Considering that I was wary of audiobooks in the past, it’s a wonder that I listen to them so frequently now. I recently listened to three of them that were exciting and compelling, but I’ll discuss only two in this post because these two share some similarities.
In the past, I would struggle to focus on the story when I listened to audiobooks, so I instead listened only to audiobooks of stories I’d already read. It seems doing so has trained my ear or my brain to get used to this medium because now I focus on the story and remember what I heard, though my memory of the story isn’t as detailed as it is when I read the physical book or the e-book.
It could also be the genre of the stories I read that affected me so positively. By listening to the two in this post, I realized that the best type of audiobooks to listen to are thrillers. Thrillers often draw the reader in quickly and keep her hooked throughout as it twists and turns toward an explosive end. I was so hooked as I listened to these two that I completed both in a day each. I began with The Alienist because I am familiar with the show and wanted something to listen to at work. But I completed it on the same day I downloaded it, a Friday, so I downloaded Red Dragon to listen to on the following Monday. It was done by the Saturday evening.
The Alienist by Caleb Carr, narr. by Edward Herrmann
Historical fiction; Mystery
Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, book 1
New York, 1896: Lower Manhattan’s underworld is ruled by a new generation of cold-blooded criminals…Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt battles widespread corruption within the department’s ranks…and a shockingly brutal murder sets off an investigation that could change crime-fighting forever.
In the middle of a wintry March night, New York Times reporter John Moore is summoned to the East River by his friend Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a brilliant pioneer in the new and much-maligned discipline of psychology, the emerging study of society’s “alienated” mentally ill. There they view the horribly mutilated body of a young boy, a prostitute from one of Manhattan’s infamous brothels. Supervised by Commissioner Roosevelt, the newsman and his “alienist” mentor embark on a revolutionary attempt to identify the killer by assembling his psychological profile — a dangerous quest that takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who has killed before…and will kill again before the hunt is over. (Goodreads)
So I thought this book was written in the 1890s, but it’s not. It was published in 1994. It is set in the mid-1890s, however, at a time when psychology was just being introduced in police investigation. Well, that’s the impression I got from the story. It was like an episode of Criminal Minds set in the past except the group of investigators were just beginning to apply psychology to a criminal cases. And, like Criminal Minds, the characters try to derive the murderer’s motive and dig into his past to learn how he became who he is.
Told from the perspective of New York Times reporter John Moore, The Alienist is about a criminal investigation led by noted psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a friend of Moore’s, as the pair work with a group of selected individuals who are trying to stop a serial killer whose targets are boy prostitutes. Back when I was convinced this was written in the 1890s, I thought the story was very progressive for its time due to the opinions and sensibilities expressed by some of the characters. But though I later learned that the work is contemporary but just set in the past, it didn’t lessen my appreciation that the story/author tries to avoid promoting hurtful messages through the story.
I thought the story was well done. It was thrilling and compelling and the mystery kept me wondering who the serial killer might be and what motivated him to commit the murders. The narration was okay. The narrator’s voice was almost a monotone, so it didn’t stick out to me and neither added nor detracted from my enjoyment of the story. It allowed the story, the author’s work, to stand out more and, because the story is so gripping, I sped through it to the end because I wanted to know how things would unfold.
Overall: ★★★☆☆ ½
It was a good read. It was entertaining. I haven’t watched the entire TV show, I only saw part of the first episode, but I might take a look at it if I find it on Netflix. Though I enjoyed listening to this book, I doubt I’ll continue with the series, unless of course I’m bored at work again and need something to occupy my mind. Then, I might download the sequel to listen to.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, narr. by Chris Sarandon
Hannibal Lecter, book 1
A quiet summer night…a neat suburban house…and another innocent, happy family is shattered — the latest victims of a grisly series of hideous sacrificial killings that no one understands, and no one can stop. Nobody lives to tell of the unimaginable carnage. Only the blood-stained walls bear witness.
All hope rests on Special Agent Will Graham, who must peer inside the killer’s tortured soul to understand his rage, to anticipate and prevent his next vicious crime. Desperate for help, Graham finds himself locked in a deadly alliance with the brilliant Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the infamous mass murderer who Graham put in prison years ago. As the imprisoned Lecter tightens the reins of revenge, Graham’s feverish pursuit of the Red Dragon draws him inside the warped mind of a psychopath, into an unforgettable world of demonic ritual and violence, beyond the limits of human terror. (Goodreads)
I’m weird. I was convinced the book that was written in the 1990s was actually published in the 1890s, and when I started reading the book published in the 1980s, I thought it was published in the late 1990s. My reading experience with these two audiobooks has been odd.
I’ve wanted to read Red Dragon for some time now because I wanted to try the Hannibal Lecter books. I remember watching Silence of the Lambs when I was younger, though all I recall about the movie now is Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter standing prim and straight in his cell to welcome Clarice Sterling (Jodie Foster) with a creepy “Hello Clarice,” and being fascinated by the story. Later when I watched Hannibal Rising and then learned of the book Red Dragon, I fused the two in my mind and convinced myself that Red Dragon, since it precedes the book Silence of the Lambs, is about a younger Hannibal Lecter. It’s not. It’s about someone else — some dude obsessed with William Blake’s painting “Red Dragon.”
When this story begins, Hannibal has already been caught and is chilling in prison. The story follows the detective who caught him, Special Agent Will Graham, who decides to help a colleague catch a serial murderer who has committed several grisly murders of entire families. Like The Alienist, Graham and his colleague try to determine what motivates the killer and what might have occurred in the killer’s childhood to propel him toward such a grim, dark path.
Though Red Dragon wasn’t the story of Hannibal’s childhood that I was expecting, it nevertheless kept my interest and I quickly completed it. It was interesting to be provided with several points of view, including Hannibal’s and the serial killer’s, and I like that these perspectives were sometimes unreliable because I didn’t see the twist at the end coming until I got to it. I do like the niggling of doubt and uncertainty inserted when Hannibal told Graham that he’s good at his job because Graham is just like the murderers he tries to catch. For a moment there, I suspected Graham and thought him guilty of getting a journalist killed. (Graham didn’t like the journalist dude and he said and did things in an interview that made the journalist a target for the killer.) But by the end, I doubted that and didn’t know what to think about Graham. I just hope I’ll learn more about him in the other books, if I decide to read them.
The narration isn’t noteworthy. It wouldn’t have stood out to me if the audio quality didn’t sound weird. It was as if there was an echo…or that the narrator did the recording in a hollow-sounding place, like a cave or a bathroom.
Another thrilling read that kept me hooked throughout. I don’t plan to continue the series, but if I need something to listen to while at work, I’ll probably download the sequel Silence of the Lambs.