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The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp    by Rick Yancey order for
Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp
by Rick Yancey
Order:  USA  Can
Listening Library, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

We planned to just listen to this unabridged (six disc) audiobook in the car, but had to continue at home as my son and I were enthralled and couldn't wait to hear more of the Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp. Alfred's life starts bad and just keeps on getting worse, but this aimless, large, fifteen-year-old, self-styled loser bears it all with a lugubrious and rather innocent fortitude. Though his personality reminded me somewhat of Winnie the Pooh's Eeyore, his adventures range far from the simplicity of the Hundred Acres Wood, involving fast cars and helicopters, guns and lots of gore.

Alfred is grateful to his uncle for rescuing him from foster care after his mother dies of cancer (he never knew his father). His life is purposeless until his uncle - manipulated by the villain of the piece, Mogart (the Dragon) - blackmails him into stealing a very special sword. Alfred knows it's wrong, but does it anyway, and good people begin to die, falling down rather fast like a pack of cards. The young anti-hero tells us that he 'kept screwing up, and then just kept coming back for more.' Mysteries catch the reader's interest early on - who are the robed monks who show up to defend the sword, and why is Alfred's name the password to its hiding place?

It turns out that the sword is the all-powerful Excalibur. A guilt-ridden Alfred and Bennacio - last of the sword's defenders, descended from a long line of knights of an ancient order - end up in a heart-stopping, headlong chase across N. America and Europe. They are pursued by black robes (the bad guy's minions) and spies, enduring one close shave after another, with the mastery of the sword (and through it the world) at stake. Bennacio becomes a father figure to the boy who never knew his own father, and Alfred encounters, and falls for, Bennacio's lovely daughter Natalya. But there have already been dire predictions by a seer of Alfred's and Bennacio's fates.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp is an unusual, thrilling coming of age story. The audiobook is beautifully narrated by Paul Michael, who does a superb job with a range of voices from Bennacio's restrained utterances to spook Mike Arnold's Texas twang. While Alfred is certain he's a loser all through the story, he has his own simple wisdom and it's he who declares in the final showdown in a Tintagel cave that 'At some point, somebody has to say "Enough" to violence and death.' I hope to hear of further exciting and extraordinary adventures for Alfred Kropp.

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