Showing posts with label murder mystery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label murder mystery. Show all posts

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie


Rating: WARTY!

Here's an example of Christie reusing old material. One the characters is named Bella like the one in her Dumb Witness story, and also we have an instance here of Poirot being summoned to help out someone whose life is on the line and he arrives too late - again, like in the Dumb Witness story. It's also in some ways a case of mistaken identity as in Dumb Witness. The story takes place in Merlinville-sur-Mer in France where Poirot arrives with all Hastings at the Villa Genevieve to discover that mister Renauld was stabbed in the back with a letter opener the previous night, and left in a newly-dug grave by the local golf course.

The worst part of this story for me was the appalling reading by Charles Armstrong, who has no idea how to pronounce French words and repeatedly mangles ones such as Sûreté and Genevieve. When he tries to imitate a female voice his own voice sounds like he's being strangled. It was horrible to listen to and I couldn't stand to hear any more after the first 15 percent or so. I DNF'd this and consider it a warty "read".

I got hold of the DVD for Murder on the Links as well as Dumb Witness. Of the two, the latter departed from the book the most - and by quite a considerable margin, but I enjoyed that filmed story. It was cute and amusing, but Miss Peabody was totally absent, which annoyed me to no end. Murder on the Links, by contrast, was a lousy story which made no sense and in which Hastings was a complete dumb-ass (even more than he usually is) who got rewarded rather than getting his just deserts for actively perverting with the course of justice.

Having DNF's this, I can't comment on whether the book was as bad, but the TV show in regard to this particular episode simply isn't worth watching. Worse than this though was that despite the story taking place almost entirely in France, every single person spoke with a perfect English accent with no trace of actual French marring it whatsoever! Even French words like Genevieve and Sûreté were mangled. It was almost as though it was filmed entirely in England with a complete English cast! Whoah! Trust me, it sucked. I think it's by far the worst Poirot episode I ever saw and I've seen most of them so this one is double-warty!


Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie


Rating: WARTY!

This started out rather well, and was quite well read by Hugh Fraser, who played Poirot's companion Captain Hastings in the David Suchet TV series which covered very nearly all of Poirot's stories. The problem for me was that it descended into predictability and tedium in the last third or so, and the brilliant detective Poirot failed to see clues that even I could see, which tells me this story was badly-written.

I'm not a fna of detective stories which begin by telling us information the detective doesn't have. I much prefer the ones where we come in blind to the crime, just as the detective arrives. This one was not one of the latter, but the former, so we got an overly-lengthy introduction to the crime which to me was uninteresting and removed any suspense and excitement.

That said it wasn't too bad once the story began to move and Poirot arrived, but Hastings was a complete asshat with his endless whining along the lines of 'There's nothing to see here! Let's go home'. I'm truly surprised Poirot didn't slap him or kick him in the balls. I know this business of having a dumb-ass companion was set in stone by Arthur Doyle, but it's really too much.

The story is of the death of Emily Arundell, and aging and somewhat sickly woman of some modest wealth, at whom her relatives are pecking for crumbs before ever she's dead. After a fall down the stairs which she survives, Emily passes away at a later date, and after this, Poirot gets a letter form her which was somehow delayed in posting. It seems rather incoherent, but it does suggest she fears greatly for something. Poirot arrives to discover she died, and rather than turn around and go home, he poses as an interested buyer for a property that belonged to Emily so he can snoop around and ask questions. This part went on too long, too, for my taste.

Eventually Poirot's deception is exposed by Miss Peabody who for me was one of the two most interesting characters, and hands down the most amusing in the book. I really liked her. My other favorite was Theresa Arundell, whose initials, you will note, are TA, which have mirror symmetry. It's this that Poirot fails to grasp for the longest time after he learns that a person was identified by initials on a broach which was glimpsed in a mirror.

The problem though is that Christie fails to give us vital information that would have clearly identified the killer for anyone sharp enough to have picked up on this mirror image, so we're cruelly-robbed of the chance to nail down the actual killer, although some of the red herrings are disposed of with relative ease.

The final insult is Poirot's gathering of all the suspects together for the dénouement, and this is ridiculous for me. I know it's a big thing in these mysteries, but really it's laughable and spoils the story. It's so unrealistic and farcical especially since everyone, including the murderer, blithely agrees to gather for this exposure. How absurd! If the murderer had any sense, he or she would off Poirot before he had chance to expose the culprit, and thereby they would get off scot-free since Poirot is such an arrogant and persnickety old cove that he never reveals to anyone who the murder is until that last minute, thereby giving them ample opportunity to scarper!

