Adult Reviews
Fiction
David Baldacci. Redemption.
Read by KYF Brewer and Orlagh Cassidy.
10 CDs. 12.5 hrs.
Hachette. 2019. 978-1-4789-9924-9.


Amos Decker, "the memory man" is visiting the graves of his wife and daughter in his hometown of Burlington, Ohio, where he is approached by Darryl Hawkins, a man he was instrumental in arresting on his very first homicide. Hawkins is now suffering from terminal cancer and asks Amos to clear his name, though at the time of his conviction he offered no defense. Decker has a feeling about this one and decides to re-open the case, with the help of some friends.

Reader Kyf Brewer is an actor who has appeared in Serial Mom and Farenheit 9/11. He is also the narrator of several of Danielle Steele's audiobooks. Orlagh Cassidy began her professional acting career at age fourteen, working at The Shakespeare Theatre at The Folger. She has performed on and off Broadway, as well as in regional theaters, and received a Drama Critic's Award in 2007. Cassidy has been a frequent guest star on television shows and she is fondly remembered for her eleven-year run as Doris Wolfe on 'Guiding Light'. Brewer and Cassidy form a perfect narrating team as he narrates a multitude of male characters and she does the same for the female characters. They make each voice unique, which enables listeners to keep track of who is who. This is an interesting story, with a lot complexity and an unpredictable plot.

David Baldacci is a bestselling author, and one of the world's favorite storytellers. His books are published in over 45 languages and in more than 80 countries, with over 130 million worldwide sales. His works have been adapted for both feature film and television. David Baldacci is also the cofounder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across America. Still a resident of his native Virginia, he invites you to visit him at DavidBaldacci.com and his foundation at WishYouWellFoundation.org.

Reviewed by Susan Rosenzweig
*Peter S. Beagle. In Calabria.
Read by Bronson Pinchot. 3 CDs. 3.5 hrs.
Blackstone Audio. 2017. 2018. 978-1-5384-2101-7.

In Calabria is a modern fairy tale with a cranky, esoteric middle-aged hero. Set in the beautiful region of Calabria which is too far away from the ocean and not mountainous enough for tourists, Claudio has carved out a life on a small farm where he farms and writes poetry. He has some friends, including the bi-weekly mail deliverer, Roman and Roman's sister, Giovanna, but Claudio likes his solitude. He has a past that he doesn't dwell on but which has made it difficult for him to find happiness.

One morning, he sees a visitor on his land, a beautiful unicorn. Claudio is not crazy so he is very cautious about his visitor, but soon some of his friends find out about her and when he discovers she is pregnant, Claudio helps her. Soon his life changes. He finds love with Giovanna, is beset by visitors and threatened by Mafia-like people who want the unicorn and her baby for themselves.

The story ends with a battle royal with the evil people and Claudio and leaves Claudio better off than he was before the Unicorn came to him though a little worse for wear. It doesn't matter if you believe in unicorns to enjoy this book. Claudio didn't either.

Bronson Pinchot does a great job narrating the story, reading with an Italian accent when appropriate and creating a perfectly creative, cranky character of Claudio and individualizing the other characters as well. This is a short novel, but Pinchot's excellent reading brings all the characters to life.

Peter S. Beagle is the bestselling author of The Last Unicorn, which has sold a reported five million copies since its initial publication in 1968. His other novels include A Fine & Private Place, The Innkeeper's Song, and Tamsin. He has won the Hugo, Nebula, Mythopoeic, and Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire awards and the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Reviewed by Nola Theiss
*Kate Breslin. Far Side of The Sea. A Novel.
Read by Sarah Zimmerman. 9 CDs. 10.5 hrs.
Tantor.com. 2019 978-1-6301-5290-1.


Sarah Zimmerman here gives one of the best narrations of an audiobook I've ever heard. She distinguishes every voice; each male character is as distinctive as is each of the female characters. It is like listening to a full cast of characters. I played some of the disks on a new stereo speaker; the narration was amazingly crisp and clear.

Far Side of the Sea is set first in England in 1918 with Lt. Colin Mabry reading coded messages for military intelligence as he is out of the fighting of WWI because he was badly injured and lost his right hand. He receives a coded message apparently from Jewel the woman who had sheltered him when he was injured and for whom he still has strong feelings. With permission from his superiors, he goes to France to try to find her. Instead of finding Jewel, he finds her step-sister, Johanna, who apparently sent the message. They set out to find Jewel. There is a lot of strategic intrigue in the story, involving Germans, British, Americans who are all looking for a secret diary and the father of the two sisters who may be a German spy. Much of the action revolves around trying to get the two sisters together.

Far Side of the Sea has plenty of thrilling action and the narration is so good, it's easy to envision what is happening. there is also a satisfying ending in a 1940's black and white movie sort of way.

A Florida girl who migrated to the Pacific Northwest, Kate Breslin was a bookseller for many years. She is a Carol Award winner and a RITA and Christy Award finalist and lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington. Find her online at www.katebreslin.com.

