cover image HARK!


Ed McBain, , read by Ron McLarty. . Simon & Schuster Audio, $26 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7435-3675-2

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Fiction HARK! Ed McBain , read by Ron McLarty. Simon & Schuster Audio , abridged, four cassettes, 5 hrs., $26 ISBN 0-7435-3675-4

Several excellent narrators, including the author, have lent their voices to McBain's long-running series about the detectives of the 87th precinct, but none seems as perfectly tuned in to the sleuths' personalities and attitudes as actor, playwright and author McLarty. He picks up all of McBain's nuances and adds a few of his own when delineating the lengthy lineup of characters—from the thoughtful, heroic Steve Carella, somewhat distracted by the impending dual marriages of his mother and sister, to the Deaf Man, the velvety smooth recurring nemesis of the 87th. This time the puzzle-happy villain bedevils the precinct with Shakespearean quotes, giving McLarty the rare opportunity to show off his flair for classical locution. But of his many audio achievements, the finest is his interpretation of the overweight, obnoxious Det. Ollie Weeks, to whom McLarty gave voice in Fat Ollie's Book (2003). In that audiobook, Weeks found love in the form of Officer Patricia Gomez. Near the end of this audiobook, there's a beautifully written vignette in which Ollie and Patricia take a skim milk break, with him trying to alter his chauvinistic, racist lingo while she tries to bolster his flagging self-esteem. McLarty captures the humor, poignancy and, yes, romance of the scene, shifting between the two very different voices with eye-blink speed and even adding asides from an acerbic waitress. It's a magic moment and not the only one to be found in this highly entertaining adaptation. Simultaneous release with the S&S hardcover (Forecasts, July 19). (Aug.)