Friday, October 29, 2010

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards - Lillian Jackson Braun

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards
By: Lillian Jackson Braun
Published: 1966
Audiobook Read by: George Guidall
My rating: Wonderful

My first experience with this series was less than favorable but if you read my review of The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers you'll remember that I promised not to write the entire series off based on that one book. As promised I got this first work in the series and gave it a chance. I'm so glad I did!

This was one of the most enjoyable mysteries I've come across and is written in one of the most original styles I've seen. Jim Qwilleran is thrown into the art world, completely against his will, and expected to write personality profiles of local artists and other interesting pieces of interest to the art lovers in the community for the local paper. The much hated, much loved, art critic for the paper befriends him, in his own eccentric way, allowing him to rent the downstairs apartment from him and introducing him to his amazing cat Kao K'o-Kung. Koko, as Jim takes to calling him, is truly a remarkable cat. He has a keen appreciation for art, a discrimating palate, and loves to read the newspaper when it is hot off the press. Jim finds that Koko has captured his heart and eventually allows Koko to become master over him as well.

Before Jim is able to get used to his new role as art columnist, he finds himself smack dab in the middle of a murder investigation that has the police stumped. Jim has major suspicions as to the identity of the killer but as the body count keeps rising he finds he is unable to prove his hunches. In the end the credit for solving the whole case falls to Koko and his uncanny cat senses. By the time the wrap up is complete, Jim is firmly entrenched in the community and has found a lifelong friend in Koko.

I loved the humor of this book. Koko's antics are described in such perfect detail, and were so very catlike that there is no mistake that Lillian is a true cat lover. Jim's reluctant acceptance of Koko's mastery and the dry humor he displays while spending time with the cat, made for a wonderful side story and many times had me laughing out loud. The mystery itself was engaging and included enough surprises that in the end I still didn't know who the culprit was until Koko revealed him.

I listened to the audiobook read by George Guidall. He is a gifted narrator and the way he portrayed Jim fit perfectly with the mental image I had formed of him. I love his style of reading and I hope that he is the narrator of the entire series.

Overall, I loved this book from start to finish! Unlike 60 Whiskers, this one has purpose and a concise plot that swept me along and satisfied me with a wonderful conclusion to the mystery. Don't hesitate to get this book and meet Koko and Jim and let them take you for a fun ride into murder!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mr. Timothy - Louis Bayard

Mr. Timothy
By: Louis Bayard
Published: 2003
Audiobook Read by: Mark Honan

WOW! I loved The Black Tower so much that I decided to give this one a try. I LOVED THIS BOOK! To be honest I didn't expect it to be quite as good as The Black Tower based on the blurb I read but I was blown away! If it were possible, I'd say this was even better than The Black Tower but since it's hard to do better than SPECTACULAR, I'll content myself with saying that Louis is a genius and his books prove it! By the way, Louis, if you are reading this, please believe that I would say this even if I was positive you would never see it! :)

Louis takes the Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol as his starting point, and spins a wonderful tale that gives us a picture of what became of Tiny Tim. Timothy has become a bit hard and somewhat less than respectable, renting a room in a house of ill repute and working for the mistress of said establishment. He has allowed himself to take advantage of Uncle N's (Ebeneezer Scrooge) generosity and treats his benefactor as little more than a bank, supplying his needs while expecting him to stay out of his personal life. But it seems that something of the Christmas ghosts that once thawed Uncle N's heart are still at work and he finds himself drawn in by the plight of a little homeless orphan, Philomela, when she chances to cross his path. As he tries to find out her story and see if he can help her, he unwittingly is helped by her, becoming a caring compassionate man and finally coming to grips with his own personal demons. His passion and determination to help her draws him into a conspiracy that reaches to the most deplorable depths of the human soul where he sees first hand just how evil people can be. In the end he finds himself facing death to try to save people he has never met and in so doing, finds himself saved as well.

