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: 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!

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!

Solve: Series: Walt Longmire

Jen’s love for Craig Johnson’s Wyoming sheriff goes way back

A Serpent's Tooth

This past weekend was Veterans’ Day, so it seems rather appropriate to recognize one of crime fiction’s great veterans—Walt Longmire. If you’re following my posts here at the AudioFile blog, I’m sure you aren’t surprised at all that I’m a mega-Walt Longmire fan. His popularity has grown considerably in the last five and a half years as people have discovered the Wyoming sheriff and his Absaroka crew through the popular television series aptly named Longmire.

A Serpent's Tooth

But I’m an old-school Walt fan. I fell hard and fast for the literature-loving Vietnam veteran presiding over the least populated county in the least populated state in the country when I first read THE COLD DISH. Then I fell all over again when I listened to George Guidall read the mystery to me. Oh lordy, what a treat that was. Since then, I’ve had a slew of memorable experiences with this beloved series.

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: Under the Influence of Sherlock Holmes

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved Holmes has influenced many greats in the world of mystery

Steve Hockensmith - The World's Greatest Sleuth

This past weekend was lauded as Sherlock Holmes weekend. It’s a regular celebration for the folks in Cape May, NJ, and Cambridge, OH. In the crime fiction world there is plenty of reason to celebrate. The beloved sleuth and his revered creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, have shaped literature—especially the mystery genre—for ages and continue to do so even today.

Steve Hockensmith - The World's Greatest Sleuth

For those who somehow managed to get through high school English courses without some exposure to the great Holmes, there are plenty of recordings of the novels and stories, like those Aurelia mentioned in her October post about her love of Sherlock. But for those who have read, reread, listened, watched, and maybe even enacted Doyle’s detective, here are some modern works he inspired to feed your hunger for the brilliant, deducing investigator.

Steve Hockensmith takes a fun twist with his Holmes on the Range series. Including novels and short stories, he parallels his Amlingmeyer brothers in the American West with Holmes and Watson across the pond. The series currently includes five novels, all narrated by William Dufris, and a collection of the shorts called DEAR MR. HOLMES, narrated by Barry Campbell. Hockensmith also reports that a new Holmes on the Range mystery is in the works! 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: Crime in Small Bites

Investigate these 10 short story crime audiobooks and get hooked on listening

Craig Johnson - Wait for Signs

When I tell people how much I enjoy listening to audiobooks, I often receive the response, “I can’t listen to audiobooks. I can’t pay attention.” I thought the very same thing at one time. Now I constantly want someone to be telling me a story.

Craig Johnson - Wait for Signs

Listening to audiobooks is a skill, just like reading print books. Even though we eagerly listened to adults telling us stories as small children, somewhere along the way, we lost the knack for listening—personally, I blame it on television, but that’s a different blog post. Never fear, though. Listening skills can be dusted off and honed back into shape. One of the ways I recommend people work on their listening skills is with short audios, and lucky for us, there are great short works of crime fiction available.

About once a year now, I listen to Craig Johnson’s WAIT FOR SIGNS. This collection of Walt Longmire shorts is described by Johnson as the stories between the novels. He develops his well-loved characters in funny, heart-warming, and engaging short stories. It’s probably my favorite collection to recommend to someone just starting to listen to audiobooks. I often recommend it as the introduction to the Longmire series as well. When you’re confident listening to these short stories, you can move on to his novellas—THE HIGHWAYMAN and SPIRIT OF STEAMBOAT. Same great style, in a slightly longer format. By the time you finish these two, you’ll be ready to listen to the novels. All of Johnson’s work is narrated by George Guidall. There hasn’t been one time I’ve attended a book event for Craig Johnson when at least one member of the audience hasn’t gushed about how much they love the series on audio. There’s a good reason for that. 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: Scandinavian and Nordic Crime

Dark and deadly tales from cold climates

The Thirst

I have a bit of an obsession with the Scandinavian and Nordic countries. I’ve been reading about them and studying different aspects of their culture, and I’m fascinated. Part of that intrigue may come from my affinity for their amazing crime fiction, which is actually a bit on the ironic side given their crime rates—Finland touts the highest murder rate among them at about half that of the United States but double Denmark, the nearest fellow Nordic country—but let’s not quibble.

Jo Nesbø - The Thirst

While many may credit Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson with putting Scandinavian crime on the map, he isn’t the first of this region’s great writers. But he did garner global attention, and now crime fiction enthusiasts around the world have no trouble finding old and new titles alike from the many talented Scandinavian and Nordic writers creating dark and deadly tales.

I have to credit Norway’s Jo Nesbø with first hooking me on a geographical area far colder than any I’d opt to live in. I had barely started THE REDBREAST, narrated by Robin Sachs, before I knew I was a goner. Whether it’s a Harry Hole series audio or one of Nesbø’s standalones, I devour them all. I’m especially fond of John Lee’s consistently stellar narrations in the Harry Hole series. And you know I’m a devout fan of a writer when I can’t pass up a title, even if it is THE COCKROACHES. (At fewer than 7 murders per million people in Norway, I’m pretty sure Nesbø’s already exhausted them all as inspiration for his books.) 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: Curmudgeons in Crime

Cantankerous characters we love on audio

As kids, no one ever wants a curmudgeonly neighbor who’s regularly chastising them to “stay off my lawn.” That messes up all the games of kick-the-can and hide-and-seek. And what happens when your baseball accidentally goes in their yard? Lost. For. Ever.

But in other realms, the curmudgeonly characters are often some of the most well-loved. They’re the comic relief, the unfiltered voice, the personality we secretly hope we’re brave enough to embrace one day. And typically, there’s a pretty good heart buried deep inside as well. TV is full of these grouchy personalities: Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCIS, Dr. Gregory House as the title character in HOUSE, and for those who can remember, Jonathan Higgins in MAGNUM, P.I.

Glass Houses

Crime fiction also claims a number of delightfully cantankerous characters.

Louise Penny, whose new audiobook in the Three Pines series is GLASS HOUSES (and an Earphones Award winner), has crafted an excellent curmudgeonly specimen in Ruth Zardo. Penny’s expletive-spewing poet may walk around with a rain cloud over her head, but she brightens every scene she enters. Both Ralph Cosham in the early recordings and now Robert Bathurst illuminate her cranky disposition with aplomb, allowing that hidden softie to peek out just around her sharp edges.

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!

Robin’s Roundup: August 11 New Audiobook Reviews

Annual “treats” for mystery listeners who follow series

House of SpiesListeners of mystery series often look forward to the annual event of a new title from their favorite authors. This week’s new reviews will please a lot of listeners.

Daniel Silva is a writer I follow in both audio and print, but it’s hard to beat George Guidall’s performances of the escapades of master spy Gabriel Allon. HOUSE OF SPIES is the 17th in the series, and even with the recurring characters, I think a newcomer could drop in anywhere. If globe-trotting spies are not your cup of tea, consider Ann B. Ross’s Miss Julia series. MISS JULIA WEATHERS THE STORM is #19 in a series “owned” by narrator Cynthia Darlow. I’ve not tried one myself, but I do love Cynthia Darlow.

Another tempting series is the Lady Hardcastle mysteries from T.E. Kinsey. DEATH AROUND THE BEND (#3) sounds like it might quell my sadness in saying goodbye to all the DOWNTON ABBEY folks, although these mysteries are set a decade or so earlier. A lady’s maid and her mistress as sleuths sounds pretty grand.

My last suggestion this week isn’t exactly a new installment in a series—but if you think “new” can also extend to a new narrator having a crack at a well-loved series, check out Stephen Fry’s SHERLOCK HOLMES—and it’s not just another performance of the many Holmes stories. Fry not only narrates each one, but interjects a short essay before each novella and the major collections of stories. Fascinating for fans, but also a perfect way to get a little context before leaping into ‘the game.”

Which series are you keeping an eye on for the next installment?

 

Robin Whitten
Robin is the Founder & Editor of AudioFile Magazine. The AudioFile Blog is her newest project to offer new voices and recommendations for audiobooks.