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The Chopin Manuscript: A Serial Thriller Library Binding – Large Print, Jan 2010


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Product Details

  • Library Binding: 271 pages
  • Publisher: Center Point Pub; Lrg edition (January 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602856761
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602856769
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 14.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #194,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: MP3 CD
The book has great pace and tension, but it could have benefited from an extra round of editing for consistency - there were two or three occasions where it seemed to contradict itself. If you're willing to overlook that, it's a great (audio-)book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 71 reviews
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Rarely is so much talent so poorly used Jan. 3 2010
By Susan Tunis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product
The Chopin Manuscript and other novels of its kind are novelties. The idea is that one author will start and finish the novel, and that each chapter in between will be written by a different author working off of what's come before. This particular collaborative venture was the brainchild of the International Thriller Writers (ITW), and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more prestigious group of storytellers anywhere. In addition to Jeffrey Deaver, there are quite a few best-selling authors participating in The Chopin Manuscript, among them Lee Child, Joseph Finder, Lisa Scottoline, and David Hewson. Even among the less well-known authors there is tremendous talent exhibited. These are all writers capable of keeping their audience rapt, but the cards are stacked against them here.

Deaver opens the story with American Harry Middleton being stopped at the Warsaw Airport and being brought to the police for questioning. Middleton insists the hand-written Chopin music manuscript he's carrying is a fake--one he was called in to authenticate, but it turns out that's not what the police want to discuss. Rather, it is Middleton's lunch companion who, along with two others, has just turned up murdered. It's a respectable start to what soon becomes a globe-hopping tale of international intrigue.

Chapter by chapter, each author builds on what's come before, but tries to add his or her own twists, turns, surprises, and reversals--to the point that things ultimately become a bit ridiculous. This is a challenging task they've set themselves, and no one drops the ball, but it's just no way to tell a cohesive story. It's impossible. The plot is all over the place, the characters are undeveloped, even settings are descriptive passages are superficial. Some of the plot twists and story elements are patently absurd.

Oh, and I have no idea why this was produced exclusively as an audio book. The production values are excellent. And it's a tour de force for the preternaturally talented Alfred Molina, who does dozens of different character voices in just about every foreign accent imaginable. Even so, it was a devil to follow. There were so many characters to keep track of, and you couldn't just flip back in the book to remind yourself who they were. Far worse was this--the bulk of the characters had Polish or Slavic names. I couldn't tell you what they were. I couldn't spell them, pronounce them, or keep them straight as I tried to follow this complex narrative. Hopefully, you have better ears for that sort of thing.

The Chopin Manuscript is a novelty. I was curious to hear it and now I have. I'm definitely impressed with the talent of all involved, but I'm not rushing out to hear the sequel.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
An intriguing experiment -- completely successful? Maybe. Aug. 2 2010
By Sheri in Reho - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Let me start by saying a few things about myself to provide you some perspective on my review:
1) I have long been a fan of the mystery/suspense/thriller genre;
2) Jeffery Deaver is my favorite author in said genre (esp. the Lincoln Rhyme series);
3) I had heard of perhaps half of the participating authors but had not, until now, read their work, except for Jeffery Deaver and Lee Child. The other half of the authors were completely unfamiliar to me before this novel.
4) I listened to this audiobook in the car over a period of weeks, in bits and pieces, while doing errands, driving to my volunteer jobs, etc. Only the last disk did I hear in toto while on a road trip. This may have had a HUGE effect on how I perceived the success of this project, its consistency, etc. In other words, your mileage may vary. :)

I found this concept--a collaboration of 15 authors to write a "serial thriller" that was only released in audio form--to be quite intriguing, especially given the man at the helm. Jeffery Deaver conceived the characters and opened and closed the novel, with the other fourteen each writing a chapter in between. It seemed more like a concept for a writing workshop or a board game than a novel, but I found the idea too intriguing to pass up, especially given the veritable "Who's Who" of authors involved.

