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Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Truman Capote, read by Michael C. Hall. Brilliance Audio, , unabridged, three CDs, three hrs., $19.99 ISBN 978-1-4915-0705-6

Golden Globe–winning actor Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under) gives a warm reading of Capote’s classic novella. The story is related by an unnamed narrator looking back at the autumn of 1943, when he lived in a brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and befriended his neighbor Holly Golightly. The enigmatic and beguiling young woman is a free spirit with no discernible means of support other than the kindness of the wealthy men who take her to fancy restaurants, swanky parties, and offer the occasional gift. For the next year, the narrator finds himself entranced, intoxicated, and exhausted by Holly’s lifestyle, only to have their companionship end when circumstances extract her from the city and his life. Hall brings just the right tone to his narration. His characterizations are simply but effectively portrayed. He narrates the story with an earnest wistfulness that fully embodies the innocent infatuation of youth, but at the same time manages to infuse it with a sweet touch of the nostalgic melancholy. It is a solid, heartfelt performance that never lapses into corny sentimentality and will stay with the listener well after the last chapter. A Vintage paperback. (May)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Son

Jo Nesbø, trans. from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund, read by Gildart Jackson. Random House Audio, , unabridged, 14 CDs, 17.5 hrs., $45 ISBN 978-0-553-39782-6

At the beginning of this standalone from Nesbø—the reigning master of the Norwegian crime thriller, best known for his Harry Hole series (Police, etc.)—Sonny Lofthus is serving time in a maximum-security prison for crimes he didn’t commit, in exchange for a never-ending supply of heroin from his jailors. Sonny became an addict as a teen, after his father, Ab, a corrupt cop, apparently committed suicide. When a fellow inmate raises questions about Ab’s death, Sonny devises an ingenious escape plan and exacts revenge upon those responsible for his father’s downfall. On his trail is Simon Kefas, an aging cop and close friend of Ab’s, and the Twin, a shadowy gangster who traffics in underage Belorussian girls. The book is set in Oslo, which, seen through Nesbø’s eyes, is a cesspool of corruption, drug addiction, and general depravity. Jackson turns in a solid performance, guiding the reader through the tangle of multisyllabic Norwegian names while delivering on the plot’s many twists and turns. He uses an array of British accents to differentiate the large cast of characters. Jackson’s one misstep is the voice chosen for Sonny: it sounds hollow and awkward, almost Bullwinklesque. Fortunately this doesn’t slow the story down (Sonny being the laconic type), and the effect seems less jarring as the novel progresses. A Knopf hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Save the Date

Mary Kay Andrews, read by Kathleen McInerney. Macmillan Audio, unabridged, 11 CDs, 14.5 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4272-3940-2

Cara Kryzik, a transplant from Ohio to Savannah, Ga., is struggling to make a go of it at her floral design business. Everything is going wrong: her shop’s cooler conks out, ruining thousands of dollars worth of elaborate flower arrangements and leaving her with nothing for the huge wedding she’s doing the next day; her father is demanding that she repay the money he lent her to open the shop or he’ll shut it down; her landlady decides to sell the building without telling her—and wants to sell it to Cara’s biggest competitor; and then there’s handsome-but-exasperating contractor Jack Finnerty, whom she meets when he accidentally steals her dog. Narrator McInerney reads in a lively tone, bringing both empathy and humor to Cara’s tumultuous life. She flawlessly delivers fun character voices, from the elderly landlady’s crotchety “get off my lawn”-style sniping to Jack’s sexy “aw shucks, ma’am” Southern drawl. This entertaining chick lit/romance novel is perfect for a lazy summer listen at the beach. A St. Martin’s hardcover. (June)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Mr. Mercedes

Stephen King, read by Will Patton. S&S Audio, , 12 CDs, 14 hrs., unabridged, $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4423-6978-8

