A Sherlock Holmes story without Sherlock Holmes. And without Dr. Watson, for that matter. A book titled 'Moriarty' that has (almost) no Moriarty in itA Sherlock Holmes story without Sherlock Holmes. And without Dr. Watson, for that matter. A book titled 'Moriarty' that has (almost) no Moriarty in it. And yet, it works.
Horowitz teams up a 'Holmes & Watson 2.0' with Inspector Athelney Jones and P.I. Frederick Chase, and they're worth watching. It all sounds like an Arthur Conan Doyle story, plus a little more action, brutality and, all in all, a quicker pace.
The villain, Devereux, doesn't really work for me. I just can't see how, with his 'condition' he can govern over his evil network. It's a weakness that should've beaten him long ago.
But alright, the story in itself is an entertaining hommage to ACD's consulting detective, and it ends on a highly clever twist that'll make you want to double back and think a little more like Sherlock Holmes.
I listened to the audiobook exquisitely read by British actor/narrator Julian Rhind-Tutt. He has to constantly juggle an American accent and all sorts of English accents, and he does so flawlessly, often having to switch mid-sentence. Kudos!...more
As I'd hoped, better than the first book in the trilogy. As society disintegrates from gloomy lethargy into anarchy, Hank Palace can no longer just plAs I'd hoped, better than the first book in the trilogy. As society disintegrates from gloomy lethargy into anarchy, Hank Palace can no longer just plough through his case, pretending things are still holding together. His facade, too, crumbles, undermined by his worry about his sister and two kids he's been taking care of for a while. As he moves through different end time management concepts - desperate normal routine, hoarding and hiding, new age communities, science believers, paramilitary forts etc - his investigation appears more and more quixotic. And yet, with all rules and laws being abandoned, Hank's determination to do what's right and uphold his policeman ethics anchors him and keeps him on his feet in the widening chaos. With doomsday coming ever closer, I'm anxious to find out where all of this ends. ...more
Wrong expectations. That's the best explanation I have to justify my dissatisfaction with HELP FOR THE HAUNTED. I'd expected a mystery/horror novel. WWrong expectations. That's the best explanation I have to justify my dissatisfaction with HELP FOR THE HAUNTED. I'd expected a mystery/horror novel. What I got was a coming of age story with a half-hearted shudder and a mystery that solved itself out of the blue.
I couldn't really latch on to any of the characters. The demystification of Sylvie's parents was well done and her search for the truth led to unexpected findings far removed from supernatural ongoings. The term 'haunted', through the course of the book, took on a different meaning.
The writing - while fluidly readable - felt unspectacular to me. The characters, despite Mr. Searles efforts, didn't fill in for me enough to think of them as compelling.
Great books haunt me, in a good way. This one, unfortunately, won't. ...more
A friend of mine gave me this audiobook without telling me anything else about it than “You'll like it.” I didn't get a summary, not a genre classification, nothing. I was thrown into cold water. Or, rather, into the snow. Into the snow of Alaska, in the 1920s, when the state was sold to the Americans as some sort of promised land for adventurers and those seeking a new start. That is also how Mabel and Jack (from whose switching perspectives the story is told) ended up here. Their dream of a family having failed tragically in their old home state, on the East coast, it was, above all, Mabel's wish to flee from hopelessness that brought them to Alaska. Her husband Jack, a grounded, hands-on man, accepted the challenge.
But as the book starts, their initial euphoria has given way to disillusionment. Mabel and Jack aren't exactly young anymore, and life on the homestead has been rough, draining them. They haven't accomplished much – a small, sparse cabin is their home, much of their land hasn't even been cleared from trees for farming, and they live miles from their nearest neighbors, surrounded by rough, wild forests. Each day is a fight for survival. Jack and Mabel's marriage is suffering under the strain, and Mabel becomes increasingly depressed. Sad memories haunt her, and her childlessness weighs heavy on her.
The first atmospheric images the book draws are very much like the wintry Alaska as Mabel describes it - lonely, still, white and bleak. Winter is coming and bringing long months of darkness. The general impression is one of gloom and merciless hardship. Already at the beginning, Ivey finds her voice, which is one of clear, bare poetry. Few adjectives lace her descriptions, few metaphors. Her language is without frills, and yet drawing the reader in and painting images in their heads. Harsh, black-and-white images without warmth, but succinct and generating awe. Here is a writer who really has lived in Alaska and finds the perfect means to describe it.
