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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-06-18

Laughter is such a great thing!

Wow. First, when I say I’m listening to old radio broadcasts I heard as a child, I’m clearly dating myself! πŸ˜€ “Our Miss Brooks” (along with several other oldies but goodies, like George Burns and Gracie Allen, Lucille Ball, etc) just take me back to childhood, as I recall listening to these on the radio (and later, in the 1950’s, watching them as they transformed to tv). I was young then, but still enjoyed them.They are even better now, with some wonderful laugh-out-loud moments.

But this is caveat emptor for sure. Buyer: beware that this particular series has very poor audio quality. I have loved listening to them, laughed a lot! However, even though the audio improves with each year of the series, it is still not great. Worth the listen (to me) but I can only recommend the content, not the performance. But if you might be in the vicinity of my age, you’ll perhaps find it worth your while to struggle through the poor audio, to get to hear old jokes that are funny without offending, characters that touch your heart and memory-strings, and just hours of simple, clean fun. I’ve loved this. But admittedly, it has been challenging to hear it. (Audible: can you feel d a way to improve the quality? Maybe this is the best that can be done with really old tapes). I loved this. Someone else might—or might not—feel it worth the effort to hear them.

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5 of 6 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-12-18

Poor Hamish has love troubles πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—

Hamish MacBeth is up to his ears in challenges. Murder has happened, he has (Gasp!) been forced to accept a promotion he didn’t want, and a woman he doesn’t love is pursuing him hard! This book is a mystery, but the fun of reading Hamish is his easy-going but slightly neurotic lifestyle and his tortured love life.

In this book Josie McSween has been sent to him as his new constable. And though she is barely adequate at that job, she has untold quantities of energy for trying to hook Hamish as a husband, and boundless imagination for dreaming up schemes (some dangerous) to achieve her ends. This story involves the initial case of a young woman who is murdered, and gradually, as people discover she was not the innocent they believed, we have the parallel side story of Josie and her schemes proving she is also not what she seems.

In truth the actual mystery that they have to solve rather takes a back seat to the numerous adventures and mishaps that occur around the plot to ensnare Hamish in wedlock. It’s ok, but the real story that caught my attention (and had me chuckling now and again) was really the danger (actual and existential) that Hamish was unwittingly in throughout the book.

As usual, Graeme Malcolm did an outstanding job of narration. This series is light, clever, and nearly always fun to listen to. Recommend if you enjoy a mystery that is light on actual violence and a little stronger on characters, sense of place, and a bit of humor.

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6 of 7 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-05-18

Oh dear....not what I’d hoped for

I read a previous book involving the amateur sleuth, old Mordecai Tremaine,recently and with a couple of caveats, found it quite enjoyable. This one, not so much. :-(

Mordecai Tremaine is a retired single gentleman who loves solving mysteries and thinking/reading about romance. He tends to have a way of looking at a situation similarly to Miss Marple (and I think Mordecai’s stories are from around the same time period). But this one just didn’t do it for me.

Partly, I just had trouble with the flatness of the whole story. Books written in the “classic era” of British mysteries tend to have a different structure, and conversation is more formal and stilted than the way we speak now, etc. So one makes allowances for that in reading them (indeed, that’s usually part of their charm). But this one? Not sure if a different narrator would have helped—this one certainly didn’t improve anything (I had to adjust the speed to faster, became his reading dragged so much).

So if you are a fan of the “between the wars” British mysteries, by all means read this, just to round out your experience. But if you want entertainment, sadly I doubt you will find it here. Just my opinion, of course. And just FYI, I would definitely listen to another Mordecai Tremaine book, since, based on the other that I read, I find him an interesting character.

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7 of 9 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-05-18

Flavia is growing up!

I’ll have to say I was somewhat under impressed with the last couple of episodes in this series (despite that they had a lot of important life events for our young heroine, Flavia de Luce). This book appears to be marking a most definite transition point for her though, and I suspect future ones will be quite interesting to read.

If you have not read this series, you should start from the beginning, because even though this is a self-contained story, the back stories of the characters would make it much more understandable.

The family is trying to manage the passing away of their father, so they have chosen to spend time on a river trip. Flavia is dragging her hand through the water, and naturally (for her) she happens to snag a corpse. So even though this is a strange town, they have to stop, and quickly get involved in a larger mystery that the town people have been coping with. And, naturally, Flavia is up to the challenge. Dodger, the family watchdog (former military friend of her father) is increasingly playing a more prominent role, and it seems they are sharing the detective duties on this one, which seems to point to the direction of future books (to the good of the whole series, I think).

Flavia is delightful—she is everything a teenaged girl might aspire to be: clever, intelligent, brave, self-possessed, etc. And yet, she can be quite a little pest at times. Personally, I think I would like hearing a little less of her internal musings about chemical reactions, etc. All her scientific recitations reach the point where they seem more like filler for the book than information that adds to the story. I accept that she’s brilliant, but sometimes I’d like a little less of her technical info, and more showing how she puts it to use.

In the very first book, I thought the narrator was a bit off-putting. I am so sorry I ever thought that, because over the course of the series, the charming voice of Jayne Entwhistle has seemed to perfectly evoke the various tones of the precocious Flavia. Now I can’t imagine anyone else ever reading these books! In fact, I think I’m liking her reading almost more than the story. Jayne Entwhistle *is* Flavia for me now. Recommend!

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10 of 11 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-04-18

A wonderful Christie classic!

The thing is, it might be possible to say that some Agatha Christie books are better than others--but any one of them is still a delight to read/hear. And this does not disappoint. The shrewd Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, is at his best as he methodically investigates and uncovers this murder, having the classic ending--with everyone gathered together to hear his pronouncement.

This story, told by Poirot's friend Hastings (and literally narrated in audio form by the talented Hugh Fraser--who played Hastings in the series) involves elderly Emily Arundell, who has died, but not before sending a letter to Poirot, indicating her worry that someone wants her dead. And she has made an unconventional arrangement in her will that will leave the entire family upset and wanting explanations.

Her dog, a terrier named Bob, is thought to have left a ball in the hall that she tripped over--which strangely triggers her worries about being someone's target--and indeed, even before Poirot can arrive to consult with her, she has died. It looks like natural causes, but Poirot knows it isn't, so he remains to solve the mystery, as he was asked by her (before her death) to do.

Wouldn't call this Christie's best book--but it is very good. It was one of the few I probably only ever read once--many years ago, so I had forgotten the story--and that made it all the more fun! Recommend. It's hard to go wrong with Agatha!

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5 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-22-18

Much needed wisdom for our times!

Brené Brown is one of the few voices in our society offering the genuine means to healing the nation during this time of extreme devisiveness, anger and hurt. Have now listened to this book several times and ordered the print version, too, for a study group that will be using it as a guide for trying to find our societal way toward repairing the growing political schisms in our country, instead of inadvertently contributing to them.

If ever we needed a Wise Woman to appear and offer ideas for healing the nation, now is the time—as our country seems to be sliding perilously into deeply divided opinions that are entering (and hurting) friendships and families. Brené Brown seems to be this Wise Woman.

This book is all about *belonging* (the opposite of division) and while it could certainly be read as a personal self help book, I think it is meant to be self help for our entire social structure which has been rocked by continuing divisions of political ideas and other things.

Brown is a respected professor from the University of Houston, and she actually does research on topics like shame, vulnerability and belonging. Re our current national crisis, she points out that being angry and cutting ourselves off from other people, whose views we might not share, is not just separating us from our neighbors and family, it de-humanizes them in our views and leads to deep loneliness.

She recalls us to the time (not that long ago, but seems so distant now) when we lived and worked amicably with people who might not have shared our political ideas, but we liked and loved them because of their good qualities. She is offering a means to get back to a way of life where people can feel connected to each other, regardless of whom they voted for. And she offers specific ways to re-connect. Certainly this is not a book that would suggest people can’t (or shouldn’t) have differing ideas, nor that we can’t or shouldn’t speak up for what is right, when needed. But she focuses on the now-important task of healing the breach that has occurred because we did that so zealously and without thought to keeping relationships intact as we have had such sharply opposed opinions.

Brown offers a clear set of ideas about how to heal the divides that have occurred and how perhaps we could have more civil discourse with each other, when we have found our way back to appreciating the people around us in ways we’ve lost touch with. She reminds us that we are all deeply intertwined with each other, and putting the focus on belonging makes healing a possibility instead of continuing to be part of the divisions that have arisen among us.

