|The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those without Conscience
by Kent A Kiehl, narrated by Kevin Pariseau
Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear
Written by Jacqueline Winspear, Narrated by Rita Barrington
Reason for Reading: Real Life book club
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery / Women’s Fiction
Maisie Dobbs is disappointed when her first case as a PI is to investigate a potential infidelity; however, things get a little more interesting when her investigation brings to light a suspicious death in a home for soldiers injured in WWI. But investigating the home turns out to be more dangerous than she’d thought.
This book was WAY outside my box. I generally don’t read women’s fiction or books that have a feminist leaning – though sometimes I enjoy such books. So this mystery wasn’t for me. The mystery part of the story was very light – she investigated a potential infidelity at the beginning, and at the end she investigated a suspicious home for injured soldiers. The middle half of the book was all Maisie’s background and character development, which I found off-topic and a bit contrived. Maisie is one of those WWI women who did absolutely everything the stereotypical WWI literary woman does. She got caught up in the feminist movement (somewhat), was educated beyond her class and gender, lied about her age so she could be a nurse in France, etc. etc. It’s like Winspear took a list of WWI woman stereotypes and checked them all off. Thus, I felt absolutely no empathy for Maisie’s character because she felt so fake to me. The little touch of mystery at the beginning and the end wasn’t enough to save the book.
I can see that many readers would love this book – if you like women PI’s, especially of the historical variety, then this is probably a good book for you. The series IS popular. It just wasn’t for me. *shrug*
Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn
Reason for Reading: Real life bookclub
Camille Preaker is a troubled young woman and a mediocre journalist. When her editor sends her to her home-town in Missouri for investigative reporting on a possible serial killer, she must stay with her emotionally-destructive mother and wild half-sister. As Camille struggles with ghosts from her past, including her own self-destructive behavior and memories of a dead sister, she discovers that the murders are darker and more complex than she’d originally suspected.
Although this book certainly had a good deal of mystery to it, it wasn’t really for me. Although I generally liked Camille’s character, there were several times when I groaned inwardly at her choices. She was weak and self-destructive. Such characters are really difficult to write well, and Sharp Objects had a bit of a debut-novel feel to it – perhaps Camille’s character should have been created by a more seasoned author. Another issue I had with the book is it was simply too dark for my tastes. There was so much ugliness in the book. Violence, self-loathing, sexual exploitation, and more. On the other hand, I DO understand why some people like this book. The key question to ask is – how much ugliness can you deal with? If you like reading about emotionally troubled characters, then this book would be attractive to you. There was a slight redemptive feel to the story at the end. A ray of hope for Camille. I appreciate that I was given that much. 🙂
Midnight Riot, by Ben Aaronovitch
Written by Ben Aaronovitch, Narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Reason for Reading: Real-life Book Club
Peter Grant is a bumbling, easily distracted constable on the fast-track for a paper-pushing job. His luck unexpectedly turns when a ghost approaches him at a murder scene. Apparently Grant does have a talent – he can see dead people. Suddenly, he is adopted as the sole apprentice of Detective Chief Inspector Nightengale, who heads the supernatural division of the police. Grant is up to his ears in weirdness as he tries to solve the murder while learning the ropes in the unexpectedly supernatural world. I mostly enjoyed Midnight Riot for its interesting world-building and a lot of dry humor. The character of Grant was likable enough – even if he was bumbling – and I suspect I’d grow attached to him after a few books in the series. The plot tended to stray a bit more than I prefer, though. Nothing too bad, mind you, but there were a few moments where I wondered if we were still trying to catch the murderer or just enjoy the scenery. I prefer a little more focus. But these passages were never very long, and the book was, for the most part, quite enjoyable. I’m sure I’ll pick up the next in the series some day.
As for the narration by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith…I think his cadence, tone, and delivery was done perfectly for our character. He was so dead-pan with the dry humor that I sometimes only caught the humor by delayed reaction. Which made it funnier. 🙂 On the other hand, he was a rather loud (and wet) breather. I figured at first that this was put on for the character effect – but then I realized that such breathing would be difficult to fake unless he narrator was really congested. So…the loud breathing wasn’t enough to put me off, but it might be enough to put SOME people off.
The Poisoner’s Handbook, by Deborah Blum
2012 Book 149: The Poisoner’s Handbook
written by Deborah Blum, narrated by Coleen Marlo
Reason for Reading: October Halloween theme
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
Reason for Reading: Murder and Mayhem in May
My Review 4/5 stars
In Cold Blood is a first-of-its-kind true crime book where journalism was written in novel-form. In a small Kansas town in 1959, four members of the Clutter family were brutally slaughtered in their home. The book begins by personifying the members of the Clutter family and laying out the last couple days of their lives. It also brings to life (disturbingly) the two murderers, outlining their histories and motivations. This is a work of genius in real-life characterization. The author clearly had compassion for at least one of the murderers, so much so that he was accused of being “obsessed.” I don’t find this obsession as shocking as some people, I suppose, because I understand that psychopaths are generally EXTREMELY charming and are able to manipulate people into feeling empathetic towards them. I wonder, though, if Capote knew as much about the diagnostic criteria of psychopaths back then as a good journalist-doing-his-job would have today, would he have portrayed the two men the same way? While reading, I kept saying, “these men are psychopaths, and yet they are portrayed as having (very tiny!) consciences…” If the book were written today, I don’t think it would be the same book. Regardless, I think it’s a classic that will stay with us forever simply BECAUSE it portrays a world that was perhaps less complex and more innocent than today’s.
Catch Me if you Can, by Stan Redding
2012 Book 21: Catch Me if you Can, by Stan Redding (2/1/2012)
This is the autobiography of Frank Abagnale, Jr. a con-man and counterfeiter who made millions passing fraudulent checks all around the world and, meanwhile, posed successfully as a Pan Am pilot, a pediatrician, and a lawyer. I enjoyed the movie based on this book so I hoped the book would be better. Although the book certainly provided more information about the scams and how he got away with it, Abagnale himself was much less charming in the book. He was too much of a womanizer and a…well…con-man. Emotions weren’t expressed (other than relief at escaping one or another of his women), making it difficult to empathize with him. Also, the adult Abagnale (who took part in writing the book) didn’t seem to feel much remorse about his activities. He rationalized: “I never conned a square John out of money,” but ignores the emotional strain that he must have put on many of his victims. Also, I am a little skeptical of the “true” part of this “true crime” story. I believe that the basic idea is true, but there were just too many convenient coincidences for his story to be entirely accurate. He must have taken bits and pieces of different escapades and pasted them together into a unified story, and over-emphasized his own cleverness. Clearly, he’s a genius, but I still would have liked a little more “oops, that was stupid” in his story. It would have humanized him. Not even a genius can be clever all the time! 3/5 stars