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Monday, August 2, 2010

The Chopin Manuscript (audiobook)

The Chopin Manuscript is not really a great story but an interesting premise and veteran actor Alfred Molina (Frida)does a fantastic job performing this audiobook. This book was given an "Audie Award" (2008 Audiobook of the Year) and that is entirely due to the masterful ability of Molina to mimic accents and create voices for literally dozens of characters. His performance was much better than the material he was given to perform.

The idea behind the story is pretty simple - Jeffery Deaver (The Lesson of Her Death), a well-known writer of action thrillers started out an international thriller by writing the first chapter. Then the story was handed off to another author and a chapter was added (15 authors in total) until it got back Deaver who wrote the concluding chapter.

The story is a thrill-a-minute ride that has a herky-jerky nature. Every author seemed to be out to move the story along as much as possible so character development was sacrificed for action. I do not know if an over-arching plotline was discussed among the authors but it seems clear that the minor characters were definitely out to be slaughtered (or ignored) throughout. Super villains are created in one chapter and then dispatched in the next without much fuss as the next author cleans up the other author's "mess" and creates his own. A whole chapter is spent developing a character that appears on maybe two pages worth of material in the rest of the book.

Lisa Scottoline (Everywhere That Mary Went) is probably one of the least "big time" authors of this book but her chapter was excellent - she eschewed action for character development and revealed the most awful betrayal of the book in a chapter that literally was set in just one room. I've always liked her work and was pleased to see that she went for smart storytelling over a splashy shoot 'em up chapter.

So, to sum up - mixed bag but an interesting experiment. I recommend the audio version since Molina's performance will make the rough patches in this book more palatable.

3 stars out of 5.

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