I got hold of the DVD for this story from the library and watched it. I also watched Murder on the Links. Of the two, the former departed from the book the most - and by quite a considerable margin, but I enjoyed that filmed story. It was cute and amusing, but Miss Peabody was totally absent, which annoyed me to no end. Murder on the Links, by contrast, was a lousy story which made no sense and in which Hastings was a complete dumb-ass (even more than he usually is) who got rewarded rather than getting his just deserts for actively perverting with the course of justice. I can't comment on whether the book was as bad since I DNF'd it, but the TV show in regard to this particular episode simply isn't worth watching. Worse than all I've mentioned though was that despite the story taking place almost entirely in France, every single person spoke with a perfect English accent with no trace of actual French marring it whatsoever! Even French words like Genevieve and Sûreté were mangled. It was almost as though it was filmed entirely in England with a complete English cast! Whoah! Trust me, it sucked. I think it's by far the worst Poirot episode I ever saw and I've seen most of them.

So while there were some interesting and even fun bits to this audiobook, overall it was tedious, and I cannot commend it as a worthy listen.


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Sequence by Lori Andrews


Rating: WARTY!

I gave up on this about ten pages from the end because I was so tired of it by then, and I regretted even hoping it would improve. This is yet another novel that convinces me that if the story isn't getting you where you want to be, there is no shame involved if you abandon it, and there is every good and sane reason to drop it and move on to something more fulfilling instead of wasting your life in continuance. To do otherwise is a prime example of the sunk cost fallacy.

The main character, Alex, who is a geneticist working for the government in a military lab who gets dragged into a crime investigation since she can to DNA forensics, was profoundly dumb. There were times when she was not so stupid, and I had hoped that this would be a case where a not-so-smart character shows a steady improvement as the story goes on, but she did not. In fact she actually regressed. For example, despite being a geneticist, she couldn't see what was obvious to me from the off: that if genetic markers are close but not an exact match for a suspect, then perhaps those markers might be those of a relative of the suspect rather than the suspect himself. Once she got on that path, the crime was all-but solved.

Obvious was an issue with this novel because I was way ahead of the investigators several times and that's not often the case with me in this kind of a novel, so I know a story is poorly-written if even I can figure it out so easily. It wasn't so much the obvious as the dumb that got to me though.

Alex leaps directly into bed with someone she barely knows, but of whom she does know he's a player. She has unprotected sex with him without a thought about condoms, which immediately turns me right off a story. Yeah, if the portrayal is of a character who is profoundly stupid and is heading for the wrecker's yard, that's one thing, but for a modern professional and purportedly a smart woman who is a medical doctor to boot, it completely betrays the character. It's especially bad if that same character is pining for a lost but hopeless love, and yet she has no problem simply leaping without even looking. I almost quit reading the story right there. It turns out I should have gone with my first instinct.

So overall this was not too bad of a plot in very general terms, but the writing wasn't where it needed to be to make this a really good story, and to have a female author once again have a female character who needs some sort of validation by having a male magically come into her life and give her everything she needs is too much in this day and age - or any day and age for that matter. I cannot commend this as a worthy read and resent the time I wasted on it! I'm done with the book and the author.


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

What You Don't Know by JoAnn Chaney


Rating: WARTY!

What you don't know is how bad this book is! This audiobook was so hard-bitten it turned me right off. It made me think of eating soft tacos that were encased in in heavy-duty aluminum foil instead of a soft tortilla. The reader was Christina Delaine, who pretty much growled her way through it and I couldn't stand the tone, nor did I like the story, so I gave up on it and consider this a truly warty read/listen.

The basic story sounded interesting from the blurb, but the execution as poor. The story is that of two people, one, a police detective who was involved in bringing down a serial killer, and the other, a newspaper reporter who covered the story. Now both have fallen on hard times, him stuck on resolving cold cases, and she selling make-up in a mall. How that happened I don't know because I didn't listen to this for very long, but when a new series of murders begins, both of these people see this, rather sickly, I have to say, as a chance to get their lives back. Why that would be, again I don't know, but it smacks of that old sawhorse of the retired police detective being pulled back in to solve a new case because evidently the entire police force is utterly incompetent and only he can save them. The same thing applies to the reporter in a different way. I don't like that kind of story, so I guess I should never have picked this one up. My bad!

The blurb mentions that the wife of the serial killer didn't suspect a thing, so she claimed. Now I'm wondering if she's the real killer and her husband was innocent, or at least whether they were working together, and that's how these murders have started up again, but I didn't like how this story was told, or the narrator, so I wasn't about to listen to it anymore just to satisfy that curiosity. The author spells her first name with a capital A, but because of the idiot cover designer, you'd never know this since her name is block caps. Another publisher fail! Long live self-publishing.


Hunting for Hidden Gold by Leslie McFarlane


Rating: WARTY!

This was an audiobook read reasonably well by Bill Irwin. My problem with it was not only the antiquated story (this was written almost a century ago by Leslie McFarlane, writing as Franklin Dixon), but mostly the tinny accompanying music.

