Monday, 4 July 2016

Just Listen - Moscow by Jack Grimwood, Audible Book

I bought this because it is set in Moscow in the 1980s and I was in Moscow in the 1980s. I also read a review that said it was fascinating and evoked the atmosphere of that time and place. It isn’t and it doesn’t.

On the setting front, apart from name-checking a few Soviet car makes and having his hero smoke papirosi (as if - I’ve tried them, yeurgh, no one would choose to, given any sort of choice -  and he has plenty) the writer does not make much effort to conjure up Moscow at that era, especially for readers who never witnessed it firsthand.  But then it would not surprise me if Mr Grimwood never witnessed it at first hand himself, but just checked Google to find his few his few scraps of superficial local colour.

As to the “fascinating” claim, the book is an unoriginal if “racy” whodunnit that involves a lot of specifying of car and motor bike horsepower, a lot of male drinking and a lot of violence, usually applied to women - and in those cases described with what strikes me as creepily meticulous detail.

The characters are as substantial as steam and the only thing that marks the novel out from all the other books of its kind, (I think the Italians call these kinds of novels “gialli”?), is its setting, (see above for the disappointing nature of same), plus the fact that the author has thrown in Northern-Ireland-conflict-PTSD for good measure and added the requisite quota of "sexy ladies" who flirt and even sometimes fall into bed with the hero - because that’s what women are for, right?

I didn’t enjoy the book, but I’m sure lots of people, (mainly male?) would. That doesn’t stop it being total rubbish really - but it is not too badly read by one of Audible's narrators. How he managed to take the text seriously is beyond me.


  1. i noted in another context that executives in the publishing industry have fairly lately apparently determined that they can sell anything to the gullible public with lurid art and screaming citations... or maybe isn't so new - paperbacks in the thirties have the same sort of antic grabbiness about them... anyway, tx for the review; i'll be sure and not read this book...

    1. My sense is a lot of things that get published now are sort of chasing the last success, especially in the fantasy area. European publishing seems to exhibit more variety than English language publishing; at least that's my impression