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The Girls

Emma Cline, read by Cady McClain. Random House Audio, , unabridged, 8 CDs, 10 hrs., $40 ISBN 978-0-14-752399-0

This compelling and thought-provoking novel seeks to understand what might have motivated the young people who joined Charles Manson’s murderous cult in the 1960s, and how they were drawn under his spell. In this fictional account, middle-aged Evie looks back on the life-changing summer when she was 14, upset at her parents’ divorce, and feeling neglected and insecure. Enter Suzanne, a wild and mesmerizing older girl who draws Evie into the hippie commune/cult led by charismatic and fanatical Russell Hadrick. Reader McClain is phenomenal, evoking the older Evie’s mature retrospection and struggle to analyze her own emotional state and the motivations of that tumultuous time, as well as the younger Evie’s yearning for acceptance and love and adventure. McClain also creates authentic, memorable voices for the other characters, including the lazy drawl of Suzanne and the seductive madness of Russell. A perfect marriage of text and narrator, this is the kind of audiobook that stays in your mind long after it’s finished. A Random House hardcover. (June)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure

Nancy Atherton, read by Christina Moore. Dreamscape Media, , unabridged, 6 CDs, 7 hrs., $59.99 ISBN 978-1-5200-0616-1

In this modern-day cozy, the kindly, British-accented spirit of Aunt Dimity streams live from a magical journal to request a favor of her niece, American amateur sleuth Lori Shepherd—to locate an elderly WWII acquaintance of Dimity’s, named Badger, and return a bejeweled gift he gave her. Lori, who resides in the pastoral Cotswold village of Finch, travels to London, where she is helped along by a youthful student archeologist, a sassy-sounding café proprietor, and three veterans of the war. Finch’s lovely, albeit nosy, neighbors, each provided with a unique dialect, personality, and temperament, are the heart of this spectral charmer that also includes a newcomer to the village, whose hobby of metal detecting causes a bit of discord. Reader Moore’s confidence and linguistic dexterity are admirable, since there are numerous characters who are integral to the plot, each with a distinguishable accent; Moore retains her American accent for Lori, then ably moves among various British dialects. Atherton’s Aunt Dimity fans will be delighted with this accomplished audio version of her latest mystery, which is light on intrigue, heavy on charm. A Viking hardcover. (July)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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You Will Know Me

Megan Abbott, read by Lauren Fortgang. Hachette Audio, , unabridged, 8 CDs, 9 hrs., $30 ISBN 978-1-4789-3840-8

Ever since their teen daughter, Devon, hinted at a special talent for gymnastics, Katie and Eric Knox have spared nothing to get her whatever she needs to qualify for the Olympics. When the novel opens, Katie is beginning to wonder if they have given up too much. Her doubts increase when a family friend is killed by a hit-and-run driver in a car that seems similar to Eric’s. Reader Fortgang catches every subtle mood shift of Katie’s, from her delight at Devon’s ability to her fear that events, real or imagined, will derail her daughter’s progress. Eric usually sounds uptight and anxious, and when he and Katie are alone, a little furtive. Devon is brimming with entitlement, impatience, and intolerance. Her fellow gymnasts are humorless, snarky, soft-spoken or arrogant. All are almost as driven as their parents, for whom Olympic excellence is all that matters in their lives. A Little, Brown hardcover. (July)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Wolf Lake

John Verdon, read by Christopher Lane. Brilliance Audio, , unabridged, 10 CDs, 12.5 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-5226-3648-9

In Verdon’s richly atmospheric fifth mystery featuring retired NYPD homicide detective Dave Gurney, a former police colleague brings Dave back into his previous life by involving him in a baffling case. Ethan Gall, the owner of Wolf Lake Lodge in the Adirondacks, hired renowned psychologist Richard Hammond to provide on-site hypnotic therapy at the lodge. After four of Hammond’s patients, including Gall, commit suicide, the New York state police start to suspect the doctor is talking patients into killing themselves. Despite the seriousness of his situation, Hammond refuses to hire an attorney or seek any other help. His sister, Jane, however, asks Dave to work for her to clear her brother’s name. Both the police and Hammond are uncooperative. Complicating Gurney’s sleuthing is his wife, the usually stalwart Madeleine, who is haunted by the memory of a personal tragedy that occurred in the area years ago. In reading this suspenseful and witty novel, Lane conveys the perfect mixture of strength and irony. Early on, he presents the conversations of Dave and Madeleine in an amusing, bantering Thin Man–like mood. But as Madeline’s past grows more disturbing, Lane smartly adds a chill to their terse communication. His take on other characters is equally effective, particularly Gurney’s partner, Jack Hardwick, whose comments, croaky and gruff, are full of cynical hard-boiled humor. A Counterpoint hardcover. (July)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Lady Midnight

Cassandra Clare, read by Morena Baccarin. S&S Audio, , unabridged, 17 CDs, 22 hrs., $49.99 ISBN 978-1-4423-5710-5