Leslie McFarlane was a journalist, not a musician, and while I have yet to confirm this officially, I remain pretty much sure that he never wrote any accompanying music for the story. Neither did Edward Stratemeyer who was the mover and shaker behind these books. So whence the impetus for the sad and annoying music in the audiobook edition? Is Bill Irwin not good enough to listen to without accompaniment? It really irritates me when audiobooks do this and I've had to listen to two or three lately which all have had music at least at the very beginning of the book. Why? Get a clue, publishers!

The Hardy brothers are evidently frequently put at risk of their lives by their thoroughly irresponsible father, by being tasked with helping him to solve mysteries. In this book, their own stupidity gets them into trouble, They're required to fly to Montana, to track down missing gold, and they have a three-hour layover en route. As soon as they reach the airport, they're accosted by a stranger who informs them that he has important papers from their father, but he has...wait for it...forgotten them, they're so important! He asks if the boys will accompany him to his home to get the papers. Rather than insist they have a flight to catch and cannot leave the airport, and request he brings the papers to them as he was tasked to do, they blindly go with him and end up tied up on a house! The Hardy Boys are morons. That's when I quit listening to this.

I get that the whole idea of the story is to bring the kids in because it's a kid's story, but the mark of competent writers is that they do this without having the kids look stupid or have them needlessly endangered by idiotic adults. Their involvement needs to be organic, and not blatantly incompetent or dumb. Leslie McFarlane simply wasn't up to it. And yeah, I know this story is antique and that sensibilities were different back then, but that doesn't mean I have to give it a bye today. Instead I give it a bye-bye. This story was garbage and it's warty, period.


Cell 8 by Anders Roslund, Börge Hellström, Kari Dickson


Rating: WARTY!

Talking of crime, this was one more casualty in an increasing number of failed audiobook experiments. I have a modest commute to and from work, and I like to catch up on reading on the trip, so...audiobooks! This is why I tend to experiment a lot more with audiobooks than other formats, and why I have more fails. This novel was one from a rising tide of Scandinavian crime fiction which is curious because there's very little homicide there compared with other nations.

The USA, for example, is almost at the top of the list for sheer numbers of murders (although in the middling lower half for murder rate) whereas northern Europe is low on the list. Iceland had precisely one murder in 2016, for example, the same year the USA had over 17,000. Norway had 27, Denmark 56. The purportedly easy-going Sweden had over one hundred, but by comparison, the supposedly highly civil UK had almost 800. That said, the murder rates in these countries are very roughly the same and only about a fifth of the rate in the USA. So not a lot of murders to work with in Scandinavia, and nowhere near in proportion to the slew of novels about them, hence my comment about it being curious.

I've had some success with other Scandinavian crime books, but I couldn't get with this audiobook translated from the foreign by Kari Dickson. It began with a guy in jail and then went to a flashback the length, presumably, of the entire novel. I don't do flashbacks. This flashback involved the singer in a band on a cruise ship taking exception to a man who was fondling the women he was dancing with. The singer gets arrested and turns out to be someone else. Yawn.

Why this guy thought he ought to be policing these women who were in a public place on a dance floor and perfectly capable of deciding for themselves what they wanted is a mystery that wasn't gone into in the portion I could stand to listen to. I could not get into this, it wasn't interesting at all to me. Life is too short to waste on a book that doesn't grab you from the start.


If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin


Rating: WARTY!

This audiobook is supposedly about a hit and run in a stolen car, but it moved so slowly that I got the impression it was far more about a single mom detective policing two problematic kids than ever it would be about solving a crime, so I gave up on it. I think I'm going to quit even thinking of reading books with titles of this nature - the "If blah blah blah" kind of title.

This author also wrote a novel titled "What Remains of Me" which is a no-no and pretentious kind of a title for me. If I'd know about the previous title, I would never have picked this one up, and it would have been a wise decision. So it's a hackneyed story that the author evidently isn't interested in getting to, with a fake bad guy. On top of that, I later discovered that Kirkus loved this book, which is another reason to avoid it like the plague.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie


Rating: WARTY!

This is a short audiobook that I thought I would give a try. I am not much of a fan of Christie's writing, but I did enjoy the Hercule Poirot series on TV to the point where I even wrote a parody of Murder on the Orient Express. I have to really like something or really hate something to do a parody of it, and I'm not thinking of doing a Miss Marple parody, but I know nothing of those particular stories, so I decided to give this try since I found it on audiobook. My bad!

It's read by Joan Hickson, a Brit actor with whom I'm familiar (no, not that familiar!). She played the role of Miss Marple in a TV series of the same name (Marple, not Hickson!). There were twelve shows, and one of them was based on this particular novel. I may try to see that if I can get my hands on it, just out of curiosity, but this particular novel I found far too plodding and filled with too much extraneous detail to be entertaining. I think Hickson was the wrong choice too, because her voice, sorry to say, sounds a bit too mouth-filled-with-marbles for enjoyment. It reminded me of the voices the Monty Python crew used when they were impersonating women. I can see why the publisher hired her, but going the 'obvious' path isn't typically the best option and for me it didn't work well here.

