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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Jonathan de Shalit
Narrator Gabra Zackman takes on the challenge of voicing the many characters from diverse backgrounds who form a team of rookie Israeli secret agents. While Zackman succeeds in differentiating male and female, young and old, her slow pace seems mismatched to the narrative. Jonathan de Shalit, a pseudonym for a former Israeli intelligence agent, has written a multifaceted plot with all the characters having intriguing backstories that propel them to action. This is especially true of the group's leader, beautiful, and sometimes reckless, former Mossad agent Ya'ara Stein, who is chosen by the Israeli prime minister to lead this irregular strike force. The audiobook experience will reward the patient and attentive listener who enjoys a different take on the classic spy story.
This is not your grandfather’s audio spy thriller. Marie Mitchell, a young African-American officer, is routinely bypassed and underestimated by the old boys in the intelligence networks she works for, and it has made her a much harder-headed customer than is suggested by the warm, feminine voice with which Turpin skillfully misleads you. When Marie is finally offered a plum assignment, shadowing the charismatic new socialist president of Burkina Faso, her handlers seem to think she won’t figure out that she is the bait in a honey trap. Nor do they consider that she remembers and understands what happened to Patrice Lumumba. This is indeed an American spy story, thrilling because it shifts the ground beneath your feet. Brava, both Turpin and Wilkinson.
Claire Kendal; TBD (Read by); Imogen Church (Read by)
Listeners will enjoy narrator Imogen Church's ability to develop multiple characters as the plot of Kendal's novel becomes increasingly complex. Holly's story is told in alternating timeframes that allow listeners to understand how she evolves from being a failed applicant to MI5 to a woman involved in an abusive relationship. The narration takes advantage of Church's ability to add English, Irish, and American accents to the dialogue, as well as infusing the characters with the necessary emotions to spur their actions. Holly's character, in facing danger, trauma, and grief, gains sympathy as listeners are exposed to more twists, each giving them more reasons to understand what a difficult situation she finds herself in.
John Le Carré
John le Carré, as author and narrator of this stand-alone spy thriller, serves up a wholly engaging audio experience. Nat, a 47-year-old career agent recently returned to Britain from a long stint abroad, finds himself struggling with the possibility of his imminent redundancy. While the plot draws its tension from the unsettling alliances in our current political environment, its drama rests on the human foibles of spies. True, le Carré's deep, avuncular voice seems a mismatch for the younger Nat, and his voicing of women is a bit of a stretch. But his facility with accents and deep understanding of the personalities he has created add to the audiobook experience. It's a privilege to listen to this master author deliver his work.
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.
Charles Cumming; Charlie Anson (Read by)
In this vivid and clever new audiobook, Kit Carradine is a spy novelist who is asked by (he thinks) MI6 to do some real undercover work while at a writer's conference in Morocco. The plot is like the souk, full of unexpected alleys that leave you unsure where you are, with plenty of exotic sights and smells, trip wires, and betrayals. Almost no one besides Kit himself is who he seems to be at first or even at second, and there is a special pleasure in watching the bright and gallant amateur try to manage real spycraft without training against many very ugly customers. Charlie Anson's narration is smooth, consummately professional, and fluent with accents while maintaining pace at high speeds around the plot's many hairpin turns.