Thursday, September 16, 2010

Three Audio Books

During summer car travels, we listened to several audio books, with mixed results. The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi is the true tale of the authors shared obsession with an unsolved series of crimes. A serial killer in the 1970's ritually murdered fourteen young lovers around Florence, was never caught, and is known as the Monster of Florence. Preston moved with his family to Florence (he is a mystery writer), met Spezi and together they searched to uncover and confront the man they believe is that monster. Along with murder, mutilation, suicide and vengance, they themselves become targets of a bizarre police investigation. The tale itself if fascinating, providing an additional lesson in political corruption and the concealed and extensive corruption within the Italian legal system. The tale is long, quite interesting, well narrated (Dennis Boutsikaris) but might well have benefited from some editing, since the details sometimes bog down the progress of the story.

Richard Russo, whose writing I thoroughly enjoy, wrote That Old Cape Magic, about the long, painful, sometimes funny struggles of Jack Griffin, a man in mid-life whose marriage is crumbling despite all the trappings of success, wife, daughter, etc. He has truly hideous parents and Russo creates very real, sad but often funny, people. However, over time I tired of this clueless man who excludes his family, thinking they have no impact upon his behavior and life if they are not physically present in his world. His realizations come slowly over time and I somehow lost patience with him as damages pile up along the way. Competently narrated (Arthur Morey), I wanted more to "happen" in this rather slow, character driven work.

The Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St. Germain, by Andrew Greeley, is a "locked room" mystery (unraveling a mystery without chases, locations, etc.). Bishop Blackie, an intelligent, balanced Catholic Bishop makes entertaining and wry observations about love, life, religious pretentions and rigidity, as he tries to track down and understand the motivations of a priest who has gone missing. The author includes multiple pieces of history and detailed locations in Paris that make the traveler smile in memory, and the Bishop is a very astute man. However well narrated by George Guidall, the writing suffers from being "too" clever, overusing words like "patently"and "arguably" which over time, grew annoying. I found the resolution of the story to exceed my suspension of disbelief, leaving me somewhat disappointed in the end.
That said, the pleasures of audio books cannot be denied.

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