Read by Alfred Molina, doing a dazzling array of voices of varying ethnic origins, and scored with dramatic music, there was no doubt in my mind that this was a quality production. Molina's performance is superb--equal to (and some times better than) the material he is reading. The only confusion for me was that there were several Polish characters who spoke English in a heavy Polish accent, and I often had trouble differentiating one from the other in the narration. While the music was a nice addition, I found the music WAY over-dramatic, like a score to a silent movie.

I think that this type of unique project raises a few questions in prospective buyers:

Is it obvious that 15 different people wrote this novel?

Yes and no. The quality of the writing is variable for sure, but I'd say 60-70% of the chapters are on a relatively equal par. Most chapters were good to excellent, with a few that were too cheesy or unimaginative and thereby fell into poor territory for me. The chapters of two authors (if memory serves) included profanity (most notably the F word), where the rest did not, so things like that were obvious (i.e., if a character that has never used profanity starts cussing, it doesn't ring true).

There were definitely times that I forgot I was listening to a story written by 15 people. That means that, for at least some parts of the book, it is NOT that obvious that there were multiple authors.

Was this collaborative concept successful?

Yes and no. Is it an interesting story? Sure. For me, though, it got bogged down it TOO MANY characters, twists and locations. Since I listen to audio books while driving, it isn't as convenient to go back and "re-read" a passage or a chapter that wasn't entirely clear as it would be if I had an actual book in my hands and could scan back to where I "got lost" and read forward again to clarify things.

In the end, though, I don't believe it was as successful as it could (or should) have been. Perhaps trimming the collaboration from 15 to six or eight authors would deliver a more cohesive and consistent product. I finished the book while out of town, so I had some time to think about it before I got a chance to write my review. Almost two weeks after finishing the book, I'm finding that it wasn't really very memorable. Some scenes, some locales, some characters, yes...but not on the whole.

Do I recommend this audiobook?

I would say yes, as long as you manage your expectations going in. Not all the writing is going to be of the caliber of Lee Child or Jeffery Deaver. Not all of it is even going to be good. But, as a whole, I think that many mystery/suspense/thriller readers would quite enjoy it...likely more than I did! As noted in note #4 at the start of my review, it is very possible that listening to this audiobook over so long a period of time, and in so many short sessions, may have reduced the excitement of the story for me. It certainly is not sticking with me 2 weeks later as most good books would. As a result, it is very difficult to choose a rating.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A fun ride Aug. 11 2008
By SecretAgentGirl - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
This probably isn't the deepest international intrigue novel out there, but I think the twists and "I forgot my briefcase" moments alluded to by another reviewer were obviously intentional as each author picked up the tale. That said, I think the book was better edited than most single-author ventures are these days. I did enjoy the different styles, some of which stand out more than others. I read this in one day, and, if there was another, I'd read that one, too.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An excellent thriller March 8 2010
By LookinG for Trouble - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product
First things first. The writers are: Jeffery Deaver, Lisa Scottoline, Lee Child, Jospeh Finder, David Hewson, Peter Spiegelman, S.J. Rozan, Erica Spindler, John Ramsey Miller, James Grady, P.J. Parrish, Jim Fusili, David Corbett, John Gilstrap, Ralph Pezzullo.

I love the idea of this. A story being told by a group of storytellers -- each one picking up where the last one left off? It's a great idea. This format may not have been the best for this particular audio book though. This particular collection of writers and the complexity of the story made it especially difficult to follow: this is an instance where Deaver's attention to detail can easily derail the reader.

Harold Middleton, the main character of the story, is being questioned, accused, followed by various agents of various agencies and hunted by a dangerous man known as Faust. Middleton has a pregnant daughter, a son-in-law, an ex-wife, a former lover, and a variety of people with whom he investigated war crimes in Yugoslavia. Of these people, some are in danger, while some are dangerous. I really did have to finally start taking notes. This story is far too complex to be listened to once. I had to go back several times and listen to chapters a second or a third time to find a reference to something later in the story.

