That three might be a little harsh, but it'll be lost in the sea of 5-star ratings anyway, and is there for a reason, despite how wonderful many thingThat three might be a little harsh, but it'll be lost in the sea of 5-star ratings anyway, and is there for a reason, despite how wonderful many things in this book were. (This is the first novel I've listened to, after really liking the narrator on the short stories, which I'd read but were being offered free on Audible. I wish it were possible to give a separate rating for performance, as I loved it so much I may get 4 & 5 on audio although I have the ebooks already.)
I'm not sure any friends are up to this latest book, so I'm trying to do a bit of indication of where my dissatisfaction lay and whether it has much to do with the series as a whole or not, as well as an issue which isn't a spoiler for people who've read through at least #4, and will try to indicate which spoiler cuts are which.
Firstly, there is as much humour as in all the other books, and occasionally it's slightly retreaded, occasionally it ties in with my belief that there are some problems with consistency developing over the series, but sometimes it's just wonderful. I was particularly taken with the non-dialogue between Max and Mrs Partridge in which each alternately 'said nothing in a manner that indicated...'. Guess who won? Seeing Max in charge of a bunch of trainees was fun too, for the most part, although possibly nobody could have been a worse choice than Max for teacher if you actually wanted any kind of survival rate. (St Mary's is, as I said about the first book, remarkably able to keep going with their attrition rate.) And as usual, even when frustrated and making cranky noises about the things that were wrong, I got teary at points where I was supposed to. As I again said about the first book, this is not like To Say Nothing of the Dog in that people die, and not just contemps, either. It was genuinely moving, even while not always making sense.
There were five outings into history in this book, and I'd rate them as 1) pretty good; 2) great; 3) a bit fillerish possibly; 4) terrible in almost every way and 5) good but with a seriously off ending. The first was back to the Valley of the Kings just before the huge storm that had washed soil and debris down to cover Tutankhamun's tomb, leaving it intact for discovery in the early 1900s. If you're willing to brush aside the sheer implausibility of their wrong-going on this trip (view spoiler)[ they managed to park their pod exactly in the wadi where the flood that covered the tomb washed, blocking the water so it would be diverted to another path, on the precise day the storm hit, with someone trapped directly in that path. And why did History leave it up to Max to send the pod back to St Mary's so the flood wouldn't be diverted likely dooming Randall and possibly herself and Markham too? Max always says History will knock them off before they can change things. (hide spoiler)]; allow Max to tell the endangered member of the team 'We're St Mary's and we never leave our people behind' when this person knew, and had known for many years, that he was part of St Mary's; and ignore the oddly repetitive writing at points, it's a solid adventure. Also one that makes sense as an exciting and interesting assignment for trainees, which some just don't.
The second outing was fun and sometimes funny and had an unexpectedly chaotic outcome, so I won't say anything more about it than that. The third I expected to be more of a delight than it was, but again, no major complaints. The fourth, though. Not one single thing about it made sense to me, and it annoyed me on top of all the non-sense-making too. What they did was go back to watch Joan of Arc being burned at the stake. Having listened shortly after to The Very First Damned Thing, which tells of Dr Bairstow's efforts in setting up St Mary's, I was even more confused about the worth of taking trainees to see this very well-documented event. Max *says* that historians have to watch people die all the time, and it was important to spot the trainees who wouldn't be able to cope, but when they're there, sitting and watching an agonising and slow death, she says their job is to bear witness. But then why Joan of Arc, about whom both historians and religious authorities have written much, and not any of the often nameless women burned as witches, say? The line Dr Bairstow gives for the use of time-travel (though he will never allow it be called that) is that it's important there be a 'record of events as they actually occurred; not the politically airbrushed record or religious wishful thinking, or the socially acceptable version, but the often inconvenient truth'. So again, even if the historians do want to learn something of the truth of Joan of Arc's life, what can be gained from watching her burn? Max also trots out a lot of stuff about how nobody tells you how horrific burning at the stake really is, which made me wonder what history *she* had been reading, although perhaps it's historical fiction she's missed.
