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Russ Varley

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Definitely going the wrong way

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

Reviewed: 12-09-15

I read the first two Benedict Jacka's Alex Verus novels thinking the first one was pretty good and the second one was OK. I was hoping this was going to be a return to form but sadly it is much worse than the last one.

First thing to say is that the performance by Gildart Jackson is very good with the different characters clearly identifiable and the reading is clear and understandable so this review is no reflection on his abilities as a reader. The problem lies with the material he has to work with; this book is utter tripe.

The premise of it is perfectly good (magical apprentices are going missing, Verus has to investigate). What grates are that any new characters he introduces to the series are totally shallow and utterly undeveloped. Now this is nothing new in Jacka's books but usually there was some mitigation in that the main characters were interesting and developing as people. That development has all but stopped in this book except in one area and it is this area that proved the book's undoing for me.

The only thing that has developed is Verus's magical powers. This might not be a problem except many of the situations that he finds himself in this time are very simillar to the previous books; so why didn't he use them THEN? Because Jacka is making this drivel up as he goes along and has ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what he has written before. This lack internal integirity completely ruins the plot because every 10 minutes Verus does the equivalent of "and with a single bound he was free".

Once the willing suspension of disbelief has been shattered by this codswallop I then noticed all the other deficiencies in the book and they really started to annoy. As did the constant use of "gotten" instead of "got" and other US English words and phrases. Normally this would not be a problem for me, except he is trying to play Verus a being very English so it reads like a bad American author's version of English. If Jacka was a bad American author, again this wouldn't be an issue but he isn't, he is a British born, Cambridge educated bad English author.

If you are looking for something like the "Rivers of London" books try elsewhere. This author has none of Aaronovitch's pace and style and Jacka plays it all with the po-face of a depressed undertaker. There are none of the funny asides or little cultural references you get in the Peter Grant books. Avoid this hogwash like the plague.

2 people found this helpful

Unsophisticated pot boiler

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

Reviewed: 01-05-13

I'd read the first Jett Aiken novel and had enjoyed it. Like the first one it is reasonably tightly plotted and goes along at a fair pace. However, in the first one Russinovich spent a good deal of time illustrating the effects of the loss of control of electronic systems; the tanker episode being particularly memorable. In this book he as allowed the main characters to come more to the fore which is serious mistake because they are revealed to be one dimensional stereotypes. All the Americans are heroes and all the foreigners are either stupid or evil "bad guys". The central character, Jeff, acts like he is in a video game taking on everyone who would dare to harm his girl. The narrator is fine, although his attempt at a British accent is so bad it is funny.

Too much "USA, USA" and not enough time spent on fleshing out rounded characters. A book only for those who have credits burning a hole in their pockets!

2 people found this helpful

A must read...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-04-13

because this is where it all began. If you love crime fiction you owe it to yourself to read this and the Moonstone by the same author. Don't let the fact it is in the Victorian novel sytle put you off, this is a wonderful tale well narrated by a fabulous actor.

14 people found this helpful

Human prehistory brought to life

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-04-13

This book is a highly engaging exploration of how anatomically modern humans pushed out the Neanderthals using surprisingly small technological advances. The parts of the story which are related as a story of a meeting or hunting trip jar a little a thte beginning but they do add to the book greatly and, at their best, can really bring to life this era of human development.



If you have read Chris Stringer's "Homo Britannicus" the this is a must because it updates that story with new information.

Getting better

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-04-13

I reviewed the other book by Helene Tursten on Audible and gave the translation a bit of a panning along with the reader but it was still a good listen.



In this latest outing for Irene Huss I am happy to report that Suzanne Toren is much improved over the previous reading. Not a top class performance but much more bearable than before. Sadly the dodgy translation remains which seems to be a bit of a feature of the newer (in English) Nordic Noir novels; Hakan Nesser suffers the same fate. A rush to translate more books perhaps?



Anyway the story is centred around a group of people who made a lot of money in the dotcom bubble of 1997 to 2000 and the revenge wrought on them some years later. The plot is good with plenty of twists leading to a satisfying ending with an actual arrest (rather than a cop out death of the primary suspect).



Overall a good listen worth your time if you are looking for something new in scandinavian crime fiction.

Give it time

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-04-13

A bit of a funny book this one. Imagine something like a Dickens novel where the process of introducing the main characters in the tale are introduced slowly but without the wit and lightness of touch that characterises Dickens and you have most of the first part of this novel. It jumps around in time from the 1811 Rafcliffe Highway murders back to the 16th century, back to 1811, back in time again to the late 16th century and so on, with the flashbacks getting nearer to the 1811 murders. However it is quite confusing and very ponderous.



But stick with it, but the last half of the book is great as the main players in the story are drawn together into a climax that is suspenseful and frightening in equal measure. Overall it is a good listen but you will need to grit your teeth a little to get through the beginning.

2 people found this helpful

The good, the bad and the very ugly

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 17-10-12

On the ugly side is the translation. Putting aside that it is a Swedish to American English translation it is all the little mistakes that jar you out of the narrative. At one point the detectives discover a "day planner" in a pocket. Now I think of a day planner as one of those large charts you see in offices where staff record leave, sickness etc. I can only assume it is a diary, but I am still not sure despite having completed the book. There are many more of these mistakes. The beginning of the book is worst but the effect fades through the book because you begin to mentally insert the right words.



The bad is the reader. Her narration is full of inappropriate.....pauses and while her Swedish pronunciation seems consistent with other readers the issue is that you can hear her vocally “taking a run” at the more complex ones for about half a sentence before she gets there. Lastly her voice is not pleasant to listen to, imagine the female option in Stephen Hawking's voice software and you won't be far off.



But the good is that, in spite of the bad translation and rotten reader, there is a really good police procedural in here. Irene Huss is a likeable character who does not suffer from the usual star detective maladies that afflict her male colleagues. She is happily married, has kids, and goes home at night to a house filled with children arguing and a husband cooking. Being written from a female perspective by a woman also adds a great deal to the feeling of Irene being a normal person with normal hang ups and normal attractions. The plot is intriguing, involving an old hospital, dark secrets from the past, and ghost. The killer turns out to be a surprise without there being any improbable leaps and the last half is a gripping listen. Try the sample, and if you can live with the reader you will have a really enjoyable listen that has a different perspective to the usual detective fare.



Could have been a 5 star listen.