Once a year, the mystery community gathers for Bouchercon, the world mystery convention. This year, writers and readers of the popular genre met up October 12-15 in Toronto to celebrate everything mystery. There were panel discussions, auctions, signings, parties, and more. Several different awards are presented throughout the Bouchercon weekend each year, including the fan-voted Anthony Awards, Mystery Readers International’s Macavity Awards, and Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine’s Barry Awards.
This year, Louise Penny’s A GREAT RECKONING, the twelfth Three Pines mystery, made a grand sweep in the best novel category, taking home all three awards. Penny was also the convention’s guest of honor. The audiobook world loved A GREAT RECKONING as well. It earned an Earphones Award and was an Audie Award nominee in the mystery category. If you missed this one, time to get it loaded up on your iPod. Robert Bathurst had big shoes to fill with the loss of Ralph Cosham, and he succeeded. Read more…
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.
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…
When the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced last week, it was a great pleasure to find that so many of Kazuo Ishiguro’s books are already available on audio.
THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, narrated by the impeccable Simon Prebble, may be the place to start exploring Ishiguro’s work in audiobooks. Simon delivers it perfectly with nuance of emotion and subtlety of accents. Some other Ishiguro audiobooks to look at—THE BURIED GIANT or the stories collected in NOCTURNES. Also, WHEN WE WERE ORPHANS which is narrated by John Lee (see more about John below).
Among the week’s newest reviews, there seem to be several that make a good run-up to Halloween. Since my post today happens to fall on Friday the 13th, a few scary tales to try your luck seem appropriate. Stephen & Owen King lead off with SLEEPING BEAUTIES. Women going to sleep and not waking up sounds pretty unlucky to me. THE BLACK HAND takes listeners to the wharves and warehouses of 1880s London and the origins of Italian crime syndicates. And if you want to to stay in the horror zone, THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR, VOLUME 9 has a collection of stories to curl your toes with every whisper. Read more…
Did you know that it’s Mystery Series Week? I stumbled on this little gem while doing some research and learned that Purple Moon Press, a small independent publishing company, created Mystery Series Week to celebrate those continuing characters who return time and again to solve the case. It’s celebrated annually during the first full week of October. After all these years, I’m still learning something new every day.
I warn people when they start asking me for recommendations that I can talk for a long time about books and audiobooks I love. This is especially true of series. I have my reliable go-tos, my new discoveries, my new-to-me discoveries, and some that I dip into every now and again when the mood strikes me.
I was glancing back over the series I’ve highlighted so far here at the AudioFile blog. There have been female sleuths (Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski), non-American crime fighters (Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy), damaged detectives (James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux), and a little of everything else in between. And I’m sure I’ll continue to highlight great crime series. But in honor of this little-known week, I want to mention some series I love that maybe don’t get quite as much notice as others do. Read more…
Oh, dear. You know how you have an idea, and you think it’s a good idea, and then after a while, you realize you didn’t know what you were getting into? This is that time.
It was supposed to be simple (sigh). Introduce audiobook listeners to the romance genre with a few touchstone titles. These are audiobooks that epitomize the best of the genre and would appeal to a wide range of listeners. I thought I would organize it by category — for example, if you’re a mystery reader, you can jump into a romantic suspense listen and barely notice the landing. I had a few titles and narrators in my head. I started to organize them on paper to make categories. I jotted titles on the first paper. Quick and easy, right? Not so. I ran out of paper, had to start a second sheet. I thought of more suggestions. Then, I had to turn both of the sheets sideways in order to scribble more titles. Then, I was squeezing them in between the lines on both notes. Did I mention I don’t have good handwriting to begin with?
Long story short, there are MANY gateways to romance audio, and they are all worth entering. Here are a FEW to get you started. (Yes, this is a much shortened list from the original notes.)
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.
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.
A week for old friends—that’s audiobook friends we’ve heard before, but we’re oh so glad to hear from them again. The newest John le Carré novel, A LEGACY OF SPIES, is a perfect example. Not only do I celebrate any new title from British master spy novelist le Carré, but LEGACY also brings back George Smiley. Ok, I admit it, I see actor Alec Guiness, but narrator Tom Hollander brings alive the Cold War spy masters and their craft. Le Carré, now in his 80s, read his memoir THE PIGEON TUNNEL magnificently just last year, but it seems right to hand the mic to Tom Hollander here.
