E- and audiobook reviews: Fiction

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 6:20pm

Two Brothers 
by Ben Elton (read by Jot Davies)
Random House (audiobook)

Two Brothers is a "what if" historical novel about a pair of babies born in Nazi Germany. The premise, which clangs into life like a Jeffrey Archer set-up, is that identity confusion in a maternity ward leads to an Aryan child being inserted into the distinctly Jewish Stengel clan. Can you see the twist in the tale yet? Kinda, and we are only a few minutes into Jot Davies' pleasant, but less-than-vivid rendering. To be honest, most of us would find it trying to read Elton's prose with much relish: "It felt to Stone … like he was being questioned by Peter Lorre while Humphrey Bogart looked on inscrutably, keeping his own counsel." This fascistic Prince and the Pauper may or may not be in desperately good taste, but it does begin to get under your skin. Having been born on the same day that Hitler began the National Socialists in 1920, the boys fight, compete and dodge Elton's heavy-handed history lessons. Eventually, the truth comes out and the boys face each other down. Two Brothers doesn't grip so much as throttle.


Standing in Another Man's Grave
by Ian Rankin
Orion (e-book)

The title is ironic, as anyone who read John Rebus' supposed adieu in 2007 knows. But fictional detectives have always proved hard to kill and the return of Ian Rankin's wonderful policeman isn't so much a surprise as an act of literary déjà vu. In Standing in Another Man's Grave, he fits into Rankin new and old - reunited with former sidekick Siobhan Clarke, before rubbing shoulders with Rankin's "other" detective, Malcolm Fox. Think the boozy, rebellious, brilliant Rebus but in photographic negative. Suffice to say, they hate each other. As readers of Fox's two solo adventures will know, he works for Internal Affairs. So it is no surprise that the plot is partly driven by him investigating Rebus, whom he considers a police dinosaur. Rebus is still in civvies, looking into cold cases. Thirteen years after a young girl disappeared, her mother contacts Rebus to give the investigation a final look. This leads him bang into a very hot case, being run by none other than Siobhan. Chaos ensues, in the most delightful and violent of fashions.


Breaking Dawn
by Stephenie Meyer (read by Ilyana Kadushin and Matt Walters)
Hachette Audio

Enough already. I sincerely hope that this is the last Twilight audiobook I will have to hear for, say, 108,000 years? Don't get me wrong. When the series began, it was fresh, romantic, mildly scary and enjoyable. But unlike hunky, dangerous Edward Cullen, the series grew old fast. Having peaked in New Moon with the Bella-Edward-Jacob love triangle, Twilight ran out of puff for the simple reason that Stephenie Meyer is a romance writer forced into the body of a horror novelist. Once it became clear Bella was no more likely to make a hippopotamus omelette than date werewolf Jacob, then all dramatic tension abandoned the narrative. What was left were a load of fake dilemmas that never came to pass. Q. how will Bella's dad react if his little girl becomes a vampire? A: … er, like nothing happened. Also lots of codswallop emoting from B and E: "Personal affection is a luxury you can have only after all your enemies are eliminated." Unlike Rebus, this is one series I hope is never resurrected.