AudioFile Magazine reviewers and editors tap “play” on scads of audiobooks every day, looking for blow-you-away narration and standout production. AudioFile is the country’s oldest independent source of audiobook reviews and exclusive audiobook information, including narrator interviews and videos, blogs, and our Behind the Mic podcast.
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Jacqueline Winspear; Orlagh Cassidy (Read by)
This delightful audiobook, the fifteenth in the series, takes place in London of 1940. Catherine Saxon is a well-connected young American broadcast reporter hoping to become one of "Edward R. Murrow's Boys," making the Blitz real for the audience back home. When Saxon is killed, and not by a bomb, Maisie Dobbs must sort through a snarl of possible motives, including American war profiteering and isolationism as well as good old-fashioned domestic melodrama. In addition to Americans young and old, narrator Orlagh Cassidy here segues seamlessly among a daunting range of UK voices from Mayfair to Scotland. Not all her accents hit the bull's-eye, but her Maisie is a winning heroine, and this production is thoroughly entertaining.
Shelley Noble; Erin Bennett (Read by)
Author Shelley Noble embroils amateur British sleuth Lady Philomena "Phil" Dunbridge in the murder investigation of her friend's husband upon her arrival in early-twentieth-century New York City. Narrator Erin Bennett introduces listeners to the series characters—primary and secondary—informing their accents and tones with their backgrounds and personalities. Determined and savvy Phil is accompanied by her mysterious, multilingual lady's maid and a loyal and fastidious butler as she searches for clues in high society and the world of horse racing. Bennett unravels the mystery at an unhurried pace, dangling plausible motives for the victim's mistress, wife, and business partners. With this series debut, Noble sets the stage for further intrigue involving law enforcement and an enigmatic figure.
Narrator Scott Brick returns to portray Cotton Malone and a cast of many secondary characters in the fourteenth book in this series, which listeners can also appreciate as a stand-alone. The story's history, battles, conspiracy theories, and puzzle solving are reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code. What differentiates Steve Berry's version is the way the island of Malta's intriguing history and geography become essential players in the plot. Brick is a masterful narrator, raising the tension in the action scenes while keeping the listener engaged in the slower historical segments. Brick's challenge is differentiating the numerous characters as the plot weaves multiple simultaneous scenes. This audiobook also offers a "writer's cut," with Steve Berry providing geographical, historical, and personal tidbits of background information.
James Langton offers a splendid narration of this second prequel to the Charles Lenox series. Part of a proposed trilogy, this middle story is set in 1853. Charles Finch's Victorian detective, Lenox, is called upon to find out who stole a painting of the Duke of Dorset's great-grandfather. Untroubled by the loss of the ancestral portrait, the Duke owns the only existing portrait of William Shakespeare painted from life, and Dorset fears the thief will return once he discovers he stole the wrong painting. Langton excels at upper-class accents, delivering all the insouciance and flair of the privileged. His characterizations of the more humble are also spot-on. He makes the thefts, kidnapping, and murder a delicious puzzle for the struggling young detective and for listeners, as well.
Julian Rhind-Tutt narrates this horrific story of serial killers who are inhabited by the devil. It's 1935 in German-occupied Prague. Jungian psychiatrist Viktor Kosárek is working at the infamous Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane, where he is interviewing six serial killers. At the same time, police investigator Lukas Smolak seeks the serial killer dubbed Leather Apron, who is imitating Jack the Ripper's murders. Rhind-Tutt uses a variety of British accents for the characters, varies his intonation for narrative and dialogue, and switches seamlessly between German, Czech, and other Slavic languages. He does swallow the ends of sentences and frequently drop his voice for dialogue while booming out narrative. Still, the story–replete with folklore and vivid scenes of murder most heinous, all sparked by the devil within–is compelling.
January LaVoy energetically narrates this 1920s saga—based on fact—set in Harlem and Portland, Oregon. Alice "Nobody" James has always blended into any setting. As the story begins, LaVoy's gutsy Alice is aboard a train, running from the Mafia after being shot. Black porter Max Burton—exceptionally rendered—takes Alice to Portland's all-black Paragon Hotel to recuperate. LaVoy excels with Alice's revealing and entertaining asides and with varied accents and 1920s vocabulary and speech patterns. Evocative descriptions of both locales propel listeners into the settings. Because she feels a kinship with her new friends, it's terrifying and inspiring to hear white Alice challenge the brutal Oregon KKK after a man is lynched and a child is kidnapped. Audio helps listeners with frequent shifts in time and place.