Reviewed by Nola Theiss
*Patricia Briggs. Storm Cursed. A Mercy Thompson Novel.
Read by Lorelei King.
8 CDs. 10 hrs.
Books on Tape. 2019. 978-1-5247-5670-3.


Storm Cursed is the eleventh fantasy tale in Briggs' Mercy Thompson series. Not having read or listened to any of the earlier ten adventures, I did not feel at a disadvantage in listening to this latest story since the relationships and the setting are well described. There were certainly references to earlier adventures but very little in this particular tale hinged on them. The setting for this series is a magical world in which all of our legendary and mythological beings such as witches, vampires, werewolves, fairies, etc., are real and interact with one another. Mercy Thompson is a coyote shapeshifter who is involved in helping the Lords of the Fey make a truce with the government authorities. Her efforts are threatened by a powerful coven of Dark Magic witches who are opposed to the truce and who want to take control of Mercy's territory. In order to defeat this threat, Mercy and her werewolf friends must call upon old adversaries and allies. Mercy narrates much of this tale with humor and compassion. King's semi-voiced reading captures the nuances of Mercy and the complicated relationships she shares with other characters. The timing and the pace of her reading bring the action alive for listeners.

Patricia Briggs is the bestselling author of the Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series (Silence Fallen, Fire Touched) and the Alpha and Omega novels (Burn Bright, Dead Heat).

Reviewed by Hugh M. Flick, Jr.
Davis Bunn. Moondust Lake.
Read by Graham Winton.
6 CDs. 6.5 hrs
Recorded Books. 2019. 978-1-5019-4104-7.


Narrator Graham Winton has a soft, gentle voice that adds a genuine kindness to most of the characters in Davis Bunn's Moondust Lake. Winton's efforts exude a trust and honesty that is necessary for the protagonist of the story and the supporting characters.

The Helms family has serious issues, thanks to the overbearing and manipulative patriarch of the family, Jack. When the heir to the family business, Buddy, lands the biggest deal in the company's history, a deal that will likely save the business from impending bankruptcy, all Buddy wants from his father is the recognition he deserves. When it doesn't come, Buddy quits his job to the applause of his mother and siblings. Moondust Lake details Buddy's journey of healing and forgiveness. Reader Winton's tones aren't all sweet and sappy, though. When need be, his vocals quickly turn brash and angry and full of spit and spittle. The only pitfall to Winton's efforts is the similarity of the vocals when he brings the kinder characters to life. Male and female efforts only differ by volume, not octave or accent. Most of the male characters sound too similar to easily differentiate; therefore, listeners will need to focus on attribution throughout the story. Winton has narrated a multitude of fiction and non-fiction titles, including several by authors J.D. Barker, Alex Kava, Randall Silvas, B.J. Daniels, and Janet Dailey. He also has numerous theatre credits both on and off Broadway.

Davis Bunn is an internationally bestselling author with more than seven million books in print in twenty-one languages. Originally from North Carolina, he draws on his international experience to craft award-winning novels. Davis has been honored with four Christy Awards for excellence in fiction, among other accolades. He serves as Writer in Residence at Regent's Park College, Oxford University. Davis and his wife, Isabella, divide their time between the English countryside and the coast of Florida.

Reviewed by Lisa Arnold
*Kwame Dawes. Bivouac. A Novel.
Read by Beresford Bennett.
6 CDs. 7 hrs.
HighBridge. 2010/2019 978-1-6844-1662-2.


Kwame Ddawes' Bivouac can be called a politic novel about grief and loss. Narrator Beresford Bennett takes great care in depicting the characters, rendering them real and authentic. The author has a fine sense of Jamaica, its sounds, scents, natural beauty and geography. Bennett is attentive to this beauty of the setting, emphasizing the place with a keen attention to detail in the wonderful prose-poetry of the novel.

The protagonist, Ferron is taking his father's body by car through the streets of Kingston. The "old man," a former politician has died suddenly under suspicious circumstances, either by medical malfeasance or political assassination. The novel plays on these possibilities which lends it intrigue and mystery. But the book is not so much about the father, George Ferron Morgan but about his son who has the same name and whose grief is palpable on the page. Ferron the son is a desultory character, confused at times, impetuous and inconsistent. He abandons his fiancé at the altar; he begins affairs with other women without consideration; he is reckless in many ways. At one point he hides away from his family in an abandon house, living there like a bum; possibly he is mad or depressed. He has reasons to be. His fiancée is sexually assaulted and he was unable to do anything about it. She blames him. Ferron's response to these traumas is to run, to escape, hiding away from family and fiancée. His father, George Ferron Morgan, is however, a consistent reasonable voice in the novel. We learn a great deal about him from unpublished notes that he left behind. These notes, scattered through the novel, at the beginning of each chapter, tell a rather poignant story of the old man's life, his upbringing, education, travels and involvement in politics in Jamaica. His story is riveting and often sad, full of frustrations. Ferron the son seem unable to master himself. His actions are often enigmatic.