Malachy McCourt brings back different sorts of memories, but his new memoir, DEATH NEED NOT BE FATAL, sounds like a lot of fun. He sings, he jokes, he talks about his life in Brooklyn and Ireland and his saintly mother, Angela, and his equally famous brother, Frank, who wrote ANGELA’S ASHES. I hope listeners are still discovering the great audiobook of Frank McCourt’s 1996 memoir. It is certainly an audiobook that “sold” many readers on the format 20+ years ago. Read more…
Last week I wrote about Partners in Crime—people who co-write their books. Some of the partners on that list were related to each other: P.J. Parrish is a pair of sisters and Charles Todd is a mother-son writing team. The crime genre also boasts families that have more than one writer, but they aren’t necessarily writing together. Do you suppose it’s something in their DNA? Or are you a supporter of the nurture school of thought—they learn to love it from exposure? Regardless of how they get there, plenty of great writers are apples from the same tree . . . chips off the same block . . . birds of a feather. O.K., I’d better stop.
One of my favorite writing families is the Burke family. James Lee Burke and his daughter Alafair Burke write in significantly different styles but they both possess tremendous talent. The elder Burke’s sense of place in the Southern locales is vibrant and alive, as integral to his plots as his emotionally damaged characters. Meanwhile, Alafair’s sense of place is also central to her novels, but her strong female characters are found in more urban settings—Portland, Oregon, and New York City. Spanning the country, the Burke family has a little something for any mystery fan. Read more…
I was fourteen and my brother seven when my parents hid the television in the attic linen closet and told us that it was broken. It remained at the “repair shop” for two years, which speaks to our gullibility and to our parents’ belief in the power of storytelling. For it was then that my father adopted the tradition established by his father, and began reading aloud to the family in the evening.
He started with his own childhood favorite, Arthur Ransome’s SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS, which is about four English kids (one of them my brother’s age) who spend their summers sailing and camping without adult supervision. Sophisticated, yet immediate, the 12-book series is ideal family listening. Such is my affection for them that I’ve twice listened to the entire canon in audiobook form. Gareth Armstrong’s narration can be found at www.audible.co.uk and Alison Larkin’s at www.audible.com. Read more…
As we wrap up summer with a long weekend, the audiobook reviews this week put me in two minds. I want to extend my random “summer listening” choices just a little longer, but also know many of us have already turned to the more serious efforts of fall.
ARROWOOD, set in the London of Sherlock Holmes, looks like a great choice if you’re on a mystery bent. We’ve been doing a lot of listening around the upcoming Sherlock Holmes anniversary in October. Arrowood is a scornful, anti-Holmes detective portrayed by Malk Williams. It gets an Earphones Award, so well worth attention.
An ensemble of popular young adult writers including Libba Bray and Tim Federle offer a collection to wrap up summer with some teen listening: SUMMER DAYS AND SUMMER NIGHTS. Six narrators share the varied stories. The notion of “coming-of-age” comes to mind as I thought about the stories and how the end of summer often marks this transition.
The cultural commentary of Ben Sasse’s THE VANISHING AMERICAN ADULT has a lot to say about coming of age in 21st-century America. His friendly warning, as well as encouragement for parents, teachers, and officials, is worth checking out. Fiction is often the norm for listeners to explore coming-of-age stories, and I often think it’s a welcome way to learn about the customs, culture, and expectations of others ages and times—think Jane Austen. In a dynamic new production, Emma Thompson leads a full cast to present NORTHANGER ABBEY. The Gothic satire of Austen’s first novel makes good listening.
This week’s current darling of the publishing world, MY ABSOLUTE DARLING, is getting reviews and comments from critics as a major debut. As an audiobook, Gabriel Tallent’s debut is harrowing in a way that is different from the distress caused when we read text of graphic violence. Narrator Alex McKenna should be commended for her fortitude to perform the work and bring it vividly to listeners.
Can you think of other audiobooks that pack a punch that’s different from the experience of reading the same text in print?