Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Colonel Mustard in the library with ... the crocodile?

Herewith my first post-Odyssey audiobook. Caveat: It took me over a week to finish this as I was out of town and didn't have all those steady listening opportunities (to and from work, in the car, morning walk, etc.) that I have at home. I start with the caveat because I think there were whole plot points of this book that I missed completely, and plot points are somewhat important in detective fiction.

I've long been a fan of this series, featuring a completely anachronistic wisecracking Roman (circa 77 C.E.) gumshoe named Marcus Didius Falco. And while Falco's dialog and job description are a little 20th century, I'm fairly certain that author Lindsey Davis' period research is up to snuff. This is the 19th installment (my god, I've been reading these for 20 years!). I wonder if my compulsion to read series from the beginning stems from my love of mystery novels.

Falco and his smart wife and unofficial business partner, Helena Justina, are visiting Alexandria, Egypt for a little vacation time before the birth of their third child. They like to travel (Helena has a bucket list and wants to tick off two of the Seven Wonders), and -- oddly -- always seem to encounter violent death when they do so. (Funny, that.) In this story, they find themselves embroiled in the suspicious death of the head librarian at the Library of Alexandria, and Falco soon discovers that someone is whittling away at the Library's grand collection. Many of its most valuable scrolls are disappearing. (Some things never change.)

Christian Rodska narrates this book; he has read others in the series as well. I enjoyed the snarky way he reads this -- Falco's sarcastic wisecracks and generally dim view of humanity are given free rein in this narration. However, my ears hadn't calmed down enough from Odyssey intensity; I was pretty bothered by all the gasps, gulps and generally saliva-filled enunciation that frequently occurs with British readers. I didn't hear much distinction in the large cast of characters and when I did, they seemed odd to me. One of the Egyptian characters seemed to be speaking with a Scots accent, and another a kind of rough Irish. I guess you can make the case for this -- since the main characters are all speaking with British accents. (I call it the I, Claudius effect.)

Mostly, though, I wasn't paying enough attention to this one. So, even though my Odyssey ears were still tuned, the listening brain knew I didn't have to produce anything intelligent to say about it. Given the choice, though, I think I'll go back to reading Falco.

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