cover image High Crime Area

High Crime Area

Joyce Carol Oates, read by multiple narrators. HighBridge Audio, , six CDs, 7 hrs., unabridged, $29.95 ISBN 978-1-62231-464-5

Each of the six performers chosen to narrate Oates’s collection of dark character studies suits the atmosphere of malaise and despair that emerges from the author’s odd, elegant prose. Ray Chase starts the collection by portraying an orderly at a facility for the elderly in “The Home at Craigmillnar,” with a dispassionate voice as the character describes the discovery of the body of an aged, unloved nun. Chris Patton provides a tense, anxious history of the child in “Demon,” who has suffered most of his young life, while Tamara Marston employs a plaintive yearning in “Lorelei,” in which the title character searches for a touch of humanity in the subways of New York. Donna Pastel uses a dry and mildly distracted approach for “High,” in which a middle-aged widow tries to cope with the loss of her husband, first with marijuana, then by courting danger. Whelan shifts from determined to dreamy in “The Rescuer,” as the promising grad student who travels to Trenton, N.J., to save her brother from a druggy vortex, only to find herself slipping in. Finally, reader Luci Christian finds the perfect hardboiled teenager voice for the 13-year-old narrator of “Toad-Baby,” a grim, not-quite-nuclear family tale that, surprisingly for Oates, ends with more than a hint of hope. A Mysterious hardcover. [em](May) [/em]