Beresford Bennett is a fit performer of poet Kwame Dawe's novel, for that fact that he does a wonderful job of delineating the Jamaica patois that is spoken by almost all the characters in the novel. His patois is authentic and understandable; the appropriate Caribbean rhythm, tone and cadence has a believable precision. Switching from one character to the next is handled deftly with nary a false note. Bennett performs the novel instead of just reading it; he is especially good at evoking the characters emotional states, their inner emotional turmoil, by using the right tone, raising and lower his voice appropriately and making good use of pauses and caesuras to heighten moments of suspense or shock. His pacing is appropriately steady and sure. His performance is consistent, a wonderful realization of an often difficult novel. It is a great performance of a wonderful novel.

Kwame Dawes's debut novel She's Gone (Akashic) was the winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award (Debut Fiction). He is the author of twenty-one books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. In 2016, his book Speak from Here to There, a cowritten collection of verse with Australian poet John Kinsella, was released along with When the Rewards Can Be So Great: Essays on Writing and the Writing Life, which Dawes edited. His most recent collection, City of Bones: A Testament, was published in 2017. His awards include the Forward Poetry Prize, the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, the Musgrave Silver Medal, several Pushcart Prizes, the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, and an Emmy Award. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and is Chancellor Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. Dawes serves as the associate poetry editor for Peepal Tree Press and is director of the African Poetry Book Fund. He is series editor of the African Poetry Book Series―the latest of which is New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Sita)―and artistic director of the Calabash International Literary Festival. Dawes is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 2018 was elected as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Reviewed by Berkley W. Semple
*Robert Dugoni. The Eighth Sister.
Read by Edoardo Ballerini.
9 CDs. 11.33 hrs.
Brilliance Audio. 2019 978-1-9786-5032-9.


Former CIA agent Charlie Jenkins, now in his early sixties, left that life behind when he found CIA tactics – including the sacrificing of innocent lives for their secret purposes – not to his liking. Now retired to his island property, Charlie lives with his wife, Alex, one son, CJ, and another child on the way. His security consulting business provides services to LSR&C, a CIA-sponsored business, which is actually a cover for the distribution of money to CIA agents all over the world. Charlie's company, however, is nearly bankrupt, because LSR&C hasn't paid its bills in spite of numerous reminders. When Charlie's former CIA station chief, Carl Emerson, arrives on his doorstep one morning asking Charlie to return to service as a CIA agent, this time in Russia, Charlie decides to serve his country again. It seems that "the seven sisters" (Russian women who have been serving as spies for the American government for many years) are now being killed by someone code-named "the eighth sister." Charlie is to flush out this "eighth sister" by pretending to have information on the identity of the remaining four sisters. Charlie hopes to rescue his company financially and, thereby, to provide a better future for his pregnant wife and their children. When Charlie arrives at the Moscow office of LSR&C in the guise of representing his security consulting company, he tries to reach his contact and finds himself instantly tailed by a Russian FSB (formerly KGB) agent, Federov, who, unknown to Charlie, is the "eighth sister," the agent charged with eliminating the seven sisters. The pace picks up when Federov fails to agree to Charlie's terms for delivery of the information. Charlie soon discovers that he has become Federov's prey, and as he begins to feel the pressure of a net closing around him, flees for his life across the Black Sea, to Greece and ultimately back to the United States. The remainder of the audiobook deals with his arrest as a spy for betraying his country and the resulting trial in which his old friend, brilliant lawyer David Sloan, represents him. The CIA closes ranks, denying Charlie's CIA connection and sequestering documents from the court which might clear him. How can David Sloane possibly defend his innocent client? The suspense builds as one avenue after another closes. Unless acquitted, Charlie can be sentenced to multiple lifetimes behind bars. This excellent audiobook will hold listeners on the edge of their seats, especially those who love spy novels, adventure stories, international intrigue, and legal thrillers. Narrator Edoardo Ballerini presents a stunning performance in this fully-voiced audiobook, the perfect low-key, calm voice in many accents, juxtaposed against the pace, drama, and uncertainty of the story. Sure to be a hit for both adults and teens alike.

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series, which has sold more than 4 million books worldwide. He is also the author of the bestselling David Sloane Series; the stand-alone novels The 7th Canon, Damage Control, and The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell; and the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction and the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel set in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two-time finalist for the International Thriller Award, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, the Silver Falchion Award for mystery, and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award. His books are sold in more than twenty-five countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages. Visit his website at www.robertdugoni.com.

Reviewed by Susan Allison
Christopher Fowler. Bryant & May: Hall of Mirrors.
Read by Tim Goodman.
13 CDs. 14 hrs.
Recorded Books. 2018 978-1-9800-2208-4.

It is 1969 and UK detectives Bryant and May, in Fowler's 15th in the series, are invited (undercover) to Tavistock Hall to protect Monty Hatton-Jones, a whistle-blower turning Queens evidence. Almost immediately, a millionaire guest goes missing and murder is in the offing. True to the times, there are flower children and protests and each chapter is titled with a well-known song from the period. The plot is complex but the era is described perfectly. Once again, Tim Goodman narrates. As the author writes: "I know his name, I know his voice, but I've not listened to him. Tim Goodman is the other 'me'. He's the audio narrator of the Bryant & May novels.... Everyone says he's a perfect fit for the job." For those new to the series, listening to the books in order makes most sense, and listening will most assuredly be the best way to go. This is a prequel to the Bryant and May stories and therefore the "old" voices of our heroes don't seem to quite match the times. After all they were quite young at the time, but Goodman chooses to narrate them using the same old voices. Nevertheless, Bryant and May enthusiasts will not be deterred from listening.

Christopher Fowler is the acclaimed author of the award-winning thirteen Peculiar Crimes Unit mysteries, as well as a PCU story collection. In 2015 Fowler won the coveted Crime Writers' Association Dagger Library Award in recognition for his body of work.

Reviewed by Susan Rosenzweig
Lisa Gardner. Never Tell.
Read by Kirsten Potter.
9 CDs. 12 hrs.
Brilliance Audio. 2019 978-1-5366-0953-0.


Lisa Gardner's third murder mystery finds Sgt. Detective D.D. Warren walking down memory lane with her C.I. Flora Dane. D.D. recognizes gun toting Evie Carter from one of her first murder investigations. This time Evie confesses to shooting her husband's computer but insists she didn't shoot him. Flashbacks happen as Flora recognizes Evie's husband from Flora's days as a kidnap victim. Multiple crimes intertwine in this complicated story of betrayal and murder.

Narrator Kirsten Potter's deeply confident and authoritative vocals are ideal to play the part of Sgt. Detective D.D. Warren. Her natural tones add a sense of experience, control, and wisdom to the detective that is believable and needed. The other two main characters, however, sound identical to the detective. Victim turned survivor's advocate Flora Dane should sound angrier, more stressed, and occasionally panicked, depending on the situation she is experiencing in Gardner's story. Evie Carter should have bouts of hysteria, frustration, loss, pain, and confusion throughout the tale. Unfortunately, all three women sound the same. Listeners will have to pay close attention to attribution throughout the story. One character in Potter's lineup had a healthy Boston accent which was done well. Since the story takes place in Boston, it is surprising more of the characters don't carry that unique dialect.

Potter's many audiobook credits include The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena, Trouble the Water by Jacqueline Friedland, and First: Sandra Day O'Connor by Evan Thomas. She also enjoys acting on stage, in film, and on the small-screen.

Lisa Gardner is the bestselling author of twenty suspense novels, including The Neighbor, which won Thriller of the Year from the International Thriller Writers. An avid hiker, traveler and cribbage player, she lives with in the mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

Reviewed by Lisa Arnold
*Elly Griffiths. Stranger Diaries.
Read by Sarah Feathers, Anjana Vasan, Esther Wane, Andrew Eincott.
9 CDs. 10.5 hrs. Recorded Books. 2019. 978-1-9800-2620-4.


Set on the Sussex coast in England the environs of Talgarth High, this riveting audiobook parallels "The Stranger," a short ghost story written by R.M. Holland, who previously lived and taught at the school. Clare Cassidy, seeking escape from London and a new start after her divorce, takes a job as an English Literature teacher at the school. There she devotes her research to writing a biography of Holland, at the same time recording the happenings of her own life in her diary. When her friend and colleague, Ella Elphick is found murdered, DS Harbinder Kaur, a 35-year-old Sikh and closet gay officer who lives at home with her parents, arrives to investigate the crime. Gradually, details of present and past actions are revealed, as listeners learn of other characters related to the school community. On Halloween night, Clare visits Holland's study -- preserved in the Old House of Talgarth High – and discovers the body of Rick Lewis, head of the English Department. DS Kaur now has her job cut out for her as suspects proliferate – Bryony Hughes, the white witch; Patrick O'Neal; Georgie: Clare Cassidy herself. The story line flips back and forth between the current action and the narration of the ghost story, interspersed with quotations from Shakespeare, Wilkie Collins' Woman in White, and Clare's and Georgie's diaries. Suspense builds when a strange hand begins writing mysterious messages in Clare's diary, threatening her enemies, but making her fear for her own safety and Georgie's. This is a perfect listen for Halloween night, sure to make the skin crawl as DS Harbinder tightens the net.

The story is partially-voiced by four persons – Clare, Harbinder, Clare's 15-year-old daughter, Georgie, and the narrator of "The Stranger." Each voice is expertly read by a different person and each characterizes his/her character perfectly. This starred audiobook will appeal to those who enjoy ghost stories, Gothic mysteries, and bone chilling horror.

Elly Griffiths is the author of the Ruth Galloway and Magic Men mystery series, and the standalone novel The Stranger Diaries. She is a recipient of the Mary Higgins Clark Award and the CWA Dagger in the Library Award.

Reviewed by Susan Allison
*Chris Hammer. Scrublands.
Read by Rupert Degas.
11 CDs. 13.5 hrs.
Blackstone. 2018. 978-1-5082-7744-6.

This outstanding thriller debut is set in the drought-stricken scrublands of Australia. Journalist Martin Scarsden is sent to Riversend to write an article about how the townspeople are coping, one year after the local priest, Byron Swift, inexplicably shot down five men in cold blood, outside his church. Scarsden is immediately taken by the story and the local townspeople he interviews and is drawn into solving the case. Rupert Degas brings the horrors of the drought to life, creating an unforgettable atmosphere. Listeners will literally feel the heat. Dramatic when called for and the great variety of tempos add to the experience.

In a professional career of more than 25 years, there's little Rupert Degas hasn't done. From television and stage acting, to film, animations and thousands of commercials, impressions, voiceovers and mimicry there are few voices Rupert can't do – and none he won't tackle. He has narrated more than 250 titles. Every voiced character is presented flawlessly whether young, old, male, or female.

Listeners are in for a treat as the complex plot will grip them until the last word.

Christopher Hammer lives in Australia and has been a journalist for over twenty-five years. He has been an international correspondent, the chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, and a senior political journalist for The Age.

Reviewed by Susan Rosenzweig
*Catherine Ryan Hyde. Have you Seen Luis Velez?
Read by Michael Crouch. 9 CDs. 11.5 hrs.
Brilliance Audio. 2019 978-1-7213-7835-7.


This is one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard. In a story intended for a general audience, but especially relevant to young adults, Raymond Jaffe, a seventeen-year-old black youth, fits in nowhere. Not with his white mother and her new white husband, Ed, and their two daughters. Not with his black father and his new black wife. An introvert, self-conscious, lacking in confidence, constantly "sorry" for everything he says and does, and a loner, Raymond is unloved and unappreciated until he comes to the aid of his 92-year-old blind, German, half Jewish neighbor, Mrs. Guterman (Millie). She appealed to Raymond for help, because she had recently lost her kind caregiver, Luis Velez, a young man who had been helping her do her banking and shopping, and who generally looked out for her. At the point when she met Raymond she was desperate, with only a quarter of a can of soup left. From that point on, Raymond not only took on Luis Velez's role, but he also searched throughout New York City trying to discover him or what happened to him. Thus begins a journey of self-discovery and coming-of-age for Raymond. He benefits from Mrs. G's years of wisdom – learning to heed and speak from his inner voice, to stop being sorry, to accept himself. In his quest for the missing Luis Velez, Raymond meets many others with the same name who give him gifts, friendship, and support. He learns to confront the prejudices infecting his two families, and to speak up for his own, distinctive points of view, interests, and choices. After discovering that Mrs. G's Luis Velez was murdered, he befriends his pregnant widow, Isabelle, and their family, helps Mrs. G. deal with her feelings of devastation at this tragic outcome, attends the killer's trial as a school project, and searches for a better outcome for the Velez family.

The narrator of this fully-voiced audiobook, Michael Crouch, is outstanding. His measured speeches, initially defining the hesitant, insecure Raymond, gain strength and presence as the story progresses. His female voices – both Mrs. G. and Isabelle – are special, reflecting their heritage and personality. Mrs. G., especially, speaks with an aged voice, quavering with emotion as she deals with the brutal and untimely death of Luis Velez.

Catherine Ryan Hyde's excellent story sends a powerful message concerning the need for people in our country to reserve judgement based on prejudice, race, and stereotypes and to help each other, even strangers, because, more often than not, good will come back in the process. I have only one regret in recommending this audiobook; since it is 9 discs long with rather slow-moving dialogue – necessary given the gradual development of Raymond's transformation – too many listeners who could learn from it may abandon it early.

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of more than thirty published and forthcoming books. Her novel Pay It Forward was adapted into a major motion picture, chosen by the American Library Association for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than twenty-three languages for distribution in more than thirty countries. Both Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA's Rainbow Book List, and Jumpstart the World was a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards. Where We Belong won two Rainbow Awards in 2013, and The Language of Hoofbeats won a Rainbow Award in 2015.

More than fifty of her short stories have been published in the Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and many other journals and in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories, California Shorts, and New York Times bestseller Dog Is My Co-Pilot. Her stories have been honored in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Tobias Wolff Award and nominated for the O. Henry Award and the Pushcart Prize. Three have been cited in Best American Short Stories.

Reviewed by Susan Allison
Phillip Margolin. The Perfect Alibi.
Read by Therese Plummer.
6 CDs. 7 hrs.
MacMillan Audio. 2019 978-1-2503-1649-3.


A college student is behind bars for a conviction of rape based on DNA. When a second rape is committed with the same DNA while he is imprisoned, he is granted a new trial. This is Margolin's second attorney Robin Lockwood book and she is hired to represent the victim of the first rape. There are several cases going on contemporaneously, some of which come together at the end.

Actor, award-winning audiobook narrator Thérèse Plummer reads with a nice tempo and good character voices. On television, she's had guest-starring roles on The Good Wife and Law & Order: SVU. In regional theater, she's played Sister James in Doubt. She has recorded over 200 audiobooks.

With lots of twists and turns to engage the listener and an entertaining narrator, this is a light and entertaining mystery.

PHILLIP MARGOLIN has written over twenty novels, most of them bestsellers, including Gone But Not Forgotten, Lost Lake, and Violent Crimes. In addition to being a novelist, he was a long time criminal defense attorney with decades of trial experience, including a large number of capital cases. Margolin lives in Portland, Oregon.

Reviewed by Susan Rosenzweig

*Kim Stanley Robinson. Red Moon.
Read by Maxwell Hamilton, Joy Osmanski, Feodor Chin.
14 CDs. 17 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2018. 978-1-5491-4259-8.


In Red Moon, Kim Stanley Robinson imagines a world in which humans have taken their space exploration to perhaps the next logical step: colonization. In a mere thirty years from now, several countries have developed colonies on the moon's surface, mining it for building materials, testing how to grow food on it, and otherwise engaging in the quintessential human pastime of claiming land as ours and keeping other people away from it. The Chinese have taken their colonization efforts the furthest, and brought the complicated machinations of the Chinese Communist Party with them. When a high-level Party official is murdered after meeting with a hapless American tech worker on the moon, diplomatic relations on both the moon and Earth become tense. Luckily for Fred Fredericks, he has befriended the Feng Shui expert (and TV sensation) Ta Shu on his trip to the moon. Concerned that his young friend is being unfairly blamed for the murder, Ta Shu seeks to help him, only to find that the Party wants something in return: for Ta Shu to help babysit Chan Qi, privileged daughter of China's minister of finance, and get her off the moon as soon as possible. Chan Qi has not only become pregnant while on the moon (a phenomenon that has not happened before), but she may be remotely staging a revolution back in China.

Robinson writes with such expertise on all elements of moon life, like the technology used to acclimate human beings to the difference in gravity, that it almost seems as if he's been there himself. His vision of a colonized space, while often cynical, follows what we know about colonization throughout history, including carelessness for the natural world we find. And Ta Shu's ruminations on the beauty of witnessing Earth from the moon's surface are, purposely, reminiscent of ancient Chinese poetry, and provide beautiful descriptions to go along with the fascinating technical aspects of living on the moon. Where Red Moon drags is in the more typical murder-mystery, political-intrigue aspects, including frequent trips between the moon and Earth to evade capture, which begin to seem redundant after the second or third trip. While depressing to think that, should humans ever colonize the moon, we'll make it into another version of Earth, Red Moon makes the final frontier convincingly habitable.

Maxwell Hamilton, Feodor Chin and Joy Osmanski alternate the narration of Red Moon, and while all are satisfactory, Mr. Chin's is the standout performance here. His amazed, slightly breathy reading, particularly of Ta Shu's poetry, bring to life the magical part of this story and enables the listener to more fully feel the wonder of standing on the moon's surface.

Kim Stanley Robinson is a bestseller and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed Forty Signs of Rain, The Years of Rice and Salt and 2312. In 2008, he was named a "Hero of the Environment" by Time magazine, and he works with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. He lives in Davis, California.

Reviewed by Joanna Theiss
Danielle Steel. Silent Night. A Novel
Read by Jim Francione
6 CDs. 7.25 hrs
Recorded Books. 2019. 978-1-5019-5341-5


Talented, nine-year-old Emma Watt is living the life of a young Hollywood star, the main character of the popular television series "The Clan." One afternoon, late for their appointment with Emma's drama coach, Emma's Mom Paige tries to text him while driving, placing the car in the path of a runaway truck. Because Paige doesn't have her seatbelt on, she is thrown from the car and under another vehicle where she dies. Emma sustains a head injury which leaves her in a coma, unable to speak, or return to her previous life for many months. The only other family member, her aunt, Dr. Whitney Watt, a psychiatrist, returns from a cruise with her wealthy lover to care for Emma and raise her. Unmarried, Whitney not only has to learn how to deal with Emma's illness, but also to accept responsibility for a child not her own, and ultimately to make decisions about Emma's career. Paige and her sister had been the daughters of a famous actress, Elizabeth Winston. Paige had always been the traditional stage mother, pushing her daughter from success to success, whereas, Whitney thought Emma should have been able to live the life of a child while she was one. Whitney learns about traumatic brain injury and gradually builds a professional and personal relationship with Dr. Bailey Turner, one of Emma's neurologists. Traumatic brain injury isn't an illness that is familiar to most people. This audiobook describes the nature of the condition and does a good job explaining the progress of recovery and treatment. Emma faces huge hurdles, as does her aunt.

Unfortunately, narrator Jim Francione "reads" the story rather deliberately without much dramatization, which makes the story seem drawn out, especially given the frequent repetition of language and themes in the story. Several messages are clear, however -- how texting while driving can change a life in a single instant, how recovery comes one day at a time, how life's priorities can radically change with circumstances, and how a special love can alter expectations. Danielle Steel fans, as well as those who like family stories, romance, and happy endings will enjoy Silent Night.

Danielle Steel has been hailed as one of the world's most popular authors, with almost a billion copies of her novels sold. Her many international bestsellers include Beauchamp Hall, In His Father's Footsteps, The Good Fight, The Cast, Accidental Heroes, Fall From Grace, and other highly acclaimed novels. She is also the author of His Bright Light, the story of her son Nick Traina's life and death; A Gift of Hope, a memoir of her work with the homeless; Pure Joy, about the dogs she and her family have loved; and the children's books Pretty Minnie in Paris and Pretty Minnie in Hollywood.

