The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3: Encore for Murder

The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3:

Encore for Murder
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach
2.50 hours
Mike Hammer is a private investigator whose sense of justice is predicated less on the letter of the law than the spirit of the law. Bordering on vigilantism, Hammer’s actions are backed up by an ethos born of Post-War morality and by a Colt .45 named “Betsy.” Max Allan Collins has updated the time line to make Hammer a Vietnam veteran; and the story takes place in present day New York City; but Hammer comes across as something of a relic of a bygone age and as someone who neither understands nor respects due process or authority. Hammer, whose intractable sense of right and wrong and belief that the end justifies the means, exacts a rough justice for those who stand in his way.

In “Encore for Murder,” Rita Vance, an ex-girlfriend of Mike Hammer’s, needs a bodyguard. Making an acting comeback by starring in a Broadway show, she has been targeted with a series of threatening and anonymous letters. Mike Hammer agrees to protect her out of a sense of chivalry and because he has the sexual drive and control of an adolescent. It’s difficult to imagine the universal sex appeal that Spillane and Collins imbue Mike Hammer with, as the brand of machismo that Hammer wears is about as dated as his sense of justice and the Fedora he sports.

The sex and violence are blunt and even vulgar in places, not in what is being described but in how they are described. The crudity of the prose and sentiments combine to make some scenes cringe-worthy.

Stacy Keach played the role of Hammer in the 1980s television series and returns as Hammer in the audio dramas. Keach has superseded other versions of Hammer in the public eye and has invested much of his talent in successfully preserving the legacy. As such, he is Mike Hammer and the perfect casting choice for The New Adventures.

There is a different set of expectations going into The New Adventures, production-wise, than for other audio dramas. The New Adventures take more from the playbook of radio dramas instead of trying to create a virtual soundtrack of the story. The Foley and voice enhancements are rather ham-fisted in comparison; but match the prose’s style and writing manner well.

Convo Starter:
In “Encore for Murder,” Mike Hammer is an underage soldier in the Vietnam War. No date was specified in the story; but let’s say Hammer was sixteen years old the year that Saigon fell (April 30, 1975) – that would make him fifty-two to fifty-three years old in 2011/2012. That is definitely better than being a nonogenarian (cf The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 2: The Little Death)! But is it still too old for Mike Hammer to be behaving the way he is behaving (i.e. like a fifteen year old when it comes to his libido and action adventure tactics?)

See Also:

Other Stuff:
The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3: Encore for Murder (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach) qualifies for:



I received a MP3-CD edition of The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3: Encore for Murder (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices. I had no involvement in the production of The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3: Encore for Murder (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.
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The New Adventures of Mickey’s Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 2: The Little Death

The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer,

Vol. 2: The Little Death

by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach
2.25 hours
Mike Hammer is the old school private investigator living in 21st century New York City, still willing and able to deliver black-and-white justice in a technicolor world. In “The Little Death,” Helen Venn, the girlfriend and bookkeeper of the late Marty Wellman, gambling kingpin, seeks protection from Marty’s rival, Carmen Rich. At stake is the ten million dollars everyone believes Helen has, not to mention Helen’s life. Helen needs protection and Mike Hammer’s chivalry is aroused as well as his libido.
For those who fondly remember the Mike Hammer franchise from the 1940s and 1950 and/or the TV shows starring Stacy Keach in the 1980s, The New Adventures provide a touchstone to a character of a known quantity: a man of unwavering loyalty, ideals and, a gun named Betsy to back it all up. For those unfamiliar with Mike Hammer, The New Adventures offers an action hero who metes out lethal justice straight-forwardly and without equivocation. Mike Hammer is an unapologetic throwback to wrong versus right conflict, which some may love for simplicity’s sake; but others may decry for lack of traction in the gray areas of life.
The title, “The Little Death” is a double entendre, referring not only to a homicide of little importance, but to an orgasm. This is spelled out in the narrative right away, but in case you miss it, listeners should be forewarned that this is not family fare. There is nothing subtle in any of the sexual innuendoes and in fact the references are often crude and artless. There are even sound effects at one point, of a couple having sex, including the squeaky bedsprings.
Mickey Spillane purportedly said:

See, heroes never die. John Wayne isn’t dead, Elvis isn’t dead. Otherwise you don’t have a hero. You can’t kill a hero. That’s why I never let him get older.