Christie is the world's all-time best-selling author, even as of today, having sold some three billion books (that's not the same as saying almost half the planet's population have read her!), which ranks her behind only the Bible and Shakespeare, but I have to ask, if Christie had never lived, and some unknown writer today wrote her books and offered them for sale, would a publisher actually buy them or would that poor writer end up having to self-publish if they wanted to get anything out there?

Would these books sell even if they were picked up by a mainstream publisher? Would a publisher even pick up a typescript to read if its title was "4:40 from Paddington"?! I may be wrong of course, find it hard to believe that they would. Certainly not as well as they historically did. But guess what? Her books are now starting to come into the public domain, so who knows what new writers will do with them?

Anyway, this one, first published in 1957, has the interesting plot of a woman traveling on a train which happens to run in parallel for a short time, with another train traveling in the same direction. Through the windows, before the trains part company, the woman witnesses a man strangling a woman on the other train, and when she reports this to the train authorities (why them and not the police I have no idea) they dismiss her story, thinking she has dreamed it after reading a magazine story about someone who was strangled.

The woman is a friend of Miss Marple of course. I have a theory about this. People like this Marple and this Poirot (and far too many others) always seem to be around when murders are committed! It seems only logical to conclude that they somehow cause the murders. How else can you account for them being in such proximity to so many of them?

Anyway, when the woman reports this murder to Marple, she's believed, and the two of them then go to the police, where Maple knows the desk sergeant. They're taken more seriously, but when inquiries come up blank, Miss Marple recruits a small army of advisors to figure out where the body most likely was tossed from the train. She's working on the theory that this was a planned murder, the murderer throwing the body out at a convenient, but secluded location, and then afterwards coming back by car and picking it up to dispose of it.

The basic problem here is: why would he plan it on a train? If he could lure the victim onto a train ride with him, he could evidently lure her anywhere. The limp excuse given is that someone might see him with his victim and remember it if he tried the murder somewhere else, but this completely ignores the fact that everyone and their uncle would see him and this poor woman going onto the train together! So, not so well thought out.

What got to me though was the excessive detail which had nothing to do with the murder or the investigation: eating all the food at the table, clearing away the dishes, washing the dishes. Sorry, but no! There was too much of this, and the story felt perfunctory even with these details, like Christie wrote this as detailed notes, but never bothered to flesh them out before it was published. While the plot was a good starting point, the story itself felt poorly-written and was consequently unentertaining, and I gave up on it. Besides, everyone knows the Butler did it, right? Or the doctor.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse


Rating: WARTY!

I think I'm done with Kate Mosse at this point! I liked the first one I read by her, but the next one and now this one, I did not like. I am not a fan of novels which have their title in the form: 'The ______'s Daughter' or ' The ______'s Wife' because it reduces the main character to an appendage of a man. I think that's an awful way to start a novel or to describe a person especially if she's female.

I barely got into this one because it was so filled with rambling and bouncing around between characters that I simply could not get with it at all. I decided to skip to the part where the body is found in the hope that it would pick up there, but it did not. The body is found in a creek, and it's found by the title character, whose actual name is Constantia Gifford, but rather than call for the police, the idiot gets someone to get the body out of the water. He's also an idiot because he doesn't call the police either. He drags the body out thereby destroying any evidence that might be connected with it as it lay in the water - face down and obviously a corpse.

I know that there are idiots out there, but I don't have to read about them! It wouldn't have been so bad had there been some sort of discussion about destroying evidence, and there arose some reason for why they acted as they did - like the body was in danger of being washed away, or despite being advised to leave it where it was for the police, some jackass went in there and fished it out anyway, but there never was any such thing. In short, it's bad writing. I don't do novels about stupid people, especially not about stupid female main characters, and I certainly am not interested in reading poorly-written one which is so larded with exposition you could fry dry bread in it, and no action, so that was it for me. Based on what I read, I cannot commend this and will not be reading anything more by this author - not when there are so many authors out there and so little time to find interesting new ones!


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Home Sweet Homicide by Craig Rice


Rating: WORTHY!

Craig Rice is an interesting and underrated author. She was the first female author ever to appear on the cover of Time magazine. Born Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig in 1908, she changed her professional name for her adoptive parents family name, putting her original family name first when she moved from journalism and radio writing, to detective fiction.

Most of her output was a series featuring three oddball investigators, none of whom was actually a police officer. She wrote other stories too, and this was one of them. Here, the three investigators were the children of a detective fiction writer. Maybe Georgiana was rewriting her own less-than-satisfactory childhood - and adulthood for that matter. She died before the age of fifty probably largely due to her heavy drinking, but she had issues with deafness, blindness, and she attempted suicide more than once.