Reviewed by Susan Allison
*Sandi Ward. Something Worth Saving.
Read by Kristin James. 9 CDs. 10.5 hrs.
Tantor. 2019. 978-1-9773-1316-4.


Family cat, Lily, is moderator of this very modern family story.

Lily observes and tries to manipulate things in the family to protect family members who are all going through a crisis. The husband and wife are splitting up, primarily because of the husband's drinking, but both Jeremy and his wife Kate are under a lot of stress because the husband was shot in the line of duty as a police officer and has become dependent on pain killers. Kate runs a large daycare center. They have three teen age children Charlie, Victoria and Kevin.

Lily's favorite human is the youngest child, Charlie, who is having a hard time adjusting. He is confused about his gender identification and has also been bruised and beaten up by someone. Victoria is in high school; her first boyfriend Aiden has issues of his own and hangs out at Victoria's house all the time. Kevin is the oldest child and also has his own issues.

After Jeremy leaves, Kate starts a long put off remodeling project which brings a contractor Mark and his new assistant into the family. Mark is a baker. His baby daughter died 4 years ago and his marriage broke up. Mark and Kate are drawn to each other, causing all kinds of emotional upheavals among the family members.

So, it's a good thing we have Lily to tell us what is going on. She sometimes has to trip people or scratch them to keep them in line, though she prefers to snuggle with them when they need it or to relieve the pressure of a situation. Reader Kristin James captures Lily. Lily has the voice and attitude of the know-it-all aunt who has had voice lessons. She observes, she expresses her opinion and she nudges the people in her life. She uses body language of purrs, growls, and well-placed scratches and she withholds or gives physical affection as appropriate. We are privy to her voice which is smooth and almost rhythmic as she describes what she sees. She considers herself the smartest creature in the story, but she admits that she doesn't let her emotions rule her because as she says, "I am, after all, a cat." Many cat lovers would probably agree that their cat is somewhat in charge, like Lily. Nice story; excellent narration.

Sandi Ward is the author of The Astonishing Thing and Something Worth Saving. She received her MA in Creative Writing from NYU and is a copywriter at an advertising agency. Sandi grew up in New England and now lives on the Jersey Shore with her husband, teenagers, dog, and a big black cat named Winnie. Visit Sandi at sandiwardbooks.com.

Reviewed by Nola Theiss
Nonfiction
*Frans De Waal. Mama's Last Hug. Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about ourselves.
Read by L. J. Ganser.
9 CDs. 10.5 hrs.
Recorded Books. 2019. 978-1-9800-3214-4.


Mama is an alpha female chimpanzee whom the author, a biologist and expert on primates, has observed for many years, and the two have become truly bonded. He visits her after she has become old and ailing, and she embraces him joyfully and pats him consolingly. This is the opening theme of his treatise on the sentience of which we arrogant human beings call the lower species of animal life. as we deny the multiple physical and emotional aspects we share with them.

Although chimpanzees and bonobos are a focus of his research, Dr. De Waal also discusses many other creatures, including elephants, horses, dogs, cows. birds, and even rats and fish. Not only do they suffer pain (long denied by scientists until recently) but also show empathy, skill in using tools, awareness of the past and future, cooperation, communication, playfulness, forgiveness, and even a desire for power over others. Yet even today psychologists often insist that instincts alone drive all creatures but ourselves.

Dr. De Waal's often critical evaluation of human beings is spread throughout the book, as well, including comments on Donald Trump.

Narrator L.J. Ganser imbues the text with clarity and enthusiasm and the expertise of an experienced lecturer. At the end Dr De Waal himself emphasizes his conclusions vigorously in Dutch-accented English.

Frans de Waal has been named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People. The author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, among many other works, he is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University's Psychology Department and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Reviewed by Pat Dole

Allan V. Horwitz. PTSD: A Short History. (John Hopkins Biography of Disease.)
7 CDs. 8 hrs.
HighBridge. 2018. 978-1-6844-1909-8.


How are mental illnesses defined? And how do cultural and political movements inspire changes to those definitions? In PTSD: A Short History, Allan Horwitz, a sociology professor at Rutgers University, approaches the modern diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as a biographer and historian, tracing its definitional development from the earliest mentions of soldier's heart, a diagnosis given to anxious Civil War soldiers; railway spine, a condition that became more common along with train travel; and shell shock, experienced by World War I soldiers and initially thought to be caused by nearness to sudden explosions on the battlefield. Horwitz explains how it broadened from a battlefield diagnosis to one seen in survivors of sexual trauma, particularly children. But the modern definition, and common understanding, of PTSD was born as a result of the activism of the Vietnam War, and the need to transform the nightmares, flashbacks and upsetting memories that many service people experienced into a legitimized mental illness.

