathogen has infected two Americans. One lies at death's door. With the clock ticking, Peyton assembles her team and joins personnel from the Kenyan Ministry of Health and the WHO.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Well written and engagingly performed

  • By Georgina on 2018-04-17

Crazy action, but good suspense + medical context

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-05-26

A good audio page-turner - a suspense novel about a global pandemic that seems to be used as a bioweapon, but for what reason? The story moves across decades, and across continents, from Kenya to Australia, the US to the UK, and small Pacific islands as well. It is definitely written to keep you hooked, it is almost non-stop action at an unbelievable level. How can epidemiologists also be genius-level computer programmers, as well as military-level combatants and strategists, and also be expert pilots?! The characters overall are good enough, though some drop out of the story or come back in as it goes along. There were perhaps just a few too many entwined narratives to really make it an easy read - you had to keep straight who was related to/sleeping with/childhood friend of/enemy of each other character, and then some would change sides just to mess with you. There were a few times where the action really slowed down and we got into more serious medical descriptions, which caught me by surprise once or twice, but it actually made for a nice break and added plausibility to the whole thing. A.G. Riddle seems to know enough about medical procedures and pandemic events to make a believable story, or at least to make the medical/pandemic part believable with the unbelievable bioterrorism and hand to hand fighting. Edoardo Ballerini does a good job narrating, though I felt the Australian accents were a bit harsh and the evil people always had very gruff voices.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Men Who Killed the Luftwaffe

  • The U.S. Army Air Forces Against Germany in World War II
  • Written by: Jay A. Stout
  • Narrated by: Paul Woodson
  • Length: 15 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1

In this dramatic story of World War II, Jay A. Stout describes how the US built an air force of 2.3 million men after starting with 45,000 and defeated the world's best air force. In order to defeat Germany in World War II, the Allies needed to destroy the Third Reich's industry and invade its territory, but before they could effectively do either, they had to defeat the Luftwaffe, whose state-of-the-art aircraft and experienced pilots protected German industry and would batter any attempted invasion.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Fun stories, better history, exactly what I wanted

  • By Ben on 2018-05-13

Fun stories, better history, exactly what I wanted

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-05-13

I saw this book described as a history of the average Joe of the USAAF - the story of the flyers not of the leaders - so I was a bit surprised by the first six chapters or so being mainly a top-level history of "Happ" Arnold and the early Army Air Force development. Nonetheless, it was a really interesting history, providing a solid background for the rest of the book.

It is hard for this book not to come across like an "America is the best, America won the war single-handedly, America's planes/fliers/strategy/etc was naturally going to win anyways" argument. To be fair, the points are correct, but as is often the case with popular American history it can sound bragging or egotistical and does not give credit to other nations (though, yes, it is an American history). This book toes that line, with stories and arguments that had me at times mumbling "what about Britain?" but the author was careful to give credit to other nations (and aircraft types) when necessary. Still, hard not to be blown away by the American airplanes and production capabilities!

The book does bring in the stories of average flyers as the war progresses, but I felt they were less stories selected to back up the author's arguments and more stories that the author then tried to argue as true fact. The stories felt very selected for the sake of making a point, and then the historical record was really hammered home to back them up. It doesn't affect the flow much (I would say the jumping between bomber groups and fighters was more confusing) and doesn't lessen the impact or awe-factor of the personal stories, thankfully. And they are amazing stories!

This was a fun book to listen to. The "good old war stories" element makes it fun and leaves you amazed by the Greatest Generation, but the history and larger geopolitical context makes it an eye-opening history. I recommend it for people that enjoy history of air warfare or are interested in the development of the USAAF in the Second World War.

  • Artemis

  • Written by: Andy Weir
  • Narrated by: Rosario Dawson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,823
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,707
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,701

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Not so great

  • By plaj on 2017-11-28

Inconsistencies in story, but decent narration

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-05-13

I had really high hopes for this book after being a big fan of Andy Weir's The Martian, but this one was a bit of a let down.

For one thing, this is not like The Martian. in many ways, The Martian was a near-future quasi-possible science fiction story. This is more alternate reality "bases on the moon" sci-fi. And that's what it's about: a base on the moon and the improbably remarkable life of a low-life smuggler.

I love some good sci-fi, especially when it is witty and has good space stuff like this one, but I found the rather over the top abilities of main character and downright ridiculous dialogue/inner monologue tiring and too unbelievable. Jazz Bashara is supposed to be a struggling smuggler, but she's actually super smart (like learn electrical engineering in a day smart) and amazingly good at understanding larger economic contexts. She's supposed to be dirt poor, but is the only successful smuggler on the moon and seems to have access to everything she needs for her activities and budding smuggling empire. She's extremely moralistic but blind to human nature (at least outside her own human nature) and judgemental of others actions. She also has an annoyingly quick and crass temper and a bad tendency for not dealing well with people. I was glad the book wasn't longer as it would have really started getting old.

I'll give this three stars because I did like Rosario Dawson's narration. She may not have had all the accents as I would have liked them (I found the dad's Saudi accent hard to understand and Svoboda's Ukrainian to be very stereotypical) and at times the quick switch between Jazz's dialogue and thoughts could be confusing, but I thought she handled it very well and her energy really helped make the book enjoyable. I also liked the space side of the story (as in: not the characters). The idea of un-organized moon bases and what happens when organized crime tries to take them over was good, and the descriptions of traveling and working on the moon was interesting.

In the end, this is more an economic sabotage thriller in space as it all circles around the strange and not-fully-defined production prospects of special fibre optic cable material. I say not-fully-defined because we get the full picture of its impacts on life on the moon, but we don't really know how it came to exist and what the larger Moon/Earth story is. The story almost feels like a very closed aperture view of a much larger thriller scenario and all we're seeing is a small part of one event in a large chain. I also wouldn't say it's a heist story. It has the innovative planning and dangerous secrecy of an Oceans 11 type plot, but most of the actual impact is political. The heist itself is actually the final segment of the book and is more about destruction for corporate takeover purposes than for stealing something for personal gain.

  • The Collapsing Empire

  • The Interdependency, Book 1
  • Written by: John Scalzi
  • Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
  • Length: 9 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 246
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 242
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 242

Our universe is ruled by physics, and faster-than-light travel is not possible - until the discovery of The Flow, an extradimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transports us to other worlds, around other stars. Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It's a hedge against interstellar war - and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • ok novel

  • By Scott Duncan on 2017-11-03

Good sci-fi, but characters can be flat and vulgar

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-05-13

Good sci-fi all round, interesting notion of space travel and worlds, and good characters with an unintended empress, meddling families, and out-of-his-depth scientist.

Only thing I didn't really like about this book was the narrator didn't have the greatest voices for some characters and a few of the characters are way more vulgar than necessary. I didn't think they fit some of the status/situations, and it really wasn't needed for the plot to advance. If anything, it was a distraction and a detraction.

  • Washington's Farewell

  • The Founding Father's Warning to Future Generations
  • Written by: John Avlon
  • Narrated by: John Avlon
  • Length: 10 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1

George Washington's Farewell Address was a prophetic letter from a "parting friend" to his fellow citizens about the forces he feared could destroy our democracy: hyper-partisanship, excessive debt, and foreign wars. Once celebrated as civic scripture, more widely reprinted than the Declaration of Independence, the Farewell Address is now almost forgotten. Its message remains starkly relevant. In Washington's Farewell, John Avlon offers a stunning portrait of our first president and his battle to save America from self-destruction.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Great history and narrator, but betting in print

  • By Ben on 2018-05-13

Great history and narrator, but betting in print

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-05-13

Really interesting listen, though perhaps best suited to a physical format. The history is very complicated, interconnected, and intense.

I didn't know much about Washington's story, or even much about the foundation of America after the Revolutionary War. I heard John P. Avlon interviewed on Charlie Rose over a year ago when Obama was about to give his farewell address. Avlon was so well spoken and presented the information so well that I really wanted the book, but then with the first year of Trump and stress in personal life I just didn't feel I could get through the heavy American history. When I finally decided to go for it, I was enthralled by the history, confused at times, but also really interested. It probably took me another half the book's total run time of skipping back to try and understand things. I purposefully went on long walks with the dog I was taking care of just to try to get in larger chunks of the book at one time.

I recommend it for people interested in American history, politics, or current affairs, but would recommend getting a physical version of the book!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Furthest Station

  • A PC Peter Grant Novella
  • Written by: Ben Aaronovitch
  • Narrated by: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
  • Length: 3 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 12
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11

There's something going bump on the Metropolitan line, and Sergeant Jaget Kumar knows exactly whom to call. It's PC Peter Grant's specialty.... Only it's more than going 'bump'. Traumatised travellers have been reporting strange encounters on their morning commute, with strangely dressed people trying to deliver an urgent message. Stranger still, despite calling the police themselves, within a few minutes the commuters have already forgotten the encounter - making the follow-up interviews rather difficult. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Loved this series and will be sorry to finish it!

  • By Lea H. on 2018-11-26

Creates holes, doesn't fill them. Good narrator

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-01-31

A short little addition to the Peter Grant/Rivers of London series that finds Grant off hunting ghosts on the Metropolitan Line. He's joined by his friend and the BTP's resident "weird investigator" Jaget, his newly wizarding cousin, and for a bit his mythical girlfriend (no really, she's the goddess of a river in London) who fully got integrated into the main cast in the last book. Oh, and Toby the ghost-hunting dog.

The novella is the first of it's kind in the in-between works of the Peter Grant series. Turns out there are a bunch of graphic novels published in recent years (read: after the series got popular) and then this novella that fit in between stories. I didn't find it fit perfectly in with the story, though. It was a standalone story, but with obvious references to previous book's characters and plots. Namely, there were a few "note to Reynolds" thrown in to explain British references to the American investigator who appeared in book 4 (but wasn't mentioned in book 5) as if Grant is continuing correspondence with her that isn't referenced anywhere else. And it seems strange given his new romance with Lady Ty.

The story around the ghosts was good, and involved some interesting police work, but the toddler river god bit near the end seemed very out of place. I guess it was used to tie characters together? I found it entertaining, but a bit head scratching and not fully connected to the main books. But perhaps this ties in more with those graphic novels?

The audiobook was narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who did a great job with the accents but seemed a bit similar between the characters. First time I listened to an audio version of this series, will stick with the print versions for the main books but didn't find it too bad.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Ice Ghosts

  • The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition
  • Written by: Paul Watson
  • Narrated by: Malcolm Hillgartner
  • Length: 12 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26

Spanning nearly 200 years, Ice Ghosts is a fast-paced detective story about Western science, indigenous beliefs, and the irrepressible spirit of exploration and discovery. It weaves together an epic account of the legendary Franklin Expedition of 1845 - whose two ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, and their crew of 129 were lost to the Arctic ice - with the modern tale of the scientists, researchers, divers, and local Inuit behind the recent discoveries of the two ships, which made news around the world.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Canadian Story

  • By Steve G Munday on 2017-10-19

So much more than just Franklin - amazing work!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-01-31

I found this history of the Franklin Expedition, and the search for its lost ships and crew, absolutely fascinating!

The book does a very good job outlining the mission of Franklin and his crew in exploring the Canadian Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage. It also details the experiences of those left at home, most notably Lady Jane Franklin, who kept the hope of finding her husband and his crew, alive or dead, for many decades to come.

Watson is a great writer, and investigator. I really appreciated how he dealt with the treatment of Inuit traditions and oral history, as experienced in the age of Franklin and in this decade as the ships were found. The characters were treated with respect, with reverence, and with a good degree of acknowledgement for their understanding of the north and the Franklin history. They are truly the heroes of this story, especially the third part (the finding of the lost ships), even though from our Eurocentric view we so naturally fall for Franklin and the bumbling Royal Navy, relying on pluck and good Christian morals to combat years surviving in the Arctic. I feel such pride for Canada in having as remarkable of citizens as those in the North, and especially those involved in the Franklin search. Their work recording and exploring oral histories and traditions to the point of knowing exactly where the ships were (within a few kilometres) - knowledge that had been available in the 1840s had the Europeans just asked - is phenomenal and should be held in great regard. I hope more archaeological expeditions and historical works turn to those holders of local knowledge.