This cheery story reflects none of that. It's bright, screwball, upbeat, well-written, and fun all the way through, I loved it. The title is emblematic of her screwball titles, too. Other titles were of a similar nature: The Big Midget Murders, The Corpse Steps Out, Crime on My Hands, The Lucky Stiff, The Pickled Poodles, and my personal favorite My Kingdom for a Hearse although I confess, it was a close-run thing between that latter one and the title of the novel reviewed here.

The three Carstairs kids, Dinah, April, and Archie, are left almost totally unsupervised while their windowed mom, Marion, is in one of her writing frenzies. They happened to be sitting outside on the porch when they heard two gunshots from their next-door neighbor's house, home to a woman who was widely despised and who was, it seems, blackmailing certain of her neighbors. The kids try to involve their mom, who isn't interested and so, despising the local cops for stupidity (the kids learned a lot from reading their mom's stories, including pseudo-gangster dialog, but unfortunately expended no effort in differentiating between fact and fiction!), they decide to undertake their own investigation, misleading the cops about the time of the shooting because they don't believe the husband did it.

They also believe if they solve it and give the credit to their mom, it will work miracles for her sales. Additionally, there is one cop they think might make the perfect partner for their lonely mom so they have to tread carefully, deny the police information they discover while luring the detective in to bring him and their mom into frequent contact. Published in 1944, this novel was made into a movie in 1946, but as usual, the movie doesn't follow the book too closely.

I completely loved this novel and I commend it highly.


Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Affliction by Beth Gutcheon


Rating: WARTY!

This audiobooks started out well enough, but it moved so slowly that I was truly tired of it by the time I was about forty percent the way through it. I gave up on it shortly after that. The narration by Hillary Huber wasn't bad, it was just a poor story.

It's apparently part of a series, but once again the publisher has failed to identify this on the cover. What are they afraid of? All it said was that it was by the author of Death at Breakfast a singularly uninspiring title which it turns out is the first in the series. This is the second, but it can be read as a standalone if you don't mind occasional references to a prior history between the two main protagonists, Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin.

Maggie is a retired school principal. How that qualifies her to solve murders is more of a mystery than the murder mystery itself is. Hope Babbin is a bon viveur as far as I can tell - wealthy and no clue what to do with herself. She's happy, in this story, to abandon her book club, which begs the question as to why she's in it in the first place. Maybe it's lazy author shorthand for her being smart? It doesn't work. It never does.

Maggie is supposed to be part of an assessment group that's inspecting a private and formerly elite, but now down-at-heel, girls school which is under threat of closure. None of this has anything to do with the murder, but it gets Maggie in the door. When one of the teachers is found in the swimming pool - on the bottom as opposed to swimming - Maggie is asked to stay on to help guide the relatively new and young current school principal through the crisis, but Maggie spends absolutely zero time advising the principal on anything, and instead immediately launches herself and her friend Hope whom she recruits for this purpose, into a serious investigation of the crime.

Never once does it cross her mind that she might screw things up for the police. Never once do the police advise her to keep out of the investigation. Never once do any of the people she interviews tell her to get lost and quit meddling, or that it's none of her business. Never once do they refuse to answer any of her questions - at least not in the part I listened to. Never once do these two share anything they have learned with the police, and never once do the police start suspecting them of being involved or covering-up anything. It's just too frigging perfect!

The whole thing was so inauthentic that it really made for an increasing lack of suspension of disbelief the more I listened to this. The feeling that grew on me was that here were two interfering busybodies who evidently had nothing better to do with their time than to get into other people's business with no concerns whatsoever for what they might mess-up. That's not my kind of story and this one wasn't even written well, so I can't commend it for anything other than wasting my time quite effectively.


Friday, January 4, 2019

Disturbing Ground by Priscilla Masters


Rating: WARTY!

I love the Welsh accent, so this sounded like it might be a good listen for me, and while I could listen to Siriol Jenkins reading in those dulcet tones forever, I can't listen to them when she's reading something like this, which had gone quite literally nowhere by about fifty percent in, except in that this Doctor, Megan Banesto, who is the de facto investigator here in this little mining town of Llancloudy, seems far more interested in trying to make time with someone else's husband than ever she does in finding out who drowned Bianca - a schizophrenic patient of hers who was known to be terrified of water.

I'm sorry but I simply did not like this main character who seemed far more meddling than investigative and who was simply annoying. She walked out on a patient in the middle of a consultation to go meddling when she saw a crowd gathering up the street! What a piece of work she is! I DNF'd this and cannot commend it based on my experience of it.


Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo


Rating: WARTY!

This is evidently one in a series, although gods forbid the publisher would ever tell you that on the cover! I mean, why would they? It might actually be of use to someone! It would sure be a courtesy to those of us who are not into series so we don't pick it up off the shelf thinking it's a one-off novel, or if we are into series, so we don't pick it up off the shelf and end up randomly in the middle of a series that we'd prefer to start at the beginning - and all because the idiot publisher couldn't be bothered to say it was Book X of Series Y. This is why I do not have a lot of respect for Big Publishing™.

