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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-08-18

Exciting and Scary!

What if a canister of military chemical/biological weaponry got "lost", and put up for sale on the black market? What if you were an army general responsible for that canister? How could you find the missing canister, while still keeping the whole snafu secret? In "Zero Option", Deutermann poses these questions in a literary scenario ... and just about scares us out of our skins.

Dick Hill, as always, does an excellent job of voicing all the characters in this terrifyingly plausible novel. In a way, we listeners have an advantage over the print-readers in a novel like this, because a good narrator -- using his repertoire of voices and inflections -- distinguishes for us from the get-go the good guys from the bad guys. Listen carefully to Dick Hill's vocal inflections for each character, and you will see what I mean.

Should you purchase "Zero Option"? That depends ... Do you like military thrillers? Deutermann is not for everyone. I confess that his stories sometimes go a bit over my head when he gets into Chain-of-Command terminology and entanglements. Someone who has served in the armed forces or worked in the military would probably understand these allusions better than I do. However, Deutermann weaves such intricate, fascinating plots that I eagerly gobble up his novels, despite my military naivety. If an author could be said to have a distinguishing trade-mark, then Deutermann's trade-mark would look like this: All the characters in a convoluted plot are trying to figure out what the other characters are conniving. Through immaculate logic and deduction, they all come to exactly the wrong conclusions. Acting on those conclusions, they bring on near-cataclysmic disaster. The good guy, of course, saves the world at the last minute. Does that appeal to you? If so, then yes: Buy "Zero Option".

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-14-18

Well-Written, Sad, … and Unfinished

DeLeeuw has given us a beautifully-written, well-plotted, disturbing tale that leaves us a bit unsatisfied at the end. It tells the story of two young people who are dealing in opposite ways with the dark tragedies buried in their pasts. DeLeeuw keeps us intrigued by revealing these tragedies to us in small, measured doses throughout the narration, while simultaneously recounting the accidental intersecting and entangling of the protagonists’ lives. In a way, DeLeeuw almost succeeds too well with "The Dismantling", making us care about these characters so much that, at the end, we want to know what becomes of them … The story feels a bit truncated.

Narrator Robbie Daymond has a nice voice, and does a good job narrating this Shakespearian-style tragedy, distinguishing all the characters from one another clearly. I recommend "The Dismantling" to anyone looking for a well-written, well-narrated story, but not to people looking for light escape fiction or an action-packed thriller.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-02-18

Only Deaver Could Pull It Off.

Imagine that you are an editor for a big publishing house, and one of your authors comes to you with this proposal for a suspense/thriller/mystery series:

"See, there’s this drop-dead-gorgeous, arthritic, muscle-car-driving, auto-mechanic, self-destructive, former-fashion-model-turned-sharp-shooting cop; and she and this alcoholic, quadriplegic, brilliant, suicidal, grouchy criminalist fall in love; and together — he serving as the brains, and she serving as the body — they proceed to solve puzzling case after puzzling case."

Ridiculous, right? It will never fly, right? Well, not if your author is Jeffery Deaver. Deaver not only makes it work, time after time, but he has established his own genre: Deaver-esque, Deaver-ish, Deaverism. No one else does switcheroos, convolutions, twists, turns, and surprises quite like Deaver.

So, should you buy "The Burial Hour"? That depends. Are you looking for light, easy escape fiction — something that you can take to the beach, and read with a fraction of your mind engaged? Then, no, you probably will not enjoy any of the Lincoln Rhyme novels, because Deaver requires your full attention. Do you live in New York City? Well, then, Deaver is kinda required reading. People from New York will definitely appreciate the Lincoln Rhyme series more than us deprived people from Elsewhere.

On the other hand, you can pretty much dive into the Lincoln Rhyme series anywhere — including here, with "The Burial Hour". In fact, "The Burial Hour" might provide you with a good place to start meeting Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs, since most of the action takes place in Naples, Italy — outside their usual stomping ground. (That gives the Naples-ese the advantage!)