It may be the nature of the writers in this compilation, but each writer seems to pick up the story with some interest in making the story even more complicated than it already was. They delighted in ending story lines started by an earlier writer. These writers seem to have a perverse sense of humor that is pervasive throughout the book. I don't know if they were upping the ante because they knew Jeffery Deaver had to bring all the threads together again in the last chapter or if they were just outdoing each other. Pregnant woman in the story? The next writer will put her in the hospital. A woman boarding a plane with her would-be rescuer at the end of the chapter? The next chapter will begin with chaos breaking out in the airport and her walking out and away...

The writers in this story are reasonably cohesive, probably due more to good editing than to a similarity in style. It was interesting to find anomalies in characters - the way they spoke, even their swear words, and the writer's tendency to use particular expressions in writing. The writer who was the most jarring was Lisa Scottoline, who took it from a kind of action story to a girly romantic thriller. For the most part though, they blended well.

Project 83? Nazis? Stolen music manuscripts? In some ways this story was far too complex to be an audio book. These are all new characters, not familiar to listeners,which makes it very difficult to follow -- so many different lines of action. In the end, it is worth the trouble. But I would definitely advise listening to this book more continuously than I did when I started it. Had it been NPR's spring membership drive (the most annoying radio weeks of all time), it would have been much easier to follow.

I love being read to. It is one of those rare pleasures to have a book read, especially well read. The narrator to this story, Alfred Molina, has a strong voice and reads precisely, with pleasant intonation. A good voice is nice to have.

And, yes,. <deleted for being a spoiler :P >. I love it when that happens. SEQUEL!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An interesting "serial thriller" May 27 2010
By David Montgomery - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Twists and turns, action and adventure, The Chopin Manuscript, a high profile thriller written by the genre's biggest names, has them all. Better yet, with this pageturner, you don't even have to turn the pages. That's because The Chopin Manuscript is available exclusively as an audiobook. [Note: The Chopin Manuscript and its sequel have subsequently been released in hardcover under the title Watchlist.]

Billed as a "serial thriller," The Chopin Manuscript combines the talents of some of today's top thriller writers, including Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, Joseph Finder and Lisa Scottoline, to craft a high-stakes tale of suspense. The plot is a complicated one, centered around Harry Middleton, a former war crimes inspector who takes possession of a previously unknown score by Frederic Chopin.

Middleton doesn't yet realize it, but the score contains a deadly secret, one that dark forces are willing to do anything to discover. As the action leaps from Poland to Italy, New York to Washington, DC, Middleton and his colleagues are pursued by a murderous band of operatives, led by a shadowy figure known only as Faust.

Part of the fun of any good thriller novel is the serpentine reversals the story takes as it hurtles towards its conclusion. Here, however, that can be a drawback, as the complicated details of the plot, things that would probably be simple enough to follow on the page, are more easily lost when the story is being told rather than read. The sheer complexity of the plot works against its enjoyment.

Also, since each chapter was written by a different author, some parts of the story work better than others. There are occasional flashes of excitement, interspersed with noticeable lulls in the plot. As the story jumps from chapter to chapter, often introducing extraneous characters and floods of exposition, much of the momentum is lost.

The main plot is reasonably interesting, however, and there are passages that have the ability to get the heart pounding. The story also has the level of complexity and intrigue that you'd expect from an international thriller, even if the parts aren't joined together as well as they are in most of these authors individual books.

English actor Alfred Molina does a good job of narrating the story, accompanied by minimal mood-setting music. As is true of many male audiobook narrators, he does a better job with the male characters than the female - his readings for the women sometimes come across as unintentionally funny. Molina also stumbles when he tries to do some regional American accents. When he simply reads the story, however, his skills are more than satisfactory for the job.

Serial novels like this, no matter what the quality of the writers involved, almost never work particularly well. Expecting even the most skilled wordsmith to write but one chapter in a book that has already been marked by the minds of a dozen other writers is a Herculean task.

There have been a few of these novels written in the mystery/thriller genre in the past - perhaps most notably 1997's Naked Came the Manatee - and other than the name value of the authors involved, they've had little to recommend them. The Chopin Manuscript is better than the previous efforts, but ultimately it's still not nearly as satisfying as a book from any one of the authors would be on its own.


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