cover image MR. PARADISE


Elmore Leonard, , read by Robert Forster. . Harper Audio, $34.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-058627-0

Leonard (Tishomingo Blues , etc.) has long been the master of sparse, precise language. Consequently, his prose and dialogue have evolved over the years to the point of having a rhythm and style unique unto themselves. Fortunately, Forster falls neatly into sync with the author. His clear, matter-of-fact recitation is perfectly suited to drawing the listener into a world where violence, deception and death are simply a practical side of doing business and delivered with as much passion as a Detroit police report. The story follows the investigation sparked by the death of an 84-year-old millionaire—the Mr. Paradise of the title. Leonard brings together an eclectic mixture of pragmatic cops, working-class hit men, crooked lawyers, con men and gangbangers, all brought to life through Forster's smooth, understated delivery. If there is any flaw in the performance, it is that by keeping his reading so low-key and laconic, there are a few sections of dialogue where the listener may be confused as to which character is speaking. But it is this same delivery that enhances the humor in the book, often with laugh-out-loud results. So, even though it would have been nice if Forster gave the characters' voices a bit more inflection, this is a small criticism of an overall fine production. Simultaneous release with the HarperCollins hardcover (Forecasts, Nov. 24, 2003). (Jan.)