Monday, February 11, 2013

A Quiet Vendetta - R.J. Ellory

First line: "Through mean streets, through smoky alleyways where the pungent smell of raw liquor hangs like the ghost of some long-gone summer; on past these battered frontages where plaster chips and twists of dirty paint in Mardi Gras colors lean out like broken teeth and fall leaves; passing the dregs of humanity who gather here and there amongst brown-papered bottles and steel-drum fires, serving to tap the vein of meager human prosperity where it spills, through good humor or diesel wine, onto the sidewalks of this district...

Chalmette, here within the boundaries of New Orleans."

Catherine Ducane, the Louisiana governor's daughter, is kidnapped and her body guard brutally mudered. The man professing to have kidnapped her says he will turn himself in and reveal her whereabouts but only under specific circumstances. Ernesto Perez wants to tell his story, and he wants to tell it to Ray Hartmann, a homicide detective in New York City.

Ray Hartmann has no idea why Ernesto Perez has singled him out. To the best of his knowledge, Hartmann doesn't know Perez. And what's worse, Hartmann is trying to fix his relationship with his estranged wife and daughter and he's scheduled to meet them. However, when the governor of Louisiana says, "jump," the FBI says, "how high?" So Hartmann is flown to Louisiana to receive Ernesto Perez and spend days listening to him tell his life story.

Perez tells about a life of crime as a hit man. He reveals his very first murder as just a young child, and how he went on to work for crime families and live in various places from Cuba to California. Hartmann and the FBI listen patiently in hopes of catching a clue as to who this mysterious man is and what he's done with Catherine Ducane.

In R.J. Ellory's trademark fashion, he has written an atmospheric novel of crime and passion. He develops layers of plot that weave in and out, leading the reader in unknown directions only to bring them back to a grand conclusion. In this unabridged audiobook edition of A Quiet Vendetta, narrator Donald Corren has a firm grasp on Ellory's atmosphere and expresses it through his pacing and cadence. Corren also pulls in the easy, laid-back mannerism of the South, and specifically Louisiana.

Even more so than A Quiet Belief in Angels, A Quiet Vendetta is an epic novel. Perez takes Hartmann through major events in U.S. history like the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But he also takes Perez through his personal life. His experiences, his friendships and business relationships, his marriage and family. And there were points in the mid-section of the novel where Perez's story seemed to drag and the momentum of the novel shifted down. However, this works to give the reader the same reaction Hartmann would have been feeling, waiting desperately for Perez's story to end so he could return to NYC and repair his own personal life.

The cast in this epic novel provided Corren with a challenging array of dialects to turn on and off. From Cuban to Southern American to Italian American, even some Irish American and Northern American dialects. And Corren navigated through them with an ease that made it sound simple. He portrayed the young as well as the old, the male as fluidly as the female. It is evident through this audio that Corren has an appreciation for the story, characters and atmosphere Ellory is presenting in A Quiet Vendetta.

While I predicted the ending in advance, the desire to know how it all played out, combined with the sheer entertainment of the narration kept me entranced. Then seeing the complete arc at the end of the tale brought to light the grandness of the entire novel.

If you enjoyed A Quiet Belief in Angels, then A Quiet Vendetta is a must-read or a must-listen. Because of the richness Corren brings to this novel through his narration, this is an audio I will be recommending to others. The one factor to keep in mind, however, is the 20 hour length of the audio. It's a time commitment, but well worth it.

A Quiet Belief in Angels is available on unabridged audio from Blackstone Audio (ISBN: 9781270826789) or in hardcover (ISBN: 9781590205082) from Overlook Press.


Cathy February 14, 2013 at 4:12 PM  

I loved A Quiet Belief in Angels, but I have to admit that I'm hesitant to dive back into Ellory's books after that sock puppet mess. :-(

Anonymous March 5, 2014 at 9:46 PM  

Just came across this blog - thanks for your kind words! I loved narrating this book.

Donald Corren

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