Solve: Crime Families

Criminal masterminds keeping it all in the family

Alafair Burke: The ExLast 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…

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!

Behind the Mic: The Scribe of Siena

Let Cassandra Campbell transport you to medieval Siena and indulge in the Italian atmosphere and romance

For anyone who loves a historical setting or is infatuated with Italy, listen to how narrator Cassandra Campbell describes THE SCRIBE OF SIENA by Melodie Winawer. Once more we’re Behind the Mic to hear the narrator point of view about a recent performance. Cassandra easily convinced me with her lovely Italian accent that this audiobook will be a vacation delight—and that’s right where I’m taking it!

“We are transported back to medieval Siena in a vivid way . . . the darkness, the tight, narrow streets . . . and wonderful Italian romance.”—Narrator Cassandra Campbell

Read more…

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.

Solve: Partners in Crime

Discover what it’s like writing with a co-author from the pair behind Michael Stanley’s audiobooks

I’ve often heard authors talk about the solitude of writing, so people who write as a team fascinate me. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several writing teams through my attendance at conferences and book signings and such.

Jefferson Bass - Without Mercy

There are pairs who have always written together like the authors of the Body Farm series, Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Blass—collectively Jefferson Bass. The creators of Detective Kubu are the duo from South Africa, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, also known as Michael Stanley. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child simply use their own names to publish the Pendergast series.

Family members can make good writing partners. The sister writing team of Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichols make up P.J. Parrish. They publish the Louis Kincaid series and the Joe Frye series. And Charles and Caroline Todd, mother and son pair, write two popular historical fiction series, the Bess Crawford series and the Ian Rutledge 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: Always listen in order! (Or don’t.)

Do you follow your favorite sleuth’s every move or jump into each new series on a whim?

Glass HousesI have a confession to make. I sometimes listen to series out of order on audiobook. As a matter of fact, I recently finished Louise Penny’s GLASS HOUSES—but I haven’t listened to the previous two installments in the series. I know some of you are gasping in horror. There was a time I would have done the same thing. As I started doing more and more reviewing, my list of absolutely-must-listen-in-order started to get shorter and shorter.

I still adore Louise Penny’s Three Pines series, which seems to grow better with each book. And starting a new one is like visiting old friends. But my schedule—especially in August—doesn’t always permit me a lot of extra time for books and audios I’m not assigned to review. So I’ve ended up reading some out of order. 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 18 New Audiobook Reviews

Take a break with some Fantasy and Sci-Fi

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's DaughterIf you’re in the mood for a little escapism, this week’s audiobook reviews have some great options. The first to catch my eye, and ear, is THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER. The premise is that daughters of Victorian literary villains—Dr. Jekyll, Mr Hyde, and Rappaccini—collaborate to solve Jack-the-Ripper-like murders with some help from Sherlock Holmes. Narrator Kate Reading has a grand time with this romp.

A different sort of collaboration was the brainchild of the authors of INDIGO. Nine high-profile fantasy authors including Charlaine Harris, Kelley Armstrong, and Jonathan Maberry create a crime-fighter urban myth with super powers drawn from shadows. Just one narrator, Christina Delaine, takes this on. She gets high praise for handling the many male characters as well as the female ones, and for keeping us emotionally engaged. For X-Files fans, this one’s for you—THE X-FILES: COLD CASES. This elaborate original production with a creative soundscape and a huge cast of voices also brings back the original Mulder and Scully actors, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Just the chance to travel through X-Files land again should delight listeners.

My last choice this week is slightly different but a true AudioFile staff pick, WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI. This sweet, immersive teen romance is dynamically read by two narrators, Vikas Adam and Sneha Mathan. The banter between the teens is perfected by the two actors who get the characters, and their world, just right. Dimple and Rishi both struggle with pressures and expectations from their families and society at large, and these nuances add depth to the story of ambition, romance, and tradition, while still keeping things fun.

What audiobook is taking you “out of your world” this week?

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.

Tease: Romance is Negotiation

Compromise creates space for love in these new audiobooks

Author Kathleen Woodiwiss (1939-2007) owns the signature honor of creating the historical romance in its 20th-century form. Her alpha heroes dominated every situation and often gave her vivacious, intelligent heroines no end of trouble. Her novels were known for their length—happy doorstoppers every one—and her sweeping prose that delved as deeply into setting as they did into characterization. Her first novel was THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER, but I would equally draw your attention to ASHES IN THE WIND, a worthy read-alike to GONE WITH THE WIND, and A ROSE IN WINTER, a Beauty and the Beast-motif historical. Always in Woodiwiss’s writing was an insurmountable difference of opinion between the hero and heroine. He married her sister first, he evicted her father, he invaded her country . . . I could go on.