This book has a prologue which I normally avoid like the plague, but which I got stuck with since the audiobook doesn't always make it clear it's a prologue and even if it is, often makes it hard to skip because you can't tell where chapter one starts. What made it worse in this case was that the prologue should have been chapter one because that's where the accident occurs where an Amish buggy is crashed into by a hit & run driver. It's the start of the story - why would it be in a prologue? I blame this on the author. Prologues are antique. Quit it with the prologues already.

My problem with it came right there, with the police chief in Amish country arriving right on the tail of the accident, when a witness was still alive and yet not asking him a word about whether he saw or can recall anything that might help track down the murdering driver. I decided this cop is a moron and after listening on a little further, I decided I did not like the way this book was written at all. There was too little police and far too much whiny drama, and it wasn't engaging me, so I DNF'd it.

The blurb tells more, like the discovery human bones in an abandoned grain elevator which have a connection to Katie's past, Katie being the chief of police, and I am surprised I missed that when I looked at this, but I guess I was too distracted by the idea of an Amish murder mystery! I am so tired of these series where everything ties to the investigator's past be it a PI or a police officer. It is tedious and it has been done to death. Get a new shtick! Good lord what kind of a person was this anyway, to have so much death and misery following them around everywhere?! LOL! Give me something fresh and new for goodness sake.


Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Ark by Patrick S Tomlinson


Rating: WARTY!

This is purportedly a sci-fi novel, but it’s really just a detective story which takes place on a generation ship carrying the last fifty thousand humans to some planet out Tau Ceti way. Why there in particular goes unexplained. How they even knew there were habitable planets there is a mystery, but maybe they figured it out from the extra-solar planetary search. Tau Ceti is the closest single G class star to our own sun (which is G class), and it does have two planets in the 'habitable zone', but there's nothing known yet to indicate they might be anything like Earth or habitable at all. The bigger problem though is that the system is young and is awash with debris, so impacts of meteors on those planets would be huge. It would be an extremely dangerous place to live.

Two weeks out from the planet, a research lab operative goes missing, which is highly unusual since everyone has an implant which allows them to be tracked. There is a 'cop' on board who is assigned to investigate the disappearance, but the guy isn’t actually a police officer. He used to be a zero gravity sports star. How this remotely qualifies him to investigate crime in his retirement years is a mystery. Was he the only applicant when the position became vacant? Why did he even retire? The game was played in zero G so there's no major physical requirement like there would be on Earth for a sport. You need to be agile of body and mind, but how can you get too old for a sport like that when you’re still young isn’t explained here.

That I could live with, but when the guy ends up being a complete moron, I can’t read about him. The obvious place to get rid of a body in space is to flush it out the airlock, but that's the last place this brilliant detective thinks to look. The fact that they discover the body out there is complete luck. No alarm sounded when someone opened an airlock in space? Instead of sending a robot out to get the body, the detective, who has zero experience in space, demands to go get it himself. The spacecraft is inexplicably a single-seater, so he's literally by himself. He fouls up completely (turning off the com is his first arrogant and stupid mistake). He almost loses the body and he almost dies. Despite being in trouble, the crew explicably did not send out another spacecraft to rescue him despite having many of them on hand.

The thing is that when you flush something out of an airlock, the object is catapulted with some force because of the escaping air. It’s rather like firing a BB gun. The body would move away from the spacecraft with some significant speed, and if it were gone for a couple of days, it would be so far out and so dark, that it wouldn't be visible. Given how dirty space was this close to the planet, it would more than likely be undetectable by any means from the spacecraft, being yet one more cold, dark object among many. Yet they find it close to the craft and largely undamaged.

In the hospital, his female doctor is inappropriate with him, but that's just fine because he's being inappropriate with a subordinate colleague so everything balances out, right? No. When he wants to leave, he asks the doctor where his clothes were and she says, “We had to cut them off.” Why? If he'd been injured in a serious accident, then yeah - swelling and the need to get to him quickly and fix wounds would necessitate cutting off clothes, but all he did was pass out. What, they had to remove his clothes to put an oxygen mask on his face? No! They didn't have to strip him at all, yet this doctor did. I assume because the author is male. And that wasn't the only way she was inappropriate. Who knows, maybe his doctor used to be a car mechanic before her current gig. For them it’s routine to strip things down so they can charge you more for labor....

It was after the incident with the doctor that I quit reading this garbage. The story was poor and amateurish before then, but this was nonsense, and I had no intention of reading on at that point, much less of reading any more volumes in the lame series that this was intended to become. I can’t commend it at all.


Monday, October 8, 2018

In Prior's Wood by GM Malliet


Rating: WARTY!

I quickly decided to give up on this whodunit audiobook because it was boring and there was no dunnit despite being over a fifth the way through it. The author seems to have spent a lot of time on her character biographies and then decided she didn't want to waste it, and so I'd been getting quite lengthy info-dumps about characters, none of which information seemed remotely relevant to the story. That assumes there was a story and by that point, I hadn't seen one! The title also struck me as odd. Should it be Priory Wood? Or did the place used to be a wood and no longer is? I guess in the end, I don't care!

