LISTENER

Simon

  • 784
  • reviews
  • 13,151
  • helpful votes
  • 793
  • ratings

Split Personalities Will Lead to Split Opinions!

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

Reviewed: 07-08-20

Or am I just splitting hairs?

Firstly, I have to say I am normally a big fan of this author. I’d recommend his Nathan Cody series in a heartbeat, it’s a keenly written and very well rounded police procedural series and Cody himself has real depth. Here, Jackson has aimed at something rather different so don’t expect more of the same. Here, his main protagonist is Thomas Brogan, and right from the start it’s clear that we’re dealing with quite a sick mind harbouring not one but two personalities. In fairness to the story it’s fairly well on-trend trying to inject humour into this evil character. In some ways it reminded me of the kind of writing that Luke Smitherd has been producing, albeit in a very different genre.

And unfortunately that’s where it all goes wrong for me. The Cody books develop excellent levels of tension, excitement and yes, even dread. The ‘chatty’ attempts at humour between Brogan’s personalities just destroy any kind of atmosphere and, in fairness, it’s a tough thing to attempt, including whimsical humour in a book about a pretty twisted and deranged serial killer and gruesome detail. For me he doesn’t get the right mix and while Matt Addis is a good narrator his naturally bright tones only seemed to add to the incongruity.

I’m sure that this book will suit some, it’s an attempt at making a twisted killer human in some ways but if you’re hoping for a similar exciting and tense experience to the Cody books this isn’t it or at least it certainly doesn't aim for it from the same direction.

12 people found this helpful

Nothing Soft About This One!

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

Reviewed: 03-08-20

The Spider Shepherd thrillers are just simply one of those guilty pleasures. Well written, well structured and full of glorious action. This is slightly longer than your average thriller but it really doesn't feel like it, the plot ticks along at a cracking pace and incorporates Spider's home life along with his multiple identities as an undercover cop. It's a tale well spun and when it's delivered by Paul Thornley the while thing takes on a new dimension. He has a slightly halting style, leaving a slightly longer gap than normal between sentences which I think works very well. Maybe as I get older it's nice to be able to assimilate what's been said before plunging on to the next point! It's more than that though, he delivers the bluff side of Shepherd and the hard side of the action down to a T and yet has enough character voice variety and deftness of touch when it's required.

The story itself is just of the kind that you would expect from Shepherd and Leather. After an intriguing opening that has you asking just who is who more than once to the explosive ending that ties it all together nicely there is a lot of action, plenty of moral dilemmas for Spider to contend with (are the bad guys all really so bad?) and some touching parts of his personal life. Put together this audiobook is an excellent combination and although it clearly has aged a little it still feels fresh enough to carry today.

2 people found this helpful

Cracking Chiller Thriller!

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

Reviewed: 27-07-20

The Robert Hunter series has never been one for the faint of heart and this one is no exception. It's a riveting story with a seriously bad, bad guy at its heart. It's also bang up to date and a serious reminder of the downsides of some of today's modern technology. The killer that Hunter takes on is as twisted an evil as he's faced before and once an 'innocent' pickpocket steals his personal bag containing something most precious to him things are not set to end well. What follows contains plenty of action, intrigue and clever plotting that leads to a dramatic finale which is delivered in a forensic style which very much put me in mind of classic Jack Reacher.

The performance by Thomas Judd almost matches the story line but the audio did not seem quite as clean as normal. It's perfectly clear but during the pauses there are faint clicks and sounds, not something that bothered me personally but I can imagine might be slightly off-putting to some, check out the sample if such things tend to bother you. It wouldn't stop me recommending this.

If I have any quibbles on the plot it is probably the Detective Garcia character who I thought was weak being used mostly as someone for Hunter to explain things to, even when he does reach his own conclusion we are usually reminded that Hunter had got there before him . . . as if we didn't already know. Garcia needs to be pepped up with more of his own personality rather than just being a prop for Hunter.

That though is more a quibble than a complaint. 'Written in Blood' simply crackles with energy and tension and delivers a very satisfying finale.

3 people found this helpful

A Feisty Second Book Promises Much More!