While I knew a bit about Franklin's Expedition going into this book, I was enthralled learning about the peculiar spiritualist/psychic elements of the search for the lost ship, and also about the innovative Canadian story in the modern day search. It is amazing that psychically-inclined individuals all around the world could be placing the wrecks in correct locations years before there were even maps of the area, and decades before validating artifacts were found. And then, a century later, Canadian inventors using homemade diving gear invent and refine a new field of marine archaeology. These innovations and inventions - and their inventors - would later come to play a major role in the search for and exploration of the wrecks of the Erebus and Terror.

It truly is an amazing story.

The narrator is also a great player in this story. There a few Canadian words (Metis, Dalhousie, and toque) that are wildly mis-pronounced, but overall the story is well read.

I highly recommend this book!

  • An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

  • Written by: Chris Hadfield
  • Narrated by: Chris Hadfield
  • Length: 8 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 291
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 263
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 260

As Commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield captivated the world with stunning photos and commentary from space. Now, reading from his first book, Chris takes listeners deep into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Lessons from Space 100% applicable on Earth

  • By Adriana on 2018-09-19

Like a pep talk from your dad, but from space!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-01-31

I recommend this book! This book is basically a pep talk about how not to be a dick to the people around you while listening to the world's greatest humblebrag by one of the world's genuinely nicest (and most impressive) moustaches.

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth isn't a memoir, because of the aforementioned life lessons being the main focus, but you still get to hear the amazing life journey Hadfield took to get to space three times as examples of living out his teachings. While I followed Hadfield while he was on the ISS in 2012/13, I didn't know much about his early career other than that he was a military pilot. He was much more than that, especially after he became an astronaut - and that was probably what I appreciated most in this book, learning about the life of an astronaut when they're not in space. Hadfield was a fighter pilot, but also the best test pilot of his class. And when he became an astronaut he did more than fly to space. He was NASA's head of robotics, served as Chief CAPCOM for 25 Shuttle missions (the main guy on the radio), Chief Astronaut of the Canadian Space Agency, NASA's head of operations for training in Russia (yes, he learned Russian to be an astronaut), Chief of International Space Station Operations, and much much more. Yah, ok, he's impressive. Oh yah, and first Canadian to walk in space, first Canadian commander of the ISS, fully qualified Cosmonaut, has visited MIR and the ISS (twice), etc, etc.

It was great to hear about Hadfield's astronaut work. As a Canadian, we don't get to hear much about the space program as the attention is really only on those in space (and we don't have many astronauts, let alone astronauts in space). If Canadians knew more about what our astronauts do to support the program while on the ground, and just how important that work is, I think we'd be more impressed by our personnel and not fall into that tokenism feeling we often have in the international circuit. In reality, we punch well above our weight! (By the way, did you know Canadians spend as much on Halloween candy as we do on our space agency each year?! One of them may cure cancer someday, but I'll let you guess which one.)

The other aspect of this book, and arguably the main point, is to outline Hadfield's keys to life success. Most are simple and attainable, along the lines of "be respectful of people around you, work hard, and don't try to be a superstar." I'm sure some people listening to the book, and hearing the examples from Hadfield's own life, will say "yes, but it worked for you" or "but that's really easy to say when you ARE a superstar who can accomplish anything," but I think that overall they are attainable and easy to put in practice. They may not make you an incredibly successful spaceman, but they could make your life more successful, or at least more enjoyable (which is just as good).

