Tag Archives: simon vance

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Vance; 11 hrs on 9 discs): Oh, goodness, I’m not even sure where to start. The Gingerbread Man is a psychotic killer who escapes from jail. Goldilocks is found dead in a partly-finished WWI theme park. Sinister events plague the cutthroat world of competitive cucumber-growing. Bears deal in illicit porridge paraphernalia. Punch and Judy are marriage counselors. The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous, but Detective Jack Spratt is on the case. I got quite a few chuckles out of this one, but most of the really good laughs were from the excerpts from The Barkshire Bumper Book of Records at the beginning of each chapter. If you’re familiar with nursery rhymes and enjoy absurd humor, you’ll probably enjoy this one. I don’t know how well it stands on its own, but as the sequel to The Big Over Easy it’s quite entertaining. Too bad Fforde hasn’t written any more in this series.

A note on the audio: The first book in this series, The Big Over Easy, was narrated by Simon Prebble. Previously I’d only heard Vance read more serious books, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was fun listening to him read this bit of silliness, but I’m not sure how I would have felt if I’d listened to the books back to back.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Vance; 20 hrs 18 min on 16 discs): This final installment of the Millennium Trilogy finds Lisbeth Salander in the hospital recovering from severe gunshot wounds as Mikael Blomkvist scrambles to uncover the conspiracy that has been quietly ruining her life for the last fifteen years. Unlike the previous two books, this is more of a legal and political thriller, culminating in a gripping and often maddening trial. There is quite a lot of commentary on women’s rights and journalistic integrity as well, making for some thought-provoking passages. The ending was satisfying but realistic. Lisbeth will always be Lisbeth, after all. The side story about Erika Berger’s stalker seemed a bit unnecessary, but it didn’t overshadow the primary plot. This is one of those series I want to go back and read again now that I know how it all turns out, to see if I can spot any clues. Great stuff.

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Vance; 18.5 hrs on 15 discs): Oh Lisbeth, how I’ve missed you. This second installment of the Millennium Trilogy finds two of Mikael Blomkvist’s friends murdered and Lisbeth’s fingerprints on the gun. Thus begins a complicated story of Lisbeth’s past, prostitution, and Swedish government secrets. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the various people Lisbeth has touched and who line up to be in her corner during this her darkest hour. When I think of “strong female characters” I don’t think about Buffy the Vampire Slayer; I think of people like Lisbeth. She’s fascinating and flawed and wonderful to read about. I doubt she’d be all that impressed with me were we to meet, but I’ve enjoyed witnessing her adventures so far. In fact, the very last couple lines of the book had me laughing with joy. Can’t wait to read the third book, but part of me is a little reluctant because I don’t want to say goodbye.

A note on the audio: Something about Vance’s voice makes me picture Liam Neeson as Mikael Blomkvist, as opposed to Daniel Craig. Also, I sometime confuse Daniel Craig with Christopher Eccleston. My brain does not work.

Trackers by Deon Meyer

Trackers by Deon Meyer (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Vance, translated by K.L. Seegers; 16 hours on 14 CDs): Recently divorced housewife Milla gets a job writing reports for the South African government. She doesn’t know what she’s writing for; she’s given a subject to research and some additional intelligence and compiles it into a coherent story. When she meets one of the subjects of her reports and falls in love, things get really complicated. Lemmer is a paroled bodyguard who is asked to watch over the transport of a couple of endangered black rhinos. Mat is an ex-police private detective searching for a woman’s husband who suddenly went missing several months before. Yenina is a high-ranking government official attempting to intercept a mysterious shipment planned by some religious extremists. What do these all have to do with each other? Honestly, even after finishing the book, I’m not entirely certain. Milla’s story had me cheering her on despite the somewhat morally ambiguous circumstances surrounding her. Lemmer was amusing but his story felt unfinished; however, I understand this was not the first Lemmer book and probably not the last, so I can live with that. I was pretty lost for the entire detective story, and the epilogue really didn’t illuminate much for me. I was fascinated to learn more about South African history and culture, and as I said, Milla’s story was very good. It just felt more like separate stories set in the same universe rather than one coherent novel. Perhaps something was lost in translation.

A note on the audio: I’ve enjoyed Vance’s narration of several other books, and this was no exception. However, it did cause me to discover something: you know how in the Matrix movies, Agent Smith (played by Hugo Weaving) talks kind of … strangely? Turns out that’s Weaving’s attempt at an American accent. I only know this because Vance is British as the day is long, and all his American characters talk like Agent Smith. It’s rather unintentionally hilarious, but luckily did not detract from my enjoyment of the story. I guess not all British people can be Hugh Laurie. :)

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Vance, translated by Reg Keeland; 16 hrs 21 min on 13 discs): Mikael Blomkvist, fresh from a libel conviction, has stepped down from the editor’s desk of the magazine he founded, Millenium. Shortly thereafter, Swedish industry tycoon Henrik Vanger hires him to research the disappearance of his niece Harriet nearly 40 years before. Meanwhile, 20-something antisocial genius Lisbeth Salander is slowly attempting to put her own life together. Eventually the two meet and begin working together on the case. The plot is complicated, with almost too many Vangers to keep track, but I definitely enjoyed it. I felt the suspense and was saddened by the sad parts and cheered at the victories of the Good Guys. I learned that I know pretty much nothing about Sweden and Swedish history, and was a little concerned at how misogynistic the society is portrayed. There was quite a bit of graphic rape, murder, and mutilation, to the point where some of it felt rather gratuitous. (Likewise with Blomkvist’s sex life: does he sleep with every single woman he meets or just most of them?) Still, I found the story engrossing and just had to know what happened next. More importantly, I have a real affection for Salander and I look forward to reading of her later adventures in the rest of the trilogy.

A note on the audio: I’ve listened to Vance read other books, and he was likewise excellent here as well. I particularly enjoyed his voice for Lisbeth, since it was both undeniably female without being a caricature.

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