In the midst of what began to seem like gratuitous horror, both for the poor trainees and for readers, Max then said that Joan had been deserted both by the King of France and her God. Which was just irritating. She's said before, I think, that she's got no religious beliefs, and that's fine. But equating a human leader who'd been glad enough of Joan's military aid and then apparently equally happy to abandon her to the English with God, because she was being killed, is neither historical thinking nor rational either. If there's no God, there's no God to abandon her. If you believe there is, or even might be, then you have to see that Joan's death is not evidence, let alone proof, of her having been abandoned. We all die, which I'd have thought most historians would have realised at some point.
And there just keep being problems, though these are fairly big spoilers for this book, and one is irrelevant to the series inconsistencies I mentioned anyway. The one that isn't irrelevant involves the oft-stated certainty that History will act to prevent historians changing the past. Some of it is your typical time-travel paradox, where killing a contemporary means that you could have killed an ancestor so wouldn't exist to kill them. Saving someone who shouldn't have been saved might result in someone else's death, etc, etc. On the other hand, some of it seems a more active intervention, or prevention of an historian intervention, except when History (seen in the person of (view spoiler)[Mrs Partridge (hide spoiler)] wants the change. Yes, that comes across as a bit muddled, but it's not so messy I'd usually get bumped out of the story. Here, though, it gets too senseless... (view spoiler)[ So Randall loses it and goes out to put Joan out of her misery, with a gun. Which should be 'okay' because her ashes are going to be thrown in the river so nobody can ever claim any kind of relic - no bullet will ever be found. But it's apparently NOT okay enough that Max sends Peterson out after Randall, because they can't change history (dead is dead, whether it's a few minutes earlier or not, I'd have thought) AND the Time Police become aware of an anomaly. ?? Annoyance within an annoyance is that the niceish police guy warns Max to watch out for Hoyle, because he's too intense. WTH? They're watching an agonising death and he's able to spot the guy who's not upset by it, but is intense because the potential for trouble he carries? Anyway, then Randall and Peterson are both seriously injured, Randall having been hit in the head and Peterson stabbed or something in the leg, and Max repeatedly says that Randall probably 'gave his life' to help Peterson back to the pod. Except a) his brain was bashed in, so he wasn't going to make it outside of the pod anyway, and b) Peterson was only there because Randall had done something (literally) fatally stupid and Peterson had to try to prevent its being catastrophic for all of them. In terms of logic, the riot was apparently not in the history books, so why wouldn't History have arranged for Randall to have been felled immediately after he left the pod, before he had a chance to do anything with his gun, and preferably right in their view so they could retrieve his body and get out? Instead they had a dramatic and heart-rending scene with the poor team trying desperately to save both of them. And Randall turned out to have been the traitor anyway, which cheapened the whole scene for me. (hide spoiler)]
And the final assignment. It started so well, and went so wrong, though *not* in the way Max/the author meant. Again, there were characters who didn't make much sense (view spoiler)[ Hoyle might have been ripe for exploiting because of his 'obsession' with his ancestor (seriously? Max could spot the resemblance to Richard III after all those centuries?), but how could he possibly have been stupid or deluded enough to think he could change the course of history as dramatically as arranging to save Richard's life at the Battle of Bosworth? No Tudors? Really? No *anything* after that point?? He'd been through the months of training and *seen* what they'd had to do to stop themselves from changing history on much smaller points, along with what had happened when they hadn't managed to prevent their screwing things up. Just didn't make sense. (hide spoiler)] And in going for a tearjerker bit of St Mary's team spirit and all, Max appeared to make a leap to saying that things (or this one, convenient to plot thing) that have been recorded as having happened, wouldn't have happened if they hadn't jumped back and *made* it happen. Thereby reversing the logic of the whole first assignment, in which their presence would have made it NOT happen the right way. Also, sorry, but if a freaking great destrier has stepped on your chest, I think you don't have time for much of anything. (view spoiler)[ So Hoyle has got himself nearly killed trying to save Richard, they bring him back to the pod, he explains everything, and Max decides to make him feel his death meant something -- by going back to the car park in Leicester (in maybe the 1950s-ish) where his remains were found (in 2012. Real world 2012, I mean) and painting the big "R" on the ground so, uh, his remains would be found. But WHY would anyone think, as they all seem to do, that the R wouldn't have been there if they hadn't gone back with the dying Hoyle, and nipped out to paint it? (hide spoiler)]