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

Reviewed: 21-07-20

I do occasionally get irritated and just a little bit grumpy and cantankerous when the publisher's blurb promises a lot but the story within fails to deliver or doesn't really match up to what's promised. No need to worry about that here though because when Feist promises you 'devastating events' he genuinely means it. I'd hate to be a character in one of his books because if he decides that you need to go, even if you were a bit of a star in previous books, then you'd better duck because axes, arrows and flames are likely heading for your vital organs!

In fact this book lulls you into a false sense of security with a fairly steady and patient start and then just when you're nice and relaxed . . . WHAM! It's the reader that gets clobbered from behind and from then on it's high action and drama all the way. It's a typical Feist journey through a well built world with decent characters and of course with a quality narrator like David Thorpe at the helm it never hits a bum note.

I have this down as a series to look forwards to and I very much hope that Feist's publisher is on at him right now to keep beavering away at the rest of the Firemane Saga!

1 person found this helpful

Grace Co-stars In Courtroom Drama!

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

Reviewed: 12-07-20

This is another great addition to the Roy Grace series but it stands mostly on the story alone as a fascinating courtroom drama with the added twist of some very devious jury shenanigans! It starts demonstrating just what an excellent writer James is with tension and a very different kind of plot centred on the County Lines drug trade and some of the characters in it. The lives of those at the centre of the trade and an unsuspecting juror whose life is turned into a nightmare by the events that unfold actually dominate the book.

So here's the one warning that I would give fans of the series even though I think this is a top-notch book with Daniel Weyman's usual fine narration taking us through. This is a little different in that while there is still a fair amount of Grace and his back story with Bruno does inch along at James's usual slow and methodical pace he does take much more of a back seat to the key people in the crime story itself. Also, long-time fans will notice a much more sanitised Norman Potting and sadly Glen Branson is still mostly on the subs bench just coming off it occasionally as an impact sub.

So, a great story, I always like a good courtroom drama, well read and well worth making time for but it is worth noting Grace's slightly less active role and the differences in the character balance. Of course, don't worry, Cassian Pugh lives down to his normal standards, but can Grace stand up to him?

9 people found this helpful

Tchaikovsky Does Pop!

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

Reviewed: 28-06-20

I've been so engrossed in some of Tchaikovsky's books that after 'Children of Time' I said that 'Tchaikovsky is still writing symphonies", it really was that good with length, depth and lots of sumptuously clever sci-fi ideas. Well if that was his symphony 'Firewalkers' is his effort at a three-minute pop song! Catchy setup, interesting chorus but really not much more than a bit of pulp entertainment.

For me, though it's not just that this isn't one of Tchaikovsky's best works it really isn't great generally either and it felt like a setup that deserved far better than this rather staid sci-fi offering. Adjoa Andoh certainly puts a lot into her performance to help lift it. She has a great voice but unusually for me, if I have a criticism, it's that for some of the characters it was a little over the top so that more than once I wasn't convinced I had understood what one of the characters was actually saying.

So, in summary, it's by no means awful but you can safely pass over this B-side composition, it isn't going to make the Greatest Hits album.

3 people found this helpful

The Guns of Camerone!

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

Reviewed: 26-06-20

Oh yes I did enjoy this one! If you're harking back to the days when one of the biggest things in your life was the release of the next Douglas Reeman paperback then this might be one for you. It's back to basics WWII storytelling with plenty of action and no little adventure. It's not quite so often that the allied submarine forces are highlighted but this story, based only loosely on actual events during WWII, does just that. An American wolfpack of submarines is stranded deep in hostile waters with seemingly no way out, one more sub is sent on a dangerous mission to provide the diversion that will help them escape the predatory Japanese Imperial Navy.

The story that follows is classic WWII writing and the last few hours of the book do a great job of bringing the story to an exciting conclusion. There is land action and sea action, pinging sonar and terrifying depth charges, gunfire and fighting and of course a fanatical Japanese navy vengefully trying to eliminate the US submarines. It's told from both sides of the story giving both the US forced and the Japanese ones depth and character.

Tim Campbell does a decent job of the narration, especially towards the end I thought bringing it to life nicely and even if he doesn't have the biggest variety of accents and character voices he has a rich voice which I enjoyed listening to.

