Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Audiobook Recap for May: 2 Mini Reviews

Trains, planes and automobiles - and a luxury yacht!
May saw me listening to two quite different audiobooks, of which The Woman in Cabin 10 was my stand-out favourite! What a tense, claustrophobic read!

The Woman in Cabin 10 The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware

Narrated by Imogen Church

Synopsis (Goodreads):

In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

My musings:

The Woman in Cabin 10 was one of my best finds on kindle monthly deals this year – and one of my favourite audiobook mysteries of 2017 to date. I loved everything about this book, from the neurotic main protagonist Lo Blacklock to its claustrophobic setting on a boat where there is a killer on the loose. With increasing interest in the legal loopholes of death at sea (which is a fascinating subject, I agree), there have been quite  few contemporary novels which have exploited the controversy to create tense mysteries with their own unique take on the obstacles encountered by victims or families of victims seeking answers, and justice. But by far none of them have done it quite as well as Ruth Ware, who – in my humble opinion – has created a true masterpiece of suspense set aboard a luxury yacht. I really love a good cat-and-mouse game, and this was one of the best!

Ensconced in the tight (but relatively safe) confines of my car, I could picture Lo’s growing panic trapped aboard the boat with a killer only too well – and nobody willing to believe her story. Ironically, at the same time, I was yearning for just such a luxury trip, and bemoaning Lo’s persistence to pursue the story. Chill, Lo, just sit in the hot-tub and sip champagne! With Lo being slightly on the neurotic side (an understatement) and not disinclined to imbibe in alcohol to self-medicate her PTSD, there is of course always that niggling doubt as to how reliable her reality really is. Is Lo going crazy? Is her paranoia not stepping slightly over the conspiracy-theory line? Was there ever even a girl in Cabin 10? But every time I thought I had worked it all out, Ware managed to toss another curveball, throw a bit of tense action into the mix. I especially loved the inclusion of the “now” elements into the story, the emails and blog posts concerning Lo’s disappearance. So very well done!

This was an extremely tense, claustrophobic  and nail-bitingly intense read that kept me guessing throughout, and had me sitting quietly in my carport late at night still listening to “just a few more minutes” because I absolutely had to find out what happens next. Praise also goes to Imogen Church, whose voice was perfect for Lo’s character and made listening all the more compelling and enjoyable!

My Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ 1/2

The Woman on the Orient Express  The Woman on the Orient Express, by Lindsay Jayne Ashford

Narrated by Justine Eyre

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Hoping to make a clean break from a fractured marriage, Agatha Christie boards the Orient Express in disguise. But unlike her famous detective Hercule Poirot, she can’t neatly unravel the mysteries she encounters on this fateful journey.

Agatha isn’t the only passenger on board with secrets. Her cabinmate Katharine Keeling’s first marriage ended in tragedy, propelling her toward a second relationship mired in deceit. Nancy Nelson—newly married but carrying another man’s child—is desperate to conceal the pregnancy and teeters on the brink of utter despair. Each woman hides her past from the others, ferociously guarding her secrets. But as the train bound for the Middle East speeds down the track, the parallel courses of their lives shift to intersect—with lasting repercussions.

My musings:

I was a huge Agathe Christie fan as a teenager and in my early teens, and although I have not read much by the author since devouring all her books in my youth, this amazing woman still intrigues me. Therefore I was quite excited when the audiobook version of The Woman on the Orient Express popped up in my recommendations from Amazon earlier this month, hoping to find out more about the mystery still surrounding the author’s life.

Focusing on events that may have inspired Christie’s writing and lead to the meeting between the author and her soon-to-be husband Max Mallowan, the novel is mainly set on the Orient Express on its journey from London to Baghdad, and at the archaeological site at Ur. Christie’s friendship with Katherine Whooley is well documented in history, and in her novel, Ashford stages the first meeting between the two woman aboard the train. To complete the trio, Ashford also includes a third – fictional – character, Nancy Nelson, a young woman who flees England as she is carrying her married lover’s child. As the train journey progresses, the three women get to know each other and form a tentative friendship, which sees them all travelling to the archaeological site at Ur, where Katherine has been working.

I loved the historical details Ashford seamlessly slips into the story, like the mystery surrounding Agatha’s recent breakdown, or the speculations about Katherine’s medical issues that may have contributed to the suicide of her first husband. Nancy is the only character who is not based on an actual person from Christie’s real life, and I admit I struggled a bit accepting her into the fold. With Christie’s death still falling into my lifetime (she died in 1976, and yes, I am that old!), it is too current for me to accept these “alternative facts”, and I’m not sure if the blend of fact and fiction is really for me when it concerns the recent past. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the train journey to many exotic locations, staying true to an era in history where women were not as free to travel and forge their own path in life – which makes Christie all the more remarkable. The story inspired me to pick up an old copy of Christie’s autobiography, which I read in my early twenties and now want to revisit again. I will enjoy comparing the two stories (as I am sure that Christie may have also slipped a few fictional elements into her version of events – wouldn’t you, given the chance?).

All in all, The Woman on the Orient Express was a light, enjoyable story for my daily commute. Whilst I found some of the events in the last part of the story slightly predictable and differing a bit too much from historical facts for my liking, it put an interesting spin on a chapter in Christie’s life which saw her moving on from her broken marriage and finding new love. Justine Eyre provided a wonderful narration, which brought all characters and places to life for me.

My Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Currently Reading (review to follow soon):

Into the Water

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