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review 2019-03-19 15:12
Finally an audio version that does justice to this particular book.
Whose Body? - Dorothy L. Sayers,Mark Meadows

I don't know if this January 2019 release signals a new series of audios of all of Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, but if it does, please God let them all be narrated by Mark Meadows.  Although my overall favorites still remain the Ian Carmichael audios (not the BBC full cast dramatizations, but those where Carmichael actually narrates the unabridged novels themselves), there doesn't seem to be a full set of those available any longer, and the alternatives produced in the interim are of -- putting it gently -- extremely varied quality.** 

 

This is particularly true for the first Wimsey book, Whose Body?, where those looking for an audio version so far have had the choice between two ridiculously over the top, trying-too-hard (and thus failing) British versions -- one male, one female -- and an American version failing even worse, for incongruously incorporating what the narrator obviously thinks Wimsey's nasal upper crust voice would have sounded like into an otherwise unabashedly American accent. 

 

Imagine my delight, therefore, in listening to this Mark Meadows recording and finding that Meadows quite literally hits all the right notes; chiefly with Wimsey's own voice, but actually with those of all the characters and, notably, also with Sayers's own narrative voice ... and with extra brownie points for also getting the occasional French and German bits right, with only a slight English accent to boot.  So even if this recording doesn't usher in a full series of new Lord Peter Wimsey recordings -- although I hope it may -- it's definitely the one I'd recommend as the one to turn to for those audio- rather than print-edition minded.  Who knows, you may even end up finding you like the usually shrugged-on Whose Body? better -- or at any rate not any worse -- than some of the later Wimsey novels.  (Five Red Herrings and Unnatural Death do come to mind in that department ...)

___________________________________

 

** The one notable older, "non-Carmichael" audio I have yet to listen to is Patrick Malahide's recording of Five Red Herrings.  Even with, as BT reports, his Scots accent somewhat regionally "off", I can't imagine it to be anywhere near as awful as the so far exstant versions of Whose Body?, however.

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review 2019-03-18 12:39
This is more like it.
The Gazebo - Patricia Wentworth,Diana Bishop

(More than The Alington Inheritance, that is.) -- Still a bit too much of a whiny heroine, but at least we're firmly back in true and trusted Maudie territory.  And it has to be said, while the victim is no Mrs. Boynton (cf. Agatha Christie, Appointment With Death), by the time she finally meets her end few would argue that the world is not a better place without her in it.

 

There are some shades of Grey Mask here (broken off engagement sends the hero to "forn parts", where he roams the wilderness for a few years until he starts missing the old country and returns, only to be plunged straight into his former / still beloved's latest messy circumstances: if there's one trope Wentworth can be said to be overusing, it's probably this one; e.g., it's also the premise of Miss Silver Comes to Stay, and with a twist, of The Traveller Returns / aka She Came Back, and a key character's surprise return also features importantly in The Watersplash, albeit minus broken off engagement) -- and although this is emphatically not an inverted mystery, both the whodunnit and the core "why" is pretty obvious from the get-go.  (Or I've just read too many stories of that type.  But Wentworth really isn't exactly subtle about this particular bit.)  Despite a valiant attempt on Wentworth's part at creating a plausible back story for the "who" and "why", the motive still feels a bit contrived ... or let's say, it's the kind of thing that pretty much only Arthur Conan Doyle could get away with (or the creators of mysteries for young readers, where it's a particular favorite).  But at least Wentworth's attempt here is not any worse than those of other authors using this particular trope.

 

Most of all, though, Wentworth's fine eye for character(s) and human interactions shines once again -- in the portrayal of abusive relationships (there are several here) as well as the creation of the comic relief, in this instance, three gossipping old-maidish sisters -- who in another book might easily have had a different role (and indeed the local gossip is portrayed extremely negatively in The Alington Inheritance) but here it's clear that they are essentially harmless and, indeed, ultimately even helpful to the investigation.  And of course, watching Maudie and her most devoted fan (Frank Abbott) is always a joy.

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review 2019-03-16 14:00
If you thought Wentworth couldn't go any lower than "Grey Mask" ...
The Alington Inheritance (A Miss Silver Mystery) - Patricia Wentworth
The Alington Inheritance - Patricia Wentworth,Diana Bishop

... don't go anywhere near this one.