King’s latest foray into suspense is a no-holds-barred cat-and-mouse contest between ex-cop Bill Hodges and Brady Hartsfield, a nerdy, mama’s boy who is also a mass murderer. The two combatants are connected by a homicidal hit-and-run that occurred months before, when Hartsfield purposely steered his stolen Mercedes sedan into a crowd of the unemployed waiting in line for the opening of a job fair. Hartsfield begins to stalk the ex-cop, and sends Hodges a taunting letter. Actor Patton (TNT’s Falling Skies) not only finds the right voices for protagonist and antagonist, but he matches their many mood swings. As Hodges undergoes the moments of elation and travail King has in store for him (the joy of an unexpected romance, the death of a close friend), Patton finds the perfect tone for him. As for Hartsfield, it’s a matter of making him sound like a normal, likeable fellow to his coworkers at an electronics store, but a passive-aggressive monster when conversing with the ex-detective and a full-out lunatic when thinking or talking to himself. Patton’s performing skills are equally impressive for the supporting cast, from Hodges’s elegant and bright new girlfriend to Hartsfield’s boozy, clueless mother. But it’s his compelling interpretations of the two male leads—King’s avatars of good and evil—that distinguish this riveting production. A Scribner hardcover. (June)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Devil in the Marshalsea

Antonia Hodgson, read by John Lee. Tantor Audio, , unabridged, 10 CDs, 12 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4945-0281-2

In Hodgson’s debut novel, set in 1727 London, 25-year-old gentleman-rake Tom Hawkins is robbed of his last farthing and, shortly thereafter, tossed unceremoniously into the city’s nightmarish debtor’s prison, The Marshalsea Gaol. Once the gates slam shut, the author’s fluid style and fertile imagination (assisted by considerable existing diaries and other firsthand accounts) are in full force as she takes her antihero through a series of dire straits and hairbreadth escapes. Lee’s upper-class London accent fits Hawkins’s narration well, catching his air of roguish charm—the aural equivalent of a jaunty swagger. His interpretation of Sam Fleet, Hawkins’s off-putting cellmate, includes a moist, smarmy manner of speech, ripe with sinister innuendo. For the wellborn widow of Fleet’s former roommate, Captain Roberts, who visits the prison calling for an investigation into his death, Lee uses a fluty, properly posh delivery. And he’s equally successful in finding voices for the other inhabitants of Marshalsea, from the snarling, angry gatekeeper Cross to the aggressively cheery owner of the gaol’s coffeehouse, jolly Sarah Bradshaw. An HMH/Mariner hardcover. (June)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Silkworm

Robert Galbraith, read by Robert Glenister. Hachette Audio, , unabridged, 14 CDs, 17.5 hrs., $40 ISBN 978-1-4789-8090-2

Once again writing under the pseudonym Galbraith, J.K. Rowling begins her new fair-play whodunit a few months after the conclusion of The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013). Here, London private eye Comoran Strike and his almost aggressively efficient assistant, Robin Ellacott, are searching for the murderer of novelist Owen Quine, the author of a scurrilous roman à clef certain to damage the careers of an assortment of publishing power players if printed. Popular British actor Glenister (MI-5, Hustle) takes on a highly-charged crime puzzle, peopled by a panoply of mainly vile suspects as well as a totally engaging pair of detectives. Matching Rowling’s praiseworthy ear for dialogue, he catches the subtleties—a touch of snark in cocktail party chatter, the arrogance in the voice of the overprivileged, the fear almost hidden in the raspy croak of a chain-smoking literary agent. His Strike shifts from a weary attitude when dealing with his personal life to an air of vitality and confidence when on the job. Robin, too, is at her best when working, sounding bright and on top of things; while at home, her conversation is dulled by her increasing uncertainty about marriage to fiancé. This developing doubt seems justified, since the husband-to-be, as Glenister’s interpretation perfectly captures, is a demanding and humorless bore. A Little, Brown/Mulholland hardcover. (June)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Vacationers

Emma Straub, read by Kristen Sieh. Penguin Audio, unabridged, six CDs, 6.5 hrs., $30, ISBN 978-1-61176-395-9

