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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Here are our picks for 2019’s best mystery and suspense audiobooks. Happy Listening!
Listeners join P.I. Jackson Brodie as what should be a simple investigation grows into something much more sinister. Narrator Jason Isaacs (who starred in the "Case Histories" TV series) is the perfect match for this multifaceted story. His confident and polished delivery allows both the wit in the writing and the tension of the plot to come together. His accents sound authentic, and he creates believable characters, including young females of different nationalities. While the story explores some of the horrors of human trafficking and child abuse, there is also a strong streak of humor that Isaacs reinforces, lightening an otherwise dark work.
Jonathan Davis gives an unparalleled performance of Joseph Kanon's exciting, thought-provoking, and highly satisfying novel set in 1962, after the capture and execution of Adolf Eichmann, the infamous Nazi. Max Weill, an Auschwitz survivor and famed Nazi hunter, spots Otto Schramm in a Hamburg park. Schramm, a high-ranking Nazi and Mengele co-worker, was presumed dead. Aging and ill, Max insists that his nephew, Aaron, an office worker with a safe, comfortable CIA desk job, find the elusive Nazi. Aaron finds himself out of his depth as he becomes entangled in both the search for Schramm and his feelings for Hanna, Schramm's daughter. Davis effortlessly becomes all the actors, everyone from Israeli Mossad and CIA field agents to Hanna and to Schramm himself. The shocking conclusion will leave listeners reeling.
Narrator Steven Weber is the perfect match for this thriller, which blends plot twists and suspense in equal portions. Simon and Ingrid Greene, a successful and apparently perfect couple, find their lives falling apart in the most dramatic of ways when their drug-addicted daughter disappears after dropping out of college. With seeming ease, Weber voices the cast of characters, who range from the most privileged to those at the edges of society. His characterizations mainly employ authentic-sounding accents and changes in tone. His timing helps to build the ever-increasing suspense, allowing the listener to savor every twist of the Greenes' situation.
JD Jackson needs the range of a grand piano to do justice to Attica Locke's East Texas, and his skills and appealing baritone have it covered. Locke's protagonist, Darren Matthews, is an African-American Texas Ranger with a rocky marriage, a drinking problem, and a penchant for doing bad things for good reasons. In his morally messy world, 9-year-old Levi King has disappeared among the haunted islands of Lake Caddo. This would tug Matthews's heartstrings harder if the child were not the race-baiting scion of Aryan Brotherhood royalty. Locke is protecting no one here, and Jackson makes these flawed, believable characters a pleasure to love or hate. Add some antebellum fantasy tourist trap fraudsters, and you have a distinctly uncozy puzzle for our time, beautifully performed.
The brevity of this elegant audiobook belies the size of its pleasures. It simultaneously manages to deliver just what we loved about le Carré and company—an insider's view of characters and events from the secret world of The Service—while doing a deadpan takeoff on Cold War spy novels. Here some old-timers are doing what they always did, but in a world that has moved on. The "drop" is a real but outmoded bit of tradecraft by chance observed by a similarly superannuated former "asset" who duly reports it to his barely functioning handler who doesn't really believe a drop happened—why would it? But it did. Gerard Doyle gives a performance of impeccable finesse, and the resulting listen is a gem.
P.I. Jackson Brodie is Back: Author Kate Atkinson & Narrator Jason Isaacs on BIG SKY: