Solve: Dave Robicheaux

James Lee Burke brings listeners to the bayou

Last Car to Elysian Fields

One of the very first series I ever listened to on audiobook was James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series. And this is an interesting series because for many of the first thirteen audios, there are two different versions: one narrated by the late Mark Hammer and one narrated by Will Patton. Not only are they two different narrations, but also two significantly different interpretations of Burke’s long-running, signature character.

Last Car to Elysian FieldsHaving read several of the books in print before starting to listen to them, I found Mark Hammer’s depiction of Dave Robicheaux  to be much more in line with my own mental images, and I listened devoutly to his lyrical productions that verbally duked out the internal conflicts of the haunted detective, glided effortlessly between the plethora of accents and dialects peppered generously throughout the prose, and enveloped me in the atmosphere Burke’s become so famous for. Even his slower pacing aligned with the easy, southern, Louisiana bayou tempo of my imagination. Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Solve: Finding humor in crime

When authors and narrators make me laugh so hard I cry

Lisa Lutz: The Spellman Files

I love to laugh, probably because all the endorphins my body releases when I do makes me feel better no matter what my mood is. It’s certainly good for me: reduces stress, burns calories, improves my immune system, and protects my heart. Which is especially helpful this time of year when the snow piles up and the sunshine is scarce. There are plenty of health reasons to support laughing, but sometimes it’s simply just fun. So I also appreciate humor in the audiobooks I listen to. And over the many, many audiobooks I’ve listened to, I’ve discovered that humor can be quite tricky. There is definitely the chance it won’t be appreciated by all listeners, but there’s also the real possibility that author and narrator won’t be on the same page and the humor will be missed. So when a production nails the humor and leaves me laughing tears of joy, I savor it all the more.

MacLeod Andrews
Narrator MacLeod Andrews

One truly great example of this is MacLeod Andrews narrating Jutta Profijt’s Morgue Drawer Four series. When I listened to the first book in this series (MORGUE DRAWER FOUR), I could not stop telling people about it. It was smart and funny and Andrews’s delivery was perfect. What was even more astounding was the added layer of a translation from the original German. A lot of the humor arises from slang, idioms, and Profijt’s invented words, which make for tricky translations. But the trio involved in this production—author, translator and narrator—makes it seem effortless. If you haven’t listened to this series, I highly recommend it. Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Solve: Sue Grafton Tribute

Honoring the woman who changed the face of private eye novels

Sue Grafton by Mark Coggin
Sue Grafton by Mark Coggin
Photo by Mark Coggins

Sadly, the crime fiction world lost a great writer at the end of 2017. After a two-year battle with cancer, Sue Grafton passed away on December 28th. The CWA Cartier Dagger recipient and MWA Grand Master did more than contribute the Kinsey Millhone series of alphabet titled mysteries. She changed the face of private eye novels and broke the glass ceiling for female crime fighters. Prior to her Kinsey Millhone series, PI fiction was populated mostly by tough male characters. So the entrance of a thirty-something, twice-divorced woman was significant and groundbreaking. Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Solve: Asian Crime Fiction

Audiobooks to transport you to China, Japan, and beyond

One of the most amazing things about books is the ability to travel to foreign and exotic locations without leaving the comfort of your own home. When the stories are truly powerful, you feel like you’re living in a world you’ve never physically inhabited. Then, when you bring a talented narrator into the mix, you will swear you can smell, taste, and hear that environment.

Malice

For me, that’s especially true in the tales set in Asian nations. It may be a result of my lack of international travel—or the snow and ice currently covering the landscape all around me—but more likely I’ve simply experienced great crime fiction from these lands.

From Japan, Keigo Higashino writes his Detective Galileo Series, which made a huge impression on American audiences when the debut, THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X, released in 2011. The series continued with SALVATION OF A SAINT and A MIDSUMMER’S EQUATION, all narrated by David Pittu. Higashino has also published MALICE (read by Jeff Woodman) and UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN in the United States. Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Solve: New Year’s Resolutions for Crime Fighters

What resolutions would your favorite crime fighters embrace in 2018?

Craig Johnson - The Western Star

Welcome to 2018, friends! I’ll still be writing 2017 for at least another month or so. This weekend, though, I was writing resolutions. The idea of resolutions always brings mixed reactions. You have those who are steadfastly against them, “I NEVER make resolutions! Those never work.” And others who are super creative or need them for motivation. The flurry of gym memberships in January always reflects those who resolve to get in shape, and the garbage collectors probably have to work harder the first month of the year due to all those who want to de-clutter.

For the past several years, I’ve seen people creating one-word resolutions. The idea, I believe, originated with Mike Ashcraft and his “My One Word” initiative. The concept is to choose one word that you want to represent you and to focus on it the whole year. This idea made me wonder about what words would be appropriate for our favorite characters in crime fiction. So here are my ideas:

Walt Longmire – Justice
The honorable lawman from Wyoming is always in search of justice, but by the end of THE WESTERN STAR, he’s a man on a mission, and no one had better stand in his way.

Craig Johnson - The Western Star Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Solve: Christmas Mysteries

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good crime story!

The Usual Santas

To all those observing today, I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas! I hope your holiday is filled with joy and love, that you’re surrounded by friends and family—or if you’re like me, that you’re getting some down time to quietly enjoy your audiobooks.

Christmas is a popular setting for crime novels, believe it or not. In the festively fun new collection of short stories from SoHo—THE USUAL SANTAS—Peter Lovesey explains why in his foreword:

The Usual Santas“The seasonal shopping spree provides rich pickings for thieves and fraudsters. Well-stocked stores become tempting targets for stick-up men and shoplifters. Pockets are picked, shoppers mugged, cars broken into and Christmas tree plantations raided. Cyber criminals relieve the unwary of their savings. Scam emails masquerade as greeting cards. Empty homes ransacked. Drink-fueled assaults are common. And even when the run-up to the holiday ends and the streets become more peaceful, domestic violence increases behind locked doors. Family feuds are revived by stressed-out, not-so-merry merrymakers. All of this is rich material for crime writers.” Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Solve: The Elvis Cole series

Robert Crais got Jen hooked on a life of crime (fiction)

The Watchman

Many people have heard me credit Robert Crais with hooking me on crime fiction. The Elvis Cole series was, in fact, my first serious foray into the genre. I picked up THE WATCHMAN at the bookstore and realized it was part of a series. Instead of getting that title, I grabbed THE MONKEY’S RAINCOAT and binged my way straight through the whole series and the three standalones that were available.

The WatchmanAppropriately, those who go a little nutty for Crais’s work are called the “Craisies,” and I’ve made many lifelong friends through a shared love of Elvis, Joe, and the gang. These people are extremely passionate about the series, so they are very upfront about their feelings on everything from book covers to characters to, yes, audiobook narrators.

Unlike some other series that have had long-running narrators who read most, if not all, of the series—Dick Hill for Jack Reacher, George Guidall for Walt Longmire, Will Patton for Dave Robicheaux, Lorelei King for Stephanie Plum—the Elvis Cole series has had a variety of narrators, including Crais himself (THE FIRST RULE). This lends itself to a lot of heated discussion between die-hard fans. Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Solve: The Best Mysteries of 2017 and a trip Behind the Mic

Plus a special video of narrator JD Jackson on the award-winner BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD

Bluebird Bluebird

Bluebird BluebirdOur fine editors at AudioFile Magazine have hemmed and hawed and pulled some hair (mostly their own) to come to a consensus on the Best Audiobooks of 2017! If you haven’t had a chance to check out the complete lists—they’re broken down into genre categories—you can do so here.

The mystery choices are good ones, including some of my personal favorites: Louise Penny’s GLASS HOUSES, Jo Nesbø’s THE THIRST, and Craig Johnson’s THE WESTERN STAR. You can see the whole list here.

I’m especially excited to see Attica Locke’s BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD on the list. I mentioned Locke’s newest, narrated by JD Jackson, in my celebration of crime fighters post back in October, and I’m excited to share this fun Behind the Mic video from JD Jackson. He says BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD read like a “brown liquor blues song.” Maybe he should be reviewing for us!

“This is an amazing mystery and suspense novel, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about regret, it’s about honor, it’s about redemption, and it’s about racial tension that has festered in this small town.”—Narrator JD Jackson

Please enjoy the video and be sure to check out AudioFile Magazine’s Best Audiobooks of 2017. There’s so much good listening in these lists. You can start stockpiling for the cold winter months coming our way. Happy Listening!

Best Audiobooks 2017

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Solve: Going Back in Time

Escape the present with crime fighters of the past

David Taylor - Night Work

I was always a little smitten with history. I’m not exactly sure what originally ignited my fascination with the past—watching “Little House on the Prairie” as a small girl, reading GONE WITH THE WIND for the first time, having great teachers in school . . . probably a combination of all that—but it’s as strong today as ever. And I’m not even obsessed with a certain time period. The Roaring ’20s period in the U.S. is as intriguing to me as Ancient Rome. So it should come as no surprise that historical mysteries also captivate me.

Even though I’m not particular about time period, some folks are. But mystery can cover virtually any era on any point of the globe. And sometimes you might be surprised. You might think you don’t care for that period but then the mystery is so riveting, you find yourself looking up details to see what is fact and what is a little creative license on the part of the author.

David Taylor - Night Work

David C. Taylor’s detective protagonist, Michael Cassidy, works in New York City in the mid-Twentieth Century. Don’t worry if that feels unfamiliar to you. By the time you finish hearing Keith Szarabajka’s killer narrations, you’ll feel like you lived it personally. Dark and gritty, historical police procedural at its finest. Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Thankful for Great Narrators

Giving thanks for amazing storytellers

George Guidall by Joanna Perrin

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving in the U.S. And as we have been thinking about all that we’re thankful for, I’m reminded of how thankful I am for great stories, creative story writers, and amazing storytellers. When the craziness of the world just feels overwhelming, it’s a gift to be able to escape into the realms of these books that their creators and performers so generously share with us.

George Guidall by Joanna Perrin
Photo by Jo Anna Perrin

As audiobook fans know well, the narrator can make all the difference in a book. A so-so tale can become amazing, while a good one can fall flat, leaving the listener disappointed. Interpretation, nuance, and delivery are as important in an audiobook as a strong plot. For that reason, I wanted to pay homage today to narrators who have reminded me how I first learned to love stories and who make me love listening to them every day.

Anyone who follows my posts here should not be surprised to see George Guidall’s name on my list. He is, of course, the voice of Walt Longmire. Guidall is no stranger to mystery and crime novels. Some of his recordings in the genre include Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee series, Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series, Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp novels, and Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who books. His credits are far too lengthy to list here, but some other highlights of my personal listening history include his reading of Caleb Carr’s THE ALIENIST and Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS. Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!