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In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper

Edited by Lawrence Block, read by multiple narrators. Dreamscape Media, 8 CDs, 10 hrs., $59.99 ISBN 978-1-5200-4498-9

In this thematic short story collection, 17 writers—including Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, and Joyce Carol Oates—imagine back stories to paintings by American realist painter Hopper. The resulting tales are a diverse gathering of dark noir-tinged tales exploring the deep complexities of the human condition. Nine voice actors give life to the audio edition, each adding another layer of interpretation to the characters and plots set down by the writers. Highlights include Hillary Huber’s reading of Megan Abbott’s “Girlie Show,” a chronicle of a declining relationship between a wife and her artist husband, which Huber delivers with a calculated coolness. Chris Ciulla brings the character of Harry Bosch to life in Michael Connelly’s “Nighthawks,” a classic PI story in the Chandler tradition, and Arthur Morey is the perfect choice to relay Stephen King’s disturbingly ghoulish “The Music Room.” A CD containing images of the paintings adds to this multilayered, expertly produced audiobook. A Pegasus hardcover. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Case of the Stuttering Bishop

Erle Stanley Gardner, read by Alexander Cendese. Brilliance Audio, , unabridged, 5 CDs, 5.5 hrs., $19.99 ISBN 978-1-5318-2716-8

Gardner’s 1936 novel, one of several new audiobooks from Brilliance featuring fiction’s famous defense attorney, is number nine in Perry Mason’s list of literary courtroom battles. It’s one of the series’s best, in which the speech-impaired prelate of the title, William Mallory of Sydney, Australia, involves Mason in the legal rumpus that results when multimillionaire Renwold Brownley is murdered. Gardner was no prose stylist, but he could concoct and spin a yarn so fast-moving and filled with legal tricks and shocking revelations it easily holds its own with today’s legal thrillers, especially when given the vocal stylings of actor Cendese. He gives us a fast-talking, impatient, energetic Mason and a panicked Julia Branner, ex-daughter-in-law of the deceased The villains of the piece, a pair of shady private snoops, talk ultra-tough and thuggish. But they’re sharp enough to nearly commit the series’s most sinister criminal act—causing Mason’s disbarment. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Girl Before

J.P. Delaney, read by Emilia Fox and Finty Williams, with Lise Asgaard Knudsen. Random House Audio, unabridged, 9 CDs, 10 hrs., $40 ISBN 978-0-7352-8653-5

Jane Cavendish and Emma Williams, searching London for a cheap safe place to live, are entranced by what appears to be a bargain, a unique minimalist house automatically controlled by cutting-edge technology. Both are equally entranced by the house’s architect, Edward Monkford, a darkly handsome control freak who demands that voluminous stipulations be met before he turns over the Fitbit-like wristband that automatically opens the front door. The first of many twists in this psychological thriller from Delaney is that, though both perspectives are written in the present tense, Emma’s takes place in the past. Actors Fox (reading Jane’s sections) and Williams (reading Emma’s sections) move the frequently shifting plot along at a swift clip, clearly distinguishing the differing emotions of the two main characters even as they go through their similar paces. The amazing automated house, almost as prominent as its inhabitants, does everything but speak. But while Fox and Williams are not called upon to give voice to the brick-and-mortar character, they are totally successful in capturing the atmosphere that the cold, indifferent, slightly terrifying building creates. A Ballantine hardcover. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Fatal

John Lescroart, read by Jacques Roy. S&S Audio, , unabridged, 10 CDs, 10 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-5082-1162-4

Lescroart’s new San Francisco–set standalone thriller is pretty much the ultimate literary exploration of the domino effect. Kate Jameson, who’s married, seduces Peter Ash, whom she just met at a dinner party. To her their nooner was a momentary amusement, but it unleashes a long-subdued satyriasis in Peter. A few months later, when his bullet-ridden body washes up on a beach, a police investigation ensues, led by SFPD Sgt. Beth Tully, who also happens to be Kate’s best friend. Theater actor Roy spins the combination of police procedural and modern-day morality tale smoothly, effectively dramatizing Lescroart’s highly charged passages—among them an unexpected terrorist shooting spree in a lunchroom where Beth and Kate are chatting. It’s a while before Beth and her investigation take command of the novel. Until then, Roy uses a coolly objective approach to the unpleasantly self-involved Jameson and Ash families. His approach is much warmer and more natural once Beth takes center stage, along with her equally likable partner Ike and her potential paramour Alan. Roy understands the other characters are there to serve the plot, but Beth and her people are the book’s heart and soul. An Atria hardcover. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Old Man

Thomas Perry, read by Peter Berkrot. HighBridge Audio, unabridged, 9 CDs, 11 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-6816-8387-4

Nearly half a lifetime ago, an Army intelligence officer using the name Dan Chase participated in a mission in Libya during which he allegedly stole $20 million from a corrupt “asset.” Since then, he’s been in hiding, living in Vermont with his two dogs. When Libyan assassins suddenly appear, only to be turned into chew toys by his trained pets, Chase starts running, not only to save his life but to find out who wants to kill him and why now. Author Perry fills this standalone thriller with nonstop action, shifting from Chase’s long-prepped escape maneuvers to chapters featuring Julian Carson, a young special ops contractor hired by military intelligence because of his tracking skills. He’s too honest not to do the job he’s being paid for, but also honorable enough to sympathize with Chase once he realizes his bosses are cynical, deceitful, and without conscience. Reader Berkrot sets an energetic pace right from the start and, once Chase flees, both protagonist and reader put the pedal to the metal, slowing down only long enough for the old man to hook up with Zoe McDonald, a 40-something pianist, who becomes his traveling companion. A Mysterious hardcover. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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