Finally, the big bombshell of an ending didn't surprise me at all, and has the potential to be really aggravating, if Max doesn't change (A LOT) as a result. Which on evidence of past behaviour.... My final gripe/bemusement is another spoiler, although this is only a spoiler if you haven't read book 4, and otherwise safe enough. (view spoiler)[ Why has nobody said anything about the fact that Max is not the Max that everyone else at St Mary's knew? I never got how exactly everyone at St Mary's was supposed to be pretty much the same people they were in the other dimension/whathaveyou, except for Leon, who needed a bit of time and some crazy sex, and now he and Max are as if they were always together? I'll probably go back and get books 4 and 5 on audio, since the narrator is so enjoyable, and maybe a careful listen will show that I've missed something important, but now I'm not seeing it. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
(You should read this after reading what I said about book #1, or else look at the rating and don't bother. I plan to indulge myself by venting some s(You should read this after reading what I said about book #1, or else look at the rating and don't bother. I plan to indulge myself by venting some spleen, but nobody has to waste their time reading the rant.)
I'm not going to be very careful about spoilers, although I won't give away the actual whodunnit, because, honestly? This is not good. So. First thing is that I do NOT think this is how the Metropolitan Police Force operated, even back in 1995. Because the victim was an in-law (albeit estranged) of two very prominent members of the world of opera or whatever, upper-class (the wife is "Dame" in her own right and her title takes precedence over the one she has as wife of Sir Asherton. The housekeeper gave a constable who didn't get that right "a tongue-lashing he'll not soon forget". Yup. That kind of family) they are not to be disturbed like ordinary yoiks who's just have the local police investigating. These get Duncan, "Scotland Yard's fair-haired boy".
Duncan duly detecting, gets quite intrigued by the (estranged) wife of the victim, who "is not beautiful" (though he can't stop looking at her), tragic (Mummy and Daddy only cared about her dead brother) and still not doing too badly for herself, having moved back home where Plummy (I kid you not), the housekeeper, brings her meals up to the massive nursery she's turned into a studio. The husband was *Irish*, and (I can barely type this for fear of upsetting everyone who would NEVER have imagined this could go together with an Irish character in a book) a drinking, gambling philanderer. Also, "a first-class shit. ...a lout with a load of Irish blarney he thought would get him anything he wanted", according to his wife.
Keeping this somewhat vague, Duncan goes to interview a person of interest, though he knows he's questioning her because he really hopes to sit and gaze upon her. Or more. But no! His interest in her is 'purely professional', which he proves by taking a glass of wine, thinking hard about whether he believes she's the killer or not ("... there was an element to it that transcended the rational - call it a hunch, or a feeling, it didn't matter. It was based on an innate and inexplicable knowledge of another human being, and his knowledge of [spoiler] went bone-deep." THAT is some first-class policing right there. That determined, he fixes her emotional problems, and they have sex. MORE first-class policing.
The murder is solved - not anyone anybody including Duncan had suspected, Duncan goes back home leaving [spoiler] ready to go on with life again. He has a Magic Wang! (I'd just been reading Beyond Heaving Bosoms at the time, which is how I knew!) But it's *really* rainy as they get back to London and thus he insists (view spoiler)[Gemma (hide spoiler)] not go home but spend the night at his (what could possibly be wrong with this?), and they have sex. She, quite sensibly, sees that she'd not thought through the enormous problems involved in this night of passion (view spoiler)["How could she face him at work in the morning, say, 'Yes, guv. No, guv. Right-oh, guv,' as if nothing had happened between them?". (hide spoiler)] She weeps in her car (wait - was it not magic after all??) while he rolls over and finds her not in bed beside him. "She must have gone to the loo - women always had to go to the loo - or perhaps to the kitchen for a glass of water. He smiled a little at his own stupidity. What he wanted, needed, had been right under his nose all along and he'd been too blind to see it."