This is part of a series and is an excellent argument for not reading series. The premise here is that a former MI5 agent (MI5 is Britain's equivalent of the FBI) is now a priest and helps the local cops solve murders. That concept initially intrigued me, but the story was so painfully slow that I rapidly lost interest and became bored. In addition, it's one of these quaint little English village murder mystery stories, but given this this is the seventh instalment in the absurdly-named Max Tudor series, this means that this quaint English village must be the murder capital of the entire country! It's not feasible. Another reason not to pursue a murder mystery series.

As if that wasn't bad enough the guy, Michael Page, who is reading this story had a really strident and grating voice. He reminded me of this British comedy show called Blackadder that I love, and when he's reading it, this guy sounds like Rowan Atkinson's main character from that show. When Rowan Atkinson does the voice, it's amusing, but I'm literally expecting a zinging one-liner every other sentence in the audiobook which of course never comes! As if that wasn't bad enough, there's a character named Owena. I'm not sure of the spelling, but every time he says the name I hear "a wiener" which makes me laugh, so this story wasn't working on so many levels!

It was initially quite entertaining, but rapidly drifted into rambling and boring exposition which contributed nothing to the story that could see. I have better things to do with my time than listen to this - even on a commute. For example, the sound of my car's tires on the road sounded highly appealing after Michael Page's droning nasal intonations.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson


Rating: WARTY!

This was my third voyage into the world of Kate Atkinson. As I mentioned twice before(!), I came to her via the TV series Case Histories, and I hoped her novels would be as good as the TV show, but they were not. I could not get Case Histories on audiobook and didn't want to go with the library print book. I have too many print books on my shelf and actively try to avoid procuring any more until I've read-down some of this pile! I live in fear that they will fall off the shelf onto my head when I'm sleeping and I wish to bypass such a rude awakening.

This was the second-in-line in the series, but the problem with it was that it was too rambling. The interesting thing is that in the first novel, Jackson Brodie, the ex-soldier now turned PI inherits a lot of money, but in the TV series he did not have this money. I'm not sure how they will reconcile it if they continue the TV show. I liked how there were several plot threads seemingly unconnected, and which in the end all became woven together, but that was TV. The audiobook was far too sluggish.

I could not get started on the novel. One of the characters was such a limp rag of a man that he was repulsive, yet the author seemed determined to follow him into the most mundane of activities including a writing class he attends (which I think was a flashback but I'm not sure. It's easy to miss bits in an audiobook when driving. At least it is if your focus is on the road where it should be!). The writing class wasn't even interesting, and it seemed like the author was maybe using it to insult people perhaps she had known in a similar writing class which she attended. I don't know. It just felt a bit like that.

The story begins with this limp rag man breaking up a road rage incident, and then it just rambles on and on. Jackson Brodie is nowhere in it and did not show up right up to the point where I couldn't stand to listen any more. It was read pretty decently by Steven Crossley, but that couldn't make up for the material (or lack thereof). I felt bad for him having to read this. Just in case it isn't clear: I cannot recommend this one!


Hell Gate by Linda Fairstein


Rating: WARTY!

If I'd known that this author was once the prosecutor who railroaded the Central Park Five black kids into jail for a crime they never committed, I would have spit on the novel rather than picked it up. But I didn’t know that until after I’d read enough of it to know it was a lousy novel written by an author who is so far out of touch with things as to be very effectively retired even as she continues to write. It was only after I gave up on it and looked her up in Wikipedia that I discovered this and other interesting facts about her.

Fairstein resigned in early summer of 2019 as a member of the board of trustees of her alma mater, Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, New York, after a netflix movie on the event stirred up enough resentment that finally something came to a head. If I’d known this novel was merely wish-fullfilment - this author basically putting herself into her own fiction as a prosecutor of sex crimes - I would never have picked it up either.

I'm not a fan of first person stories because they're irritating at best and completely unrealistic. Few authors - and even fewer stories - can carry that amount of weight, but far too many authors aren't smart enough to realize it. The woman who read for this audiobook story, Barbara Rosenblat, had entirely the wrong voice for both the story and the character, so that didn’t help either. That wasn't the worst part though.

The hypocrisy in this novel was astounding. For an ex prosecutor of sex crimes to write a novel about human trafficking and then lard it up with sexist material is mind boggling. If I’d know this novel - published in 2010 - would read like it was written in the fifties with all the unaddressed genderism it contains, I’d never have picked it up. But until I listened to it, I didn't know that there would be repeated remarks made to the main character of an inappropriate nature, and never once does she address them. Guys can say pretty much whatever they want to her and she doesn’t even react. In short, she's part of the problem and the author ought to be thoroughly ashamed of writing material like this.