The heroes in this story are a wonderful combination of rough street smarts, surprising wisdom, and charity, willing to go to any length to help their fellow man. The villains  are the exact opposite, full of evil intentions, ruthlessness, and the lowest of low morals. I especially loved Captain Gully with his rough seaman's exterior that melts in the presence of Philomela to reveal a heart of gold that is so full of love and generosity that his chest can hardly contain it. Colin the Melodious, the young street urchin is also a wonderful asset to the story. His personality and antics had me laughing out loud on several occasions! The unlikely team of Timothy and Colin makes for a lot of surprising twists and turns but in the end turns out to be the indomitable force that seals the fate of the evil madmen who are out to get Philomela.

This story was full of wonderful humor as well as heart wrenching moments. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and on more than one occasion was surprised by some of the revelations. At each new turn I discovered that once again I was on the wrong trail and was surprised to find myself facing yet another suspect in this mystery. Chapter by chapter I was carried away to that far off land and time that only the masterful hand and incredible imagination of Mr. Bayard has been able to do.

I listened to the audio book performed by Mark Honan. He was a joy to listen to in every way. I especially loved when he would read a humorous part for I could hear the laughter sprouting up in his voice each time. His voices and emotion were perfect and I hope that I will find more of his work to listen to!

Overall, I couldn't say enough good about this book! Louis is truly a genius and I am so very happy to have found his work! I have once again found myself transported to another time and very sincerely hope that you will consider joining me by checking out this and all of his work! As my favorite cucumber once said, "I laughed, I cried, it moved me Bob!"

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Templar Legacy - Steve Berry

The Templar Legacy
By: Steve Berry
Published: 2006
Audiobook Read by: Paul Michael
My rating: Good

Here again is another work of fiction that strives to cast a shadow of doubt on the Christian faith. That in itself does not ruin a book for me but merely gives rise to my own curiosity to see if I can intelligently counter the arguments that are put forth. However, this book had the feel of being an imitation of Dan Browns Da Vinci Code and therefore felt a little hollow. Brown's books I think sparked so much interest that others have decided to jump on the wagon.

I very much enjoyed the plot of this story and was drawn into the history and ancient settings described. I have found the Knights Templar to be a fascinating subject and enjoyed yet another take on their role in history. The trail of clues and the international search that they lead to is quite entertaining. Steve is a good writer and has crafted this tale with suspense and intrigue although it borders on the absurdly improbable. As Cotton Malone and Stephanie Nelle embark on their mad chase to find the Templar stash of wealth and knowledge, I was drawn along for the ride quite willingly. The flashbacks to various points in history to explain some of the clues they find are very revealing and add nicely to the story line. There were few surprises though and several questions left unanswered.

I enjoyed the humor that broke the intensity of the book here and there. Malone is a very capable man and his quiet confidence is appealing. Cassiopeia Vitt added the sex appeal and was a very nicely placed counterpart for Malone. The open ended relationship they form is hopefully carried on in other of Steve's books. The biggest mystery for me was the constant surprising bits of knowledge coming from Jeffrey. He always seems to know what is going to happen and I kept getting the impression that he knew far more than he let on. I don't think Steve did right by Jeffrey in the end. 

The main drive of the book seems to be the effort to cast doubt on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Steve is obviously a proponent of the belief that we have been fed a pack of lies by the early church and that very little of what we now believe is actually true. He has used various other works as well as his own invention to put forth an alternate account of Jesus' death. In his writer's notes at the end of the book he makes it clear that he feels that this account is every bit as plausible, if not more so, as the story of Jesus as told in our modern Bible. However, he does not make the claim that it is actually true, saying that as with any account, there is no concrete evidence to back it up. In one part of the book, Stephanie states that "it is a matter of faith" which statement is quickly shot down by the other parties in the debate. I agree with her though, we must have faith in our faith. If we don't have faith in what we believe, works of fiction such as this will easily shake us and in the end we will be left believing nothing and I feel that this state of mind is far worse than believing in something that may be inaccurate. Without something to believe in, what purpose can there be for our existence. I would rather live my life believing in a lie yet having purpose and something good to strive for than to go through life wandering aimlessly with just this world's pleasures to guide me. Besides, if I believe in Jesus' death and resurrection and his promise of eternal life with Him in paradise and end up being wrong, isn't that a lot better than if I believed that there is no life after death just to die and find myself in Hell?