This may be true in an abstract way; but the reality is that both John Wayne and Elvis aged and died and, some listeners may not be able to help themselves from doing the math where Mike Hammer is concerned too. In the Mike Hammer canon, he was a WWII vet. In the best case scenario, having him fight in the Battle of Guadacanal at the age of twenty, that would make Mike Hammer a nonogenarian. There is nothing in “The Little Death” that adjusts the time line forward, so what we have is a really old man running around acting like a twenty-something-year old! Plus, Velda, who has been his secretary and unrequited love interest all these years, is running around in pink lace lingerie. The mind boggles!
Stacy Keach, who played Mike Hammer in the 1980 television series, reprises his role as the had-boiled detective in The New Adventures. He has become the quintessential Mike Hammer, with his gruff tones and Mid-Century sensibilities. Any other actor in the role has become virtually impossible to imagine. Interestingly, Stacy Keach seems to be very involved in The New Adventures: He wrote and played the saxophone musical score and his wife, Malgosia Tomassi plays a recurring role in all three volumes of the audio dramas.
The production team applies a voice enhancement, reverb to Stacy Keach’s voice when he speaks from the narrative point of view, which is the audio equivalent of warping the picture with wavy lines in a T.V. show to indicate a segue into a flashback or dream sequence. Not very artful; but it does the trick in delineating narrative from scenes with dialogue.
Convo Starter:
The writing overall is better than the first volume of The New Adventures; but one wonders if, despite the updates into the twenty-first century; Mike Hammer might be better left consigned to the place in history where he and his ideals best fit in, Post-War America. What do you think? Do you think that the hard-boiled noir detectives of the fifties have a place in 21st century culture, other than as a throwback or nostalgia trip? Can you think of any other candidates for an updated appearance?
See Also:
The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (audiobook review of the first volume)

Other Stuff: The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 2: The Little Death (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach) qualifies for:



I received a MP3-CD copy of The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 2: The Little Death (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices.I had no involvement in the production of this title. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and.or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Devil in a Blue Dress

Devil in a Blue Dress

Easy Rawlins Mysteries, Book #1
by Walter Mosley
narrated by Michael Boatman
Ⓟ 2009, Audible. Inc.
5.60 hours
Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, a black WWII vet who has relocated from Houston to L.A., finds himself without a job; but with a mortgage to pay. Enter DeWitt Albright, a white man of suspect ethics who offers Easy a paying job: to locate Daphne Monet, a white woman who is known to frequent black jazz clubs; but who has disappeared with $30,000 in cash. The story is embroidered with black history, post war US history and, issues regarding race and prejudice. The writing is descriptive and nearly pedantic; but overall the plot is solid if without any real surprises.
Michael Boatman, noted TV actor (Pvt. Samuel Becket in “China Beach” and Carter Haywood on “Spin City” to name but two memorable roles) is the narrator of Devil in a Blue Dress. He does a good job of drawing up distinctive voices for the differing characters, both male and female and, using parenthetical interpretation to denote interior thought (versus spoken lines.) Overall, however, the narration lacks liveliness and shape. The narrator’s evenness in tone and pace regardless of the scene renders the whole of the story neutered of tension or excitement.
Meh.
Easy Rawlins was caught between a rock and a hard place (no job, a mortgage to pay and a job offer from a shady character.) Even given assurances that every thing was on the up and up relatively speaking, he had his suspicions about DeWitt Albright’s motivations; but took the job anyway. I could sympathize to a certain, albeit nominal degree: In the late eighties, the country was in a recession and work was hard to come by and getting harder. I had bills to pay and ended up being a telemarketer. While I worked for a legitimate company and there was nothing illegal in what I doing, it never sat well with me. It was just too… skeevy.
Have you ever done something “not quite right” just to pay the bills?

Other Stuff: Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins Mysteries, Book #1; by Walter Mosley; narrated by Michael Boatman) qualifies for:




I purchased a digital dnload copy of Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins Mysteries, Book #1; by Walter Mosley; narrated by Michael Boatman) from Audible, Inc. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Flashback Friday: The Mysterious Affair at Styles


The Mysterious Affair at Styles
By Agatha Christie
Narrated by Nadia May

6.8 hours


The Mysterious Affair at Styles is the first title in the Hercule Poirot series. The Belgian exile and former police detective is called upon to investigate the death of an elderly woman.

