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"Though the mystery drives the plot, it's Sam's rediscovery of himself in middle age that is the real focus in this accomplished debut novel, which also boasts outstanding dialogue and a vividly rendered setting. Expect to hear more from Knopf; he is definitely a writer to watch." (Booklist)
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By Cholmondeley on 04-04-13
A hero who doesn't work and play well with others.
I'm a glutton for audiobooks - especially mysteries - and I'm surprised I had never heard of Chris Knopf until I stumbled upon The Last Refuge. After hearing it read, I listened to the other four in a week. Five books by the same writer in one week is high praise. But note, these books won't be for everyone. My interest is in the protagonist, a 54 year old mechanical engineer, called Sam Acquillo, who is one of those guys who knows how almost everything works - both manufactured or natural. If he doesn't know, he can figure it out. He's a know-it-all, but he isn't annoying because he DOES know it all. He a good guy to have around, especially if you are tracking down various murderers.
Sam is a former boxer. He's wasn't a good boxer but he's stayed in shape by working out at grimy, smelly boxing gyms. When he meets another man, Sam sizes the man up and decides whether he could kick the guy’s butt. He usually decides that he can and he's usually right. This is largely because most men were never boxers of any sort, and if they were they haven't maintained the physical condition of even a mediocre boxer.
At the beginning of this book Sam runs a R&D Division of a huge corporation. He has a record of going all over the world to fix big problems in huge industrial operations. He's the company's best engineer, in spite of the fact that he doesn't play and work well with others.
The book begins with a corporate board meeting. Sam is invited and is praised for the remarkable job he's do with his division and the terrific revenues his team has been able to generate. In fact, it is so profitable that the Board is thinking about selling it off at a very high profit. Sam knows it's a done deal and is very unhappy to have his division sold out from under him.
Sam's lousy personality emerges. The house counsel, sitting across the table from Sam, starts to read a description of the mechanics by which Sam's division will be spun-off. Sam gets up, reaches across the table, grabs the lawyer's tie, and pulls him far enough across the table to punch him in the face. It isn't a good thing for anyone to do to another person, but Sam has seized the “reader’s attention,” (At least he seized my attention.)
Within twelve hours Sam has quit his job, abandoned his career, and has dumped his dreadful wife. He has also consumed a lot of Absolute vodka (which is a continuing riff). For days, weeks, or months, Sam runs on the wild side. His is committed to a detox. The program doesn't work but Sam gets off the streets and ends up in a small beach cottage he has inherited and which is barely habitable. He lives like a semi-hermit and is starting to FIND himself when he FINDS his elderly next door neighbor, a woman he doesn't like, dead in her bathtub. The police call it a natural death; Sam thinks it's murder because the old gal didn't take baths.
It goes on from there.
I'm giving five's to all of these recordings. They aren't the same kind of fives I give to Dickens novels, but fives to acknowledge a new series with a new protagonist I like the fictional John Deal and Doc Ford and the real-life Australian science-genius: Dr. Karl (who can be heard on a BBC podcast).
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
By Ronald on 07-07-13
Good, down to earth, detective mystery.
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
To many people have given up on this story too soon. For me, when I've had too much of the SF, Armageddon, magic, and other thrills, and just want a good book with a character I can get to know and respect, as well as great dialog - read by a narrator who makes it real, you can't beat Chris Knopf and Stefan Rudnicki. There may not be a lot of earth-shaking twists, but it is a good comfortable read that you just enjoy going back to.
What does Stefan Rudnicki bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Rudnicki has great rhythm. I liked his read of Ender's Game and thought he was perfect for telling Sam's story.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
Sometimes a good retirement is interrupted by little things like murder.
Any additional comments?
If you need non-stop action, don't read this series. But if you like a good story with great characters you can really get to know - and a few surprises, give the Sam Acquillo series a try.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful