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The Chopin Manuscript: A Serial Thriller

1 rating: 4.0
A collaborate thriller novel by fifteen authors.

   The Chopin Manuscript is the collaborative effort of authors Jeffery Deaver, Lisa Scottoline, Lee Child, David Hewson, James Grady, S. J. Rozan, Erica Spindler, John Ramsey Miller, David Corbett, John Gilstrap, Joseph Finder, Peter Spiegelman, … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: Lee(Author) Deaver, Jeffery(Author) ; Scottoline, Lisa(Author); Child
Publisher: Brilliance Corporation
1 review about The Chopin Manuscript: A Serial Thriller

An intriguing experiment--but was it successful?

  • Aug 2, 2010

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.

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August 02, 2010
Whooooa, how does that even work? I would imagine having enough issues writing a book with just one other person, so fifteen authors is just mindblogging to me! Sounds like it worked out well for them, but I'm just trying to imagine the process :P Thanks for sharing, Sheri!
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