During lockdown I discovered the real deal of audiobooks. Before that I had only listened to a book on the radio via BBC 4 Book at Bedtime (How to Stop Time) but two months ago I was invited to listen to The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney by a publisher and that went ok so I thought I was ready for more. I certainly want to enjoy audiobooks because I can only read one book at a time and if I can listen to books at moments I can’t read then that would be a dream.
After listening to these two novels I still don’t know if it’s something for me though.. maybe I haven’t found the right book, maybe I’m just a very demanding listener, or maybe I haven’t found the right moments yet to listen to them.
A lot of questions and I don’t have the answers yet. Is it worth trying again after these? I think so. I might listen to an extract first though only to hear the narrator’s voice and see if I like listening to that voice because it appears that’s really important to me, and I might continue listening on the train to work, even if that’s only for short periods each day, and not in bed for the moment. I still have to figure out what works best for me but I’m not giving up yet. Even if I can only listen to one audiobook a month that would be twelve more books I could devour each year. Are there any things that work better for you? Let me know if you have!
The Seventh Victim by Michael Wood
On Sunday, February 3rd 1990, seven-year-old Danny Redpath disappeared from his home. Four months later, his body was found in the nearby forest, washed clean of all evidence. Over time, more bodies were discovered; more families devastated forever.
Apprehended while attempting to abduct another child, Jonathan Egan-Walsh was charged with the murders of thirteen boys. Convicted on all counts, he received life in prison and went unrepentant, still refusing to reveal the whereabouts of one of his victims, Zachery Marshall.
Twenty-five years later, Zachery’s mother Diane is still searching for his body. When Jonathan dies in custody, she realises she will never know its location – until she receives a letter he left in his cell, in which he admits he was guilty of all the crimes of which he was accused, except the murder of her son.
Diane tracks down the woman in charge of the case at the time, former DI Caroline Turner, and together with Jonathan’s biographer Alex Frost they start to investigate. Could this be the killer’s final twist of the knife – or is he telling the truth at long last? Sooner or later, this secret buried and undisturbed for a quarter of a century will come to light.
My second audiobook and I really loved the narration this time. Mathew Horne gave a voice to Jonathan Egan-Walsh and Joanne Froggatt narrated all of the women’s voices and I loved listening to her outstanding performance in particular. A trembling voice, shouting with the right amount of anger, she did it all very naturally. I especially loved hearing Hannah, Diane’s mother in the story, she really sounded old!
I’d almost forget to talk about the story itself which was a heart-breaking one although it didn’t break my heart but for the chapters from Jonathan Egan-Walsh, where he tells a little about some of the boys he took. It’s normal in his head, which makes it more shocking to the reader to hear him talking so casually about it. I still don’t really know why he killed them because some of them appeared – his words – happy. Did he just grow tired of them, were they not enough? I was unwillingly fascinated and actually wanted to hear even more from him but the novel focuses on Diane, the woman whose life stood still since the day her little boy Zachery went missing, her ex-husband who tried to move on, and it highlights the difficult relationship with her younger son Markus who suffered greatly throughout the years after his brother went missing.
Retired DC Caroline Turner and her husband Jamie, and Alex Frost, his daughter and his wife Melanie, also each have their own personal and interesting stories to tell while investigating Jonathan’s claim.
It takes a while to fully take off and the mystery stays at the same stage of development for a while but there are twists and turns in the end. I had a hunch how it would end though from very early on so I didn’t feel that elation as others might have had. I liked it overall but didn’t find it a very extraordinary story, we’ve read this plotline before and I think it’s mostly the secondary characters Caroline Turner and Alex Frost and the snippets of Jonathan made it memorable.
All The Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson
On the eve of his college graduation, Harry is called home by his stepmother, Alice, to their house on the Maine coast, following the unexpected death of his father. But who really is Alice, his father’s much younger second wife?
As her past entwines with Harry’s in the present, things grow increasingly dark and threatening – will Harry be able to see any of it clearly through his own confused feelings?
All The Beautiful Lies was my first novel by Peter Swanson, although I have another paperback of his in one of my unpacked boxes which I hope to get to before I ever move again ;-).
It took me some time to get into the novel because I found it hard to enjoy the narration at the very start. The female narrator ended all the descriptive sentences the same way, with a strong emphasis on the last word, making the last word of each sentense sound a bit elongated and it all sounded a little robotic to my ears. Maybe I’m really fussy now but I didn’t have this issue in the previous audiobook even if there were descriptive paragraphs as well. It went better after a while when there were more conversations breaking up these sections and I felt it went a little more natural in the end (or maybe I got more used to it). I did end up missing a few sections of the novel because I fell asleep a few times though so it didn’t always keep my attention. I think it’s safe to say I love novels with lots of intonation and changes in voices most of all.
As for the story, there’s an enjoyable plotline in the past that follows a young 15 year old Alice and a present plotline from Harry’s point of view who comes back when he hears his father died. He finds it hard to believe that his father had an accident and wonders if his stepmother – the same Alice but older now – has anything to do with it. There’s a recurring theme of young women falling for older men in the novel, of affairs and betrayal.
Most of the novel felt more as family drama than thriller, it’s only in the second part of the novel that the threat becomes really pressing. This certainly made me pay close attention as to what was going on but I found the outcome and truth about what happened to Bill written as a little bit of an easy way out. There was another twist though, almost after the main events were finished, that was hugely unexpected and I found very entertaining. So in the end the story left me quite satisfied after all.