Few books come along that seem so incredibly important for our times as this one. Please listen to this one.

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7 of 10 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-22-18

Agatha is always fun!

I don’t know if I’d call this Miss Marple book (by the wonderful Agatha Christie) her very best, but it’s quite a fun listen. It’s a cleverly plotted mystery that is filled with a rich assortment of characters, plot twists and turns, and reads very well—even 70 years after it was written.

The story is woven around an old children’s nursery rhyme, and of course, it takes all the quiet observational powers of Miss Marple to solve it. Sadly, Miss Marple doesn’t feature as strongly in this book as she does in some others. But the story flows well and the narration is good (Though a bit slow—I found that listening in 1.25 speed improved it greatly).

I’ve been an Agatha Christie fan for well over 50 years now, and I could almost say that her worst writing is still great reading. This is not her very best Miss Marple, but I’m happy to say it is very good. The plot is unusual, the characters well drawn, and the mystery quite fun. Even though I was well familiar with this book (having previously read it and seen the movie) it was an engaging listen. Agatha is like the Shakespeare of early mystery writers. You know the story but still love to hear them again and again. I sure do recommend it! πŸ‘

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4 of 5 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-17-18

GREAT performance makes “okay” story good

So usually we listen to one narrator reading a story. Occasionally Audible puts out selections that were programmed to be heard as a play (often originally done for radio, but I don’t know if that’s the case here). This is recent, and a full cast production of a short mystery, starring Bill Nighy, Suzanne Burden and Jon Glover.

The story itself is short, comedic, and ranks somewhere along the lines of a cozy, though not exactly that. Nighy plays a desperate out-of-work actor, Charles Paris, who seems to have a talent for exasperating everyone around him. He is given a role in a tv show billed as “Info-tainment.” He plays a man who was murdered, as it evolves into actual murder.

While I wouldn’t rave about the actual play, I would like to send my highest recommendations for the listening experience, just because the sound quality of this full cast recording was excellent. It is relatively new, not like some of the older radio broadcasts that have been reworked for listening. I was surprised at how nicely it played.

What made me want to find a cloth to bite down on in frustration, though, was that this is a 2 hour, 4 act play. And after every act, they laboriously had to go through all the music and credits (do they think we can’t remember for 30 minutes?). It was such an interruption. For serialized radio over days it would have made sense. For something most people would hear in one sitting, it is just annoying.

Anyway, everybody has stuff that gets under their skin, so just know to expect that, and enjoy. It’s rather a fun listen.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-16-18

What a find!

Many thanks to the listener who wrote such a positive review about this little gem! I might never have decided to listen to it otherwise.

I love Dorothy Sayers, and didn’t even know these little short mysteries existed. Hearing them read by Ian Carmichael (who plays Lord Peter Wimsey in several tv presentations) was a double treat.

Here are three fairly short stories, that illustrate Sayers’ talents yet again. The first concerns a frame-up for murder—with the clues outlined in a man’s dream. The other two feature Wimsey’s son. One (which begins at the child’s birth) left Wimsey sounding a bit cavalier about it, but, as with all books written almost a century ago, one has to be tolerant of mindsets that prevailed at the time.

In any event, it was such gift to discover this. Dorothy Sayers had such an interesting career, as she combined being a scholar in a very serious way with crime writing on the side. I love her work, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to this!

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17 of 18 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-16-18

Good historical mystery series

Charles Lenox is an independently wealthy, private investigator in 1876–a time when the profession is still young. In previous books, he has always been very successful at whatever efforts he turns his attentions toward. This book takes an interesting turn, in that it shows him struggling professionally for much of the story.

He and several of his longtime friends and associates have decided to open an investigation agency together. And to his astonishment and embarrassment, he not only does not receive a lot of requests for his help at first, he actually is getting some bad reviews in the press. Puzzled and unable to figure out what has happened, he suddenly gets a case when a man from Scotland Yard he has worked with for many years is murdered. Immediately he is back in his familiar territory—searching for a killer.

This is a pretty good series, one I’ve read over the years and enjoyed. I’d say one of the best parts of this books is the cleverness of the plot, but there were parts that were a bit slow (not too many,mostly in the beginning). The story gets quite involved and interesting, especially in the second half. The narration is good, and the various voices are easily identifiable. Recommend!

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful