Monday, May 2, 2016

Thoughts: The Chopin Manuscript

The Chopin Manuscript

story concept by Jeffery Deaver
audio book narrated by Alfred Molina
Book 1 of Harold Middleton series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

This serial thriller is also known as The Watchlist.
This book is a collaboration of various authors, each contributing a chapter to the story.  The first and the last chapters are written by Jeffery Deaver who also created the character of Harold Middleton.

Authors Involved Include:
Peter Spiegelman, Ralph Pezzullo, Lisa Scottoline, Lee Child, Joseph Finder, David Hewson, S.J. Rozan, Erica Spindler, P.J. Parrish, John Ramsey Miller, Jim Fusilli, David Corbett, James Grady, John Gilstrap

This is a review of the audio book:

I'm reminded of a time in high school when several of my classmates spent a free day sitting around when someone slipped a sheet of paper onto my desk. It had the words, "Once upon a time, there was a teenage girl named Alice." Without hesitation, I had grinned and added the sentence, "She was sitting in school one day when the ground began to shake." And then I handed the paper over to one of my closest friends sitting next to me. As the paper circulated between a few other girls, "Alice" managed to slip down a rabbit hole, fight dragons in the underworld, and meet up with a hunky knight who was also a warlock.

We never finished the story. The progression began to get out of hand and then class ended and the notebook paper scribbled with the gibberish of "Alice's" adventure was left in the trash on our way out. I regret not taking and saving the writing--it would have made for some good material for future reference.

But this is what I thought about as I listened to The Chopin Manuscript. I worried that several authors with differing writing styles, ideals, and behaviors would create an incoherent product as we did. But the difference is that we were a bunch of teenagers fooling around.

The Chopin Manuscript was a challenge to create an epic serial thriller between fellow crime thriller authors.

I'm not familiar with any of the authors in this collaboration, but I know the names--heard of them before as popular crime thriller/action/mystery writers. I thought the project was an interesting one.

Harold Middleton is a former war crime investigator, but due to circumstances, has given up that life to study music.  He is in possession of The Chopin Manuscript of which he believes is a forgery.  But this musical piece proves to be involved in a deadly conspiracy of international proportions as many people involved begin to turn up dead.  The danger comes closer to home when Harold Middleton realizes that he's been drawn into the sinister workings of shadowy mystery man known only as Faust.

The concept seemed created as any typical action thriller, maybe made-for-movie entertainment. I didn't find anything overly unique about the story line or the characters, but the book was as enjoyable as any action movie I've seen in the past. It probably helps a little bit that I listened to the audio book version, narrated by Alfred Molina. I believe that this story was originally created as an audio book, which helped since I'm not sure I would have read this book otherwise--not because the book is terrible or anything, but probably because it's just not my cuppa.

I can't say that they didn't accomplish their mission. The story turned out quite well and I was fairly hooked from the beginning. The background music and Alfred Molina's stellar performance might have been incentive--I was pleasantly surprised at his ability to move from one foreign accent to another and even take on sounding American so naturally. It was pretty cool.

In the beginning, The Chopin Manuscript felt exciting with plots developing and characters surfacing with hidden agendas. But as the story progressed, you could start to see the presence of several minds competing against how they wanted the story to unfold, yet also trying to remain within the scope of the original concept. It was barely there, but the way certain scenes twisted were different from others and the way the story progressed felt sudden and haphazard. It took some time to figure out what significance each character played, and with some, their significance didn't seem to stand out despite having a heavy presence throughout the book--then they were killed off and it felt a little awkward and sudden.

A lot of times, I found myself asking why certain conflicts were introduced only to fizzle out.

But the story itself, as a whole, was quite entertaining.

Overall Impression: Typical action/crime thriller plot you would see in a lot of action movies involving government conspiracies, secret organizations, international conflicts... the like. Enjoyable.

Alfred Molina's performance was the best part of the whole ordeal, though and I'd be interested in looking up any other audio book he has narrated.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in December 2014.

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