In March of 2009, the Yahoo! group, Sounds Like a Mystery (S.L.A.M.) discussed The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Because the discussion went forward on the premise that participants in the discussion had already listened to The Mysterious Affair at Styles, there are spoilers in the comments about characters and, I’ve marked out the passages below (“SPOILER ALERT” and “END SPOILER ALERT.”) The following comments were drawn from the discussion (03/20-23/2009):


S.LA.M. Discussion Questions

Did you like the book? Why? Why not?
I liked the book, but I made a serious mistake when I first approached it: I underestimated Agatha Christie. The last time I read AC was in high school (The ABC Murders and Murder on the Orient Express) and now I had thought her dated and perhaps even less-than- sophisticated! I was struck by the density of the cast list, the plot, the motives and the subterfuges. I anticipate returning to this book again and being able to appreciate it more with each re-reading or re-telling.

How did you like the narrator?
As much as I love Nadia May, she was miscast for this book. The narrator is a 45 year-old Captain coming in from the Front. Despite Nadia May’s versatility, there was no way to ignore that she wasn’t a 45 year-old Captain coming in from the Front! There is a scene early on wherein Captain Hastings looks out the window to see Lawrence Cavendish walking with Cynthia Murdoch. In my mind’s eye, I saw Miss Marple peering out the window! Later, as Captain Hastings expresses his crush on Mary Cavendish or even later, proposes to Cynthia Murdoch, it took me aback.

Did anything grab your attention?
I’ve started playing a little game with the audiobooks I’ve been listening to this year: What common factor can be found within the last three audiobooks I’ve listened to? Right now, the last three books are The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Invisible Monsters (by Chuck Palahniuk; narrated by Anna Fields) and, The Gargoyle (by Andrew Davidson; narrated by Lincoln Hoppe.) It turns out that all three narrators in the novels are people who have been hospitalized. In The Gargoyle, the narrator is recovering from a car accident in which he suffers 3rd/4th degree burns. In Invisible Monsters, the narrator is recovering from a gunshot wound received while she was driving on a highway. In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the narrator is on sick leave from the War, but we do not know exactly what it is he is recovering from! I found this interesting if only because one might expect that whatever illness or injury Captain Hastings was suffering from, one that merited a prolonged convalescent leave, would have some sort of impact, whether physical or mental, on his bearing.

Even though there is no precise date given as the time period for the book, I have to think it is somewhere near the onset of WWI and before the introduction of gas warfare, so between April 1914 and April 1916. I couldn’t find a reference as to when paper usage limitations were being introduced into English life, but the mention of Belgian exiles also make me think it was probably 1914-15.

********** SPOILER ALERT **********


Did you figure out “whodunit?”
After Mr. Inglethorpe had been cleared, I was totally at sea! I was overwhelmed with too much information and unable to even formulate a hypothesis. I knew the stamps and the timeline were important; but as to “how” I couldn’t ascertain. After a while, I stopped trying to figure it all out and just went along unquestioningly. Even after having it all explained (“Poirot Explains”) I felt bemused. Were I to read the title repeatedly, following a different thread each time or writing little notes in the margins, I would be able to parse it out better and make sense of it all. Maybe.


Was there a twist that threw you? Was the plot believable?
The whole business with who was actually buying the strychnine while in disguise threw me. Owing to Dr. Bauerstein’s close physical resemblance to Alfred Inglethorpe, his knowledge as a toxicologist, and his seemingly personal interest in Mary Cavendish, he was the logical suspect and clearly the perfect red herring!

Did other items in the story help or hinder the story?
Poirot “played” Evelyn Howard. I did not understand the psychology or reasoning behind this approach and those passages felt alien to the work itself.

How did you feel about the main characters? Did you connect with the characters in the book?
At the beginning of the book, the number of characters was challenging. I actually listened to parts of the beginning a couple of times over so that the characters were clear in my mind. The most sympathetic character was Lawrence Cavendish, the image of the “watercolor” blond aristocrat and dilettante (cf Sebastien in Brideshead Revisited.) John Cavendish was the most pitiable by reason of his marriage and unrequited love. Captain Hastings was the least appealing. His intellectual vanities and limitations, coupled with his arrogance masquerading as reason, were off-putting. The character of Poirot himself was a little strange and was reminiscent of the-larger-than-life flamboyant Oscar Wilde (without the scandal.) Monk seems to be patterned somewhat after Poirot’s fastidiousness.

The characters were purposeless aristocrats. They couldn’t be anything else! The time setting of the book is 1915-1916. England was fully committed to WWI and Belgian refugees were crossing the Channel (i.e. Hercule Poirot.) At the time, there was a belief in Social Darwinism, that the best and brightest in society would make the best and brightest officers, not realizing that modern warfare would render Social Darwinism moot. Entire hometown regions of men were wiped out in a few hours of battle time. Men who served together often came from the same hometown or classroom. Hence, entire graduating classes from Eton, Harrows, Oxford and Cambridge, disappeared overnight. It turned out that the machine gun fire, grenades and later, gas, were indiscriminating. Those who were left behind on the home front, were not the best and brightest. There were physical misfits, second sons and, the old (e.g. John Cavendish, Lawrence Cavendish, the Head Gardener.) The pre-destined roles they had expected to play were stripped away. They were also left with the wreckage of a society that had never served them well. Understandably, they were not so eager to re-constitute a social order based on primogeniture and entailed legacies. These runts of society were now expected to make shift within the wreckage of an eviscerated social order. They were keenly aware of their own shortcomings. The better of them tried to form and/or adapt to the new and ever-shifting paradigms of the Modern Age and find their place (e.g. John Cavendish asking Mary Cavendish if she loved Dr. Bauerstein, a totally irrelevant question ten years prior) and the lesser of men just tried to fade into the background and find some measure of personal contentment (e.g. Lawrence Cavendish scribbling away at his poetry and finally asking Cynthia Murdoch to marry him.) For all, the idea of “purpose” as they understood it (predestiny) had been abrogated and they were left to contend with fate.

WWI killed La Bell Epoque and its attendant Age of Romanticism. Mrs. Inglethorpe could be seen as a symbol of the Old Ways with her patronages and affection for opening charity bazaars. Neither she nor the Old Ways went quietly into the night! Both were poisoned, by strychnine and modern warfare respectively.


Anyone or anything distract you in the story?
Everything was distracting! What was valuable information or evidence was difficult to thresh out.


Did the book grab you emotionally?
The Mysterious Affair at Styles is not an emotionally provocative book nor even a particularly an emotionally engaging one. The “locked room” mystery was meant to be an intellectual challenge.

Did you connect with the place? Do you feel like you have been or want to go there?
England during WWI? No, thank you.

Did you get hooked? At some point did you have a hard time putting it down? What was the point?
“Hooked” may not be the appropriate word, but for lack of a better term, I was “hooked” after Mr. Inglethorpe had been cleared. I knew I wasn’t processing all the information correctly and so I was anticipating the parlor scene in hopes that all would be made clear to me. Now that the book is done, I feel compelled to go over it again so, in that way I’ve been “hooked” twice!

What about the use of sex or violence in the story?
The sex and violence were very abstracted. The scandalous Mrs. Railkes and her activities are inferred but never spelled out. The exact nature of the relationship between Mary Cavendish and Dr. Bauerstein is never made explicit. As for the crime itself, while rather lurid, did not entail any scatological details or goriness. Poisoning is a rather passive or “feminine” method of homicide. Overall, this title ranks fairly low in terms of sex and violence. I would place it, as a cozy, in league with Crocodile on a Sandbank.

********** END SPOILER ALERT **********

On a Scale from 1-5 (5 is best) or a Grade of F-A+, how would you rate this book?
I’m tentatively rating this title a “B.” If I actually do return to the book, I suspect it will go up in my estimation.

Would you read other books in this series (if there are any)?
I’m willing to continue with the Hercule Poirot series, but I’d like to take some time with each book.

Would you seek out other books by this narrator?
I recently cited Nadia May as my favorite female narrator. I based my assessment on her work on Zoe Heller’s What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal] and am looking forward to Barbara Tuchman’s The First Salute. As for this series, I think I would like to try either David Suchet or Hugh Fraser if I were to continue in the audio format.



Poirot – The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Directed by Ross Devenish
Starring David Suchet and Hugh Fraser
This DVD works as a great companion to the book as it serves to elucidate some of the points in the novel that are not clear from the writing (i.e. what a green armlet is, what a spill vase is and does); sets a specific time reference (June 1917) and therefore a context; fills in some back-story (Captain Hastings suffers from a leg injury) and; provides some other interesting and appropriate other material (the role-playing drills of people left behind on the home front, the nightmares of Hastings, the rumors of the American Expeditionary Force’s arrival.) The movie, however, collapses the time frame and, eliminates a major character (and therefore avoids the counting teacups business from the book; but does help clarify why Lawrence was staring at the mantelpiece as his mother was dying.) The book and the movie are great examples as to the possibilities and limitations of either medium.

GRADE: B


Other Stuff: I borrowed a library CD edition of the audiobook from Blackstone Audio, Inc. I rented the DVD of the movie from Netflix.

This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com





Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

by Tom Franklin
narrated by Kevin Kenerly
9.5 hours

Larry Ott is a total loser: a weirdo, a loner and really, really creepy. Then his date “disappears” on him and, while no one can prove it, you just know he’s guilty of something nasty. Thirty years later and another local girl disappears and everyone in the small town of Chabot, MS is out for blood. That the Stephen King-reading pervert is still breathing is an injustice…
But everything is not so black-and-white, either figuratively or literally. The concretized legend of Larry Ott is deconstructed, not though a basic linear narrative; but by peeling back the layers of time, attitudes and people to get at the truth. The keel of this story, the line upon which the narrative hangs, is the relationship between Larry Ott, a poor white trash mechanic and; Silas “32” Jones, a black deputy sheriff. Erstwhile childhood friends who allow racism and self interest to divide them, they are forced to confront themselves and each other after a thirty-year estrangement. Courage is required from both men to broker a difficult entente and confront the devil they don’t know. This is not a traditional mystery in terms of structure or content. While a straightforward whodunit or police procedural might have been an easy way to tell the story; the sifting of fact from fiction in Chabot, MS is more realistically presented within the context of real time and people’s morally complex natures.
Kevin Kenerly narrates Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter with an amazing facility for both white and black characters, and with rich vocal legacies for all. Whether it’s the slow and easy cadence of “32,” the relatively more nasal qualities of a redneck or, the emotional rhythms of 32’s romantic interest, Tom Franklin’s characters resonate from the page to the speakers with a lushness that reflects the heat of Mississippi and the tensions of the South.
Other Stuff: I borrowed a library edition CD from Blackstone Audio, Inc.
This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com



This book qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is set in the fictional small rural town of Chabot, Mississippi.

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“But screw your courage to the sticking place,
And we’ll not fail.”
— Lady Macbeth from “Macbeth,” Act 1, Scene 7, lines 59-61; by William Shakespeare


Hercule Poirot Mysteries (1-4): Mini-Op-Ed Reviews


The Mysterious Affair at Styles
First title in the Hercule Poirot Mystery series
by Agatha Christie
narrated by Nadia May
6.1 hours

I liked the book, but I made a serious mistake when I first approached it: I underestimated Agatha Christie. The last time I read Agatha Christie was in high school (The ABC Murders and Murder on the Orient Express) and now I had thought her dated and perhaps even less-than- sophisticated! I was struck by the density of the cast list, the plot, the motives and the subterfuges. I anticipate returning to this book again and being able to appreciate it more with each re-reading or re-telling.

As much as I love Nadia May, she was miscast for this book. The narrator is a 45 year-old male Captain coming in from the Front. Despite Nadia May’s versatility, there was no way to ignore that she wasn’t a 45 year-old male Captain coming in from the Front! There is a scene early on wherein Captain Hastings looks out the window to see Lawrence Cavendish walking with Cynthia Murdoch. In my mind’s eye, I saw Miss Marple peering out the window! Later, as Captain Hastings expresses his crush on Mary Cavendish or even later, proposes to Cynthia Murdoch, it took me aback.

Other Stuff: I borrowed a library CD edition of this audiobook from Blackstone Audio, Inc.



Murder on the Links
Second title in the Hercule Poirot Mystery series
by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Links (second in the Hercule Poirot mystery series by Agatha Christie) – I’m not much for cozies in general, but I do like Agatha Christie and, the earlier Hercule Poirot novels are very nicely crafted. In this story, an Englishman living in France summons Poirot to Merlinville-sur-Mer in France. The Englishman, Paul Renaud, believes his life to life to be endangered. Poirot arrives in all due haste; but it is too late. Renaud’s body is discovered on a golf course…. Silly me, I was half afraid that the book was going to contain arcane golfing terminology and I was going to have to ask DH about mashies and niblicks and such, but rest assured, there was nothing about golf in the story 🙂

Other Stuff: I borrowed a copy of this book from The Jackson County Library System (Southern Oregon) in Medford, OR.




Poirot Investigates: Eleven Complete Mysteries
Third title in the Hercule Poirot Mystery series
by Agatha Christie
narrated by David Suchet
5.75 hours

Individually, I can’t say much for the mysteries themselves. There wasn’t enough information given in any of the stories to help the listener solve any of the whodunnits; but overall the stories provide nice background color for the characters of Poirot and Hastings. David Suchet, the actor who played Hercule Poirot in the BBC series, narrates. As to be expected, he was great at portraying Poirot and very good at the other male characters; but his women and Americans were truly awful.

Other stuff: I borrowed a CD copy of this audiobook from the Jackson County Library System (Southern Oregon.)



The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Fourth in the Hercule Poirot Mystery series

by Agatha Christie
narrated by Robin Bailey
AudioGo
7.01 hours

Hastings has unapologetically disappeared from the the series! Poirot has retired to the countryside to garden; but the death of a local woman sets off a domino cascade of intrigue. We’re not counting teacups (cf The Mysterious Affair at Styles); but we are to
keep watch on the time! Robin Bailey is spot on as the village doctor from whose point of view the story is told.

Other stuff: I borrowed a CD copy of this audiobook from the Jackson County Library System (Southern Oregon)




This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com












A Quiet Belief in Angels

A Quiet Belief in Angels

by R.J. Ellory
narrated by Mark Bramhall
15.30 hours
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
A Quiet Belief in Angels starts in the late 1930’s in a small town in Georgia. Little girls are disappearing and their raped, mutilated and murdered bodies reappear, evoking profound angst in the mind of the book’s protagonist, a young boy named Joseph Vaughn. Through successful decades, the murders haunt, obsess and firmly take root in Joseph’s psyche, informing his world view and his writing. As Joseph tries to escape his past in the literary Bohemia of Brooklyn, it becomes all the more evident that the past will destroy him unless he confronts it and understands it.

The writing in this novel is rich with metaphor. Long discursive passages captivate the listener, evoking strong imagery of places, of people, moods, even dreams. Sentences wander back and forth between the real and the imagined, the present and the past, creating a hypnotic rhythm that ensnares the listener in a story that is equally enthralling and disturbing, beautiful and horrifying. It’s unrelenting brutality finally starts to break a little more than halfway through the book, giving cause for accusations that the writer is pulling punches; but A Quiet Belief in Angels is such a taut psychological thriller that the relief is needed in order to continue. That said, the final passages are anti-climatic in that it doesn’t feel like the true ending; but rather one that finally lets the reader off the hook.

Mark Bramhall delivers the text in a slow, entrancing Southern cadence that make the material easier going down; though his voice too is unable to sustain the tension and the affection throughout the entirety of the novel. Somewhere between the ninth and tenth finished hour, we lose the character and hear more of Mark Bramhall. If the narrator had been able to sustain his character throughout or backed off from the character early on, the change wouldn’t have been as noticeable. The first nine/ten hours though? Mark Bramhall is on par with Will Patton. Yeah, that good.

By virtue of selecting a fictional story to listen to, we are asking the author to deceive us, to take us out of ourselves and see the world from a different perspective and, to do so in artful and impactful ways. We are asking to be manipulated and, authors comply, often evoking certain tropes that they know will effect the reader in a certain way. Some authors use dogs to make you cry and some others, use child killers to incense you. Ellory has chosen the latter, providing the reader with an antagonist that cannot be understood or championed under any circumstance than sheer madness. And, both Ellory and Bramhall have delivered the villain in hard-hitting, purpling punches. It hurts, and a little piece of you dies every day you listen; because try as you might, no understanding actually arrives. Was I literarily pwned? I don’t know, but if I was, it was done well and thoroughly.

**********************************************

Other Stuff: I borrowed a library CD edition of this audiobook from Blackstone Audio.

This book qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. A Quiet Belief in Angels is set in Augusta Falls, Georgia.

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