The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Me
by Ian Fleming
narrated by Nadia May
4.9 hours

The Spy Who Loved Me is the ninth novel in the James Bond series and completely different from Fleming’s other books in the series: The story is told from the view point of a female character and is devoid of much of the action and language that are the coin in the world of espionage. Instead, what we have is a sexual ingenue who gains experience rather quickly through this story arc which takes her from her native French-speaking Canada to London, Switzerland and back to North America. In seeking to start over from her misadventures of the heart and body, Viv has fled Europe and seeks to start over in Florida. She first heads back to her hometown and then starts her journey southwards. In upstate New York, short on funds, she agrees to work as a front desk clerk at The Dreamy Pines Motor Court. Here, a situation develops and Viv finds herself in a jam.

Enter James Bond. His car has broken down on a dark and stormy night and he seeks refuge at the motel. The scene is set: There’s thunder, lightening, bad guys and a damsel in distress! The action unfolds quickly and with missing scenes: For the first time in a Bond novel, we are not sure of what Bond is doing throughout as we are only seeing him when and how Viv sees him. And the image that she sees, without the benefit of actually knowing him, provides another dimension to Bond’s character in that we have a greater sense of his physicality and presence via the impact he has on his surroundings and people.

The sexual content of The Spy Who Loved Me is surprisingly explicit, given that it was published in 1962 – a time when social conventions had not yet allowed for open discourse on sex and sexuality. Even now, nearly fifty years later, the sexual candor may make the listener uncomfortable, especially when Viv delivers the lines about how,

All Women love semi-rape. They love to be taken. It was his sweet brutality against my bruised body that had made his act of love so piercingly wonderful…

Fleming always manages to deliver a provocative sentiment in his Bond novels; but the whole of The Spy Who Loved Me seems to have been intended to incite unconventional sentiment: The departure from the action-adventure modus, the detailing of Viv’s sex life, the contempt Fleming seems to bear women… At the same time, there is a certain literary bravery in Fleming’s willingness to write something different and controversial, inserting it into a successful series where certain expectations had been set.

The Spy Who Loved Me was narrated by the British-American narrator, Nadia May (a.k.a. Wanda McCaddon.) Nadia May delivered the story with confidence and empathy; but Ms May sounds a bit old to be voicing a twenty-five year-old, especially as there is no convention with the story indicating that The Spy Who Loved Me is the reminiscence of an older woman. The tense is only slightly “future past,” so listeners may reasonably have expected a younger voice. There were minor processing issues in regard to the quality of the audio itself, most noticeably at the beginning of the audio; but nothing terribly egregious: Perhaps a slightly-too-heavy hand on the expander which led to an odd sound chop at the end of some words.

See Also:
The Shaken, Not Stirred: A Simon Vance Audiobook Challenge Featuring James Bond (Offical Web-Site)
Casino Royale (Audiobook Review)
Goldfinger Audiobook Review)Quantum of Solace/For Your Eyes Only (Audiobook Review)
Thunderball (Audiobook Review)

Other Stuff: The Spy Who Loved Me (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Nadia May) is a part of the

I received a MP3-CD edition of The Spy Who Loved Me (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Nadia May) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under professional courtesy/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.


by Ian Fleming
narrated by Simon Vance
(P) 2001, Blackstone Audio, Inc.
7.60 hours

James Bond, 007, spy in Her Majesty’s Secret Service, is sent into the Bahamas to vet M.’s hunch that the island area is the site where a military aircraft and it’s cargo of two nuclear missiles has disappeared to. Thunderball introduces listenership to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Special Executive for Counter Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), the successor organization to SMERSH in the Bond canon; to Blofeld, the mastermind behind the criminal organization and, to Bond Girl, Dominette “Domino” Vitali.

Ian Fleming wrote contemporary novels which reflected the values and fears of Post-War men and women. After two atomic weapons had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Atomic Age was ushered in with all it’s possibilities and terrors. The promise of atomic energy was that it would be the driving force behind the manifest industrialism of the Western world; but security concerns and the threat of Communism were equally prevalent. While many view Bond’s adventures as fantastic, Thunderball is less so in creating a scenario that even today is not impossible: a NATO plane is high jacked and a terrorist organization seeks to blackmail the Western world with the threat of detonating the bombs unless its demands are met.

Thunderball is the ninth title in the James Bond series and if you’ve read the preceding eight titles, there are certain things you may find familiar and welcome: the casino card games, the setting in the Caribbean Community, the underwater tableaux and, of course a Bond Girl. What’s great about Bond novels though, is that despite these recognizable features, you still don’t know what to expect! Instead of being formulaic in his plotting, Fleming uses the familiar as metaphorical touchstones in unfamiliar territory.

Inasmuch as Fleming write of his times, listeners may rise an eyebrow at certain expressions that have fallen out of favor or meant something completely different in 1961 than they do now. To wit, there are frequent references to “nigger heads” which is a term that was used to describe certain kinds of coral and; there is a chapter called “How to Eat a Woman” which is not the sexually explicit reference in the context provided!

Simon Vance is the British narrator for Thunderball and voices the multi-national raft of characters with astuteness, making discernment of the characters easy. If some accents are more challenging for Vance, such as American or the Island Patois, after eight Bond novels he has definitely settled into a comfort zone that accommodates and ameliorates those challenges. It’s also worth noting that Fleming didn’t throw a figurative curve ball in characters in Thunderball either: no white Anglo colonial daughter raised by a Jamaican nanny (cf. Doctor No)! Simon Vance has definitely taken ownership of Fleming’s Bond and roster of characters. Just as Fleming used the familiar touchstones to explore the unfamiliar, Simon Vance has created the vocal equivalent in character work.

Convo Starter:
In the beginning of the novel, Bond is sent to a health spa to detox. The health regimens, outside of the exercise machines, should be surprisingly familiar to 21st century listeners: Emphases on fresh foods and, admonishments against refined sugars, alcohol and tobacco. Bond’s housekeeper decries this lifestyle as ill-serving a man of action! While a seemingly ridiculous charge at first, I seem to find myself playing the role of May Maxwell IRL! As a couple of my friends temporarily lose weight on The Juice Fast; but have also become noticeably weaker and, less focused and shorter in their attention spans, I do wonder at the lasting effects of this particular diet and if overall it warrants more concern than admiration. I’ve already decided that The Juice Fast is not for me; but what do you think about The Juice Fast?

See Also:
The Shaken, Not Stirred: A Simon Vance Audiobook Challenge Featuring James Bond
Casino Royale (Audiobook Review)
Goldfinger Audiobook Review)
Quantum of Solace/For Your Eyes Only (Audiobook Review)

Other Stuff: Thunderball (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance) is a part of the

I received a MP3-CD edition of Thunderball (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under professional courtesy/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.

Out of My Head

Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head*)

by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti
narrated by Bronson Pinchot
4.30 hours

Martin Harris arrives in Paris and, in the rush to return to the airport to collect his forgotten laptop, grabs a cab. Unfortunately, the cab is involved in an accident with a truck and Martin ends up in a coma for three days. When he wakes up, no one recognizes him – not his wife, not his neighbors, not the doorman… he has become unknown. Martin sets about to prove his identity and reclaim his wife, his life and his career.

Van Cauweleart has created, for the most part, a great psychological thriller from the first person point of view. The listener is privy to the thoughts of Martin – his bewilderment, stubbornness, frustrations and doubts – as he careens through Paris with the help and support of a female cab driver in his efforts not only to gather evidence as to who is is; but to discredit the man who is claiming to be him! Successive sections of the story are built with tantalizing clues and intriguing possible explanations – all embedded in the scenes’ details and dialogues. This is not story driven by action/adventure as much as it is upon the subtle terrors and perceptions of the mind. But what exactly is going on? Not only does Martin not know, but the listener doesn’t either. There is no sense of imminent danger, only a case of what may be identity theft and a vague conspiracy; or maybe it’s just a matter of guilt and paranoia. Out of My Head has confused bafflement with suspense and, unfortunately, the author seems to have exhausted his burgeoning talent for creating a psychological thriller and instead opted for a cheap ending.
Bronson Pinchot, who can be seen on DIY network’s The Bronson Pinchot Project, is the American narrator for Out of My Head. He perfectly inhabits the character of Martin and of special note is the argument between Martin and… Martin! Martin, and the-man-claiming-to-be-Martin have a showdown of memories, each trying to prove that he is the true Martin. The dialogue is fast and, as the recountings escalate in tenor the longer the confrontation draws out, one can hear the frustrations and smugness of each of the men as they stake their claims. It is an absurd conversation that could never actually happen; but Bronson Pinchot makes it sound natural.
* The original name of the book is Out of My Head and it is under the original title that the submission to the APA/Audie judges was made. Upon the release of the movie, Unknown (starring Liam Neeson,) which was based on the story, the audio edition was renamed Unknown ( A Special Edition of Out of My Head.) The cover art was changed to that of the movie poster art.

Convo Starter:
The hardback edition of this story is under 200 pages long, making it a short novel or novella by definition. A short novel is a testament to an author’s skill in that it takes quite a bit of literary craftsmanship to deliver the story with enough detail to make it all work; but there is no room for extensive backstory or digressive ruminations that might otherwise add character depth or plot nuance. While this may at first seem like a limitation, it allows the reader room to project or imagine things into the novel. For instance, “3:10 to Yuma” (short story by Elmore Leonard) is a spare but complete story that has been made into a film twice and, both times the essence of the story, what Elmore Leonard wrote, was integrated into the screenplay; and yet what the screenwriters added in, in terms of backstory and other details, created vastly different results. Do you see the the short form as a concentrated story form, or as a writer’s abridgment?

See Also:
Armchair Audies (The Bad Employee/Bad Wife Edition – Inaugural Post)
3:10 to Yuma” (Audiobook Review)
Other Stuff:

Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti; narrated by Bronson Pinchot) qualifies for:

I received a MP3-CD edition of Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti; narrated by Bronson Pinchot) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices. I had no involvement in the production of Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti; narrated by Bronson Pinchot.) 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.

The Ghosts of Belfast

The Ghosts of Belfast

The Jack Lennon Novels, Book #1
by Stuart Neville
narrated by Gerard Doyle
Ⓟ 2009, Audible, Inc.
11.00 hours
Gerry Fegan is a man haunted by ghosts. As a foot soldier in the strife between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Gerry was a hit man for Northern Ireland’s interests, or more accurately, for the men who sought to exploit The Troubles for their own personal gains. Now, decades after the tensions have nominally ceased and the Good Friday Accords have set Ireland on the path toward a more peaceable future, the ghosts of twelve of Gerry’s victims have come back. Gerry himself has spent time in prison for his crimes and only wants to be left alone in peace; but the ghosts won’t let him be. “Everybody pays,” so says the mother of one of Gerry’s victims. This becomes the theme of the vendetta tale as Gerry seeks to expunge the curse: The ghosts will leave, but only after Gerry kills the men ultimately responsible for the each of the ghost’s respective deaths.
Stuart Doyle creates an immediately sympathetic character in Gerry Fagen. At once both the cold and crazy killer and, a man who seeks the peace of a good night’s sleep, Gerry must put past matters to rest before he can face an uncertain future. Remaking himself, becoming the better man, is a process that requires some dirty work before absolution and progress can be made. In this, Gerry Fagen becomes a metaphor for Stormont (the Northern Ireland Parliament) in that Stormont, even as they eagerly race forward toward the economic promises of the future, seeks to shed it violent past; but must deal with political “necessities.” The Ghosts of Belfast is about Gerry and Stormont: their pasts, their presents and their hopeful futures.

The Ghosts of Belfast is Irish Noir with all the implied tragedy, grittiness and heart. This is the story of hard men doing hard things in hard times and none of it is pretty; and all of it is believably portrayed. The writing is suspenseful and even breathtaking in parts, perhaps not so much in the language used but in the emotions evoked.
The Ghosts of Belfast is graphic in its violence; but never gratuitous given the nature of the story. There is a dogfighting scene that may seem superfluous and a bit too intense for some; but it works, especially if one views it as another metaphor for Gerry and Northern Ireland.
Gerard Doyle is the voice of Irish Noir and exceptionally good in The Ghosts of Belfast. Some lines are delivered in chilling softness and others in aggressive clarity that all deliver the moment at hand with the tension, tenderness and/or suffering as the story’s scenes dictate. The narrator conveys the mood and the characters with astuteness and skill, and there is no sense anywhere throughout the novel that Gerard Doyle misinterpreted the intent of the story or a line of dialogue. All characters are given enough of a distinction so that there no doubt as to who might be speaking in any given dialogue; and the females are all respectfully represented – without any penchant to delivering their voices in a falsetto. If there’s any quibble at all, it has nothing to do with the narrator’s performance per se – only that there was what sounded like a bit of booth noise a couple of times; but it was very subtle and most listeners will not notice it.

Other Stuff: The Ghosts of Belfast (Jack Lennon Novels, Book #1; by Stuart Neville; narrated by Gerard Doyle) qualifies for:

I purchased a digital dnload copy of The Ghosts of Belfast (Jack Lennon Novels, Book #1; by Stuart Neville; narrated by Gerard Doyle) 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.

Quantum of Solace/For Your Eyes Only

Quantum of Solace
by Ian Fleming
narrated by Simon Vance
Ⓟ 2008, Blackstone Audio, Inc.

The first five stories = 5.60 out of 9.30 hours
  • “From a View to a Kill”
  • “For Your Eyes Only”
  • “Quantum of Solace”
  • “Riscio”
  • “The Hildebrand Rarity”

After having shared seven adventures with 007 in previous novels, you become somewhat inured to Fleming’s political incorrectness and you start appreciating the other elements of his writing: the way he can create tension and surprise you; the way he shapes Bond’s interior dialogue; the attention to detail beyond the travelogue descriptions – and in the end you begin to like Bond again, even after the misogynistic fiasco that was Goldfinger. It’s not that Bond has changed much. He’s still thinks and says things that place him squarely in the ranks of the mid-century man; but in this collection, we sense that perhaps his views, however much they are shaped by his times, are not concretized – that Bond has the capacity to turn things over in his mind and realize that all may not be as they appear. This idea of deception becomes the theme of the collection (or at least the first five stories):

“From a View to a Kill”
This is the first story in the collection and treats the idea of deception in the most basic and physical of ways. A dispatch courier is ambushed along an isolated highway by another courier wearing the same uniform. Bond, with his ability to sense “the invisible factor” or “the invisible man” – the element of a mission’s mystery that had been overlooked by others but turns out to be the key to the mission’s success, dresses in two different disguises to figure out what’s going on. First, Bond dresses in camo and uncovers a well concealed camp; and later Bond dresses as a dispatch courier himself to lure the would-be perpetrator out.
“For Your Eyes Only”
Set against the changing political climate of the Caribbean as Castro moves against Batista, the story looks at political subterfuge in the grossest criminal way: One of Castro’s henchmen, Major Gonzales, goes around Jamaica coercing plantation owners to sell their properties. A political exile, his business transactions are actually incidents of bullying and extortion with violent implications. Major Gonzales and his two sidekicks eventually end up in Vermont (!?) Bond assumes the identity of a game hunter, special attention paid to his clothing and licenses to complete this mission of justice (or revenge depending on one’s point of view) and encounters a woman along the way with a similar mission.
“Quantum of Solace”
The eponymous story of the collection, this is the piece that plays as an exposition of social and personal deception in two layers. It is actually a story within a story: Bond attends a rather dull dinner party and afterwards needs to kill about a hour with his host before he can politely leave. An off-chance remark of Bond’s initiates a story, as told by the host, about a man who marries an air hostess. The air hostess-wife eventually becomes involved in an indiscreet affair. Her true colors having flown, the first surprise is in what the husband then proceeds to do! The social charades and the personal face the husband tries to maintain play out against the rarefied air of the Service’s cliques in Bermuda. The story, which has engaged Bond beyond the hour that decorum had dictated, has a final surprise and teaches Bond a lesson about not making judgements from first impressions.
The term “riscio” means risky business and ostensibly refers to the smuggling world into which Bond finds himself. Sent to Italy to track down illegal opium shipments, Bond is set up with a contact, Kristatos at a restaurant. The apparent quarry is Alberto “The Dove” Colombo, not only the restaurant’s owner, but a major player in contraband shipments. The story evolves out into a question of who to trust: Who are your allies and, who are your enemies?
“The Hildebrand Rarity”
This short, more than even “Quantum of Solace” displays more of Bonds interior dimension than the others. Though not has clever as “QOS,” even rather ham-handed in its way, “The Hildebrand Rarity” has Bond thinking about relative morality. Mr. Krest, a wealthy American man who uses his pleasure yacht to collect specimens for the Smithsonian (a tax evasion scheme) hires Bond and Fidele Barbery to track down a rare fish, “The Hildebrand Rarity” in the Caribbean. There is nothing to like about Mr. Krest: He is a mean boor, a sadist, a corrupt businessman, a drunk and overall unscrupulous. And yet, Bond puts up with quite a bit, “eating crow” for four days. Bond equivocates, is uncertain about what to do, questions his smaller actions against larger contexts. What does he really see? What does he really know? What is the right thing to do? In this story, Bond himself might not be the man we have been led to believe he is.

Perhaps “deception” is too broad a theme for spy thriller adventures – after all, espionage is built on subterfuge; and yet with this collection, one can’t help but notice the different kinds of deceits being played out very specifically in each story: From the basic physical deceptions of “From a View to a Kill” to the questioning ruminations of Bond in “The Hildebrand Rarity,” Fleming skillfully writes in layers about the various kinds of deceptions.
Simon Vance narrates the audiobook edition of Quantum of Solace. Inasmuch as readers and listeners may have become inured to Fleming’s provocative passages about social issues through seven novels, listeners have come to expect certain things from Simon Vance in the series as well. He narrates the stories, and wholly creates Bond and M. Though his American and female characters are usually suspect, SV delivered credibly and well in this collection. Mr. Krest (“The Hildebrand Rarity”) speaks like Humphrey Bogart and SV does an imitation well enough that the listener understands the vocal inference. Other foreigners (Italians, Jamaicans, etc.) are differentiated from Bond’s British accent and while they may not exactly sound native, the characters are well delineated.

See Also:

The first five stories in Quantum of Solace are contained in the audiobook, For Your Eyes Only. The next two featured films in the Shaken, Not Stirred… Challenge are Quantum of Solace (starring Daniel Craig) and; For Your Eyes Only (Starring Roger Moore.) Both movies are based on these first five shorts in the collection. For a complete breakdown of the short stories featured in Quantum of Solace and their related movies, see FYI: Quantum of Solace. For a look at my brain while it is watching NFL playoffs and trying to figure out what Bond novels go with which movies, check out Old Skool “Infographic”: Bond Novels 08 – 14 🙂
For a breakdown of the tracks on the Quantum of Solace MP3-CD, see Quantum of Solace: MP3-CD Track List.
For other Shaken, Not Stirred posts, see:
Casino Royale (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance)
Goldfinger (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance)

Other Stuff: Quantum of Solace (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance) is a part of the

I received a MP3-CD edition of Quantum of Solace (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under professional courtesy/reviewer auspices.. 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.


James Bond Novel #7
by Ian Fleming
narrated by Simon Vance
08.50 hours
Ⓟ 2001, Blackstone Audio, Inc.

James Bond, agent with Britain’s Secret Service and with a license to kill (as denoted by the double-ought digits in his agent number, 007) meets up with Auric Goldfinger, a card cheat and greedy-for-gold businessman who is also suspected of gold smuggling and subsequently undermining world markets. Bond is given the assignment to figure out how Goldfinger is doing it. In the process, Bond discovers that Goldfinger has an even more ambitious scheme of robbing Fort Knox of $15 million in gold bullion!

One of the great things about the Bond novels is that, unlike the films, Bond is not the hero who emerges from his escapades unscathed and looking pretty. In past novels, the vicissitudes of the trade are visited upon Bond and others in rather shocking and graphic detail. As any given scene is introduced and unfolds, you really aren’t sure how it’s going to end and hence, Fleming brings true suspense to his spy thrillers:

“He let his head fall back with sigh. There was a narrow slit down the centre of the polished steel table. At the far end of the slit, like a foresight framed in the vee of his parted feet, were the glinting teeth of a circular saw.”

Scenes don’t end the way you think they will and, it’s in the how far they go that leaves readers a bit shocked or even gasping aloud.

Goldfinger was written in 1959, and what might give today’s readers/listeners pause in regards to the Bond novels is the political incorrectness in the stories. The sentiments that are expressed can be jarring and it is somewhat bizarre that in every novel so far there has been at least one passage or idea expressed that compels a knee-jerk reaction to the 21st century reader. In Goldfinger, there is this:

“Bond came to the conclusion that Tilly Masterson was one of those girls whose hormones had got mixed up. He knew the type well and thought they and their male counterparts were a direct consequence of giving votes to women and ‘sex equality’. As a result of fifty years of emancipation, feminine qualities were dying out or being transferred to the males. Pansies of both sexes were everywhere, not yet completely homosexual, but confused, not knowing what they were. The result was a herd of unhappy sexual misfits – barren and full of frustrations, the women wanting to dominate and the men to be nannied. He was sorry for them, but he had no time for them.”

Cringe-worthy indeed. Wait until you see how Fleming draws Pussy Galore :-/

Simon Vance narrated Goldfinger ably and well: His characters are well delineated, though if one were to quibble, it would be that his American accents are not quite what they could be. Vance’s later works (e.g. Paul is Undead by Alan Goldsher wherein he narrates the part of a native Chicagoan) show how far he has come in ten years 🙂

See Also:

Casino Royale (James Bond Novel #1; by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance) – Audiobook [Mini-] Review
Other Stuff: Goldfinger (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance) qualifies for

I borrowed an MP3-CD edition of Goldfinger (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance) from Blackstone Audio, 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.

A Drink Before the War

A Drink Before the War

First in the Kenzie/Gennaro series
by Dennis Lehane
narrated by Joanathan Davis
Ⓟ 2011, Harper Audio
8.8 hours
Patrick Kenzie, and by extension his partner, Angela Gennaro, are private detectives hired to retrieve documents stolen from a state senator’s office. Except that the documents aren’t really documents and, what these “documents” are and why they are important, provide the link to a story which highlights a Boston beyond what tourists see: Racial tensions, extreme economic disparity within blocks and, political corruption. Dennis Lehane has written a hard, truthful story about a city, about a culture within the context of a fictional thriller. Black vs White racial tensions are the biggest axe that Lehane grinds in A Drink Before the War. The politicians are white, the cleaning lady is black; blue collar workers hole up in dives in black neighborhoods and, count the number of black players on opposing football teams on TV; the gang wars are drawn along geo-racial lines: the blacks of The Bury (Roxbury) and the white kids of Dorchester; even a newscasting team on television consisting of a white newsman and a black newswoman, show up the racial lines drawn in the racist city. The economic inequality is played out across the neighborhoods in and around Boston: An obsequious doorman pulls open the doors to posh restaurants and hotels and, Copley Square is a testament to the gaudy splendors of the monied; but in Dorchester, the the lower middle class watches as the dual forces of gentrification and urban decay obliterate their homes into the dust and; in Roxbury, the tenements and sagging homes fall prey to entropy. The environments do not encourage correlative levels of crime, only better cover for the crimes in the better neighborhoods. The dome of the capitol, it turns out, provides better protection against punishment than the streets of Roxbury. Lehane’s key protagonist, Patrick Kenzie, has the self awareness to recognize how the city has informed him and; despite his attempts to rise above his circumstances, the scars of his past are ever-present both literally and figuratively. Kenzie’s internal struggle to identify his moral dilemmas and excoriate his ghosts add dimension to a character that could all too easily been rendered a mere action figure.
Jonathan Davis gives a solid, nearly neutral and careful reading of the text. He gives the story a very light, somewhat Ben Affleckian Boston accent, and affects an appropriate Irish accent to the equally affected state senator with a deliberate and near comic manner. A light Boston accent is better than a bad Boston accent; but there are inherent risks in that approach because authenticity is sacrificed. Davis slows his meter down to create an illusion of a deepened register for the black characters, but the street cadence is missing. We always know who’s talking; but all the voices are slightly “off” either in measure or in idiom. One also has to wonder if Davis has a sense of humor in the literary or narrative sense: Some lines could have benefited from a quicker, more ironic delivery.
Recommendation: For those who like grittier fare a la Adrian McKinty (The Dead Trilogy: Dead I Well May Be; The Dead Yard and, The Bloomsbury Dead; or Richard Price (Lush Life.)
Other Stuff: I received a digital dnload copy from Harper Audio for review purposes.
Also, it turns out that the narrator is the nephew of a consultant for the company I work for. This fact did not inform my review on any conscious level.

This book qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. A Drink Before the War takes place in Dorchester and Boston, Massachusetts.

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