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  • A House of Ghosts

  • By: W. C. Ryan
  • Narrated by: Jot Davies
  • Length: 10 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 44
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 38

Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives. At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Winter Cracker

  • By Charlotte Brown on 23-11-18

Underwhelming

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

Reviewed: 09-01-19

There was plenty of potential for this book to be good; it had flavours of Christie, Fleming and M R James. Sadly, it was fairly disappointing. Of course, there were clues that the plot was a bit insecure not long after the opening in a secret office in London run by 'C'. When the 'cover' created by C for the two main protagonists lasts less than 24 hours alarm bells start to ring. Why the build up of the undercover backstory if their real identities and motivations are quite so transparent? It implies that either the secret department, or the writer, is a little amateurish. The various plots continue on rather meandering paths some of which peter out to rather confusing dead ends. They skate over rather than engaging with serious political, historical and social issues.

The ending is rather melodramatic too, and rather abrupt; it's certainly disappointing. However, by the end, the characters, who seemed so engaging at the beginning, never seemed to develop any further and the reader kind of loses interest in their well being. Donovan seems to retain his cool aloofness, Kate a rather airy vapidity and they both seem rather one dimensional; their tentative romance also fails to engage our interest. Even the supernatural elements, which could have added some titilating excitement, aren't dealt with deftly enough to plaster over the cracks in the rest of the story.

The narrator gives a good performance so I lay my completion of this book at his door - had I been reading it myself I would have abandoned it.

  • The Trials of Rumpole

  • By: John Mortimer
  • Narrated by: Bill Wallis
  • Length: 7 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 89
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 64
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 63

The irrepressible, audacious defence barrister Horace Rumpole whose court scenes are proverbial, and whose home is ruled by Mrs Rumpole, is back in these short stories by John Mortimer. The much loved stories were adapted from his scripts for the hugely popular TV series of the same name.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A very enjoyable read

  • By Flint on 07-12-14

Untroubled listening, mostly.

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

Reviewed: 05-01-19

It’s clear Mortimer’s main character, Rumpole, is a self-styled maverick of the court-room. I wonder if he would have been thought of as liberal minded, then. Now, Rumpole’s voice is of its time. It all seems so elitist, sexist and racist at the Bar; presumably because it was (maybe still is). What does stand the test of time are not the unpalatable social judgements that are placed before the reader but Rumpole’s wit, his equanimity in the face of defeat and his objectivity.
Mortimer maintains the interest of the reader without challenging us and that is not a bad thing; entertainment rather than searching morality has its value, too.

The narrator is also great. Considering he had to follow in the shoes of the late, great Robert Hardy, his performance is different but distinguished.

  • Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire

  • A Betty Church Mystery Book 1
  • By: M. R. C. Kasasian
  • Narrated by: Emma Gregory
  • Length: 14 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 64
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 62
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 62

Inspector Betty Church - one of the few female officers on the force - has arrived from London to fill a vacancy at Sackwater police station. But Betty isn't new here. This is the place she grew up. Time ticks slowly in Sackwater. Having solved the case of the missing buttons, Betty's called to the train station to investigate a missing bench. But though there's no bench, there is a body. A smartly dressed man, murdered in broad daylight, with two distinctive puncture wounds in his throat. While the locals gossip about the Suffolk Vampire, Betty Church readies herself to hunt a dangerous killer.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Promising

  • By K on 06-12-18

Promising

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

Reviewed: 06-12-18

I have read Kasasian's other crime fighting novels with a great deal of pleasure and I read this with equal delight, to start with. It is guffawingly funny in places and, for a man, he writes female protagonists so creatively. The setting and historical period suited the grotesqueries of character with their elitism, sexism and all the other isms, perfectly. The characters are, in fact, caricatures in essence, but as all the action is so enthusiastically slap-stick it would be clunky any other way.

