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See Also Murder

Larry D. Sweazy, read by a full cast. GraphicAudio, , adapted, 5 CDs, 6 hrs., $19.99 ISBN 978-1-62851-295-3

Sweazy’s novel, the first in a series set in rural North Dakota circa 1964, is narrated by its protagonist, Marjorie Trumaine: a smart, remarkably adaptive woman who, since her husband Hank suffered a hunting accident that left him blind and paralyzed, has been caring for him and keeping the family farm in operation by working as a professional book indexer. When an unknown killer begins cutting the throats of her neighbors, Marjorie’s penchant for research leads Sheriff Hilo Jenkins to seek her help in identifying his only clue—an amulet clutched in the hand of one of the victims. Though this rendition features a full cast, voice actress Nanette Savard handles the lion’s share of the work, portraying Marjorie as a determined woman with a subdued Fargo-esque accent. The other performers handle the rest of the well-drawn citizens of Dickinson with similar, equally effective accents, particularly Chris Geneback as the weary, understandably melancholy Hank and James Konicek as the seemingly dependable, deep-voiced Sheriff Hilo. The production includes mood music and sound effects that, in creating wind and rain on the plains, sometimes overpower the dialogue in this dark, well-crafted whodunit. A Seventh Street paperback. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 01/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Fields Where They Lay

Timothy Hallinan, read by Peter Berkrot. Blackstone Audio, , unabridged, 9 CDs, 10.5 hrs., $34.95 ISBN 978-1-5047-5695-2

Hallinan’s sixth addition to his chronicles of likable professional thief Junior Bender takes place just before Christmas, but it’s a merry present to be opened at any time of the year. Reader Berkrot’s tough-but-smart delivery once again proves a fine match for the glib, genial, surprisingly moral Junior. Here, he tells us of being hired, mainly against his will, by a ruthless Russian mobster who goes by the name Tip Poindexter and wants Junior to find out why his suburban mall is suffering an uptick in shoplifting. With romantic problems adding to his general holiday gloom, Junior feels stuck in the sad collection of fading shops. The continuing thefts and a couple of murders don’t improve morale. Berkrot effectively captures Junior’s downbeat despair and witty, cynical commentary on his surroundings; Poindexter’s a soft, slightly accented hiss; and the distinct voices of the occupants of the mall, like the garrulous, excitable security guard Wally. Shlomo Semple, hired by the mall to dress as Santa, contributes an ironic story of his own involving his father’s escape from Nazi soldiers during WWII that’s so fascinating and so brilliantly enacted by Berkrot that it almost steals the novel. A Soho Crime hardcover. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 01/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Moral Defense

Marcia Clark, read by Angela Dawe. Brilliance Audio, , unabridged, 10 CDs, 12.5 hrs., $14.99 ISBN 978-1-5226-5664-7

Book two in Clark’s series featuring Samantha Brinkman finds the envelope-pushing L.A. defense attorney adding young Cassie Sonnenberg to her client list after the 15-year-old’s father and brother die from knife wounds. The assumption is that the fatal home break-in was payback after Cassie’s mother Paula, a city councilwoman who was hospitalized and remains in critical condition, helped to pass new anti-gang legislation. But Samantha soon realizes that the motives may be a bit more devious than that. Clark fills her heroine’s narration with caustic wit and breezy, moderately slangy patter that reader Dawe delivers naturally and effortlessly. Samantha’s bottom-line-focused office manager, Michelle, sounds properly exasperated by her boss’s freewheeling and free-spending style. The forlorn Cassie’s responses are whisper-soft and tentative, while another client, a scuzzy drug dealer, and a leader of a California-based drug cartel sound as if they’re fairly bursting with bravado. Dawe is equally effective in finding voices for the novel’s many characters who exist in the attitudinal middle ground between these two extremes. A Thomas & Mercer hardcover. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 01/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Wrong Side of Goodbye

Michael Connelly, read by Titus Welliver. Hachette Audio, 10.5 hrs., $40 ISBN 978-1-61969-428-6

Welliver, who portrays protagonist Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch in the Amazon Prime TV adaptation of Connelly’s series, clearly has no problem embodying the tough, almost obsessively dedicated Southern California crime fighter. But the actor’s previous work in supporting roles serve him equally well when dealing with the other characters that inhabit Harry’s literary landscape. Prominent among them in Bosch #21 is reclusive octogenarian billionaire Whitney Vance. In a voice soft and croaky with age and infirmity, he hires Harry as a private detective to find out if he has a living heir from an affair 65 years before. Simultaneously, at the San Fernando PD—where the former LAPD sleuth is stationed as an unpaid reserve officer working under a slow-talking sympathetic police chief and a captain whose speech suggests suspicion and animosity—Harry is assigned the investigation of the Screen Cutter serial rapist. The two cases remain separate, pulling Harry in two directions and introducing him to fellow cops, young and old witnesses, male and female persons of interest, and two very different villains (the smarmy rapist and a sophisticated murderer), all enacted with apparent ease by the versatile Welliver. A Little, Brown hardcover. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 01/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Mountaintop

Katori Hall, performed by Larry Powell and
Aja Naomi King. L.A. Theatre Works, unabridged, 1 CD, 1 hr., $29.95 ISBN 978-1-68266-014-0

Hall crafts a fascinating look at the final hours of Martin Luther King Jr. in this fictional dramatization of the evening before he was assassinated. King opens up about his inner demons and his legacy as he debates with Camae, a hotel staff member whom he bonds with over the course of the play. Performed in front of a live audience, the production never misses a beat and flows effortlessly for the full emotionally intense hour. Actor Larry Powell captures King’s power, vulnerability, and hubris, while actress Aja Naomi King (who starred in the 2016 film The Birth of a Nation) projects just as much presence and intensity. Integrated throughout the performance, the sound design propels the narrative forward without interrupting it, and the aural montage in the final moments of the production will move listeners to tears with its blending of past and present, dynamic use of call and response, and the ceaseless vocal drive of actress King as Camae. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 01/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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