The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6) by Tana French – An #Audiobook Review – #police procedural – #TBT

Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

The Trespasser by Tana French 

Book Blurb:

In best-selling Tana French’s newest “tour de force” (The New York Times), being on the Murder Squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point. 

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed-to-a-shine, and dead in her catalog-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her – except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before. 

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-the-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. Aislinn’s friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be. 

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?  

My Review:

Protagonist Detective Antoinette Conway and her partner, Detective Stephen Moran, begin work on a new case involving Aislinn Murray, whose death is easily and quickly attributed to her new beau by the veteran detective who took lead in the interview. But since Conway was promoted to the Dublin Murder Squad, she has been the butt of practical jokes, harassment, and hostility, partly owing, she attributes, to her being a woman in a male dominated bastion.

The Trespasser by Tana FrenchDetective Conway is pushing back, however, her gut telling her this quiet, ineffectual man could NOT have been the one to cause Aislinn’s death. She is wondering, however, with the obvious circumstantial evidence, if she is getting paranoid, pushed this one time too many in a bid to find something that isn’t there.

Not my first go-round with the author, I previously read The Secret Place (semi-finalist in Goodreads’ best mystery/thriller category 2016) for a Reading Ireland Month in March 2019—it was 480 pages—and included both detectives. I figured this time I’d try an audiobook. Even at just over twenty hours, I’d make it in time for March.

Tana French is nothing if not verbose—I’m glad I went the audiobook route as that included narrator Hilda Fay who didn’t just read the book, she became Detective Conway allowing the reader to see the rest of the narrative riding on Conway’s shoulder, heart, and mind, hitting the nuances of French’s dialogue and thoughts with depth of emotion, philosophy, and circumspect anguish.

The problem is, with ALL that dialogue, and ALL those recriminations, and ALL those subtle disclosures of the nasty pranks from the guys, the novel tends to lose sight of the story arc and extends exponentially when it could easily have been conveyed in under 300 words. The interdepartmental rivals and pissing matches become a broken record and loses the plot spit and fire.

French does pull all her various threads together in spectacular fashion in the climatic conclusion thrusting home her theory. It’s a hallow victory—sad—unsatisfying. But it’s a win.

Book Details:

Genre: Women Sleuth Mysteries, #Suspense, British & Irish Literary Fiction
Publisher:  Penguin Audio

  • ASIN: B01IQ1MEH6

Print Length: 455 pages
Listening Length: 20 hrs 6 mins
Narrator:  Hilda Fay
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Trespasser [Amazon]

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Three point Five of Five Stars

Tana French - authorThe Author: Tana French is the author of In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, The Secret Place, and The Trespasser. Her books have won awards including the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards, the Los Angeles Times Award for Best Mystery/Thriller, and the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Dublin with her family.

 

Hilda Fay - narratorThe Narrator: Hilda Fay is an award-winning actress from Ireland who has worked both on stage and screen for the past 25 years. She has performed in Oedipus, Little Gem, and the one-woman show Alice Devine. Hilda’s TV and film credits include Prosperity, Proof, and Whistleblower, which won an IFTA award for Best Drama.

©2021 V Williams

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes – An #Audiobook Review – #historicalfiction

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Book Blurb:

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So, when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically. 

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them – and to the men they love – becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity, and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: Bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic – a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

My Review:

Well, add me to the list of those who read The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek (by Kim Michele Richardson) prior to The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. Richardson’s book was first. Jojo Moyes is a NY Times bestselling author and a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club (of the month) pick. It was also chosen to be one of “USA Today’s top 100 books to read while stuck at home social distancing.” A London author of this magnitude would not have to plagiarize anything, but that’s been the controversy since the Moyes book was published…and now set to be a major motion picture. ?!

I wrote my review of The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek after I tried to join a local library book club in February, 2020. They discussed many of the similarities during the meeting. When I saw this audiobook become available, I had to check it out.

I loved that first book for several reasons:

  1. It was my introduction to the 1930’s Pack Horse Library Project in Kentucky and as such a historical fiction—you know I have an affinity for those.
  2. It introduced me to the “Blue-skinned people” of Kentucky and that was quite the revelation.
  3. Intensely immersive into the times, the people, and the mountains of Kentucky.
  4. The hopeless stories of the desperately poverty-stricken (Depression era) people, living so isolated the only people they might see was the pack horse librarian.
  5. They received old newspapers, magazines, outdated books from other libraries, and homemade journals gleaned from other mountain folk of recipes, patterns, hints, and wise sayings or poems.
  6. A coal mining state, many miners died of black lung disease and the despairing living conditions of their families, lack of sanitary conditions, health care, and food.
  7. Heavily character-driven storyline.
  8. Many issues including political, societal, religious, domestic abuse, women working (gasp!) outside of the home (which really doesn’t widely occur in this country until WWII), and racism.

The main character of Troublesome Creek is Cussy (a blue-skinned woman). One of the two main characters of The Giver of Stars is an English woman, Alice Wright, crazy to leave her London home and stifling parents for an exciting new life. But the new life in the backwoods of Kentucky is not the life she imagined, and her groom, not the man. In fact, it is her father-in-law who is head-of-household and he’s old school in a staunchly patriarchal society. In an effort to make contact with the other women of the area, she jumps at the chance to become a part of the pack horse program. There, she meets the co-protagonist, independent minded and outspoken Margery O’Hare.

The men (and many of the women) are against the program, thinking it’ll put thoughts in the heads of the women, up until now kept “barefoot and pregnant” as they used to say. Also being in the Bible Belt of America, strict religious tenets played a strong part in defining a woman’s role and the participants distributing books were thought scandalous.

Am I largely repeating my review of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek? Yes, and it would appear to a large extent the storyline of this book as well. Most of the above are included albeit rewritten to more closely match the author’s writing style. The shunned blue woman now the shunned English woman. But fans and readers of author Jojo Moyes (there must be some romance) will find their expectation granted. This book, however, doesn’t describe the recipients of the program and their circumstances to the extent of the former, which I missed.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo MoyesBefore you start throwing rocks, there were also several things I liked about this book:

  1. A greater explanation of the “company store” and the castigation of the owners.
  2. The unfortunate division of the races, their roles, and living circumstances.
  3. The sisterhood of the widely differing women of the pack horse program.
  4. Descriptions of the mountains and remarkable heroism.
  5. The murder, jail account, and courtroom drama.
  6. Nicely done conclusion pulling not one but two rabbits out of the hat. Loved the first; not crazy about the second although at that point you had to figure it would happen.

Does all the drama over-shadow the story of the pack horse librarians? To a large extent, it does, and many of the support characters remain one-dimensional. Yes, I enjoyed a second take of the story of those courageous women, this one done in a strongly Jojo-esque style of drama and romance. But I still prefer the emotional impact, the prose, and the immediately engaging narrative written by author Kim Michele Richardson.

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  Penguin Audio
ASIN: B07QQ3J91J
Listening Length: 13 hrs., 52 mins.
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Giver of Stars [Amazon]

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4 stars

Jojo Moyes - authorThe Author: Jojo Moyes is a British novelist.

Moyes studied at Royal Holloway, University of London. She won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to study journalism at City University and subsequently worked for The Independent for 10 years. In 2001 she became a full time novelist.

Moyes’ novel Foreign Fruit won the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Romantic Novel of the Year in 2004.

She is married to journalist Charles Arthur and has three children.
Bio from Goodreads.

 

Julia Whelan -authorThe Narrator: Julia Whelan is an actor, writer, and narrator of over 400 audiobooks. Recently named one of AudioFile magazine’s Golden Voices, she has won numerous other awards, including the 2019 Best Female Narrator Audie for Tara Westover’s Educated and a SOVAS for the performance of her own novel, My Oxford Year. She is also a Grammy-nominated audiobook director as well as a certified tea sommelier. [Penguin Random House Audiobooks]

©2020 V Williams V Williams

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James – A Supernatural Thriller Audiobook or Print?

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James

Book Blurb:

Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the best-selling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

My Review:

So much hype. So many reviews that praised this thriller…and that cover? How many readers are old enough to have seen many of those motels on the road? Are you driving exhausted yet and ready to pull over? Gees, it so hooked me in…

until I started listening to the audiobook.

Many who have read my audiobook reviews before know that I generally much prefer the audiobook—they usually make it come alive, so real, so yeah—part of the conversation.

Vibes of Norman Bates—don’t take a shower…

Told in two POV’s, Vivian is working the night shift at the front desk in the early 80s when she begins to see ghosts. Once she begins to investigate, however, she discovers there have been a number of murders, disappearances, and she’s beginning to make a solid break-through when she herself disappears—without a trace.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St JamesFast forward to 2017, Carly Kirk visits the town of Fell hoping to figure out why her aunt disappeared. At odds and without ties, she gets the front desk job at the motel, also on the night shift, where she can freely dig around for additional information. It doesn’t take long before she, too, begins to spot apparitions, smell cigarette smoke, smell perfume.

Okay, the descriptions of the motel and how it has run to ruin are creepy. The people Carly meets are interesting but seem to get her nowhere, rebuffing inquiries. The ghosts begin to fade into the background as the storyline begins to flip back and forth between Vivian’s story and her discoveries and Carly’s story and her progress.

Vivian begins to think she knows what happened to the girls missing and murdered. She’s pushing her luck, but something just seems…off.

As Carly begins to make real progress, the story timeline overlaps and it’s déjà vu told in two perspectives. Their POV begins to blend and it’s no longer easy to remember who is speaking, only that Vivian’s perspective tends to make a little more progress pushing the plot.

While I had difficulty connecting to either of the two main characters, I did enjoy two support characters who added real interest to an otherwise dull delivery in what was essentially the monotones of both Vivian and Carly.

Worst, I knew (or thought I knew) what happened to Vivian about half-way into the narrative. And was right. The only thing left was to get the why and how.

I’m not sure why the audiobook was narrated in this particular fashion. I’ve never before listened to such a dull droning approach to reading what I understood was a successful novel by a bestselling author. While the description, the people, the plot may have provided a disturbing picture and engaging mystery in your head while reading, this audiobook may only relieve your insomnia.

