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I accidentally started Adler-Olsen's Department Q series with Book 2 and I was so glad I did because when I later listened to Book 1, the narrator made me crazy and I had to read it in print. Having read/listened to the Dept. Q books available on Audible, I eagerly picked up The Alphabet House and there is a lot to admire here, but it is not nearly as satisfying to listen to as the Department Q books. This book was first published in Danish in 1997, about a decade before the first of the Dept Q books and you can definitely see the change that 10 years made in Adler-Olsen's writing with the biggest difference being in the characterizations.
Brian and James are two English flyers shot down in World War II. They manage to escape capture and finesse their way into German military hospital to try to survive. Challenging under any circumstances, but especially tough when only James speaks German. The first part of the book detailing their travails in the mental ward of the SS hospital is fascinating and was clearly well researched, but then the book shifts 30 years and kind of loses its impetus and clarity. I found part 2 difficult to get through because it is fairly clear early on what will happen, but it takes a very long time to get there. Repeated threats to the protagonist might have been more suspenseful except that I didn't ever really connect with these characters. Former SS officers are the villains of the book and there is no subtlety in these guys - they are just plain evil to the core. There is more shading to the other characters, but I didn't relate to them or feel much for them. That stands in sharp contrast to the Department Q characters that I connected with almost immediately and am always happy to meet again in each subsequent book. Ultimately, The Alphabet House is quite interesting, but just not as satisfying as Adler-Olsen's other books.
Graeme Malcolm provided a nice narration of this book and did a great job with all the German names and places.
Ultimately, I am not sorry to have read The Alphabet House and if you are already an Adler-Olsen fan, you will probably like it. However, if you have not read this author yet, pick up Book Two of the Department Q series, The Absent One, first. It's a great book and a great audiobook and will give you a better idea of what Adler-Olsen can really do.
61 of 64 people found this review helpful
I love the author's inspector Q series. I thought this was another in series. It is not. It is better. Highly plausible innovative theme that keeps you listening. With over 1000 books in my library I rarely find something that I would classify as innovative. This book is. Kudos to the author.
68 of 72 people found this review helpful