I think the number one lesson I took out of the book is not to define your success by an outcome. Hadfield was an astronaut for 31 years, but only went to space three times in that period. His first two missions were quite short, totalling just 19 days, while his third mission was 5-months long and came after over a decade being grounded. Is an astronaut really an astronaut if he doesn't go to space? And when his big dramatic moment of glory came on his last mission to space, NASA picks someone else for the emergency spacewalk (Hadfield was a spacewalking instructor, so seemed a shoe-in). But he didn't let it get him down (though he admits to some initial disappointment) and went about his work supporting the team and excelling in a new role, something that made him more proud than if he had been the public hero. For many of us, especially those who don't have easily identifiable mission/project-related pinnacles in our careers, it may be harder to identify those large outcomes in the day-to-day, but it is a good reminder that doing your job well is a better long-term success and easier for us to avoid major disappointment. It will help me not focus too much on the outcomes of the major project I'm working on and just try to do it well in the meantime.

The audiobook was good, Hadfield's voice is recognizable from all his YouTube videos from space even if the audio quality may not have been the definition of perfection. I was surprised by a few words that seemed mis-pronounced - is it an Ontario thing? Hadfield has become an educator, an experienced professional making the case for his sector, and that really comes across in the narration. It's clear, it's got a bit of humour, it all fits. I think Hadfield is best when not reading a script, some areas (especially the humour) felt a bit stilted like he needed a reaction from the listener back, but it wasn't a problem over all.

I really enjoyed finishing this just a few hours before the ISS Expedition 53 crew returned to earth in the early hours of December 14 (Pacific time at least, it was mid-day in Kazakstan). I had just heard Hadfield describe the Soyuz descent and then could watch it happen on video. His descriptions made me understand so much more about what was going on, what the astronauts were thinking, and what would constitute a good landing (it was an excellent landing, by the way). What a cool experience to have that insight!

Highly recommend, and thanks for your service Col. Hadfield!

  • Uncommon Type

  • Some Stories
  • Written by: Tom Hanks
  • Narrated by: Tom Hanks
  • Length: 10 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 60
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 57
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 56

A collection of 17 wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor. The short stories are surprising, intelligent, heartwarming, and, for the millions and millions of Tom Hanks fans, an absolute must-have!

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • It's Tom Hanks, and actually some good stories too

  • By Ben on 2018-01-31

It's Tom Hanks, and actually some good stories too

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-01-31

Ok, so I definitely bought this audiobook mainly just because of Tom Hanks narrating it. And because of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgJ3kSOHMiU

But I actually liked most of the stories. Most of them. Some of them were a bit weird, but I kinda expected that with short stories. Some of them are also just a bit...boring?

There are a few storylines (or characters) that have multiple stories. Some are pretty much the same, like the newspaper column, while others are vastly different - like the group of friends who go bowling, end up in outerspace with a backyard rocket, and who go through romantic issues as well. And lots of standalone stories that go through the gamut from deep emotional fiction to wildly ridiculous science fiction. And then it ends with a full-cast read-aloud screenplay with music.

I liked the recurring theme of typewriters throughout the stories. A few stories are pretty much about a typewriter, but some you really need to listen for them. A few made me want to go write on one. A few made me think "well, that's how he worked in in. Cop out..." I'd say give it a listen, good to hear his voice, and a few stories are stand-outs!

Now go type something!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Silesian Station

  • Written by: David Downing
  • Narrated by: Simon Prebble
  • Length: 11 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 2
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 2
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 2

Summer, 1939. British journalist John Russell has just been granted American citizenship in exchange for agreeing to work for American intelligence when his girlfriend, Effi, is arrested by the Gestapo. Russell hoped his new nationality would let him safely stay in Berlin with Effi and his son, but now he's being blackmailed. To free Effi, he must agree to work for the Nazis.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Slow and confusing, not the greatest story

  • By Ben on 2018-01-31

Slow and confusing, not the greatest story

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-01-31

Worked my way very slowly through this audio book. Definitely not my favourite, there were a lot of slow parts and rather confusing trips that Russell took through multiple countries for his alleged spy work (that never really seems to result in anything), and then it all ended with a far too convenient and daring nighttime raid on an SS brothel to rescue a Jewish girl he had never seen before but somehow knew was there. Oh, and that storyline never really got wrapped up, neither did the part about his friend and fellow communist who killed her husband? It was not the best to listen by audio book, for one, when this was a confusing book to begin with.