The audiobook is a good one, but I don't like the degree to which it's been abridged; it lacks a lot of the story I loved in the paperback edition. St...moreThe audiobook is a good one, but I don't like the degree to which it's been abridged; it lacks a lot of the story I loved in the paperback edition. Still, the narrator isn't bad at her job, unlike some I've heard. It still feels odd they should change narrator mid-trilogy, though, as this is the only book of the trilogy narrated by Kellie Bright.(less)
This series has its issues with gender and sexuality asides, as it is of its time, but as a read it's still pretty interesting stuff, and given it goe...moreThis series has its issues with gender and sexuality asides, as it is of its time, but as a read it's still pretty interesting stuff, and given it goes with values that were common when it was written and that aren't overly emphasised for the most part, I can endure that for a decent crime story.(less)
One of my perennial favourites of the series, and it taught me a fair bit of Latin and bell-ringing trivia alongside, as so often happens in Sayers' w...moreOne of my perennial favourites of the series, and it taught me a fair bit of Latin and bell-ringing trivia alongside, as so often happens in Sayers' work (the trivia in general, I mean, rather than specifically those kinds). The edition I own is part of an unabridged mystery compilation of four novels, but that edition isn't in GR and I may as well include the books individually as I'm reading them so.(less)
2 stars. I should not have to skim a book to endure getting through it at all as I did with this one. I have never made a habit of skimming.
Frankly, t...more2 stars. I should not have to skim a book to endure getting through it at all as I did with this one. I have never made a habit of skimming.
Frankly, this book gives the effect of the author's having had a thesaurus on hand that he pulled out every half-hour or so just for fun whilst writing, to inject some obscure term - I have a wide and somewhat eclectic vocabulary and always have had, even more so as an adult than as a child, but within the first hundred pages even I had to stop to check a dictionary four times. I understand that his lead character is meant to be in his eighties, but even my 83-year-old grandmother doesn't use obscure words like "ecdysiast" when "stripper" would do. All but one of those four words had a more commonly-used and less pretentious equivalent that would have meant the same thing without throwing the reader out of the story for a reference.
M. J. Trow, for example, carries off intimate historical knowledge on the part of his detective, teacher Peter Maxwell, far more believably than Fowler does with Arthur Bryant's almost randomly inserted unusual terms and topics. It is indeed no wonder Bryant's memory is so poor, if he cares more about the most obscure trivia his brain appears to collect than recalling important matters of daily life; but that doesn't excuse the unrealistic feel of his mind and behaviour. He feels almost like a caricature, like a detective modelled after Maxwell and Morse with an attempt to have a wider range of knowledge on the arcane than either, but with that aspect poorly executed.
I made it to approximately page 120 before I threw up my hands and decided to skim the book simply for the sake of finishing the thing at all. I admit I was getting bored by then, of the deliberately obscure language, the less-than-lifelike characters and the slow pace of the tale. I don't think I would have completed the book had I not skimmed the rest of the way through it.
The plot is fair enough - I won't spoil it here - though the conspiracy theory aspect, as with a lot about the characters themselves, feels awkward and recycled, and the idea of women being essentially used (both as plot devices and as the story's choice) for the maternal instinct they must have that must have been frustrated by their never having had their own biological children made me positively cringe, on behalf of both childfree women like myself and adoptive mothers, as well as women in general; it's a painfully sexist concept. No men in that sphere of the story...!
I will not be reading anything else from the Bryant & May series of novels. I might try another of Fowler's works, if I'm curious enough, but not this series. The characters feel too much like others out there with bits mashed together (see, I could have said portmanteaux of others, but how many of you would understand without reference? A flaw of this novel and, presumably, the others in the series), and the story is just tedious and unnecessarily convoluted, with random bits of information tossed in that were never needed for the tale.
It's even worse when I consider it in detail after the fact, hence my reduction from 2.5 stars to 2. Don't bother with this book. Really, just don't. Not worth the investment of time required to slog through it.
Edit: That it's the 6th in a series is no excuse for its flaws, in my opinion. No characters should ever be this cardboard. If you've spent five previous books describing them, you should at least give the new reader five minutes' introduction, just in case they pick up a book out of sequence. I thought any author knew that. I don't think that the series aspect excuses anything else I've criticised in this review.
Oh, and apparently the book was awarded "funniest mystery novel" by someone. I just have to ask: how, on earth, could anyone ever think this the funniest anything? I smiled perhaps once or twice throughout the whole novel, and I found neither a chuckle nor a full-blown laugh throughout the whole thing. I really can't see it. Perhaps it's an Anglophiliac thing? Many of the reviewers seem to be from North America, so perhaps... but this isn't my England!(less)