The plot, however, becomes outrageously convoluted (possibly intentionally) in the denouement. If Kasasian actually intended to annoy he succeeded; however, I doubt he would welcome the by-product of losing the impact of his story line and enjoyment of his reader. (Also, I'm not sure if there was a little touch of rape apologist at the end, too - I hope this was my mis-reading.) Having said this, I would read a sequel and give it another go.

Being an ardent feminist, I am sometimes disappointed with sub-standard performances by many female voice-artist, not so with Emma Gregory, she is superb and a yard-stick for most other audible performers from both genders.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • The Detective Wore Silk Drawers

  • By: Peter Lovesey
  • Narrated by: David Thorpe
  • Length: 7 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4

Forbidden in Victorian England, the grim and violent world of bare-knuckle fighting has gone underground. So when a headless body is found floating in the Thames, his hands “pickled” for fighting, Sergeant Cribb knows he is facing a challenge. Desperate for information, they select the young constable Henry Jago to infiltrate the gang, subjecting him to a rigorous programme of purging, pickling and training. Cribb is certain that the losing fighters are being killed or worse, so getting Jago out just in time is crucial.... 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Amusing and Entertaining

  • By K on 27-11-18

Amusing and Entertaining

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

Reviewed: 27-11-18

Before I say anything, I think the plaudits for this audiobook largely have to go to the narrator, David Thorpe, who can elicit a snort of laughter from the most mundane of plots. His performances, characterised by their liveliness and excellent accents, are just sublime and this is no exception.

I should say that by no means is the plot of this story pedestrian so the narrator's job is made easier - it is quite a romping tale and the action and characterisation is nicely balanced. Peter Lovesey has chosen an unusual aspect of Victorian life and crime to focus on and the majority of the characters are sympathetically if rather stereotypically wrought.

There are some parts of the story that don't hang together very well: I don't really understand the significance of and therefore the inclusion of Mrs Vibart's penchant for Indian dress and home decor. Also, her sadistic streak is only obliquely explained. It seems that the writer didn't feel that being a frustrated boxing entrepreneur was enough to make her character unusual. Surely, as a woman in Victorian times, that would have been considered perverse enough without proposing that women must have a more unhinged reason for enjoying a 'masculine' sport?

These are only minor gripes, though, and I really did enjoy this story.

  • Post Captain

  • Aubrey-Maturin Series, Book 2
  • By: Patrick O'Brian
  • Narrated by: Ric Jerrom
  • Length: 18 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 576
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 500
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 499

This tale begins with Jack Aubrey arriving home from his exploits in the Mediterranean to find England at peace following the Treaty of Amiens. He and his friend Stephen Maturin, surgeon and secret agent, begin to live the lives of country gentlemen, hunting, entertaining, and enjoying amorous adventures. Their comfortable existence, however, is cut short when Jack is overnight reduced to a pauper with enough debts to keep him in prison for life. He flees to the continent to seek refuge.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Post Captain

  • By John on 27-06-12

More romance, less havoc

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

Reviewed: 16-05-18

When I read this book the first time, I nearly didn’t continue with the series. The promise of erudite and knowledgeable historical writing that had been evident in the first novel, Master and Commander, was not fulfilled in this sequel. In fact, the naval theme was completely over shadowed by romantic intrigue, which is not even remotely as exciting as a detailed account of the trials of the ‘slaughterhouse’ during an enemy engagement. Rather than the expected plot that would tell of an exciting and bloody period in Britain’s naval history we are presented with the tedium of Georgian courtship rituals, rapacious potential mother-in-laws and a great deal of enigmatic brooding.

Jack Aubrey, land-bound, is indeed a different animal to the one on the high seas. The same, it would seem, goes for his surgeon and the blossoming intelligencer, Stephen Maturin, who loses all self-respect along with his logic when presented with the manipulative beauty, Diana Villiars. There’s a lot of falling in and out of affections, mood swings and far too much jaw-clenching for my taste. I have read most of the series now and I happily skip this one when I re-read them chronologically. If you like the drawn out game-playing of the romances of yesteryear then this tale may be for you. Alas, it is not for me.

Ric Jerrom, as before and after, does a faultless job with his narration.

  • The Man from the Diogenes Club

  • By: Kim Newman
  • Narrated by: William Gaminara
  • Length: 21 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 97
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 89
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 88

The debonair psychic investigator Richard Jeperson is the most valued member of the Diogenes Club, the least-known and most essential branch of British Intelligence. While foiling the plot of many a maniacal mastermind, he is chased by sentient snowmen and Nazi zombies, investigates an unearthly murderer stalking the sex shops of 1970s Soho, and battles a poltergeist to prevent it triggering nuclear Armageddon.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Great stories. Well performed.

  • By daron richard donnelly on 06-03-18

dated but weird anyway

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

Reviewed: 10-05-18

I reckon you've got to be a die-hard sci-fi fan to get into these tales. There are too silver space suits for my liking. I normally enjoy Newman's idiosyncratic style but these collection of linked stories are very much of their time and I'm not feeling particularly retro at the moment. I'm certainly not comfortable with this particular era of sexual, social and cultural upheaval. It's too awkward.

One thing of note, though, is the clear 'inspiration' for Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series - if I hadn't started this book I'd never of known that Mr Aaronovitch was quite such a plagiari.......ahem....devotee of Kim Newman.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Smoke and Mirrors

  • By: Neil Gaiman
  • Narrated by: Neil Gaiman
  • Length: 10 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 180
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 163
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 163

This definitive collection of Neil Gaiman's short fiction will haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your soul. An elderly widow finds the Holy Grail beneath an old fur coat. A stray cat fights and refights a terrible nightly battle to protect his unwary adoptive family from unimaginable evil. A young couple receives a wedding gift that reveals a chilling alternative history of their marriage. These tales and much more await in this extraordinary book, revealing one of our most gifted storytellers at the height of his powers.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I couldn't stop listening and felt empty when it was over.

  • By tara on 27-03-17

Smug and Supercilious

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

Reviewed: 01-05-18

If you have read this collection I wonder how you got past the introduction? If you didn’t read it then you probably did the right thing. I wish I hadn’t. I listened to Neil Gaiman’s creative philosophy and varied writing inspirations with increasing unease. But, when he smugly told the reader that, as far as he could see, adulthood meant plenty of ‘foreign travel and getting up late’ whilst implying that he couldn’t understand why the majority of the population’s workplace dissatisfaction couldn’t be rectified by finding a job as ‘easy’ as his, my unease turned to anger. When I thought of how many of his readers will have to work HARD to buy the very books that clearly makes his life so comfortable that he can be so superciliousness, I realised I could not stomach reading what came thereafter.

Perhaps Mr. Gaiman needs less of the distracting ‘mirror’ with which he metaphorises the fantasy genre and more of a window onto the reality of his readers' lives. I shall return this book and put its value towards my hard-earned annual holiday to Bognor AND consider even so modest a destination a privileged.

4 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Inspector Hobbes and the Blood

  • Unhuman, Book 1
  • By: Wilkie Martin
  • Narrated by: Tim Campbell
  • Length: 10 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 253
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 238
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 238

Set in a small Cotswold town, Inspector Hobbes and the Blood is a fast-paced comedy cozy mystery fantasy about the adventures of Andy, an incompetent reporter, when he is reluctantly working with Inspector Hobbes, a police detective with a reputation. Andy soon finds himself immersed in a world where not everyone is human, and a late-night visit to a churchyard nearly results in grave consequences, and a ghoulish outcome. An accidental fire leads to Andy having to doss in Hobbes's spare room.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Great performance & story - but not quite British

  • By Ali Brewis on 16-01-18

Woah!

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

Reviewed: 28-04-18

Hang on a minute!
What on EARTH is this hideous sound making my ears bleed?
MAKE IT STOP.

Can't judge the story.
Can't... make it....past.....terrible.......narration........

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • The Body on the Doorstep

  • A Romney Marsh Mystery, Book 1
  • By: A. J. MacKenzie
  • Narrated by: Ric Jerrom
  • Length: 11 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 39
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 37
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 37

Murder and smuggling, conspiracy and treason - can Reverend Hardcastle catch a killer? Kent, 1796. Shocked to discover a dying man on his doorstep - and lucky to avoid a bullet himself - Reverend Hardcastle finds himself entrusted with the victim's cryptic last words. With smuggling rife on England's south-east coast, the obvious conclusion is that a dodgy deal has gone wrong. But why is the leader of the local Customs service so reluctant to investigate?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • good story

  • By eb on 26-05-18

A romp with a rector

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

Reviewed: 28-04-18

I really enjoyed this book and not because it was inspiring or thought-provoking but because it was entertaining. It’s lighter-than-air detective fiction, but I don’t think it has pretensions to be otherwise. It’s one of those stories that just trots along at a comfortable pace, with endearingly fallible characters and comes to a satisfactory, if far-fetched, conclusion.

The creation of the irascible, drunken rector as the prime mover whose decent into the bottle is because of historically thwarted ambitions is a fine one, and I thoroughly applauded his belated victory at the end. Pairing him with a young female widow worked well, although I would have preferred a less predictable choice such as the character of Miss Godfrey, one of a pair of ‘Sapphic lovers’ who have a taste for intrigue and brandy laced tea.

The historical background adds interest: smugglers, revolutionaries and Jacobins, all set in and around the Kent marshes. The plot is lively and has great pace with enough pleasing twists and turns to keep you interested but not frustrated. The Poirot-style gathering to expose the guilty parties at the end was, frankly, laughable but at no point were we expecting any particular deviation from the standard formula.

My aunt would have called this a chewing-gum read and I’m not ashamed to say that I enjoyed each mastication.

Ric Jerrom is a brilliant narrator - such depth and tone - just great.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Outcasts of Time

  • By: Ian Mortimer
  • Narrated by: Barnaby Edwards
  • Length: 12 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 846
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 782
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 781

December 1348: With the country in the grip of the Black Death, brothers John and William fear that they will shortly die and go to Hell. But as the end draws near, they are given an unexpected choice: either to go home and spend their last six days in their familiar world or to search for salvation across the forthcoming centuries - living each one of their remaining days 99 years after the last. John and William choose the future and find themselves in 1447, ignorant of almost everything going on....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Imaginative, thought-provoking historical fiction

  • By Kirstine on 13-10-17

Neither here nor there

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

Reviewed: 10-04-18

This is a tricky book to review and I’m not even very clear how I feel about it. I actually admire an author who tries to do something different and, with the moral overtones being quite unsubtle, Ian Mortimer has been brave in producing an unfashionable novel.

I THINK he was going for a kind of Pilgrim’s Progress type structure although, in this book, the pilgrimage is through time, several centuries, in fact. What confuses me is that the motivation is not always clear and the philosophical messages, if I’m honest, aren’t very weighty. Ultimately, the authorial directive seems to be that we can all achieve grace through trying to do good deeds for one's fellow humans - hardly revelatory. So, as an historian, was Mortimer actually attempting to be instructive? If so it wasn't very successful. The narrative comes across as rather formulaic and repetitive and focusses on trivialities. That is why the writer’s motivation is confusing - if the moral message is secondary then is this novel just a descriptive lecture about the changing nature of our country, along the lines of the docu-dramas that seem to be quite popular on our screens? I am not sure.

The narrator did a pretty good job in jollying us along, by the way.

In the end, I had to think hard about why I didn’t love this novel. It is not because I do not like hearing sermons - I am always open to hearing philosophical or theological lessons providing it is robust and convincing. Neither is it because I don’t need to know what undergarments or washing implements my forbears used. I am open to new learning provided it is more than I already know or can imagine. Then I had my answer: my indifference to this book was because Mortimer just didn’t challenge me: He didn’t enlighten me, he didn’t teach me, he didn’t motivate or inspire me. Not remotely.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful