(Since this book is finally being released next week, I thought I would re-post my review. Any McCammon lovers out there, don't let this one pass you by!)
What a great story this is! Set in the American south during the Great Depression, The Listener is a unique tale. Starting with a man we'll call Pearly and ending with the opening of a free clinic, Robert McCammon sucked me in as he always does and now I have another book to add to my All Time Favorites shelf!
With a young black man as the protagonist and a few visits to characters we've met in the past, (I want to say so much more about them, but I can't spoil the surprise for you!), I wasn't sure for the longest time where this story was going. But when Pearly meets Ginger LaFrance, and joins her cold quest for riches, I knew I was in for the long haul.
Not since the book MINE, has Robert McCammon created such a cunning female villain. Crafty and OH SO cold, Ginger is capable of anything. When she concocts her evil plan with Pearly as her back up, you just know it's not going to go well. And when another of her family members joins their crew, you cannot help but feel that it was a mistake on Ginger's part. You also hope that Ginger doesn't succeed.
At a certain point in The Listener, you just have to hold on for dear life because this tale races to the denouement and you HAVE to know what happens. I recommend shutting yourself in a room for the last 50 pages so you can read it without being bothered. Trust me on this! You will be rewarded with an ending so poignant, yet so perfect and totally satisfying that you might find yourself with a tear in your eye. Not saying that happened to me, (it TOTALLY happened to me), but you know, prepare yourself. Perfection in an ending is so rare, but I think McCammon achieved it here.
The only bad thing about getting an ARC, (and in this case it's a REAL ARC, that I can hold and hug tight to my chest, not that I did that), is that there isn't anyone to talk to about this story. I can't wait for you to read it so we can talk about Curtis and Pearly and good old Nilla.
In February when it's released, I hope you will remember my words here today and hop on the opportunity to read The Listener. Please come and share your thoughts with me when you're done. I hope that Curtis invades your mind space as he has invaded mine, and we can talk about how much we both love him. Or perhaps we can talk about THAT character that was such a memorable part of another GREAT, (maybe the best?) Robert McCammon book, and how much we loved seeing them again? I sure do hope that we can, my fellow readers. I sure do hope we can.
The Listener has earned my highest recommendation!
*Thanks to Cemetery Dance for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*
The premise of the Mystery content turned out to be very familiar me, thanks to other books I've read. In other words, I figured this one out, simply because the author was resorting to tricks and slight-of-writing that have been done to death--well, done to murder.
I went back to look at my updates at the Booklikes website, and did notice that I was still stumped as of page 153, but it wasn't long after that when a major penny dropped in my brain, and once a major revelation opened up before me--again, one that authors use repeatedly--almost everything formerly hidden fell into place. This disappointment--just about any whodunit I figure out is not going to get top marks from me--combined with rather cardboard characterizations, including the comic-relief ones, as the author focused on the puzzle and not the psychology of the people or the drama of the situation, brought the book down a bit, in my estimation.
Overall, not a bad effort. Was it Thomas Berger's catch-all quote, or someone else: "there was nothing really wrong with it, except that it was kind of lousy.". I can't even use that quote here, because the book was not lousy, just very, very familiar in its premise. I'm actually kicking myself for not noticing a rather routine bit of skullduggery (hah!) early on. The book is too short to really ever get dull, and the author sets a peppy pace, while running a handy formula with bits jiggled around. I would agree with Martin Edwards who, in his Intro to my edition of this novel, makes note of the fact that this reads a lot like a Freeman Wills Crofts novel, up to including the fact that Bude's detective, Meredith, is not much different than Crofts' (once-)famous Inspector French. That leads me to recommend the following Crofts novels, ahead of The Sussex Downs Murder:
Inspector French and the Sea Mystery
Inspector French and the Starvel Hollow Tragedy
The Mystery in the Channel
In particular, Sea Mystery shines best, if you want my two cents accumulated from any pennies that keep dropping in my head, from books that try and use Crofts' tricks to try and outdo him; and heck, they probably weren't even Crofts' tricks originally, were they?--a Conan Doyle novel comes to mind, and that's going way back, plus I think of a Michael Connelly Mystery that I loved, but that jiggles bits of a familiar premise.
I would say Sussex Downs Murder beats out Inspector French and the Box Office Murders which, to me, feels dated and quaint--though there's some nasty crap going on in that one thanks to ruthless villains--but other than that, I've given you my version of a reading order that supports the notion that Crofts jiggles familiar bits and pieces around more masterfully than perhaps Bude does. Still, I've read much more of Crofts, and should probably give Bude more chances to impress me. I certainly wouldn't be adverse to another John Bude outing...but he will need to stay away from that...that...um, that...that specific, um, thing writers do.
This is one of those books that you think you know what will happen but are landed with a jaw-dropping surprise at the end. At times very creepy, always full of nail-biting suspense, this is an example of what Willett does best: creating claustrophobic situations in which women have difficult choices to make.
Set in the South West of Australia this is Willett's fourth novel.
I’m abandoning this at the 33% mark. It's not awful. It's just not good. It's as inoffensive as a beige and magnolia room and about as stimulating. I'd rather spend my time on something that excites my imagination.
I made it through the first third of the book because I liked the idea of a thriller with a slow start that drops me in the middle of a complex but unexplained situation. There's a clever idea at the core of this book and I'm sure there'll be a surprise or two along the way but as I read on, I found I just didn't care.
My interest collapsed under the weight of the pedestrians execution. The writing is competent but uninspired. The descriptive language is lazy to the point of sloppiness. The characters are mono-dimensional and unconvincing.
The only tension comes from the relationship between the assassin and the woman he has abducted. I’m fairly certain this is the pivot of the plot but the implied will-they-fall-for-each-other? dynamic is clumsily handled and fundamentally toxic. I struggle to believe that a woman who has just witnessed a man shoot his partner in the head from behind, been splattered by the resulting blood and brains, abducted, restrained and repeatedly threatened with death, is going to fall asleep fascinated by the way her assailant touched her bra strap. If you’re going to head in that transgressive direction you need to do it with flair and aggression. When it's delivered with this bland prose, it becomes exploitative.
This is my first book by Sandra Brown. I have another in my TBR pile. I can see that she is extraordinarily prolific. Perhaps that is why "Sting" reads like a production line effort: a clever idea competently delivered through multiple points of view but with nothing original to make reading it worthwhile. This is good TV fodder but it's not something I'm willing to spend hours on.