If, like me, you appreciate an audiobook’s narrator at least as much as the plot and the writing; then, again, you gotta listen to all the Deaver novels narrated by Edoardo Ballerini. In fact, I think that I could listen to Ballerini reading the phone book. He has the perfect combination of a beautiful voice and masterful acting chops. No actor could have been better chosen to narrate "The Burial Hour", since — besides the beautiful voice and the acting chops thing — he clearly speaks fluent Italian, adding seamless verisimilitude to the Naples setting. (I think that he even does a credible South African accent here ... although you would probably need to check with an Afrikaner about that ...)

In summary: Buy this audiobook if you are willing to pay attention and you love surprises.

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0 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-03-18

Bummed 'cause I Have to Wait for the Next Episode!

I just listened to this entire series, episode-by-episode, and now I want to go on to the next one … Only, it has not been published yet! Don't you hate it when that happens?

I recommend the "Sniper" series to all fans of military thrillers. It has the bonus that you can start listening anywhere in the series without feeling lost: Coughlin and Davis do a good job of filling us in on all the characters and backstory that we will need to enjoy the current episode. Fans of Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series will see a certain similarity between the two series: Both tell us exciting, well-plotted stories about an aging assassin-with-a-heart. You will not find the literary caliber of the Gabriel Allon series here in the Sniper series; but, in some ways, the Sniper series offers us more escape-fiction enjoyment. After all, Reality kinda sucks sometimes, right? Think of the Sniper series as Summer Blockbuster-ready material, or a really good graphic novel: Boom! Pow! Oof! All the bad guys are unconditionally, irredeemably bad; so we do not mind at all when our hero, Kyle Swanson, blows them away, even with the explicit description. At the same time, Coughlin and Davis give us, in Kyle Swanson, a believable and likable hero, who does not get away unscathed by the way he earns his living.

Now, I am going to pay Luke Daniels the highest compliment that you can pay to an actor: You hardly notice him. He is that good. He has so many voices and so many accents that you feel like you are listening to a multi-actor performance. I think that he could make a bad book sound good … and here, he has good material to work with!

If you are OCD, like me, start at the beginning of this series -- with "Kill Zone" -- and watch how the episodes keep getting better and better. On the other hand, if you are ADD, start here, with "In the Crosshairs" -- or anywhere you like in the series, for that matter -- and listen to the episodes in any order you please. Enjoyment guaranteed, either way.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-03-18

"Sniper" Series Just Keeps Getting Better

I would recommend this entire series to anyone who enjoys military thrillers. Unlike most other thriller-genre series, you can actually get away with listening to the "Sniper" series out of order: Coughlin and Davis do a good job of filling us in on all the characters and back-story that we need to know. In fact, I would recommend starting with "Long Shot", so you will not experience the narrator-change-in-the-middle-of-the-series shock that everyone is complaining about. Fear not: Scott Sowers does a fine job of narrating "Long Shot". I dare say that, had he been narrating this series from the beginning, few of us would have given him a bad rating. Only, we are comparing him with an impossibly high standard. Sowers does not have quite as nice a voice as Luke Daniels, and he uses a different style and timing than Daniels does, but he still has a wide range of voices and accents at his disposal, and does an excellent job distinguishing all the characters. If other reviewers’ bad ratings are giving you pause, I would suggest that you listen to the five-minute sample that Audible provides here, and see if Sowers’ performance really bothers you. I have no hesitation giving him five stars, while still looking forward to getting Luke Daniels back.

By the way: If the Publisher’s Summary above leads you to believe that our Sniper hero makes a 100-mile shot in "Long Shot", and you are going, "Yeah, sure" … Don’t worry — It is even better than that! Check it out.

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-28-17

Something to Offend Everybody

I agree with other reviewers that "Charlatans" might not qualify as Robin Cook’s best effort to date … although, in general, his medical thrillers have been improving with each outing since his first 1977 effort, "Coma". With the exception of "Charlatans", Dr. Cook’s thrillers always address some important, urgent, frequently egregious issue relating to our dysfunctional medical care system. These issues generally boil down to human greed introducing corruption into the system: the insurance racket, big Pharma, hospital politics, and the like. However, in "Charlatans", Cook addresses the evils of … social media? … nutritional supplements? Yeah, I know.

Listeners who have had trouble relating to Cook’s previous novels might find "Charlatans" a bit more accessible than the others, because it indulges in less "medical-speak" than they do. None-the-less, I hesitate to recommend this novel to anyone who has not listened to any other samples of Dr. Cook’s oeuvre, because it just does not represent the captivating story-telling caliber that he normally offers us. On the other hand, veteran, silky-voiced, master narrator George Guidall delivers his usual skillful performance, given the material he has to work with here. Bottom line: Skip this one, unless — like me — you are a long-time Robin Cook fan.

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9 of 10 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-11-17

History Lesson … So’s You’ll Enjoy It!

If you are looking for lyrical prose … look elsewhere. Each time I start a Steve Berry audiobook, his awkward writing style drives me nearly to distraction for a while … until I loosen up my pedantic OCD a bit, and resign myself to just enjoying the story’s plot. If good writing matters to you, but you also love intelligent thrillers, then here is your dilemma: Steve Berry is not a natural-born writer, like, say, Cormac McCarthy, or Elizabeth Peters, or James Lee Burke. However, he is a natural-born historian, and his passion for history shines through in his Cotton Malone thrillers. If, like me, you had a history allergy in school, let Steve Barry make it fun and exciting for you. Each Cotton Malone episode teaches us a fascinating history lesson by way of a hair-raising, nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat adventure. At the end of each story in the Cotton Malone series, Mr. Berry provides us with an author’s note revealing which aspects of the plot were drawn from actual historical events, and which aspects derived from his imagination. I predict that this revelation will surprise you: Frequently the most far-fetched parts of the novel turn out to have actually happened. In “The Lost Order” I learned more about the Civil War, the Smithsonian Institution, and the United States Government than I ever absorbed in school. As an extra, added bonus for Cotton Malone fans: We finally learn, here in “The Lost Order”, how Cotton got his moniker! So, here is my advice to all thriller-lovers contemplating purchasing “The Lost Order”: Temporarily forget everything you learned in English class, and prepare yourself for a Dan-Brown-esque thriller, with cryptic maps, puzzles, codes, clues, cyphers, multi-generational secret societies, and even a secret hand-shake. BTW: This Audible version of “The Lost Order” offers you two renderings of this audiobook: the first one without Mr. Berry’s interspersed commentary, and the second with it. I listened to both renderings, and recommend that you consider doing so, too, in the prescribed order. Mr. Berry’s commentary supplies both enlightening and entertaining historical insight into the story.

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26 of 26 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-04-17

Another Winner from Berenson

If you love thrillers, than you have probably already discovered Alex Berenson’s John Wells series, and you already know Well’s backstory. If not, I recommend that you start at the beginning of this series, with “The Faithful Spy,” and, ideally, listen to all the prior episodes in this series before beginning “The Prisoner.” Otherwise, this audiobook might seem to move a bit quickly.

Like most thrillers, “The Prisoner” tells a fantastic story involving a super-human protagonist in an impossible situation. Berenson enriches this recipe with his encyclopedic knowledge of history, government, geo-politics, current events, and geography. He seasons the pot with more than a dash of cynicism and good writing skills. All his descriptions of locales — which, by the way, span the globe in this series — convey spot-on detail and accuracy, conjuring up a vivid movie in the listener’s mind’s eye.

In “The Prisoner,” we get to know the identity of the CIA mole almost from the beginning of the story, while John Wells and Ellis Shafer must struggle against the clock for the rest of the book, trying to track the traitor down. Berenson gives us some understanding of the mole’s motives for betraying his country — if not for his methods — by describing the horrors that he witnessed the CIA perpetrating in Iraq and Afghanistan. (“Buy off anyone who is for sale, and kill the rest.”) We also get disturbingly vivid descriptions of the even worse horrors that the Islamist jihadists are perpetrating on those who hold opinions or ideologies that differ from their own. (We can clearly see the source of Berenson’s cynicism.)

As always, masterful George Guidall delivers an excellent performance of “The Prisoner,” with his beautiful, mature voice, perfect timing, and subtle inflections.

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12 of 12 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-18-16

Don’t Drink the Water ...

... and never visit Promise Falls! Promise Falls, Upstate NY, is having a really bad month. Okay, I am pretty sure that Promise Falls does not really exist (I could not find it in my Maps app); but Mr. Barclay makes it feel awfully real in his Promise Falls series. In any case, I suggest that you visit there only virtually, via this audiobook series, because Promise Falls is turning into a dangerous place to live! However, you really, really must start from the beginning, with “Broken Promise.” In fact, if you want to get properly diligent about it, you should first listen to Barclay's “Too Close to Home,” “Never Look Away,” and “A Tap on the Window,” in order to learn the full back-story on the characters that re-appear in the Promise Falls series. (BTW: I suspect that we will be hearing more from Barclay about Promise Falls, because he leaves a few plot threads dangling here in “The Twenty-Three.” I cannot wait for the next episode!)

Mr. Barclay uses a clever technique in this Promise Falls series, where each entry features a different character, who gets to speak in the first person. First, out-of-work newspaper reporter David Harwood (whom we learned about in “Never Look Away”) tells the story from his point-of-view in “Broken Promise.” Then, private investigator Cal Weaver (from “A Tap on the Window”) picks up the story in “Far from True.” Finally, police detective Barry Duckworth (introduced in “Too Close to Home”) tells us about Promise Falls’ poisoned-water mystery here in “The Twenty-Three.” You will like Barry Duckworth. He has smarts, intuition, diligence … and an inordinate sweet-tooth. What’s not to like?

In each of the Promise Falls series so far, the publishers used two narrators: one to voice the featured character, and one to narrate the rest of the story. “The Twenty-Three” has the best pair of narrators in this series, in my opinion. I especially liked Richard Poe’s depiction of Detective Barry Duckworth. Poe believably conveys not only Duckworth’s investigative thought processes, but also his — funny! — battle with doughnuts; and Poe capably voices the other characters with whom Duckworth dialogues.

Bottom Line: If you like mysteries, then buy this audiobook … but first listen to its prequels in the Promise Falls series.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-11-16

Deceit, Sadness, Anger … & World-Class Plotting

When I wrote, “World-Class Plotting,” I was referring to Linwood Barclay’s masterful story-telling; however, I could just as well have been describing his characters’ sneaky, deceitful shenanigans within the plot. Yikes! This audiobook has positively Deaver-esque twists, red herrings, and tangles-within-tangles. When you listen to any of Barclay’s novels, do not ever think that you have solved the mystery: I guarantee you — you have been cleverly misled.

I only recently discovered Mr. Barclay’s oeuvre. (I started with his 2012 novel, “Trust Your Eyes,” and I liked it so much that I back-tracked and purchased all of the Barclay audiobooks that I could get on Audible!) I have discovered a few dark themes that seem to penetrate all of his works: They all seem to tell us stories about families, with some sub-current of sadness, tragedy, deceit, loss, and anger running through their lives. Double that for “A Tap on the Window.” This darkness disturbs me a bit — because my audiobook listening always affects me emotionally — but Barclay’s magnificent plotting and excellent writing overcomes all of my emotional hesitation. (When I rate an audiobook, I always ask myself: Will I be listening to this book/series/author again? Well, I will definitely be listening to all of Barclay’s audiobooks again, plus all of his future offerings.)

Narrator Mark Zeisler has an attractive, slightly husky, mature voice, and he does a good job of narrating “A Tap on the Window.” However, he does not have the range of voices to distinguish the characters from one another adequately, in my opinion: Sometimes I felt a little confusion as to which character was speaking during the dialogues. For this reason — because I value the Performance as much as the Story in my audiobooks — I have docked Mr. Zeisler's narration one star in my rating. Nonetheless, I recommend “A Tap on the Window” to all mystery lovers — fans of Jeffery Deaver, especially, will like all of Barclay’s novels — as long as you can tolerate a bit (well … more than a bit, actually) of darkness and sadness in the story.

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10 of 11 people found this review helpful