Stephen L. Carter, Author , read by Peter Francis James. Random House Audio $29.95 (, abridged, five CDs, 6 hrs., $29.95 ISBN ) ISBN 0-553-71338-8

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FictionTHE EMPEROR OF OCEAN PARK: A NovelStephen L. Carter, read by Peter Francis James. Random House Audio, abridged, five CDs, 6 hrs., $29.95 ISBN 0-553-71338-8

In his first foray into fiction, Yale law professor and noted social commentator Carter (The Culture of Disbelief) spins an intriguing mystery full of sordid secrets in the halls of power. Talcott Garland, a law professor disenchanted with his home life and the politics of academia, has his life turned upside down upon the death of his father, whose nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected due to allegations of scandal. A series of shady characters seek Garland out for information on the cryptic "arrangements" his father had made, and Garland is drawn into a skein of danger. While the book itself perhaps overindulged in descriptions and proselytizing, the abridged audio offers a lean, top-notch thriller that's perfect for that long drive to the beach. James's style and tone are just right, and he skillfully inhabits various characters, portraying with equal resonance the smug ostentation of an Assistant Supreme Court Justice and the fuzzy confession of one of Garland's boozy, female cousins. No extraneous sound effects or rousing music are needed to heighten the action throughout, and none are supplied. Instead, the production rests on Carter's crisp, pared-down drama and James's skill at presenting it. Simultaneous release with the Knopf hardcover (Forecasts, Apr. 22). (On sale June 4)

Reviewed on: 08/05/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
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