Clare returns to her Shadowhunters world with this enjoyable tale set in present-day Los Angeles. Shadowhunter Emma Carstairs must join forces with the faeries to solve a gruesome series of murders of humans and faeries. The murders have similarities to the murders of Emma’s own parents many years ago, and Emma and her partner, Julian, set out on a supernatural journey to discover secrets of her past, avenge her parents’ deaths, and dispatch the killers before anyone else turns up dead. Voice actress Baccarin chooses a simple, straightforward reading for the audio edition. Her voice is very clear and articulate, and she reads with some expression, but she does little to differentiate the characters’ voices, and she reads the text in a neutral tone, never getting overly emotional. This is a perfectly serviceable narration style for the plot, which moves along speedily, but Baccarin does not really add anything of depth to the story. Ages 14–up. A S&S/McElderry hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Beware That Girl

Teresa Toten, read by Jorjeana Marie. Listening Library, , unabridged, 8 CDs, 9 hrs., $50 ISBN 978-0-399-56930-2

After surviving a horrific and traumatic childhood, Kate went through foster care and has now landed as a scholarship student at the elite Waverly School. Having learned to be cunning and opportunistic in order to survive, she targets Olivia, a rich girl with emotional problems, and becomes her best friend, manipulating Olivia into inviting her to live in her mansion and enjoy the finer things in life. But Kate begins to genuinely care about Olivia, and when a handsome, charming, slick sexual predator named Mark Redkin gets a high-level job at the school and begins to victimize Olivia, Kate is determined to save her friend. Reader Marie creates the perfect voice for each character—a growly, jaded, sardonic tone for Kate (which becomes sweet and polite when sucking up to teachers and counselors); a high-pitched, naïve-sounding voice for Olivia; a deep, smooth, seductive voice for Mark. Marie’s expert narration keeps the tension and suspense high and will have listeners riveted as dark secrets are revealed and the plot takes unexpected twists and turns, leading to a shocking conclusion. Ages 14–up. A Delacorte hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Highwayman: A Longmire Story

Craig Johnson, read by George Guidall. Recorded Books, , unabridged, 3 CDs, 3.5 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-5019-2852-9

Reader Guidall continues his long association with Craig Johnson’s Longmire series. In a slight departure for the series, this short audiobook is a nice combination of mystery and ghost story. Highway patrol person Rosey Wayman fears she is losing her sanity. In a remote section of her mountainous jurisdiction, she’s receiving calls over her radio that an officer needs assistance. The calls are in the voice of long-dead Arapaho patrolman, Bobby Womack. Concern for her condition leads her supervisor to call in Sheriff Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear to help uncover who, or what, is behind the mysterious calls. Their investigation will take them back in time to examine Womak’s fiery death, a missing treasure of silver coins, and maybe a glimpse into the great beyond. Guidall knows these characters inside and out. His raspy, laconic narration fits perfectly with the author’s down-home storytelling. A Viking hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Blood Defense

Marcia Clark, read by Tavia Gilbert. Brilliance Audio, , unabridged, 10 CDs, 12 hrs., $14.99 ISBN 978-1-5113-5928-3

Clark’s new Samantha “Sam” Brinkman series begins with the whip-smart, ambitious, and relatively new attorney trying to boost her reputation by taking on a high-profile, seemingly unwinnable case—the defense of LAPD Detective Dale Pearson, accused of the double murder of his ex-girlfriend, a popular TV actress, and her roommate. Sam narrates this hard-edged legal thriller, and reader Gilbert lends her a fast-paced delivery that is usually intense and aggressive, stopping just short of shrill. Her deviations include softening during personal moments with her teammates—office manager Michelle and eager novice investigator Alex, who’s a former client. The new client, Pearson, brings out a few of Sam’s other vocal shifts as the plot twists and turns, among them suspicion, caution, elation, and self-doubt. Gilbert’s version of Pearson is hard-boiled and straight-talking. Gilbert’s Michelle is friendly but sarcastic, and at times sharply critical; her Alex is sweetly naive, especially in a continuing joke involving quoting from a book of legal ethics. Some listeners may feel at the novel’s end that Sam should have paid more attention to that book. A Thomas & Mercer paperback. (May)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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H.P. Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth and Other Poems

H.P. Lovecraft, read by William E. Hart, music by Graham Plowman, notes by S.J. Joshi. Fedogan & Bremer, , unabridged, 1 CD, 1 hrs., $12.95 ISBN 978-1-878252-80-7

Though Lovecraft is more well-known for his fiction, this anthology of his poetry has its own share of nightmarish landscapes and haunting images. The dark nature of these short poems gets a masterly touch in this audio edition with an airy and eerie musical score in the background and discordant notes for emphasis. However, the best part of this production is William E. Hart’s vocal performance. He does not need to exaggerate his narration to enhance the creepiness of each poem. Rather, his deep and gravely voice, coupled with a sometimes emotionless—but never monotone—voice proves effective in putting any listener at edge. Listeners will play this production on repeat come Halloween. (July)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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