Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Trio of Audios

Some audios have been getting away from me and in an effort to acknowledge them, I'm going to do three mini-reviews today.

The first is THE MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH by Charlie Huston. I want to link you back to Craig Johnson's review of this book that he wrote for Detectives Around the World week. My reaction is pretty much "everything Craig said and then some."

FIRST LINE: "I'm not sure where one should expect to find the bereaved daughter of a wealthy Malibu suicide in need of a trauma cleaner long after midnight, but safe to say a trucker motel down the 405 industrial corridor in Carson was not on my list of likely locales."

Huston's tale of a former school teacher recovering from a trauma, taking a job as a crime scene cleaner is unique, funny, moving. I think I experienced every range of emotion possibly while listening to this audiobook. The printed book handles dialogue a little differently, so if you have/had trouble reading this book because of that I'd highly recommend checking out the audiobook. Narrated by Paul Michael Garcia, the genius of Huston's dialogue shines through. And he has some rather challenging areas of dialogue for a narrator since Huston doesn't use much in the way of dialogue tags.

The novel is gritty and Huston isn't afraid to include profanity. So if you're sensitive to that, be forewarned. However, his use of profanity isn't gratuitous. He develops characters and mood and tone. There's a definite reason it's there and it serves its purpose well.

Garcia does an outstanding job as the narrator. He expresses the appropriate level of drama, never going overboard for the given situation. He nails the sarcasm and he's flat when the situation calls for it. The pairing of Garcia with this novel enhanced my experience with the book.

I owe thanks to Michael over at Lazy Thoughts from a Boomer for this audio. It's available from Blackstone Audio (ISBN: 978-1-4332-5753-7) or in print from Ballantine Books: hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-3455-0111-0); trade paper (ISBN: 978-0-3455-0112-7).

Next up I have BLACK ICE by Michael Connelly.

FIRST LINE: "The smoke carried up from the Cahuenga Pass and flattened beneath a layer of cool crossing air."

THE BLACK ICE  is the second book in the Harry Bosch series. Harry's maverick ways have earned him a position in the very undesirable Hollywood Division. When Robbery-Homicide swoops in and takes a case that should have been his call, Harry wheedles his way into the fold and begins investigating on his own. This, of course, does not sit well with the powers that be, so his supervisor dumps a load of unsolved cases in Harry's lap and instructs him to close as many as possible by year-end, a week away. When one of the unsolved cases begins pointing to the case Harry was boxed out of, he uses it as an excuse to head for Mexico and pursue both cases.

The plot is excellent. I commented to a friend while I was listening to the audio that somehow I keep reading a book either simultaneously or right after that somehow echos what Connelly does in his plot I'm reading at that time. I think it's very much a reflection on how he's influenced the genre. I appreciate the way Bosch grows with each book, the way he's affected by the events he experiences. Bosch is no superman; he has to deal physically and emotionally with his exploits.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this Bosch caper, I didn't thorough enjoy the audiobook. The narrator on this one is Dick Hill who also narrates the Jack Reacher series. The only probably is that he read Harry Bosch exactly the same way he read Jack Reacher. That flat tone and mood work for Reacher; Bosch is a far more dimensional character. While I don't think Bosch shows a lot of varying emotion at this point in the series, I think he feels it, experiences it and that didn't come across at all. I read THE BLACK ECHO, the first Harry Bosch, in print and felt my experience was better that way for this series.

THE BLACK ICE is available on audio from Brilliance (ISBN: 978-1-5933-5259-2), in print from Little Brown (ISBN: 978-0-3161-5382-9).

And finally today I have DOUBLE PLAY by Robert B. Parker.

FIRST LINE: "Joseph Burke got it on Guadalcanal, at Bloody Ridge, five .25 caliber slugs from a Jap light machine gun, stitched across him in a neatly punctuated line."

When Joseph Burke returns home wounded physically from the war, his wife inflicts emotional wounds by having left him for another man. Trying to re-enter his life, he attempts to take up boxing. Not really possessing the skill to box professionally, Burke takes a job as a body guard to protect a rich man's daughter. Burke falls for the daughter but is let go after a show of excessive force against a very powerful family. That is when Burke finds his job with the Brooklyn Dodgers protecting Jackie Robinson from the racial violence and threats during his rookie season.

This was a fun audiobook. Burke and Robinson's dialogue exchanges throughout the book are both dryly humerus and moving. The events had a tendency to jar me, and while I tell myself it is because I'm listening to a story set half a century ago, I'd like to hope they would have affected me the same way then. While it's a fictionalized story, the hate still existed and I think Parker did an outstanding job of bringing that through and contrasting it sharply with the loving relationship these two men developed.

DOUBLE PLAY does not deviate from Parker's style of writing. This has a tendency to affect the audiobook versions, however. His dialogue is sharp and intelligent and riddled with dialogue tags. When we read the printed page, we often just gloss over those. Audiobook narrators, however, do not. And so you're constantly reminded of the "he said," "she said," "Burke said," etc. all over the dialogue.

DOUBLE PLAY is narrated by Robert Forster, who I thought did an outstanding job of bringing to life Joseph Burke. He illustrates Burke's emotional scars and subtly lets his emotions peak through the tough-guy image. The narrator is great for this book, the book isn't so great for the audio.

DOUBLE PLAY is available on audio from Phoenix Audio (ISBN: 978-1-5977-7014-9) and in print from Berkley (ISBN: 978-0-4251-9963-3).

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le0pard13 July 29, 2010 at 9:56 AM  

You're right, of course, about Dick Hill's interpretation of Bosch. Later audiobooks of the series use veteran character actor Len Cariou. Wonderful post, Jen. Thanks for this.

Naomi Johnson July 29, 2010 at 6:56 PM  

I love Len Cariou. Not because of his reading, I haven't heard him. But I saw him once, in APPLAUSE, with Lauren Bacall. He was wonderful, as was Bacall. (I've just dated myself again, haven't I?)

darbyscloset July 30, 2010 at 12:19 PM  

Interesting what you shared about Black Ice. I haven't listened to that audio, yet I'm sure your remarks are head on! Currently I am listening to Lisa Gardener's newest on audio and it's g-o-o-d!
Read ON!

Beth F August 1, 2010 at 7:53 AM  

Sometimes I find it difficult to hear the same narrator read the same type of book.

I've been wanting to listen to the Bosch series for a while now.

kathy d. August 3, 2010 at 3:49 AM  

I don't listen to audiobooks as I don't drive or take transportation which would lead me down that road.

However, in between reading all sorts of adventurous books and expanding my horizons, I fall back--when I need it--to a Michael Connelly read. Just read "Scarecrow," with Jack McEvoy and Rachel Walling, not Harry Bosch.

But I do find it comfortable to go back to a Bosch book now and then and will get "Black Ice," out of the library and read it. The blog convinced me.

I find it hard to listen to one person read an entire book. If it were different people doing different voices, women, men, children, I'd listen.

But reading is fine with me.

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