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Five Decembers  By  cover art

Five Decembers

By: James Kestrel
Narrated by: Edoardo Ballerini
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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the 2022 Edgar Award for Best Novel

Nominee for Best Thriller in the 2022 Barry Awards

Hammett Prize 2021 Finalist

December 1941. America teeters on the brink of war, and in Honolulu, Hawaii, police detective Joe McGrady is assigned to investigate a homicide that will change his life forever. The trail of murder he uncovers will lead him across the Pacific, far from home and the woman he loves; and though the U.S. doesn't know it yet, a Japanese fleet is already steaming toward Pearl Harbor. 

This extraordinary novel is so much more than just a gripping crime story—it's a story of survival against all odds, of love and loss and the human cost of war. Spanning the entirety of World War II, Five Decembers is a beautiful, masterful, powerful novel that will live in your memory forever.

Original cover art copyright (c) 2021 by Claudia Carafe, painted for Hard Case Crime

©2022 James Kestrel (P)2022 Podium Audio

Critic Reviews

 “War, imprisonment, torture, romance…The novel has an almost operatic symmetry, and Kestrel turns a beautiful phrase.” (The New York Times)
"Read this book for its palpitating story, its perfect emotional and physical detailing and, most of all, for its unforgettable conjuring of a steamy quicksilver world that will be new to almost every reader." (Pico Iyer)

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What listeners say about Five Decembers

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Fantastic

Five Decembers is a gorgeously written literary masterpiece from former bar owner, criminal defense investigator, and English teacher, James Kestrel. One part a gripping murder mystery and the other a superb modern reimagining of the classic Shogun, Five Decembers is a one of a kind historical fiction novel that I will definitely never forget.

I had this audiobook in my wishlist for a few months now because I saw that Mr. Stephen King has recommended it on Twitter. After that, last Friday I noticed that our friends at Audiofile magazine also encouraged us listeners to give it a try, especially with American actor, multiple award-winning narrator, writer, film director, and audiobooks industry living legend Edoardo Ballerini as its voice.

I decided to purchase it and I listened to it throughout the weekend. This is one of those audiobooks that I never wanted to end. The writing flows naturally off the page depicting characters that feel real and alive. Locations, events and scenarios spring to life in our imagination thanks to another formidable performance delivered by Mr. Edoardo Ballerini.

To be honest, I can’t think of anyone else who could have done this better. Edoardo Ballerini reads in his trademarked nice, easy and relaxed manner, ratcheting up the tension at just the right moment with emotion, passion and an unlimited source of talent. He gives credible voices and accents to all the important characters and by doing this, he helps the listener to clearly differentiate between them.

I always love his narration and I am happy when he brings such amazing stories to life. Every book recorded by Edoardo Ballerini is better in audio format than in its printed version because audiobooks have souls and these souls come from the narrators that fill them with life.

The story follows Honolulu police detective Joe McGrady and sees our protagonist investigating a brutal murder that will take him across the ocean into an adventure nobody could have foreseen. The action starts in 1941 and it is set against the backdrop of World War II spanning the entirety of this brutal conflict. This is all I’m willing to tell you about the story because I want you to discover it on your own and not have anything spoiled.

Five Decembers promises to be a gripping tale of survival against all odds, of love, friendship and loss and, last but not least, it also focuses on the human cost. I’ll add to this that for me Five Decembers was a unique narrative experience that I treasured and enjoyed from the first moment to its dramatic last.

James Kestrel is a masterful writer who knows how to tell a story in a way that will keep readers and listeners alike captivated from beginning to end. I will keep an eye out for him from now on and I can say that I am really happy to have discovered his work.

Five Decembers is unique, unputdownable, atmospheric, gripping, powerful, masterful and engaging!

Winner of the 2022 Edgar Award for Best Novel, nominee for Best Thriller in the 2022 Barry Awards and a Hammett Prize 2021 Finalist, Five Decembers must not be missed by anyone who enjoys a well written crime story and is fascinated by World War II!
I hope that you found this review interesting and will consider leaving a helpful vote below. Thank you! Take care, stay safe, and don't forget, always listen with your heart.

8 people found this helpful

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A Masterpiece for a First Novel, a Hard Boiled Det

Five Decembers is without a doubt the best book I have read in years. James Kestrel has created a very rich atmosphere that spans many years and the Pacific in its details which he attends to with great focus: he describes Honolulu, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Taiwan through the eyes of people he interviewed for this mystery and it works perfectly. Names, places, foods, and idioms from different languages and cultures are spot on. (I lived in east Asia for many years so I can attest to JK's meticulous attention to detail.) The only other writer to use this method wrote what has been called the greatest war novel of all time - The Red Badge of Courage; Stephen Crane interviewed old soldiers about their memories of the American Civil War and turned them into a first-rate novel. In an afterword, James Kestrel graciously thanks many people whom he worked with to give his first book an authenticity rarely found in what might seem to be only a pulp novel. I most highly recommend Five Decembers.

5 people found this helpful

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One of best audio books I have ever experienced

The story, the reader, it was just all consuming. I hardly turned it off before finishing.

1 person found this helpful

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Mesmerizing neo-noir

From the first paragraph to the last, this is a hardboiled detective story that feels like it was written in the 1940s. Looking forward to more from this author.

1 person found this helpful

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Phenomenal

This one blew me away. Excellent voice actor and story. Will be watching this author.

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Great story

Good story better than expected. The narrator was outstanding.
That is all I have to say

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Suspenseful and complex story

Fast paced and beautifully written with well drawn characters. It grips you from the first paragraph. Strongly recommend it.

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Bravo

Excellent story. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Although it takes place in a bygone era, the characters are real and relatable. Author definitely did his research on the Pacific during the Second World War. The mechanics of the mystery are excellent. The clues are unfurled discreetly. Hard to put this book down once you start!

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Epic Detective Novel

Amazing novel. Narrator makes it that much better. The book has everything, violence, suspense, romance...

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Terrific!

Absolutely the best I've listened to in a long time. Compelling story well written and read. Atmospheric yet articulately rendered and realized. Highest recommendation.

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  • N. Robinson
  • 08-16-22

Gumshoe in WW2

Fantastic detective procedural mixed in the midst of the arrival of WW2. It captures the atmosphere of the time, giving it the noirish feel of novels written in the period, which is a testament to the amount of research that has gone into it. No spoilers, but Kestrel weaves his tale into actual history very eloquently. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator brilliantly captures each character. Probably one of my favourite books of the year. I would definitely read more Kestrel, but so far this is his only publication. We need more Mr Kestrel!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Suzie
  • 11-14-22

Excellent thriller

Gripping pacey WW2 period piece which pulls you in and won't let go! Narrator pitch perfect.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-16-22

excellent.

excellent. if you only listen to one book this year make it Five Decembers. brilliant

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  • Elaine Brien
  • 07-31-22

Entertaining

An enjoyable although far fetched story set during WW2, if you suspend your disbelief and except its coincidences you'll be entertained. I wouldn't mind another tale with the main protagonist as he's quite a unique sleuth.