Murder most sinful

TITLE: Sin, Shame and Secrets

Author:  David Yonke

Narrator: Dave Clark

Publication date: 2015

This is a true crime account of the resolution of a 24 year old cold case, involving the brutal murder of a Catholic nun in the sacristy of a chapel in a hospital in Ohio by a Catholic priest.

As you might imagine, this is really 2 stories.  First, there is the original crime and its investigation.  Then there is the reopening of the case, the subsequent investigation, and the trial of the Priest.  The facts of this crime make this a rather unique book …but what is of even more interest is the background information concerning the background of abuse by a minority of Catholic clergy, its disclosure, and the attempts of the Church to either cover it up, or gloss over the problem during the 80s and 90s.

Much of the new case depended on advances in investigative technology, and this, also, is of more than passing interest.  The book was very well written, with evidence of meticulous and extensive research by the author.  At times, I began to feel that perhaps there was too much concentration on the details of the incidences of abuse and the reactions of Church administrators, but I understand what role this information played in the context of the book, and why the author included it.  All in all, this is an informative, well documented, thorough retelling of a very disturbing case, and I felt the author presented his material excellently.  It was far from an easy book to read, but having done so, I am glad that I did.

The narrator, Paul Clark, did an excellent job narrating this book.  His phrasing and shaping of the text was just about perfect, and he helped to make even the dry, technical parts of the book readable.

All in all, I found this a worthwhile read, and would give both narrator and book 4 out of 5 stars.  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this unbiased review from Audiobookblast.com via the courtesy of the author.

The ultimate “what if” game historical fiction style

Title: Resurrection Day

Author: Brendan Dubois

Narrator: Rich McVicar

Publication date: 2015

I have always enjoyed alternate historical fiction as the ultimate “what if” game.  It has to be done very well, though to be believable, since the author takes an event or an incident in history, and takes it on a tangent, constructing a story around what might have happened had things been just a bit (or a lot) different.  In order to do this successfully, the author must have an excellent knowledge of what happened, why it happened, the motivations of the major “players”, and a clear picture of the context, socially and culturally, of the event.  If he/she does, then the tangent rings “true”.

Harry Turtledove comes immediately to mind when I think of alternate historical fiction, and his excellent work is my personal “measuring tape” against which I tend to place other works in this genre.

Resurrection Day measures up, beautifully.  What if the events of the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962 had gone differently, and there was no negotiated settlement?  What if instead of an understanding between Kennedy and Khrushchev that resulted, among other things, in the “red phone”, the situation deteriorated into the nuclear war that both countries approached so closely during that crisis?

In this book, that is precisely what happened, and the author examines life in the United States 10 years after.  In some ways, this reads like a post apocalyptic novel …without the zombies, but it is far, far more than that.  We see a country, and a world, that has been very much “rearranged”, but in plausible ways.  The U.S. is no longer a world leader, but a struggling country, trying to recover.  Other nations, specifically the United Kingdom now hold the power.  But it is also the story of people, living, working, coping, and yes, even hoping for improvement.

There is a bit of everything here, espionage, romance, adventure, and political intrigue …all wound so well together that I found myself both charmed and challenged.  I was a child during the missile crisis, but I remember it *very* well, and so, in many ways, it felt like returning to a few days of my life that I will never forget.

One of the things I *really* liked about this book is that, in the author’s projections, he was very careful to include only the technology that would have been available in 1972 or so …no cell phones, no personal computers, no modern military gadgets.  That faithfulness to the technologically possible made this book even more believable for me, since there were no glaring anachronisms.  True, the book got a tad didactic at times, but even when I was tapping my foot, waiting impatiently to see what would happen next, I understood the necessity of the explanatory material.  That extensive material could have made the book drag, but it didn’t, and by the time I had finished the entire book, I was glad it was all there.

The characters were nicely drawn, especially the main characters, and even some of the minor characters, and the pacing, though usually not break-neck, was fast enough where necessary to more than keep my interest.

The narrator was very good for this book, though I found his voice perhaps a bit too gentle for the material.  Still, his pacing, phrasing, and voicing of each character was excellent, as was his British accent.

All in all, though a very long book at over 18 hours, I found this a very satisfying read, and would give it 4.8 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of Audiobookblast.com in exchange for this unbiased review.

“get your kicks on Route 66”

Title: Hip To the Trip, a social history of Route 66

Author: Peter B. Dedek

Narrator: Michael Rene Zuzel

Provider: University Press Audio books

Date: 2015

This is a nonfiction presentation of the history, social and cultural impact, and possible future of Route 66, perhaps the most famous highway in America.  Route 66 is heavily freighted with popular cultural associations, from Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, to the famous song written about it in 1947 to the TV show “Route 66” which had a long run on network TV.  Its history and iconography are fascinating, and reading this book is a bit like taking a long ride from Chicago to the Santa Monica pier, but also taking a trip back in time, especially to the 50s and early 60s, when cars had big fins, gas was cheap, and families took driving vacations.  I remember some of those as a child, though not on Route 66, and they were wonderful, week long adventures.

This obviously extremely thoroughly researched material is presented in a very readable and accessible form, and so this book, a nonfiction presentation of fact, mostly without comment or interpretation, is interesting and readable.  I kept thinking that this was a popularization of a Doctoral thesis, and expected to see a raft of notes and bibliographies.  They weren’t there, as usual in audiobooks, though reference material may well be available from the print version of this book.

The narrator had a relaxed, non-emotional style that strongly reminded me of the kinds of voices used in radio broadcasting, before it became fashionable to present stories in a supercharged, emotional style.  He handled the material impeccably, and I found his voice, pacing and tone very easy and pleasant to listen to.

While this is by no means a page-turner, it does exactly what the author seemed to intend; it gives a fairly complete and thoughtful history of Route 66, and provides ideas and possibilities for its future conservation and role in American popular culture.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from the author, narrator or publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review through the courtesy of Audiobookblast.com.

hackle-raising suspense

EVIL GROWS AND OTHER THRILLING TALES
by Loren D. Estleman
Narrated by Paul Heitsch
Publisher: Crossroad books
Running time: 4 hrs. 39 min.

This book is a lovely little collection of 8 noir stories reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and such movies as Double Indemnity and On the Waterfront. The writing is lean, yet evocative. The author can, like the greatest of Chinese and Japanese painters, draw an absorbing picture using as few words as they do lines, yet I was immediately caught up in the story, the characters, and the settings. One of the things I liked best about this all too short collection is that there are a variety of settings, ranging from the seamier side of a large city to mountain back woods to a Bishop’s manse. In each case, the setting is vividly rendered and came to life in my mind’s eye with the clarity of a movie.

The characters are handled with equal skill, though don’t expect to like or sympathize with most of them. There are, of course, a few exceptions ..and a couple of villains who absolutely delighted me, and for whom I had not only sympathy, but wanted them to succeed in their endeavors. Some of these were rough justice, and some revenge …and my instinct was that, given the situation in which they found themselves, I well might have considered doing the same thing. Some characters are pure nastiness, but are extremely fascinating in the same way a cobra fascinates behind the protection of very strong safety glass (or whatever zoos now use). I found myself hypnotized by them, possibly because it was so hard to relate to them, and I was very glad that we had very little, if anything in common.

The plots are tight and very well developed, and, while some stories share elements of the same plot scenario, I never felt I was reading the same story told over and over again with slightly different flourishes. Instead, it was more like walking around a particular sculpture and viewing it from different angles, or thinking about a particular incident and then playing “but what if ..” with it.

The narrator was perfect for this book. Like the author, he could deftly portray many different characters, each of whom was unique, and handle speech patterns and regional dialects with graceful competency. His narration added sparkle and depth to an already excellently written book, thus giving me an engrossingly satisfying experience that engaged both mind and senses.

I received this book free through Audiobookblast.com from the narrator in exchange for a completely honest and unbiased review.