Sieh, a relatively unknown character actress who has appeared in Boardwalk Empire and Orange Is the New Black, steals the show in this audio production, impressing listeners with her wit, humor, and remarkable accents. Straub’s novel takes place on the island of Mallorca, where the Post family and some friends have retreated for two weeks of sun, sand, and soul baring. It’s challenging to provide believable voices for around a dozen characters in many different stages of life, but Sieh nails them all without a hiccup. She is as adept with Sylvia (the teenage daughter whose epic bouts of sullen eye-rolling mask hidden depths) as she is with Sylvia’s brother Bobby, a 28-year-old Peter Pan who can’t quite settle into a job or a committed relationship, even though he’s brought his older girlfriend Carmen along to the beach. Sieh does an excellent job with Carmen’s Cuban-American Miami accent, then perfects the lilt of Sylvia’s handsome Spanish teacher, providing the appropriate lisp in his pronunciation of “Barthelona.” Add to this the indefatigable purposefulness of the Post matriarch, Franny, and the humor of several other characters, and Sieh’s narration makes for winning entertainment. A Riverhead hardcover. (June)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Buried Caesars

Stuart M. Kaminsky, read by Stephen Bowlby. HighBridge Audio, unabridged, digital download, nine hrs., $18.87 ISBN 978-1-62231-112-5

This 13th entry in Kaminsky’s breezy, entertaining series featuring 1940s private eye Toby Peters finds the engaging Southern California sleuth in the company of real-life celebrities and fictional screwballs and lawbreakers. With WWII raging in the South Pacific, Gen. Douglas MacArthur makes a clandestine visit to Southern California and hires Peters to recover stolen documents that could severely derail his planned postwar presidential run. Peters encounters Dashiell Hammett in Hollywood, where the author is avoiding his paramour Lillian Hellman while waiting to join the army, and Hammett lends the detective a helping hand. Voice-over actor Bowlby is a smart choice for these swift-paced tales; he endows Peters with a wry, mildly world-weary voice that comes across as tough without sounding rough. He saves the full hardboiled effect for Peters’s eternally angry homicide detective brother, Phil. Peters’s office-mate, Sheldon Minck, the world’s most unsanitary dentist (he chomps cigars as he works) sounds as slurry, whiny, and needy as he is on the page. As for Bowlby’s interpretations of MacArthur and Hammett, their personalities—stern and humorless for the general, slightly bemused and relaxed for the writer—fit hand in glove with what we know from the history books. An Open Road/MysteriousPress.com e-book. (July)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Bad Intent

Wendy Hornsby, read by Donna Postel. HighBridge Audio, unabridged, digital download, nine hrs., $18.87 ISBN 978-1-62231-100-2

Book three in Edgar Award–winner Hornsby’s Maggie McGowan series, originally written in 1995, catches the independent TV journalist just after she relocates from San Francisco to Los Angeles to be with her lover, Mike Trent, an L.A. police detective whom she met while he was investigating her sister’s murder. Meanwhile, a sleazy self-ordained cleric and a self-serving district attorney begin an investigation into a 15-year-old murder conviction stemming from a case that Mike and several other homicide detectives worked on. Postel possesses an attractively deep and smoky voice that is also intelligent and alert for Maggie, the story’s narrator. She adds a brusque impatience, a sense of knowing the game, to Maggie’s deal cutting with network news producers, then switches to an empathic approach when the reporter is coaxing information from reluctant subjects. Postel also provides the men in the story with credible baritone variations. The only false note is the voice given by the narrator to some of the novel’s African-American women (a little heavy on the Ebonics). An Open Road/MysteriousPress.com e-book. (July)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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David Foster Wallace: His Own Words

David Foster Wallace, read by the author. Hachette Audio, unabridged, eight CDs, nine hrs., $35 ISBN 978-1-4789-0073-3

This collection of essays, speeches, and interviews is a colorful reflection of the late author’s work in the last 15 years of his life. It includes some of his most famous later essays, such as “Consider the Lobster” and “This Is the Water,” and the interviews often provide some nuggets of insight about Wallace, despite the fact that they sometimes are of a promotional nature. The entire collection, except for the introduction, is as the title suggests, spoken by Wallace himself. Some pieces were captured in a studio and provide crisp and clear sound that makes for an intimate experience compared to the pieces that were recorded in front of an audience or with an interviewing reporter. The studio recordings are enjoyable because the focus is often the written work of Foster, but the interviews are equally compelling since they flesh out the author in ways that the writing cannot. Taken together, they provide the listener with a unique and endearing understanding of Wallace. A Hachette Audio original. (May)

Reviewed on 08/29/2014 | Details & Permalink

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