In this collection of audiobooks, we have a love story disguised as a courtroom drama, a mystery in which WWII is a major character, an ingenious debut novel and a road trip. All titles are also available on www.audible.com.
Thomas H. Cook
Read by Brian Holsopple
HighBridge Audio; $34.95; 8 CDs, 10 hours
Bravo to Cook for giving us a story that slowly grows with intensity and depth as we discover what Sandrine did to and for her husband Samuel, a self-involved professor. We begin with a trial, where it is clear Sandrine died of an overdose of Demerol and booze.
The prosecutor is making a decent case against her husband, claiming he murdered her and set up the crime scene. You won't be able to stop yourself from smiling, or gasping, when it becomes clear how her death actually came to pass in this insightful, cleverly nonlinear novel. Holsopple has a deep, slightly gravelly voice, delivers believable changes for minor characters, and uses just enough emotion to underscore, but never overpower the story.
'& Sons: A Novel'
Read by George Newbern
Random House Audio; available a download from www.audible.com; $35, 16 hours and 16 minutes. Also available as a library edition from Books on Tape.
At the heart of Gilbert's first novel is A.N. Dyer, an elderly literary icon who has just attended his best friend's funeral, has a broken marriage, several children with unsettled lives and a whopper of a secret. His life, and that of his children, unwinds during one wild week in which the narrative shifts focus from Dyer, his sons, a family friend and even excerpts from his most famous novel. And therein lies the problem.
Though a humorous and adroit story, it is quite complicated, so a little snippet of music, or different readers to clearly differentiate characters would be most welcome when the setting changes. Though sometimes this is a little too clever for its own good (quick! catch all those references) it is certainly makes you want to hear what Gilbert next has to offer.
Grade: B Plus
'The Light in the Ruins: A Novel'
Read by Cassandra Camp bell with Mark Bramhall
Random House Audio; $35; 9 CDs, 11.5 hours
Best-selling novelist Boh jalian has created a successful crime mystery set in Italy during the 1950s that dates back to WWII. Then we get to the denouement, which is rather irksome as it is the weak link in an otherwise engaging tale.
The noble Rosati family is living in a beautiful villa in the Tuscan hills when they are swept up in the politics and battles of the time. Ten years later someone is brutally killing the remaining members, and a young female detective, Serafina Bettini, wants to know why. She is the most nuanced character in the novel and it would be interesting to hear of her again in another audiobook in which coincidence does not so entwine her to her case. Narrator Campbell is the stronger of the two readers as Bramhall is over the top, sounding almost comically sinister, whereas Campbell has a pretty voice and a natural delivery.
Grade: B Plus
'The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean'
Read by Pete Larkin
High Bridge Audio; $36.95; 10 CDs, 11 hours and 45
At age 70 Caputo, an award-winning journalist and author, took his wife, two dogs and an old Airsteam trailer from Florida to Ala ska, meeting and interviewing all manner of folk along the way. This starts out slow, so much so that you may have to force yourself to sit through his lists and dull details.
Thankfully the story picks up steam when Caputo gets on the road and he asks people along the way intriguing questions about our country and what holds it together.
Caputo has a dry sense of humor and a wry insight that helped him drive more than 8,000 miles and with which he peppers this audiobook. Narrator Larkin sounds the part -- properly seasoned and a little gruff. However, some of his interviewees have more successful regional accents than others.
Grade: B Minus