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The Hidden Child

Camilla Läckberg, read by Simon Vance. HighBridge Audio, unabridged, 12 CDs, 15 hrs., $39.95 ISBN 978-1-62231-321-1

This latest visit to Läckberg’s Fjällbacka, a tourist resort on Sweden’s southwest coast, finds homicide detective Patrik Hedström on paternity leave, caring for baby daughter Maja, which frees his wife, author Erica Falck, to finish a book about her late mother’s life. When news arrives of the brutal murder of the retired Marxist history teacher Erik Frankel, Patrik is asked for advice. Erica, meanwhile, has just discovered a connection between her mother and Frankel dating back to the WWII years. The lengthy novel leaps back and forth, from the present-day investigations to 1943–1944, when Erik and Erica’s mother become embroiled in the Nazi occupation of neighboring Norway. There are also a number of subplots, populated by numerous characters. Following a story this complex as it moves backward, forward, and sideways can be a bit daunting, but narrator Vance does his best to keep us on track. He presents the expository passages in a crisp, immaculately paced British accent, and slips with seeming ease into a vast assortment of vocal intonations for the characters, each of whom distinctive enough to identify immediately. Läckberg sketches out of what feels like half the population of Fjällbacka and Vance’s narration add detail and color. A Pegasus hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Any Other Name

Craig Johnson, read by George Guidall. Recorded Books, unabridged, seven CDs, 8.5 hours, $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4906-2397-9

This action-packed new Walt Longmire adventure has the heroic high-plains sheriff investigating a fellow lawman’s suicide. This requires looking into the late detective’s last case, a cold one involving three county women who went missing some time ago. The trail leads him to Deadwood and the Black Hills of South Dakota. There’s a shoot-out in a blinding snowfall that amidst a large herd of stampeding buffalo, an episode in which two trains race to avoid a head-on collision, and some breathlessly suspenseful moments with Longmire about to be crushed by thousands of pounds of coal. Guidall’s at his avuncular best as Longmire, the novel’s wryly self-deprecating narrator. He also provides an appropriately gravelly croak for the sheriff’s hard-drinking retired boss, Lucian Connally, a deep native American accent for crony Henry Standing Bear, and appropriate assorted masculine voices for the male-heavy cast. He finds a little room in his larynx to squeak out a few respectable female voices, too, leading with undersheriff Vic Moretti. It’s a fast, occasionally funny, non-stop audio thrill ride. A Viking hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Vanishing

Wendy Webb, read by Xe Sands. Tantor Audio, , unabridged, seven CDs, 8.5 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4945-0057-3

Narrator Sands brings the right tone and pacing to Webb’s supernatural thriller set in an old mansion on Lake Superior. Julia Bishop is looking to escape her past. Her husband, the equivalent of the “Midwestern Bernie Madoff,” robbed investors of their life savings and committed suicide upon being exposed, leaving Julia to face the very public scorn and hate alone. So when a stranger offers her the chance to take a job at an isolated country estate as the caretaker of his mother, horror writer Amaris Sinclair (aka the “female Edgar Allan Poe”)—who happens to be Julie’s favorite author— it seems too good to be true. However, from the day Julie arrives at the estate, she is faced with strange happenings and a feeling that there is something wrong about the house, something off, something evil. Sands’s performance fully embraces the rich gothic storytelling of Webb’s prose. She excels at projecting Bishop’s growing sense of unease and foreboding. The small cast of characters allows her to give each of them their own rich individuality. Most impressive is her take on elderly Amaris Sinclair. Sands gives her a sincere, caring voice, but with an underlying hint of sadness that fits well with the story. The result is not quite a horror story but just spooky enough that listeners may not want to listen with the lights off. A Hyperion paperback. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Serpent of Venice

Christopher Moore, read by Evan Morton. Harper Audio, unabridged, nine CDs, 10.5 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-0-06-231100-9

Evan Morton has a field day in his laugh-out-loud reading of Moore’s latest bit of novelistic frivolity. Playing off of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Othello and Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” Moore produces an unlikely but often hilarious story that finds Pocket the fool in Venice on behalf of his English Queen and falling into one whacky situation after another. Narrator Morton takes full advantage of Moore’s wild imagination. His out of the box, over-the-top narration fits the zaniness of the story perfectly. He never falters or stumbles, but leaps into each madcap scene with near-perfect comic timing. Commendably, the performance never overshadows or undermines the more serious themes, such as anti-Semitism and the destructiveness of jealousy, tactfully addressed in the narrative, but like all good humorists, they deliver messages with laughter. If you tickle us, as Moore and Morton surely do, there is no need to ask we do indeed laugh. A William Morrow hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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