cover image SMALL TOWN


Lawrence Block, , read by the author. . Harper Audio, $25.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-053646-6

Block (The Burglar in the Library; Eight Million Ways to Die; etc.) is one of today's most well-established mystery and thriller writers, but his gift for crafting compelling narratives does not, unfortunately, translate to a knack for narration. For one, his voice is the nasal half-whine of a New Yorker at its most pronounced. While this might not necessarily be a bad thing—especially since the book deals so intimately with the city and its ways—when coupled with a stilted reading style and a refusal to attempt even the slightest nuance for individual characters, it becomes a distraction rather than an asset. Particularly problematic for this production are the numerous explicit sex scenes. When Susan Pomerance, a beautiful art dealer whose instinct for sexual exploration is awakened by a murder central to the story, is in the throes of ecstasy, Block's reading sounds no different than when detectives are interviewing a subject or patrons are ordering a beer at the local watering hole. The scenes, then, are not only not erotic, but also almost laughable—only slightly less titillating than if read by Andy Rooney. The rest of the story offers a mix of Block's signature street smarts and intrigue, but fans would do well to stick with the book and avoid this disappointing recording. Simultaneous release with the Morrow hardcover (Forecasts, Jan. 20). (Jan.)