In a rare moment of happiness, as winter's first snow is falling, Mabel and Jack jauntily decide to build a snowman – or, rather, a snow girl. They even equip her with a hat, mittens, a finely shaped face and red lips. On the next morning, the snow girl has disappeared, and footprints are leading away from its empty spot. And indeed, in the following days both Mabel and Jack spot a child running between the trees of the forest. They can't believe their own eyes, and neither does the reader – is this real, or just an illusion?
Mabel is immediately reminded of an old Russian fairy tale she was told as a child. A tale in which a girl made of snow comes to life. Jack, earthen and less imaginative, approaches the mystery with much more realism. But by and by, he as well falls under the snow girl's spell.
What ensues is a soft, melancholic mix of fairy tale, semi-historic adventure story and landscape novel. Ivey takes her time, both with the story and the characters. Using the hypnotic scenery of the north-American wilderness as a backdrop, she plays with the reader and leaves them in the dark about the snow child for a very long time. And even when we believe we've solved the mystery, Ivey turns it all around and returns to the fairy tale nature of the story. We almost believe ourselves infected with 'cabin fever' which can befall Alaskans in the long, lonely winters, confusing dream and reality, triggering hallucinations.
The plot, one may criticize, is drawn out. Not a lot happens, except for a few crucial events. Some scenes don't seem to serve any other purpose than to support the tone and nature of the story. It's a tale like the land – a tale of loneliness and desolation, of fear and cold and darkness and grief. But it is also a lesson on how to survive all that, with warmth, hope and the help of the ones you love.
It is remarkable how the atmosphere slowly, carefully begins to change in the second half of the novel. How the snow white landscape begins to glitter and appear inviting instead of hostile and dangerous. Animals and plants come to life, taking on a new, positive meaning. Degree by degree, the transformation takes place, on the outside but also on the inside. And it is perfectly suitable for the novel to take its time working that transition.
Ivey equips Mabel and Jack with a handful of endearing friends. Their energy and enthusiasm stick out from the general bleakness. There's Esther – tough and boisterous, loud, generous and big-hearted. She's the antipole to Mabel, and her friendship becomes crucial for Mabel and Jack's survival on the homestead. Esther is simply wonderful. Her husband and sons will also play important roles. Their whole family feels like spots of bright color on the white canvas of Mabel and Jack's life.
I'm not going to talk about the ending. Of course, the reader is anxious to find out if the book is going to end exactly like the Russian fairy tale. Right up to the end, there's the need to find out about the snow girl's secret – or if there is a secret at all. Something rational thought cannot explain.
I wasn't completely happy with the conclusion. Simply because it didn't surprise me as much as I wanted it to. But that has to do with personal taste and expectations and doesn't say anything about the quality of the book. Every reader will have to make up their own minds.
About the narrator: Debra Monk and I took a while to connect. I had to adjust to her voice and narration. It may have been the quality of the recording, but she sounded very harsh and tinny. For a fairy tale-like story as this one, I would've preferred a softer, more ethereal voice. At least that's what I thought in the beginning.
The deeper I went into the story, I realized how well Monk's voice suits the harsh, unadulterated Alaskan landscape. Concerning Mabel, I still think a softer narration would have fit better. But tough Esther, for example, is perfectly portrayed by Monk, and she's also a wonderful match for hands-on, no-fuss Jack. In fact, a softer voice never would have conveyed their character traits convincingly.
All in all, the book and Monk's voice found a good compromise. Monk won't become my favorite narrator, but, looking back, she was a good choice.
Bottom line: An (audio)book difficult to categorize, and therefore already a special one. I'd call it a reality fairy tale embedded in the portrait of a rough, merciless but beautiful landscape. One doesn't have to love Alaska to like THE SNOW CHILD, but the book certainly triggers an interest in the US's northernmost state and in its untamed wilderness. A penchant for fairy tales might be an advantage to come to terms with the fantasy aspects of the story – although THE SNOW CHILD at no point loses touch or drifts off into the fantasy genre.
The themes addressed are manifold: love and friendship, loneliness, depression, grief, fulfillment and resilience. Parents in particular (and those wanting to be parents) will be deeply touched, since the story also deals with the essential and insurmountable wish of raising a child and with the pain of having to let go.
This is a strange, special book that defies classification and will take the reader/listener into a snow covered, fascinating world in which reality and dream blend and make their peace with each other.