I listened to the audiobook performed by Paul Michael. As in other of his performances, he was able to transport me into the story and make it come alive for me. He is an excellent narrator and I thoroughly enjoyed his reading!

Overall, this was a good book with an engaging plot but I felt it lacked originality since it was so much like other books that have come before it. Maybe if I had listened to this one first, I might have felt differently about it. However, it is still worth reading and I wouldn't hesitate to do so if you get the opportunity.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fate Of The Jedi; Outcast - Arron Allston

By: Arron Allston
Published: 2009
Audiobook Read by: Marc Thompson
My rating: Great

I listened to the entire nine book Legacy Of The Force series and loved it! I guess being a consummate fan of the science fiction genre I am biased towards this kind of literature. (I know that some would have me hung by my toenails for classifying this as literature!)  However, speaking objectively as possible,  I do believe that Arron is a truly gifted writer.

At the close of the Legacy of the force series, Jacen Solo, also know as Darth Caedus, has been defeated but the galaxy is still in a state of disarray. The Jedi council is stunned when they are blamed for what happened to Jacen and by the subsequent arrest of Luke Skywalker so as to hold him personally accountable for the horrendous crimes committed by Darth Caedus. Luke realizes that he actually is somewhat to blame and brokers a deal with the Gallactic Alliance that sends Ben and he on a mission that might possibly mean Luke will never see Coruscant again. As he and Ben begin their travels they learn much about each other and draw closer as father and son. Ben is maturing into a skilled Jedi and Luke takes the opportunity to hone his skills and teach him some of the finer points of being a Jedi.

As Luke and Ben are off trying to trace Jacen's path to the dark side, the remaining Jedi at the Temple are faced with a new problem. Jag and Jaina decide to take matters into their own hands, as usual, and try to capture a rogue Jedi that has been causing problems. Their efforts nearly cause more damage than good, as usual again, but they are determined to find out the source of this new threat. With the government trying to keep a tight leash on all Jedi, the Order is forced to submit to very undesirable restrictions in an effort to show that they do not hold themselves above the law.

Han and Leia decide to avoid some of the governments new security measures by skipping town for awhile to help a friend. They find that they might have jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire when they arrive at Lando's mines on Kessel. The trouble that Lando dumps on them is more than they can handle and they have to call in a lot of reinforcements to bail Lando out.

The plot of this book was so easy to follow and it flowed along sweeping me with it. There is never any lack of excitement and mystery to keep your mind racing. As each character faces their own challenges, they also find they are confronted by their own fears and weaknesses. Each one grows a little as they allow their experiences to mold them into stronger people. The Jedi code of always doing what is right is one that we all should adhere to, even though we can't use The Force to aid us. I love the style that all of these books have been written in, they are intense with a lot of action but also have a lot of heart as well as a good bit of humor.

I listened to the audiobook read by Mark Thompson. He was the narrator for the entire Legacy Of The Force series and as he did in those books, he excels here. His range of different voices and the skill he has in switching seamlessly between them is absolutely amazing! I was very happy to see that he is performing this series as well. Marc brings these stories to life and helped me to feel like I was right there in the thick of things a long time ago in a galaxy far far away!

Overall, this was a great book and I highly recommend it if you are even remotely interested in the Star Wars saga. I would recommend reading the Legacy Of The Force series first, though, as it will help you to understand a lot of what is going on.

