Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What I've Been Reading: Adventure, Noir, and Investigative Reporting

TREASURE ISLAND by Robert Louis Stevenson
After outsmarting a band of buccaneers, young Jim Hawkins crosses the Atlantic in search of buried treasure. Jim and the ship’s crew must brave the elements and outwit the ruthless pirate Long John Silver.

I listened to Alfred Molina's superb narration of this classic adventure story. I remembered only the beginning and that only sketchily. As the story progressed I was caught up in it and couldn't wait to get back to listening. It is truly the ultimate adventure story, expertly told.

Right up to the end I was continually being surprised by plot twists. No wonder this story is still beloved by so many.

THE TRUTH by Terry Pratchett
William de Worde is quite surprised when his printed page full of "things written down" is suddenly incredibly popular. As he publishes Ankh Morpork's first newspaper, learning as he goes, William becomes involved in solving a murder. And, thus, he also becomes Discworld's first investigative reporter.

As I continue working  my way through the Discworld novels in order I wasn't thrilled when I got to this one because it's a stand alone novel. I am much more attached to the books which are part of the several series within the Discworld books.

However, Pratchett was clearly on a roll and this book does have enough of the Watch and other regulars from Ankh Morpork that it was both enjoyable and good. Watching everyone adjust to the idea of having the media report on their actions was worth the price of admission, especially since a lot of that adjustment came from the person who inadvertently invented the newspaper in this book. Fun and worth reading.

It was a simple enough case, but don't they always start out that way? When a pair of His and Hers private detectives get involved, the sparks start to fly and the blood begins to spill in earnest. With every shot that's fired, the hole digs a little deeper, and the list of people our sparring shamuses can trust gets shorter and shorter.

Fans of Decoder Ring Theatre's long-running full-cast audio series Black Jack Justice will delight in the very first meeting between Jack Justice and Trixie Dixon, girl detective. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this hard boiled detective story when it came out in print. As a longtime fan of Decoder Ring Theater's Black Jack Justice series, I could hear the voices of the main actors as I read. It was lively, humorous, and had all the banter one expects from a Chandler-esque novel.

Now they've done it one better and brought the book out in audio format. So you can actually hear the voices of the actors as they read the book. Perfect!

IVANHOE by Sir Walter Scott
Set in the familiar time of Robin Hood, evil Prince John, and good King Richard, this adventure tale has it all. It is not precisely about those three characters but they are major players. I read this for my book club (the adult equivalent of a high school reading assignment when it is for a book you've managed to avoid for years).

Consequently I listened to B.J. Harrison's excellent narration to help me get into the book. And it worked. I initially enjoyed it it on the level of adventure novel, a la Treasure Island.

I was surprised at the inventive plot twists, the laugh-out-loud humor, and most of all at Rebecca. Here is someone who is female, from a despised group, and who is only valued by most for her beauty. Yet, she is articulate, quick witted, and will not allow herself to be used as a pawn or allow others to get away with facile explanations for their own evil actions. What a role model!

Overall, Ivanhoe was a reminder not to avoid a classic just because the first chapter seems a little difficult or because one thinks the plot is hackneyed. Highly recommended.

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