So, if you want to relive the Guns of Navarone or other classic war stories through the medium of a more recent release this is a decent choice. There's nothing pretentious or complicated about it just what felt like well-researched classic WWII naval story-telling which, as it turned out, was just what I needed!

2 people found this helpful

Character Breakdown!

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

Reviewed: 17-06-20

We know that Max Brooks can do much better than this! Even with an excellent full cast thrown at it this feels well below his best. The setup of an exclusive and remote eco-village without compromise artificially introduces to as cliched a set of characters as I can remember. And that cast do damn well so there are no problems there, especially Judy Greer who puts in a genuinely excellent performance as the lead. She shows good changes of pace and tone and manages to inject a lot of emotion and energy into her delivery.

That lead, Kate Holland, is probably the most interesting character but it took a long while before I stopped finding her irritating and that was only because she suddenly transforms from a poor caricature of a 'millenial type' into something more like Ellen Ripley! Among the others are the arrogant professor who won't believe anything but his own opinion, a pair of hardline vegans who object to even the thought of harming animals threatening them and an impossibly attractive and successful couple. To me this is a really lazy and unnecessary setup which belies some of the occasional genuine quality in the writing that does shine through.

The story is presented through extracts from Holland's journal of her experiences in the eco-village, a tried and tested formula that works reasonably well but it is also interspersed with what I felt were low-value extracts from interviews, quotes and thoughts about the Big Foot legend. This made the story feel quite bitty at times and while some were very worthwhile a lot of them didn't seem to add much.

So, in summary, I don't feel Max made the best of his ideas in this one, the characters are just too cliched and a lot of it felt lazy in its construction. There are some quality moments in the writing and an exciting ending but I felt there was a lot to endure to get that pay-off despite an extremely good performance from Judy Greer.

3 people found this helpful

Belting if Slightly Flawed!

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

Reviewed: 14-06-20

Hard to know quite what to make of this one! My only previous experience of Manning's work was the fabulous 'Embers of Illenial" series which I thought was a modern fantasy tour de force. Dark and Conflicting, it took no prisoners, and it dared much to bring some harsh realities into the story line.

This is something quiet different, this is closer to an old-fashioned fantasy story, in fact at times it felt like a young adult novel apart from some of the very colourful language. It is though a belting story and Tim Gerard Reynolds gives it plenty of oomph! He has a lot of strong voices and is particularly vibrant as the young apprentice's "uncle".

However, the characters as children did grate on me just a little and there is one particular point where the young wizard makes a completely bizarre decision to join the army when he has things a wizard simply couldn't resist. If you get past those points though you have a genuinely belting tale that has a clever magic system, some interesting characters and after a slow beginning increasingly exciting adventure.

I'm happy to recommend it because I really enjoyed the journey in the end and I will get the next one which promises to be something different again. I just can't give it five stars because it didn't have the same in-depth out and out quality as the 'Embers' series.

3 people found this helpful

How Good Can a Series Be?

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

Reviewed: 07-06-20

It's probably not worth reading my reviews of this series any more. I just enjoy them so much, all I need to hear is the words 'County Hotel' or 'Hamish eyed his empty glass' from the excellent David Monteath and I am transported to Kinloch and it's wonderful atmosphere. In fact so much have I fallen for this quaint Scottish town that just happens to be the centre of half the world's mystery and intrigue that the potential fate of one of Kinloch's prize institutions had me gripped as much as the latest Daley adventure!

That story is another clever mystery, one of the more laid back ones but it still involves some interesting people coming into Kinloch from abroad. It's slightly more of a slow burner than some of the others but it has a real kicker of an ending that will have you reaching for your own wee dram before the conclusion.

If you've read the previous books then you know what to expect from Daley, Scott and those who inhabit Kinloch. If not, then you could reasonably read this one first and enjoy it but you would be doing yourself a disservice. There is so much joyous character to this series that it should probably be an arrestable offence to not take it all in from the beginning and watch as this grim yet beautiful Scottish town and its characters come to life.

Meyrick has created something very special and I hope he can keep this up for a long time yet, Add in the silky David Monteath as narrator and you have what is clearly one of Audible's winning combinations.

15 people found this helpful