Through The Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll

Through The Looking Glass
By: Lewis Carroll
Published: 1871
My rating: Delightful

I read Alice in Wonderland to my kids so I figured the logical choice to follow it up was Through The Looking Glass. It isn't as good but we still had fun reading it and trying to follow the illogical logic that fills the book.

As Alice tries to figure out how to survive in Looking Glass Land she meets some very interesting characters. Everywhere she turns strange and ridiculous things keep happening to her. She tries to help some of her new friends but many times she discovers that they are perfectly content with their bumbling or foolish roles in this crazy land. No matter how hard she tries to achieve something, she finds that she can't seem to get anywhere unless she does it by accident. More often than not, she gets farther by not trying to get anywhere.

I loved the vast array of colorful characters that she meets and the uncommon sense that everyone has was a lot of fun. I especially liked the knight that couldn't stay on his horse. But who can resist Tweedledum and Tweedledee and their lovely poetry. But I agreed with Alice that the Red Queen definitely needed a good shaking!

Again, Lewis shows his magnificent imagination and the ability to turn the most absurd ideas into a comedy of errors that kept us in stitches. It is such a pleasure to just let go of reality and allow oneself to drift into a world of impossibilities, leaving the cares of reality behind, even if it is just for a short time. We all can use a break from reality once in a while and Lewis has given us the perfect avenue to follow (or maybe the avenue follows us) into Wonderland!

Overall, even though this did not compare with Alice In Wonderland, it was still a great book and I very much enjoyed it. You should take the time to reacquaint yourself with both of these classic books, but make sure you don't try to make sense of them!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Remember Me - Mary Higgins Clark

Remember Me
By: Mary Higgins Clark
Published: 1994
My rating: Great

I got hooked on Mary Higgins Clark's books after I started seeing the TV movies back in the day. I have accumulated quite a collection but to my shame have not read as many of them as I should have. My wife and I  read this one to each other and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The plight of Menley Nichols makes for a heart wrenching story and often, throughout the book, I found myself fighting back tears. It seems so unfair for someone who has already endured so much to have to go through something like this. Menly, however, doesn't let this new harrowing experience break her but rather finds it to be healing in the end. As the triple mystery unfolds, Menly is drawn in by her own curiosity as well as being forced in by fate. The haunting history of Remember House is an enticing tale that Menly just can't resist. Following her research she soon finds out that there is more than meets the eye and the fate of Mehitabel may just end up being uncomfortably similar to her own fate if things don't change the course they're on. So many questions need answering and she is determined to uncover the truth.

Meanwhile, Menly's husband, Adam, is defending the grieving young widower who's wife died in a tragic diving accident, or did she? Scott Covey has become the victim of a society that believes love can't be real when money is at stake. Despite the fact that there is no reason to suspect him of foul play, the police and his dead wife's family are determined to run him through the wringer trying to prove that he is nothing more than a gold digging monster. Adam takes his case and works hard to clear him so he can start to work through his grief and get on with his life.

We were fascinated by Remember House itself. Being admirers of big old houses, the description of Remember House excited us. My wife wants to find it and move in! The large rooms and beautiful architecture that formed itself in our minds gave us a wonderful fantasy house to dream about. If we could afford it, we would be out there looking for one of our own!

Mary has a gift for intrigue and this book is an excellent example of this. She weaves a tale so full of surprises and suspense that we had a hard time putting it down. We were pretty sure of the primary culprit but there were still questions that we were left clueless about until the end. The climax was a stunning fast paced whirlwind that mimicked the storm that struck the Cape as the end drew near. Mary's expert hand painted a vivid picture for us and left us breathless when it was all over. The one thing that struck us is how the influence of money could corrupt people so thoroughly and turn otherwise good people into monsters. It is a sad commentary on human nature, money seems to be the ultimate force in our lives and this shows that falling prey to greed is the end of conscience.

Overall, this is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it. I am glad that I have many other works by Mary Higgins Clark to move on to. I can't wait to see where she takes us next time!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cover Her Face - P. D. James

Cover Her Face
By: Phyllis Dorothy James
Published: 1962
Audiobook Read by: Penelope Dellaporta
My rating: Great

This is a detective novel written in the classic style that I have always loved.The detective gathers the evidence, interrogates his suspects, researches thoroughly, and in the end, gathers all the involved parties together and reveals the guilty person. I know that a lot of people think that this is a tired overworked method of writing mysteries but I still love it!

Adam Dalgliesh is a wonderful character and I enjoyed his investigative methods very much. You can tell that he is seeing things on a deeper level and reading each suspect like a book despite efforts at deception. His quiet way of getting someone to talk without having to press them is an art. As the investigation progresses, it becomes obvious that he indeed knows who did the crime and is only biding his time so as to uncover proof, or to discover a way to get the culprit to confess on their own. There are several surprises as the plot unfolds and I found myself somewhat shocked by a couple of them. I hadn't figured out the murderer until just before Adam was getting ready to reveal them. In retrospect, I was able to see the clues that should have been more revealing to me but, through artful misdirection, I had missed all of them. I'm afraid that I wouldn't make a very good detective!

The Maxie family is a wonderfully dysfunctional family in the old fashioned sense. The children are independent and love to assert themselves in grandiose ways. The outside hangers on are all involved with the family in the hopes of furthering their own ends. Even the staff is not immune to the drama that pervades the place. However, they are all very likable and seem to be a good group of people, despite their idiosyncrasies.

Sally Jupp is quite an unusual character. I found myself flip flopping between liking her and despising her. No matter what my final opinion of her was, I still was sorry for her, having been murdered and all that. However, it is quite unmistakable that she brought on her own demise through the childish games she chose to play. She provides a painful lesson to us that we need to keep ourselves from falling into the trap of trying to manipulate those around us to provide ourselves amusement. People are not pawns for us to play with lightly, in the end, our own game is very likely to take an unexpected turn about and bite us!

I listened to the audiobook read by Penelope Dellaporta. She has quite a pleasant voice to listen to, but lacked some of the emotion and emphasis that I felt would have made this performance more appealing. I certainly won't avoid other books read by her, but she isn't on my favorite narrators list either.

Overall, this was truly a great mystery and I loved listening to it. I am very happy that there are many more in this series and eventually I intend to listen to them! I hope you will give them a shot as well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Christine Falls - Benjamin Black

Christine Falls
By: Benjamin Black
Published: 2006
Audiobook Read by: Timothy Dalton
My rating: Good

This was an interesting book and I enjoyed it but it just wasn't as good as I had hoped. I think my main problem with this book was the overall mood. I know it is a dark subject and not a feel good story but the oppressive feeling of despair and depression was just too heavy. There just didn't seem to be any characters that had the least amount of happiness about them.

This is a very well thought out plot and Benjamin does an excellent job of weaving this complex tale. He kept me guessing until the very end and twists and turns along the way held more than a few surprises. Quirke, despite his depression and propensity to drink too much is a likable character. His concern over the fate of Christine springs up out of nowhere surprising even himself with the way it inexorably drives him to find the truth in spite of the danger he knows he is placing himself in. As he is drawn deeper into the web of mystery and conspiracy, he not only learns things he didn't want to know about others, but also learns some surprising things about himself. His dogged determination is not deterred but rather strengthened by the danger he finds himself in. I learned a lot about what made him into the dark and somewhat bitter man he is in this story. He has suffered a lot and has many regrets that have left him with little to hang on to.

Phoebe is a great character. She is the only spark of fun in this otherwise dark tale, but even she is swallowed in the end by the depression of the story. It is interesting to watch her struggle with trying to please her family even though she wants something totally against their wishes. She turns to Quirke and he, being the man he is, causes quite a stir with his advice and actions. She sees an ally in him but I think he is just wanting to be left out of the whole thing. She loves him though, and values his support and approval. In the end their relationship takes a surprising turn that I was totally unprepared for. 

As the story progresses you begin to realize that there is a lot more than just the unfortunate death of a young woman. The web of conspiracy spreads from Ireland to the United States and encompasses some pretty powerful individuals. There are several side stories going on simultaneously that in the end merge surprisingly into one. It is a tale that shows just how small the world is and how seemingly insignificant details can end up being the most important.

I listened to the audiobook performed by Timothy Dalton. I must admit that being a huge James Bond fan I was looking forward to hearing how he would do, but at the same time I was worried that he was just a celebrity brought in to help sell the recording by association. I was very pleasantly surprised by his wonderful reading. He brought the story to life for me and I won't hesitate to listen to other books he might have read.

Overall, I liked the storyline and was pleased with the depth of the mystery. As I said at the beginning, I could have used a little break from the somber mood. However, it is still a good book and I wouldn't hesitate to give it a shot if you get a chance.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cold Sassy Tree - Olive Ann Burns

Cold Sassy Tree
By: Olive Ann Burns
Published: 1984
Audiobook Read by: Tom Parker
My rating: Wonderful

Boy howdy was this a great book! Here again is one of the random selections off the shelf that turned out to be a real gem! I am so glad I got this one!

Apparently 1906 in Cold Sassy Tree, Georgia just isn't exciting enough so Will Tweedy's grandpa, Rucker Blakeslee, decides to spice things up with a good scandal. Throughout Will's 14th year the town is rocked by scandals, death, near death, love and suicide. I know this sounds like it might be a bit grim but this really is a delightful book. Will is just becoming a man and as he watches his grandpa, he learns a lot of valuable lessons.

Rucker shows the town that he doesn't give a hoot about their traditions and unwritten rules. Bringing Miss Love into the family was bad enough but when Rucker decides to hold Sunday morning preaching in his parlor, with himself as the preacher no less, it's just unheard of! When the neighbors hear Miss Love playing Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay on a Sunday well I tell you, it is altogether too much for the folks of Cold Sassy to bear! Will is all too willing to be a conspirator in most of his Grandpa's shenanigans but even he is shocked by some of the lengths Rucker seems to go to, to get a rise. Will's love for his Grandpa knows no bounds and he tries his best to make sense of what is happening. In the end he realizes that Grandpa wasn't trying to stir up trouble but really believes in what he's doing. Everyone learns lessons from him in the end and the town is a better place for it.

I loved Rucker's outlook on the Bible and Christianity. He has such a simple way of looking at things and his interpretations of Jesus'  teachings might seem a little odd but when you think about it, Rucker makes a lot of sense. I sometimes think that we all need to forget all of our "fancy learnin'" and read the Bible as Rucker does, with a simple mind that takes it at face value. Jesus loves us and that's what matters, we need to quit trying to turn simple answers into a complex lectures!

In the mean time, Will is struggling with his own battles. Besides trying to keep peace between his Grandpa and the rest of the family, he struggles to understand his own change from boy to man. He learns that even though he absolutely hates his aunt, she has feelings too and there are lines that shouldn't be crossed. He faces the prospect of falling in love and not being able to act on it. Love leaves him reeling when it is stolen away from him and leaves him filled with regrets. He grapples with loss and tries to be strong through it all. As he and his family struggle to make sense of things, he learns a lot about everyone, being surprised to find allies in enemies and friends in unlikely places.

I love the way Olive wrote this book. Narrated by Will in his own words it has an innocent and touching quality. Will and his Grandpa can keep you in stitches the way they carry on. I felt like I was there with the family at the railway station as Grandpa's new car rolled in. I felt Will's excitement at being behind the wheel. I felt the love that bound them all together and I mourned with them as death visits them. This book flowed smoothly through the most eventful and unforgettable year of Will's life.

I listened to the audiobook read by Tom Parker. Tom is phenomenal! He did such a great job recreating the drawl of the common folks of the Old South that I found myself starting to talk that way as well, by the time I finished! He conveyed each mood perfectly, giving the emotions just the right amount of emphasis to make it feel totally real. I hope that I will have the chance to hear more of his work!

Overall this has been a wonderful book to listen to and I highly recommend it!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Black Tower - Louis Bayard

The Black Tower
By: Louis Bayard
Published: 2008
Audiobook Read by: Simon Vance

Here is another random title off the shelf. I normally am not a big fan of historical fiction but I am so glad I didn't let that stop me from giving this great book a chance!

I absolutely love Hector Carpentier! He struggles to figure out what his place should be in this world. He lets the tide of life wash him along wondering all the time if there isn't something more he should be doing. He longs for the love and approval of his mother and has been deprived of his father without ever knowing how much he was loved and how proud his father had been of him. I love his matter of fact appraisal of himself, not trying to sugar coat anything but presenting to the world a man who is what he is. At the same time he really wants to make something useful of himself but just doesn't know how to go about it. As the story unfolds I found a man full of compassion, with a heart of gold, willing to go the extra mile for his fellow men.

Eugéne François Vidocq on the other hand is crass, vulgar, and every bit  the uneducated heathen, in short, he's great! A master of disguise, a genius interrogator, a superb detective, and a fierce opponent of crime and criminals. The very name, Vidocq, strikes terror into the hearts of evildoers, sets the most brutal thug's knees to knocking, and causes young maidens to swoon with hearts longing even to catch a glimpse of him. His methods are less than orthodox but the result is always the same: Vidocq always gets his man. I love how he took Hector under his wing and mentored him in the fine art of detective work, encouraging him to be the best he could be. He loves the ladies but when duty calls, he is always ready to answer.

This story was a wonderful mix of humor, heartbreak, action, and intrigue. I found myself loving it from the first chapter. Bayard's style is so natural and easy to listen to. The dialog and the entire story for that matter flows with an easy graceful way that was a joy to the ears. This early 19th century world that I found myself in was as real in my mind as it could be. Bayard paints a picture that made me feel like I was actually bouncing along the cobblestone streets of Paris.

The real story of Louis Charles is heartbreaking and Bayard does a phenomenal job of weaving fact with fiction to create this incredible tale. I was never prepared for each new surprise that jumped out at me with each passing chapter. The plot that Hector found himself unwillingly in the middle of was devious and underhanded costing lives and nearly putting Hector and Vidocq themselves out of commission in the end. As the tale unfolded before me, I found myself laughing out loud at some of the delightful descriptions of Hector and his fellow characters, just to have tears springing to my eyes as tender and emotional scenes enveloped me. As Vidocq and Hector try to solve the riddle of Louis Charles, they find themselves on a journey that reveals as much about themselves as they learn about the history of France.

The horrendous abuse that Charles endured is a terrible testament of the evil that war brings. This young child was treated worse than an animal just because he was of royal descent. When I finished this book I read up a little on the historical account of Louis Charles and was appalled by the treatment he received. He was physically dragged away from the arms of his mother to be put in a cell and subjected to torture. In the end he spent months alone in a dark cell, wallowing in his own filth until he was so sick and near death that a doctor was called to care for him. The doctor did his best for the boy but from all official accounts he died anyway. He was only 10 years old when he died after spending 2 years in solitary confinement. The things this boy endured are beyond imagination. I sit here looking at my children and wonder what kind of animals could be so evil as to do that to one so innocent.

I listened to the audiobook read by Simon Vance. Simon is a master in his trade! I loved listening to his English accent as he perfectly performed this incredible story. The emotion in his voice was perfect and the way he brought the story to life was truly magical! I will pounce on the opportunity to listen to another of his performances!!

In this book Bayard exploits a historical mystery that was never solved. Was it really Louis Charles who died in that black tower? Some think that it wasn't and the rightful king survived in hiding, some believe he did die. After reading this book you might have an answer, or you might not! I am thrilled to enthusiastically give this my highest rating! Don't hesitate to give it a chance!!