Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Beat the Reaper - Josh Bazell (audio)

I'd just started my long-term commitment of listening to Drums of Autumn (39 discs, thank you very much) when this little guy showed up at my door from the library. It was only 6 discs, which basically amounts to a couple of days of errands and a long walk. I've been hankering for this book since it took blogland by storm a few months ago, so I went for it.

What a trip. Bazell, who is apparently a doctor, has crafted a fast-paced mob story, soaked in some pretty disgusting medical ooze. I think it was EW that advised not to read this book if you are thinking about or currently in the hospital for any type of procedure (even splinter removal). I would advise not to read this book if you are offended by the f-bomb or various terms for male and female private parts. Luckily, I don't classify for either disclaimer.

Our protagonist is Peter Brown, a resident at a hospital in New York City. His voice, represented by an awesome narrator with the perfect voice for such a character, is that of a snappy, dry-witted Wise Guy. In the middle of his rounds one day, he runs into a mobster with stomach cancer, and his past smacks him upside the head. We learn through periodic flashbacks that Peter is in fact Pietro Brnwa, an ex-mobster in Witness Protection, whose cover has now been blown. He reviews his life in retrospect, and muses at the events that led to his current predicament. A life that involved his seeking revenge for his grandparents' murder, tracing their connections back to their homeland of Poland and their imprisonment in Auschwitz. A life that slowly sucked him into a life of whacking slimeballs for the mob (at least that is how he justifies it to himself).

The mobster tells Peter that the secret is safe with him, unless he dies of course, then the bet is off. And Peter does everything he can to keep the terminal sleezebag alive, but who would trust this guy? Peter also struggles with other to get free drugs from the hot pharmaceutical rep, diagnosing a gentleman with a pain in his backside (known as "ass man"), and trying to cheer up another young babe that is about to lose her leg from the knee down.

This is not literature for a book club or deep reflection. It is a fun, entertaining story that you will have a hard time setting down, even for a few minutes. (Provided you don't read it in a hospital, which in that case you will be sufficiently freaked out.) The audio is a special treat. Not only does the narrator embody Peter Brown, he has amazingly perfect accents (southern, NY mob, Romanian, Polish, Russian...I'm sure I'm missing some). They also inject just a few well-placed sound effects, like water, echoes, and hospital monitors. This is a new one for me. You could potentially see this as a bit hokey, but I saw it as something different. And at or near the end of each disc, they play seriously rockin' music. I loved it. In justifying my rating, I pulled it down a notch only because the cursing is gratuitous (even though you expect it from a mob story), and while it did not bother me, it could get under your skin.

4 out 5 stars


Beth F said...

I have been wanting to read this one for a long while. And Kathy (Bermuda Onion) said it was don't-miss read. I noticed that it's out on OverDrive for free digital download. I'll get to this one maybe in the summer.

Iliana said...

yea, when this first came out I just wasn't interested in the whole mob story but everyone has raved about it! Will have to reconsider it for sure :)

Melissa said...

I'm glad this audio was good. I thought this was a wonderfully fun read!

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

BEAT THE REAPER was so good on audio! Yes, the accents and various sound effects and music added so much to it.

I added the same "warnings" about profanity in my review, but it didn't stop me from listening. Anyone who has watched The Sopranos has heard it before :)

Now, you're next audio pick will take a bit longer to get thru ... that's a lot of discs!

Anna said...

This one sounds interesting. Nothing grosses me out anymore, having read Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. lol

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