I don't have a problem with reading a novel by an older writer (this author is now in her seventies). The problem isn’t that. The problem is when the older writer fails to move with the times and instead, writes a modern story with an antique mindset, which is evidently what happened here. And that's not even the whole problem.

The author seems so obsessed with describing old buildings that she forgets what story she's telling. This story could have been about architectural design. I quickly tired of hearing yet more building history, and yet more descriptions of arches, columns, and windows. This was as much a DNR as it was a DNF. You have my word that I will never read another novel by this author. I'm tempted to say that I'm glad I never paid for this one, but in a sense, I did pay for it by merely listening to it.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson


Rating: WARTY!

This was an audiobook I came at from having seen the excellent TV series starring Jason Isaacs (of Star Trek Discovery - not that I watch that sorry excuse for a Star Trek show - and Harry Potter), Amanda Abbington (late of Sherlock), Zawe Ashton (late of Doctor Who: Into the Dalek), and the charming young Millie Innes - who is a true Scot! The TV show was titled Case Histories after the first novel in a series of (so far) four.

I love my library, but oddly enough they didn't have the first novel on CD; they had two others, which were the ones I got. This one is the last of the four. After I started listening to the droning audiobook, I regretted my impulsiveness in requesting two books at once. I listened to half of the first disk and skimmed the last disk on my way back to the library to drop it off! They were both tedious and mindlessly rambling, and nauseatingly droning (the reader was Graeme Malcolm and he was awful and served only to exacerbate the problem with the mindlessly meandering material). I hope the other one I got is better. It can hardly be worse!

This is a Stephen King style novel where the author thinks it's more important to go into endless, pointless minutiae instead of actually getting on with the story. The story is purportedly about a retired detective named Tracy Waterhouse. Her sole memory, it seems, is her encounter as a newly-minted police constable in Edinburgh, Scotland. She and her partner found a strangled woman who was very ripe, having been dead for many days, and also locked in a flat (apartment) with a young child. After that we're back in the present, but by then I'd already lost interest. Jackson Brodie is the hero of these novels, but he's focused on an abused dog. This one has not yet made it to a TV version.

The thing I loved about the TV show is how each story sowed three different seeds at the start, and by the end all three had grown into the same plant. The thing I found weird about the TV show is how few Scots actually live in Edinburgh - if it's judged by the casting! All the main characters were almost always English, not Scots! That may not be cultural appropriation, but it's certainly inappropriate. Othher than that I loved the show and would advise everyone to watch that rather than read these sashaying shambles of stories (assuming the others are as bad as this one was).


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Love Me to Death by Allison Brennan


Rating: WARTY!

If I'd known this was part of a series I probably would never have picked it up, and that would have been the smart decision, but there was nothing on the cover to indicate it was. But it is! It's the Lucy Kincaid series. Lucy is wanting to get into the FBI cyber crimes unit, which interested me, and as the story started it was interesting. She's working as a volunteer in a program which traps child predators and serial rapists, and she snares one of the worst.

So far, so good, but then we get a first person perspective into the mind of a serial rapist, and it's so badly written that it's like like a completely different book written by a really bad fan-fiction writer. I am not a fan of first person, especially not when it's written so woodenly, stupidly, adolescently, and as trashily as this was, and that was it for me; I was out of there!

You know an audiobook is bad when you prefer to listen to the sound of rubber tires on asphalt road than to listen to another second of the book! Audiobooks are always an exercise in prospecting untried ground for me, and while I've found enough gems to keep me digging, I've found far too much worthless talus in pulling out the shiny ones! This was one more to toss onto the slippery slope.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Ghost Of Gaudí by El Torres, Jesús Alonso Iglesias


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a Net Galley offering which was in the 'Read Now' category. That Category can be a mixed bag, but I have found some real gems there, and this was another one - an award winning comic which seems to have been sadly under-served primarily because it was not an American comic. Or maybe people simply have not heard of Antoni Gaudí, architect of the Sagrada Família, the most-visited monument in Spain?

So what was refreshing about this was that it was not set in the USA. Sometimes I think writers in the USA forget there is an entire planet out there, most of which isn't USA. This was set in Barcelona, so not only did we get to visit somewhere that was well off the beaten path (in terms of story settings we commonly see in graphic novels in the US), but also which told an engaging and intriguing story.

In Barcelona, murder victims begin showing up and a problematic investigator is having trouble convincing people that the murders are somehow tied to the architectural creations of Gaudí. As he tries his best to track down the perp on his side, a woman who saves an old man from being hit by a vehicle in the street and becomes injured herself, finds she is somehow now involved in these crimes. Did she save Gaudí's ghost? Is there even a ghost? If not, what was her experience all about, and who is committing these crimes - and why?

The story is just the right length, with just the right amount of freakishness and normality to blend into a great story set in a beautiful-looking city. The artwork is wonderful, and I really enjoyed this. I recommend it as a worthy read.