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4 stars for the story
5 stars for the narration
4 1/2 stars total
This book is set in England, deep into the dark days of WWII. In this first full book of the series, Guy Winter has returned to intelligence work in London following time off to come to terms with the sudden death of his wife. First off, he delves into finding a serial killer, one whose murders are mimicking Jack the Ripper’s as the half-century mark of that slayer’s deeds approaches. Winter discovers a common thread among the victims: all are, or were, working as undercover intelligence agents, gathering information from clients to help the war effort. In addition to stalking this killer, Winter and other members of his circle, provide information on the status of Britain at war. As readers and listeners, we are allowed to listen in on some private conversations that help set the stage for what might happen next. We learn how thinly stretched are the staff of Scotland Yard and the intelligence services of MI5 and MI6, and see how information is tightly controlled, hoarded, by each service.
This is the second book in the series, following Winter’s Pearl. While Winter’s Pearl helped me to sort out the characters, I don’t’ think it’s necessary to read or listen to it in order to enjoy Winter’s War. I enjoyed this second book more than the prequel because it had more action and a more intricate and involved storyline. Both books are bogged down by too much detail, which makes the happenings hard to follow as they get lost in all that minutia. As I listened to this audiobook, I’d find my attention wandering as descriptions and chatter droned on, and then I’d realize that I had missed something important. I would need to rewind and re-listen, which made this book take an extra hour or two to get through.
Other than the main character, Guy Winter, the characters come across flat and stereotypical, but they keep the story moving along. Despite the excellent narration, I often had time keeping the characters sorted. Each had a distinct voice, but their names and positions constantly kept me guessing as to who was who. At times, characters that hadn’t been mentions in many chapters, or since the sequel, are brought back without reintroduction, which made it hard to sort out who they were or how they fit in. Over detailed descriptions and out-of-the-blue characters are, I think, the biggest problems with the writing. I did wonder at the sudden acceleration of the relationship between Guy Winter and his neighbor/housekeeper. It seemed to go from zero to sixty in a very short time, and that didn’t seem to fit either character’s . . . well, character.
There’s a very noir feeling to the book, perfect for war-torn England under siege from constant air attacks. Gas masks, dark streets, sirens wailing, they all add to the atmosphere and provide the perfect backdrop for a Jack the Ripper copycat. The one attack that happens on the street is very well done and demonstrates, without too much detail, how horrific the final minutes of the victims’ lives were. There are a lot of twists and turns built into this book, and they come when you least expect them, especially the surprise near the end. As for the end, I found it a tad out of place. Somehow, the reading of a police report didn’t seem to work with the rest of the book. It very much felt tagged on, as if some editor told the author that he needed some device to tie everything together. This wasn’t the best way to do that.
The narration is excellent, and voices are well defined and well differentiated, male and female. Melanie Fraser narrates with feeling and care, and her voice is a delight for the ears.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It takes some time to get into, but once it picks up speed, it keeps going.
I received a copy of this audiobook for free from the narrator. Opinions expressed in this review are my true reaction to the book and are not influenced by her generosity.
Any additional comments?
Winter’s War by James Philip is the first full length book in the Guy Winter series featuring a WWII Scotland Yard detective at the height of the Battle of Britain. I recommend this audiobook to anyone who enjoys listening to historical espionage thrillers.
The story begins with Guy Winter returning to London after a year’s absence following the unexpected death of his wife. Being an expert in Jack the Ripper lore, Scotland Yard needs Winter to find a serial killer who is mimicking Jack the Ripper’s murders that occurred more than 50 years ago. He soon uncovers a link between the victims that the original Jack the Ripper murders did not possess – the current victims were all "Pearls" of WWI (female spies for British intelligence). My favorite character by far is Sergeant George Ransom who is underappreciated, perceptive, and extremely loyal to Winter.
The author points out that this series is meant to be read and listened to as "coherent, linked episodes," which might explain why the book just ends without any real conclusion. Thankfully, I listened to the next two books as well.
Melanie Fraser narrated this audiobook wonderfully, like she did the other books in the series. Her crisp British accent and soft refined tones were perfect for this audio and definitely contributed to my enjoyment of this book. Melanie really brought the characters to life, using a variety of accents and giving each character their own distinct voice.
What has impressed itself on me is how, even though its not a subject I would normally read (a war story) I'm totally enjoyed this book. I love it when that happens and I am taken by surprise as to how this author and his narrator have pulled me into their story and kept me there.
Included in this book is a detailed history on 'New Scotland Yard' which I found to be very interesting not having known that information before. Just a bit of trivia to educate and paint the correct picture pertaining to the book.
The story itself is gripping and entertaining and Guy Winter's fascination with Jack the Ripper and the way he ties his current murder cases in with those of the Ripper is brilliant.
In this story we have the beginning of the love affair with Guy and his 'housekeeper'. Yay!
The narration is excellent as usual and being a South African myself, I was highly amused by the Afrikaans/English accent. It has a sound that only an Afrikaner can produce and it brings a smile to my face when I recall it.
All together I can safely say that this is a book and a series I am quite willing to recommend.
I received a free audiobook from the Narrator, and this is my unbiased review.
I enjoy audiobooks set in London during world war 2. This is a very good example.
Excellent storyline with lots of twists the occasional cad and steamy love and crime under the cover of the blackout.
Good narration is at least half of a good audiobook. Melanie Philips does an excellent job in Winters War bringing the contrasts of a chaotic wartime to London to life. In the future I will take a gamble on new books simply because she is the narrator.
Ok I am off to download the rest in the series.
Please note that this audiobook was reviewed through the Good Reads reviewer programme.