I get the feeling that listening to Patricia Cornwell’s mystery The Front on audiobook is less like picking up a random issue of Spider-Man and more like doing such with Archer & Armstrong. Obviously the metaphor is specific to me, but it’s like this: sometimes books in a series like this (this is only one of two, but you get the idea) either have a built in knowledge that come with them or fill in some of the natural blanks that come with a character who has a long fictional history. I don’t really know Spidey continuity, but I’m pretty sure I could jump right in, read some issues and get the gist. On the other hand, I don’t know anything about Archer & Armstrong, so I have no idea if I’d understand what the heck was going on.
Man, that’s a longwinded and potentially alienating way to explain that I was left a little flat by this book. Our hero Win Garano is a cop who works for a jerky DA whose life he saved previously (not sure if that’s in the previous book At Risk or just talked about). Anyway, she puts him on a 40 year old murder case in a stupid attempt to make herself look good. He kind of works on that, but also puts equal effort into hitting on a detective who also owns a cheese and wine shop. Oh, there’s also a woman who looks like Raggedy Anne poking around, an annoying Harvard journalist, a bunch of copper being stolen from job sites, a bank robber and Garano’s grandmother who is just about every Wiccan stereotype and oddity wrapped into one.
Here’s my problem with the book and this is definitely SPOILER territory. So, as you might expect, the old case turns out to be sad, but not really important politically or otherwise. As it turns out, the DA was under investigation for giving money to terrorists, but more accurately a terrorist group funneling money through a charity aimed at helping children in another country. More on that in a second. So, the main case doesn’t really matter. Then, as it turns out the reporter is not only a criminal but also the bank robber, running the copper thing AND banging the DA. There’s an explanation, but not really the kind you want because it’s explained by someone else and we don’t actually see the reporter again. He’s just talked about. But, the most infuriating aspect of the ending is that Garano winds covering for the DA for no discernible reason. He has an end-of-book convo with the DA where they talk about her losing control after all the bad stuff that happened to her previously, but it still seems weak. Does he feel sorry for her? If so, why does he spend the entire novel complaining about her both thanks to the omniscient narrator and his own comments.
So, my overall complaint is that the book winds up feeling both confusing and too easily wrapped up. Plus, the title doesn’t make much sense. I know it refers to an organization mentioned in the book and also probably something like the front that the DA or maybe Win puts up towards the other, but I think that’s a pretty weak title. After finishing another audiobook that I will probably get around to interviewing tomorrow, we actually got through this one pretty quickly as it’s only four or so discs. The funny thing is that, going in, both the missus and I were talking and had NO idea how all the different stories would get wrapped up. That should have probably been the sign of a quick, somewhat sloppy wrap up, but I didn’t see it coming.
When it comes to absorbing audiobooks, I think my expectations are much higher, not necessarily from a quality standpoint but at least an entertainment one. If I’m watching a movie on Netflix, I want it to be good, but it’s not really a big deal. It’s just a time investment. But with an audiobook I’m more depending on the story to be good, absorbing and interesting because I need to be sucked in and hopefully forget about some of the hours I have to drive through. Luckily, even though I had problems with this story, it was still entertaining enough to keep me interested and curious. For that, I’m thankful for this book, but I can’t say it was good and I probably wouldn’t recommend it. I think I’ll still to Cornwell’s Scarpetta series, like The Scarpetta Factor which we both enjoyed quite a bit.