UFO's and Unpaid Taxes - Scifi, meet Carlton Lassiter...
Have you watched Psych - the comedic drama psychic detective series? If so, you'll understand who I'm talking about. Alfred - the titular Time Travelling Taxman of this series, brought to life by some delightful writing by Rachel Ford & great characterization by John Carter Aimone - Is Carlton Lassiter. When I narrated Father of the Bride of Frankenstein, the author & I had a conversation about one character - a rabbi who sounded like he might work for the state department. I imagine a similar conversation between author & narrator about Alfred. He's a no-nonsense, straight shooting IRS agent with clear lines drawn between right & wrong - and it all ultimately comes down to your IRS filings with Freddy.
Sure, Alfred has a sense of Humor, but there's a lot of humor - and general societal cues - that are missed by the hero of this series. Alfred is not the kind of character who questions anyones motives. Or his own. He lives in a black & white world of numbers & reporting. But you'd better be reporting correctly! One thing I particularly liked about his character - his bizarre expletives. 20 years ago, I volunteered at a nursing home for a while & played pool with Alfred, I'm pretty sure. "Sugar Cookies" and "Son of a Biscuit" are a couple of examples. Its the kind of absurd thing that just has to be based in fact from someone Rachel Ford has known at one point or another. Aimone captures his character superbly.
Having read another of Ford's novels, I suspected I would enjoy this one as well, and I was not disappointed. It did take me a few chapters to really start guffawing though. The first 7 chapters were kind of stale, and I chuckled occasionally. Then we're introduced to Lee, my other favorite character of the book, and the driving force for most of the humor that follows in the book. Again, Aimone's portrayal is spot on, capturing Ford's writing and bringing it to life. I'm not going to delve into Lee other than saying that they're delightful & leave it at that to not raise any spoilers. (Closest Psych character - Maybe a combo of Gus & Woody - more on the Woody side of things though).
I jumped into this series in book 2, though I'd like to eventually check out T-Rexes & Tax Law (book 1). But, kind of like Psych, its not all that important to have checked out the pilot episode of the series (I know I watched it, but can't recall much from episode 1). This series would be right up the same tongue in cheek alley of Psych, and particularly, if you liked strait man, Carlton Lassiter, you'll like Alfred. And if you like the Travelling Taxman series - you'd probably get a kick out of Psych too.
The writing is pretty good & enjoyable - but not such that I'd feel compelled to read / listen to more of the series. This book starts a little slow, and ultimately plays out a bit like a Psych episode.
The Narration - Aimone is great in his characterizations. His timing however... Whenever I listen to an audiobook, I try to listen to at least part at 1x speed to really hear the performance aspect. After 5 minutes of it, I couldn't take his exceedingly long pauses between every sentence / paragraph / thought, and I cranked it up to 1.7 for the remainder of the book. Then the pauses seemed about right for if I was listening at 1x speed. Not sure if this was his call, a producers, or what, but it just felt like waiting for the next sentence.
So - Plot - 4 stars. Writing 4 Stars. Narration - 3 Stars. Fix the pauses & I might even give it 5 stars, but the pauses just put a damper on the whole thing. Would I listen to more by John Carter Aimone? Yeah, but if it is the same style, It would always be at a faster speed.