 

Whiny, immature, TSTL special snowflake heroine.  Insta-love.  Completely implausible, "fortuitous" (*major headdesk moment*) first encounter between hero and heroine.  Weak plotline that is further weakened by an "inverse mystery" structure -- it certainly does NOT help that we know whodunnit from the get-go.

 

One star for Maudie being Maudie.  Half a star for de-facto street urchin Dicke's occasional comic relief.

 

So much for the much-needed comfort reading I was hoping for ...

 

Next!!

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review 2019-03-11 22:50
A Poor Man's (or Woman's) "House of the Spirits"
The House on the Lagoon - Rosario Ferré,Silvia Sierra

Ugh.  If this hadn't been my final "Snakes and Ladders" book I'd have DNF'd it.  This is essentially a Puerto Rican version of House of the Spirits minus magical realism, plus a plethora of characters and episodes that don't greatly advance the plot (think 500-episode telenovela) and a whole lot of telling instead of showing.  That isn't to say I learned nothing at all about Puerto Rico, its people and its history -- indeed, the island itself was by far this book's most interesting, believable, fully elaborated and just plain likeable character -- but by and large, I'd have accomplished more by reading a nonfiction history book or a travel guide about Puerto Rico ... or by going there to see it for myself.  (Which I'm still hoping to do at some point.)

 

Nevertheless, I've enjoyed my "Snakes and Ladders" run enormously -- a huge thanks to Moonlight Reader for her spur-of-the-moment inspiration in initiating this game!

 

(Charlie and Sunny also say thank you for the exercise and all the snacks along the way.)

 

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review 2019-03-01 22:39
Good news ...
The Unexpected Guest: A Play In Two Acts - Agatha Christie
The Unexpected Guest & The Pale Horse (BBC Audio Crime) - Agatha Christie

... for those of us looking for a quick Christie audio fix but who want to make sure they're listening to Dame Agatha's own words and not one of the novelizations of her plays by Charles Osborne: You can do just that!

 

The 1981 full cast BBC audio version of The Unexpected Guest (available individually on Audible, as well as sold in a CD set together with a dramatization of The Pale Horse) is based directly on Agatha Christie's play.

 

I received my print edition of the play today, and since I already owned the CD set, I decided to engage in a little spontaneous experiment and listen to the CD while reading along in my new print copy.  Result: While the radio play is a somewhat condensed version, it definitely does contain Christie's own words -- verbatim (solely minus the abbreviation).  I could follow along on the printed page quite easily.

 

(Well, OK -- admittedly I had bought the full cast audio version instead of the one of Hugh Fraser narrating Charles Osborne's novelization because I had hoped the full cast version would be based on Christie's own play, rather than (re-)dramatizing the novelization of a stage play ... but of course I couldn't be certain, so this was still a very satisfactory confirmation of my hopes and beliefs at the time when I bought the CD.)

 

Content-wise, this is rather a neat little mystery (non-series, as far as the protagonists are concerned); not quite as intricate as her novels, but very nicely done nevertheless, with the kinds of twists we've come to expect from our Agatha.  There are certain superficial similarities with several other books of hers, but the usual caveat applies ... what constitutes the solution in one book may be merely a red herring in another one and vice versa.  Since I had already listened to the CD I knew the solution this time around (though I needed a slight prompt to remember it), so this repeat experience brought with it all the joys of watching Agatha at work in laying her traps for the unwary.

 

I'm still planning to read the full print version of the play at some point so as to get the full flavour of the things cut out for purposes of the BBC production, but for what I could see while glancing over the cut out parts, the abbreviation was an exercise in condensation, not in altering the contents (even though at least one potential

red herring

(spoiler show)

element has been eliminated ... but that, too, is merely an extra tangent).

 

The print version doesn't quite run to 100 pages, so I'm going to keep this in reserve for Snakes and Ladders, possibly to be used in conjunction with the radio plays MR and I are going to listen to tomorrow ... as well as the odd short story or two to make up for the required 200 pages or equivalent audio listening time.

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