What he really needs, in my opinion, is an epic bollocking from his superiors, assuming they aren't too busy playing Good Old Boy games, and another, even more epic, from everyone female who's ever fallen for his charm.
All quotes are direct, not just my memory of them, and now I've got it out of my system, I can get rid of the books at last. Any bets on whether I'll be reading on?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
(Read my write-up of A Share in Death first, for closest approximation to sense.)
Duncan's being back in London did help quite a bit, and I continued t(Read my write-up of A Share in Death first, for closest approximation to sense.)
Duncan's being back in London did help quite a bit, and I continued to like Gemma and root for her to be able to manage juggling what has to be one of the harder jobs for a single mother of a young child. The melody that seemed to be increasingly turning into the theme song - "All the Ladies Love Duncan" - was at least a bit muted by the interesting murder victim, and the way it took a while for her death to be recognised as a murder. It was a good half-star better than the first, but I'd probably not have gone out of my way to read more in the series. Number three was right here though, so I immediately read on....more
I'm doing one of my always-too-infrequent clear-outs and have been keeping the three books I have in this series *only* to write them up. (Mostly becaI'm doing one of my always-too-infrequent clear-outs and have been keeping the three books I have in this series *only* to write them up. (Mostly because I'm afraid otherwise I'll end up getting them again when I've forgotten which books go with the rant.) I got the first three in the series, rather than trying just the first, because Better World Books was having one of their extra sales on five or more really used books. I also got the first three because I was still cranky about the most recent S. J. Rozan book and the author's apparent intention to frustrate readers' desire for SOME kind of resolution to the Bill+Lydia saga. I looked ahead at descriptions of later books in this series and [don't finish this thought if you're definitely planning on reading the series and don't want any spoiling] figured I would not have the Rozan frustration.
The first was - not good, but okay. I was unconvinced by the whole timeshare the way it was depicted, but would hardly be an expert on English timeshare, so wasn't too bothered. (The author is not British and it occasionally shows.) Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid - newly promoted hot-shot, wasn't too appealing either, especially as the old "the locals are going to HATE this D.S. from London pushing themselves onto their turf" trope was played so very broadly. In fact, the whole book felt more dated than it should (1993 isn't as old for me as it would be for some of you!) and kind of stereotype-ridden. Despite thinking the possible [spoiler] between DS Kincaid and his Sergeant, Gemma James, had the potential to be more than a bit dodgy - she's also less educated, less sophisticated (maybe not working class, but closer to it than he is), single mother - I liked Gemma enough to feel there was potential. So I read on....more
This sounded fun, because I've loved a few historical pilgrimage books and was interested to read a modern one. The narrator's awful English accents dThis sounded fun, because I've loved a few historical pilgrimage books and was interested to read a modern one. The narrator's awful English accents didn't help at all, although it's always hard to do another nationality well. But. Even setting that aside, this really got up my nose. In the maybe hour-ish I listened to, there was tons of sweeping cultural stereotyping (did y'all know all service in *European* restaurants/pubs is bad?), nasty little digs about the athletic looking woman in the tour group (Broads Abroad. A Chaucerian-based walking tour following the ancient route of pilgrimage) who ate salads (in England! What a classic mistake!!) but hid chocolates in her bag, and a bunch of women going on the afore-described tour looking askance at our bold protagonist because she'd, like, found out something about Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales (inexcusable swottery!!). I gave up though when the leader of the tour, who was supposed to be a brilliant young lecturer in art history or something, in explaining medieval Romance, says: "... but the medieval mind was already, well, some might say it was already clouded by an unhealthy preoccupation with religion [...] so Chaucer and his pilgrims were ripe for an obsession with the unobtainable."
Just searching for that nugget made me cross all over again. (I listened to the last 2 - of 115! - chapters, and regret nothing except wasting an audio credit on this.)...more