The genius of Woodiwiss—and of this group of audiobooks—is the delicate negotiation from adamant disagreement to common ground and lasting affection. Romance truly is a negotiation. All you have to do is decide which title to try first.

Fair Bright and Terrible

FAIR, BRIGHT, AND TERRIBLE: Welsh Blades, Book 2
by Elizabeth Kingston, read by Nicholas Boulton
Hedgehog Inc. Productions
AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Nicholas Boulton’s imposing presence lends authority to the scheming heroine of this historical novel. Facing the utter collapse of Wales, which has fallen to the English, Eluned accepts an arranged marriage in order to avenge her late husband’s death by killing the man most responsible for it. But she soon discovers that her fiancé is an old flame. Boulton commands this medieval romance doused in political warfare.

Read more…

Caitlin is a librarian from Connecticut who enjoys great narrators and happy endings. She has been reviewing audiobooks for Audiofile Magazine since 2006, and she has had the privilege of judging numerous Audie Award categories since 2009. Her favorite authors are Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and whatever she's listening to right now!

Solve: Crimes With Color

Colorful and criminally good audiobook mysteries

Long, Black VeilIt’s back-to-school time, and August is National Crayon Collection Month. I didn’t know about this until I started researching blog topics—don’t ask, my mind works in scary ways sometimes. Anyway, there’s this cool non-profit organization aptly named Crayon Collection that gathers gently used crayons and distributes them to schools in high-poverty areas. This does two things: keeps perfectly good crayons out of landfills and puts them in the hands of children to encourage their creativity. Who knows, they may be the masterminds writing our mysteries of tomorrow!

Based on titles in the genre, our past and current scribes were likely influenced by the wax art supplies of their childhoods. Although they don’t get quite as creative as the marketing gurus at Crayola—laser lemon?—crime writers (and their publishers) make use of color frequently in titles. John D. MacDonald started the themed series fad using color names for his Travis McGee titles (THE DEEP BLUE GOOD-BY, A PURPLE PLACE FOR DYING, etc.). David Handler followed suit with his Berger and Mitry mysteries (THE COLD BLUE BLOOD, HOT PINK FARMHOUSE), while many other crime writers had single titles featuring a veritable rainbow of color names.

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: Friends in Crime Fiction

Celebrating National Friendship Day with famous friends on audio

Yesterday (August 6th ) was National Friendship Day, and Wednesday (August 9th) is National Book Lover’s Day. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to recognize great friendships in crime fiction audiobooks!

Of course classic mysteries offer friends working together to discover whodunit, such as Sherlock and Watson or Nero and Archie. These characters influenced other writers, who in turn influenced the next generations and on and on, and thus the tradition of crime-fighting pals exists almost everywhere.

James Lee Burke The Glass Rainbow

The lone wolf protagonist is certainly a common trope, but even some of crime fiction’s most dysfunctional characters manage to hang on to good friends. James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux struggles to keep the women in his life breathing, but Clete Purcell is as dedicated as they come in the friend category.

Sometimes the pairings are a bit unusual. Caleb Carr’s THE ALIENIST features a newspaper reporter and a psychologist taking on the role of investigators. And John D. MacDonald’s “salvage consultant” Travis McGee works with his best friend Meyer, a respected economist. Numbers can be a mystery to us all. 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: July 28 New Audiobook Reviews

New Swedish noir from Anders de la Motte and a curious gem performed by Derek Jacobi

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old
A couple of the audiobooks in this week’s new reviews have European provenance. THE SECRET DIARY OF HENDRIK GROEN:  83 1/4 Years Old  by Hendrik Groen is a Dutch bestseller published in 2014. The brilliant Derek Jacobi performs pseudonymous author Groen’s diary as a listener’s delight, delivering the emotional beats and subtle layers of humor.

For listeners who relish Swedish noir mystery, Anders de La Motte may be an author to check out. MEMORANDOM follows his successful GAME trilogy. Narrator Peter Noble does a great job leading listeners into an intriguing thriller that reflects the clear authenticity of de la Motte’s law enforcement background.

Being in the midst of summer, I would think we’d be seeing more baseball audiobooks. THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES sounds like a real nostalgia piece, and will take many listeners back to 1942 with the story of Lou Gehrig and the making of the Gary Cooper movie. The season is long, so more choices for baseball  may come along.

We do seem to be in love with book covers with dogs . . .and COLLARED is no exception. Of course, it’s not just the cover—David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series is owned by narrator Grover Gardner. An Earphones Award here, but definitely not the duo’s first. I love this comment from AudioFile reviewer Brian Price: “Gardner’s wonderful combination of the rhythms of Sam Spade and the irreverent tones of Mark Twain make this diverting whodunit a listening treasure.” That’s my listening for this week.

What’s in your headphones?

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.