Book Details:

Genre: Supernatural Thrillers, Horror Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  Penguin Audio

  • ISBN-10 : 0440000203
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0440000204
  • ASIN: B084641FWV

Print Length: 352 pages
Listening Length: 11 hours
Narrators: Brittany PressleyKirsten Potter
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Source: Local (Audiobook Selections) Library
Title Link: The Sun Down Motel

Add to Goodreads Simone St James - authorThe Author: Simone St. James is the award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare, which won two prestigious RITA® awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada. She writes gothic historical ghost stories set in 1920s England, books that are known for their mystery, gripping suspense, and romance.

Simone wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school. She worked behind the scenes in the television business for twenty years before leaving to write full-time. She lives just outside Toronto, Canada with her husband and a spoiled cat.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen – An #Audiobook Review No. 1 BestSeller

Rosepoint Publishing:  Five of Five Stars Five Stars

Audiobook - Where the Crawdads Sing

 Book Blurb:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

My Review:

Admittedly, this may be a book you’ll struggle with or wholeheartedly love. I went on the WL side. The story of six-year-old Kya Clark, abandoned by her mother and shortly thereafter by her (much) older siblings is now living in a marsh shack with her despotic father. Kya has to pretty quickly learn to survive on her own near Barkley Cove, North Carolina.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia OwensThe novel is divided by her story that begins with her mother leaving in the early morning hours of 1952 and the discovery of a body in 1969 near the old tower. Kya saw her mother leave–she’d left before following violent outbursts by her father sporting bruises and split lips. He often went into violent rages–and could–with or without the alcohol or moonshine infusion. But she’d always come back–this time she doesn’t. They are living on her father’s disability and at her age, a girl, not like her older siblings taught her much.

The storytelling is so emotionally poignant, the prose flows through beautiful descriptions of the natural setting in the marsh. It’s so easy to smell the decaying vegetation, algae inhabited waterways, spy the marsh inhabitants, amphibians, birds, and insects. Feel and smell the salt air rush inland from the Atlantic as it waves the marsh grasses and reeds. I enjoyed the setting as much as the characters. And the characters are powerful.

The characters are brought vividly to life with the narration, alternately spoken by child or adult, literate or illiterate, as well as the Carolina drawl. More afraid of the occasional human than the critters of the marsh, she becomes adept at hiding and carefully keeps to herself, spying on the few who wander into their area. Once having learned to motor into town on their old marsh fishing boat, she begins to draw the attention of the cashier at the Piggly Wiggly, the African American family, Jumpin’ and Mabel, where she bought the gas, and soon the lady from school, where she was promised a meal–real food–once a day. The problem was the intolerance of the kids, their taunts, sneers, jeers, and humiliation. She never went back. Kya, scrambling to find food, eventually connects with a friend of her brother. Gradually, driven by loneliness, she begins to meet with him and he patiently teaches her to read.

The mystery of the man many years later found just outside of the little village soon becomes a statewide scandal. He’d been a high school football star, son of a well-to-do and well-established family. The “Golden Boy.” And local law enforcement begins to work on tying his murder to Kya, as they’d been spotted together and she an easy target. She is brought up on charges and there are heart-thumping courtroom scenes.

Self-educated, no one knows more about the natural world of the marshlands than Kya. She’s come to be known as the “Marsh Girl.” She’s smart, has gone on to publish books on the wildlife of the marsh. But could it possibly have been she to cause the death of Chase?

The conclusion resolves carefully allowing you long enough for your heart to settle back down when you are knocked off your feet by a shocking revelation you didn’t see coming. It’s a brilliant twist, the well-plotted and written narrative so engrossing, so achingly atmospheric, every sense poised that you are hanging on every word. It’s a serious exploration of not a male coming-of-age this time, but a female left on her own reconciling abandonment, loneliness, hunger, disappointment, and triumph. Completely immersive, so engaging it remains solidly planted long after the end resulting in a tremendous book hangover. I’m going to be awhile getting over this one.

I received this audiobook download from my local library Overdrive offerings. The narrator does an award-winning, stunning job. Heartily recommended now that I have my emotions in check.

Book Hangover

Book Details:

Genre: Romance, Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  Penguin Audio
ASIN: B07FSXPMHY
Print Length: 384 pages
Listening Length: 12 hrs 12 mins
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Publication Date: August 14, 2018
Source: Local (Audiobook Selections) Library
Title Link: Where the Crawdads Sing (Amazon)
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Delia Owens - authorThe Author: Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in AfricaCry of the Kalahari, The Eye of the Elephant, and Secrets of the Savanna. She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in Nature, The African Journal of Ecology, and International Wildlife, among many others. She currently lives in Idaho, where she continues her support for the people and wildlife of Zambia. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.

You can also connect with Delia on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authordeliao

The Narrator: Cassandra Campbell is a prolific audiobook narrator with more than 700 titles to date. Winner of four Audie Awards and nominated for a dozen more, she was a 2018 inductee in Audible’s inaugural Narrator Hall of Fame.

©2020 V Williams V Williams