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A gem of a crime story, artfully told with liberal use of the amusing, endearing jargon of the criminal element in Victorian London, written in the form of brief chapters in a manner that engages the reader/listener, not least because the author manages to build and sustain suspense, even while providing strong hints and outright facts about what's to come.
The central figure leads a cast of characters worthy of a Dickens novel, and it's hard to imagine the superb performance of the reader being any better or more suitable for the historical setting and subject matter of the story.
An enthusiastic 5 STARS!
42 of 42 people found this review helpful
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Michael Kitchen is not a typical sort of narrator, but he ends up being absolutely perfect for Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery, which is not a typical sort of novel. If you're familiar with Kitchen from FOYLE'S WAR, then just imagine Christopher Foyle reading an audiobook and you have some idea what to expect. Kitchen uses the same cadence and delivery that he does in that character, offering unusually breathy, matter-of-fact, brisk narration. It doesn't sound like someone narrating an adventure; it sounds like someone recounting events. And... that perfectly matches Crichton's writing style.
The Great Train Robbery is a novel, and some of the events are fictionalized, but it is based on true events. Crichton uses the same quasi-non-fiction style that he uses for his other historical novels like Eaters of the Dead or Pirate Latitudes. There are so many accurate period details and references to other events happening at the time or even events happening later that you think you're reading non-fiction... but then the events seem just a little too thrilling to be completely true. The novel is as much about early Victorian society as it is about the titular robbery, and it's largely a condemnation of that society. A story about the criminal element proves the perfect vessel for such condemnation, and Michael Kitchen proves the perfect narrator. He sounds like a professor - granted, a really interesting professor, probably the best you ever had - delivering a particularly good lecture. And that really does add to the reading experience!
The downside to Crichton's historical style is that you never really get into the characters' heads, since the tale is delivered as if by a researcher who would have no way of knowing their inner throughts. But then, rich characterizations were never what Crichton was best at anyway. What he's best at is making details - be they about genetics or viruses or Victorian London - fascinating and exciting. And that's certainly the case here.
Kitchen's unique style takes some getting used to, and despite being a fan of his, I wasn't sure I was going to like it at first. But stick with it, because you suddenly realize it's PERFECT for this material, and adds a lot!
77 of 80 people found this review helpful
As always with Michael Crichton, his research is phenomenal, entertaining storyline but you always feel you have learnt a lot about the subject matter too. So in this case Mr Crichton includes relevant details on the history and beliefs of the time, the social etiquette and class restrictions and on a variety of matters from dog fighting to safes, prisons and the police force. A sad day when we lost this amazing writer full of imagination but committed to researching his subject matter.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
A recommended read. Exceptionally easy to follow in a journalist style which I enjoy very much.
Within The Great Train Robbery there lies a brilliant, engaging story about what must be one of history's greatest heists. However this story is at times relegated to the background and we are instead given a history lesson on Victorian culture. Because of this, the book doesn't know whether it wants to be a novel or a history reference, and the story suffers.
When the story does come to the fore, it is a very fun listen. Details of the setup of the heist and the heist itself are engaging and almost too fantastic to believe. The narration is ok. I agree with some other reviewers that the narrator speaks haltingly at times, but once you grow accustomed to his pace, it doesn't detract from the experience.