Horwitz is at his best when documenting the disease's history, outlining how the psychic impacts of trauma have been perceived throughout the last two hundred years. Where Horwitz's work falls short is when an imperious cynicism overrides his generally objective, informative approach. For example, Horwitz is unduly fixated on how the promise of compensation for injuries overrides a "real" diagnosis of illness (so that more cases of PTSD will develop when the sufferer can locate a rich perpetrator of the trauma, such as a train company when accidents occurred, or the U.S. government, when Veterans seek benefits). He also dedicates a large portion of this otherwise short book to the repressed memory movement of the 1980s, in which therapists claimed to be uncovering repressed sexual trauma, particularly in women. The focus on both money as a motivator, and the overzealous attempts to reveal hidden memory, demeans the very real, and devastating effects, of the trauma of combat, and sexual abuse and assault, on those who experience them.

Narrator Kyle Tait reads PTSD serviceably, with a smooth intonation and a hint of incredulity that echoes Horwitz's. His misstep is in attempting non-American accents; his reading of quotations from Sigmund Freud is particularly difficult to hear.

Allan V. Horwitz is a Board of Governors and Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University. He is the author of Anxiety: A Short History, Creating Mental Illness, and The Loss of Sadness: Psychiatry's Transformation of Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder.

Reviewed by Joanna Theiss
Sy Montgomery. How to Be A Good Creature. A Memoir in thirteen animals.
Read by the author.
3 CDs. 3.5 hrs.
HighBridge. 2018. 978-1-6844-1412-3.


When my daughter was an infant, our family dog – then about ten years old, and content to be the center of our world – often barked and jumped around her ominously, convincing us that he had no room in his heart for another human. Now, almost three years later, I often stumble upon the two of them in deep, secret conversation, with Miles listening patiently as some toddler notion is described to him in detail.

Most families have similar stories of the intense bonds between people and their animal companions, and the importance of those relationships to making life more bearable. Sy Montgomery, a brilliant naturalist most famous for her calm but forceful arguments about octopus intelligence in The Soul of an Octopus, has animal memories of a more exotic flavor, including stories about a thieving ermine, a lovable pig named Christopher Hogwood, the emus that she first studied as a young environmental journalist, and even a childhood dog. Given her life's work, it is entirely appropriate that Montgomery deconstructs her life story through thirteen individual stories about the animals she's loved, feared, and always respected. By careful observation of their behavior, Montgomery has learned legions about the nature of animals that most of us only see in flashes through the family pet, but it is her caring gentleness with these animals that does credit to Montgomery's own character, including not only her powers of observation but her great empathy and patience. Because Montgomery barely lingers on the details of her own life, beyond what is necessary to describe her connection to these thirteen animals, the listener is always left wanting more – a new, but not unpleasant, sensation when delving into a memoir. For example, Montgomery alludes to childhood abuse at the hands of her mother, but says little about it beyond how animals helped her heal. To sweeten this compact memoir even further, Montgomery takes on its narration. Her kind, occasionally wavering, voice complements the telling of a life spent walking softly amongst animals. Anyone who has clung to an animal for support – or confided their most important secrets in the ear of a terrier – is sure to enjoy the animal (and human) stories in How to Be a Good Creature.

Researching films, articles, and 22 books, Sy Montgomery has hiked the Altai Mountains of Mongolia looking for snow leopards, tracked tree kangaroos in Papua New Guinea, and more. A National Book Award finalist, she has also been honored with a Sibert Medal, two Science Book and Film prizes from the National Association for the Advancement of Science, three honorary degrees, and many other awards. She lives in Hancock, New Hampshire. Visit her online at symontgomery.com and on Twitter @SyTheAuthor.

Reviewed by Joanna Theiss
Liza Picard. Chaucer's People. Everyday Lives in Medieval England.
Read by Jennifer M. Dixon.
10 CDs. 13 hrs.
HighBridge. 2019 978-1-6844-1887-9.


Author Liza Picard has written several impeccably researched books about the history of England. This particular volume focuses on England during and just after Chaucer's time. While the book's layout is broken into sections highlighting each Canterbury Tales character, one need not have read Chaucer at all. His words are merely a jumping off point for a detailed account of customs, daily life, politics, and other fascinating minutiae of Medieval English society. With witty and informative text, Picard discusses such captivating topics as the criminal justice system, medicine, and cooking. The print version contains several appendices not included in the recording.

In addition to her narration work, Jennifer M. Dixon is a licensed counselor, theater actress, and retired music therapist. She was one of the 2010 winners of the Scott Brick Audiobook Narration competition. In her own words, according to her website, her "sound is the old-fashioned BBC British with American overtones." This is an accurate statement; her voice is smooth and engaging, and she is able to read this very weighty nonfiction title with ease. Despite her fine performance, this book contains a vast amount of material for a listener to absorb. Multiple listenings may be required to fully appreciate it.

Liza Picard was born in 1927. She is the bestselling author an acclaimed series of books on the history of London: Elizabeth's London, Restoration London, Dr Johnson's London and Victorian London. She read law at the London School of Economics and was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn, but did not practice. She worked for many years in the office of the Solicitor of the Inland Revenue before retiring to become a full-time author. She lives in London.

Reviewed by Olivia Durant
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