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Steven Crossley

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Title: To Say Nothing of the Dog
Author: Connie Willis
Narrator: Steven Crossley
Year: 1997

In To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis continues with the time-travelling theme developed in Doomsday Book, but apart from some of the minor characters, the two novels do not have much in common and are not dependent on each other in any way. Doomsday Book is a fairly serious story about The Black Death, whereas To Say Nothing of the Dog is a humorous mystery adventure set in Victorian Britain.

The fulcrum of the intrigue is hilarious in itself, since it consists of the search of an old relic called the Bishop’s Bird Stump, which is supposedly necessary to inaugurate a new version of Coventry Cathedral (which was demolished during the Blitz) built in 2057. Time travellers are sent back through time to search for the Bishop’s Bird Stump, but something goes wrong and the Net, which allows time travel, begins to fall apart.

In this confused and chaotic setting, the time travellers Ned and his female sidekick, Verity, like so many protagonists in mystery novels before them, try to unravel the tangled mystery surrounding the Bishop’s Bird Stump and repair whatever damage the Net has sustained. To Say Nothing of the Dog is an homage to many things, but mystery novels in general is perhaps the most obvious one. References to Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and others are frequent, both implicitly and explicitly.

As with Doomsday Book, the novel is expertly written and I cannot find many flaws or things I do not like, in language usage or otherwise. However, even if I am interested in Victorian Britain, the story is simply not interesting enough earn my whole-hearted approval. At places, it moves to slowly and I feel that I am way ahead of the characters in solving the mystery.

Steven Crossley’s narration of the novel is simply brilliant. I very seldom come across narrators who master the whole spectrum of skills needed, and even if Crossley do not score full points in all possible categories, he comes very close. His English is a joy to listen to and his carefully controlled and relaxed voice works excellently.

By way of conclusion, I think To Say Nothing of the Dog is a good read, slightly better than Doomsday Book, in fact, but not enough to motivate a different grade. However, if you are in the least allured by what I have said in this review, I urge you to have a look at this novel, since I am pretty sure that you will like it even more than I do.

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