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Mystery

Gerard Doyle’s performance of this mystery is so fine that listeners may have to remind themselves they’re listening to a one-man show, not full-cast audio theater. His narration combined with such good writing makes this pure pleasure for the ears and mind. A rash of suicides is killing publicly assertive women—or are they being murdered? Ex-cop Carol Jordan is drafted to lead a new high-profile police unit. With the personal and professional assistance of psychologist Tony Hill, she takes on the suspicious deaths as a sort of warm-up exercise for her team. Doyle’s performance enhances McDermid’s story and characters. G.S.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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This Swedish crime thriller sets the tone for its dark story with the hit-and-run death of a teenage boy. Narrator Simon Vance embodies the unnamed male narrator whose perspective fills most of the first half of the novel. Vance characterizes him with a neutral tone that is in keeping with his lack of guilt toward his crime. The policemen in the story are especially vivid as Vance picks up his pace to project their growing desperation to solve the rising number of deaths in their small town. Vance makes the most of a whodunit that mixes the intrigue of blackmail with an array of frustrated detectives. Listeners will lean in to see the villains get their due. M.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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This audiobook collaboration elevates listeners to another sphere. Number 4 in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series transports listeners to a tumultuous Norway after the murder of the prime minister. It's not clear whether the killing was a political assassination or personal revenge. Chief Inspector Wilhelmsen intends to find out. Narrator Rosalyn Landor uses finely honed skills, among them pacing, tone, accent, and pitch, to expertly portray the various characters and perspectives as well as the mysterious atmosphere of this thriller. Her portrayal of the colorful detective Billy T. is especially noteworthy. Landor accentuates the spectrum of personality in this seemingly contradictory character. A stellar narration is guaranteed to keep the pulse pounding. J.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Inspector Rutledge returns in this 18th novel in the beloved series about Scotland Yard in the 1920s. Simon Prebble portrays Rutledge--taciturn and intensely fair-minded as ever--with a steady persistence that suits a time when inter-village communication was limited to telegraph messages and motorcars were rare. Prebble's tone effectively hints at the emotional trauma Rutledge still experiences from the Great War and depicts his flickering interest in a young gentlewoman he knew during peacetime. But she's embroiled with three others who are accused of murdering a villager who appeared to be drowning in a sinking rowboat. Prebble's characterizations of the villagers are distinctive. He capably differentiates the women's voices, and his rich Scots brogue for Rutledge's imaginary associate, Hamish, is downright delightful. N.M.C. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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When Dr. Alex Delaware jumps out of a case involving an actress and her young son, he thinks it's finished. But several years later, it pops up again--and turns into a full-blown investigation. Narrator John Rubinstein guides listeners through a tapestry of characters as the story moves through its twists and turns. After many years of narrating Kellerman's series, Rubinstein fluidly provides different voices for every single character, minor and major. He singlehandedly keeps a complicated plot from getting out of hand, while making every step of Delaware's fact-finding journey more interesting. M.B. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Narrators Emily Sutton-Smith and Scott Merriman work well to build the suspense at the heart of this drama. Sutton-Smith has us rooting for plucky Iris, an under-supported single mother who works as a lawyer. Sutton-Smith's determined voice provide a nice contrast to Scott Merriman's restrained characterization of Ray, Iris's autistic brother, who has been incarcerated for murder for many years. It's not long before Iris--who, until recently, didn't even know she had a brother--begins to wonder if the gentle-seeming man really did commit the ghastly crime. Sutton-Smith and Merriman use distinctive pace and pitch to orient the listener as the chapters alternate, from Iris to Ray, and back. The storylines build, exposing the ways in which Iris's personal difficulties mimic Ray's physical confinement. We listen closely as these troubled lives come together to secure a man's freedom. M.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Narrator George Guidall provides another outstanding listen in this tenth John Wells mystery. Guidall has perfect-pitch timing and pacing for this type of thriller. He imbues the characters with distinctive voices by adding powerful unwritten features such as a gravelly undertone or a tone of coarse indifference. Ellis Shafer, John's former CIA boss, comes across as crusty and cynical. The villain of the story sounds just as one would expect a billionaire gambling mogul to sound. Guidall achieves these traits more through the specific power of his voice than from the dialogue itself or the use of individual character voices. Guidall's extensive experience with the main character, John Wells, doesn't hurt either. But no worries, this audiobook also works as a standalone. M.C. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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While her Australian accent might seem unexpected at first, Caroline Lee is the perfect narrator for this story, set in Cornwall, England. From the first sentence, Lee captures its fairy-tale quality and eerie ambiance—then remains impeccably engaged while completely disappearing for the entire 22 hours. Listeners will be captivated as they meet the Edevane family in the 1930s, when their baby boy goes missing during the annual midsummer party at the family’s lake house. In the early 2000s, police detective Sadie Sparrow seeks to find the truth about the cold case, as well as about a current case that she’s been reprimanded for botching. As Lee moves listeners between the past and the modern day, a thrilling mystery unfolds. Lee’s narration makes it an enchanting listen. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The sublime voice of Simon Vance enhances this fascinating story, Book 5 of the Benny Griessel series, which takes place in South Africa. Two compelling scenarios are dramatically presented and merge only at the conclusion. Vance inhabits vintner François du Toit as he tells his riveting story; on his property was found the body of Ernst Richter, the founder of MyAlibi, a company that serves those who want extramarital "adventures" without the risk. Listeners will learn that the alcoholic Griessel is back on the booze after a traumatic incident, and his reluctant partner is covering for him and heading the murder investigation. Vance skillfully re-creates South Africa's melodious voices and diverse accents as the police question multiple witnesses and suspects. The shocking climax is as timely as today's headlines. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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John Lee's narration and portrayals of the Scotland Yard trio Thomas Lynley, Barbara Havers, and Winston Nkata perfectly exploit their diverse social status and complementary investigative techniques--from Nkata's keyboard wizardry and Havers's elbow-in-the-window style to Lynley's aristocratic, seductive charm and keen intellect. Far more challenging in this twisted psychological thriller is maintaining suspense while family secrets cloak the truth behind a suicide and a murder. Lee vividly enacts the anguish of a young man's Tourette syndrome, his brother's grief and bewilderment, and the evolving evil nature of a supposedly loving mother. Sparks of humor highlight this dark story. Lee delights in sharing Inspector Lynley's infatuation with a zoo vet whose hobby is roller derby, and Havers is lured into a makeover--with little success. D.P.D. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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As Bibi Blair embarks on a quest to find the titular Ashley Bell, she leads listeners on a wild ride that is deliciously disorienting and suspenseful. Suzy Jackson relates how events in Bibi’s past become important to her quest and her future. This supernatural medical mystery involves brain cancer, a coma, and more. Jackson narrates with verve and also conveys a folksy quality in Bibi’s dialogue with friends, her parents, and her boyfriend, a Navy SEAL. With dramatic flair, Jackson collapses the distance between the protagonist and listeners. Her deliberate pacing and Koontz's inventiveness as a storyteller are a terrific pairing. S.C.A Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Simon Prebble is always fun, and never more so than here, as crusty Detective Peter Diamond is tapped much against his will to partner with his self-important and officious boss, Georgina Dallymore, in a sort of internal black op. They are off to investigate alleged misconduct in another police jurisdiction, where the accused turns out to be an old colleague of Peter's. The plot is suitably baroque, always two steps ahead of you, but the real fun is in Prebble's subtlety as a performer. He's a master of accents; with the slightest inflection he gives you class, age, sex, education, ethnicity, and personality, a Rembrandt of vocal portraiture. Lovesey is at the top of his game, and Simon Prebble is his perfect audio counterpart. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Katherine Borowitz returns to the Tempe Brennan series with a finely tuned performance. She reflects the intensity of a crime story that has Tempe collecting human bone fragments from overlooks to Ghost Mountain, while balancing Tempe's tough personal introspection. North Carolina is the setting for Reichs's 18th entry featuring the popular forensic anthropologist (also the star of the TV series "Bones"). Colorful characters from the backwoods give Borowitz great material for accents--from web-sleuthing "Lucky" Strike and fanatical preacher Father G. to Tempe's nemesis, Detective Skinny Slidell. Each accent suits the character to a tee, yet Borowitz keeps the dialogue smart and often funny. She also skillfully adds a slight Canadian burr to Tempe's Montreal boyfriend and would-be fiancé. Fans who follow the series will be delighted with this strong entry, with its gripping first chapter. Listener newcomers will be easily drawn in by Borowitz's involving style. R.F.W. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Will Patton takes the best Stephen King novel in years and turns it into an audio masterpiece. Patton sets the mood of greed, desperation, and frustration with an astounding delivery that does the work of a half-dozen actors. Switching vocal styles as easily as a chameleon changes color, Patton portrays an elderly author and the man who murders him over his treatment of one of his characters. Patton takes the listener on a journey of intrigue as a teenage boy finds the murdered writer's unpublished works 35 years later—just as the killer is released from prison. Listeners may double-check to see how many narrators are performing this work. But it's just Patton, and he's more than enough. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Daniel Silva is at the top of his game in this high-tension wire of an audiobook, performed by George Guidall. Silva’s Israeli spymaster, Gabriel Allon, teams with a former English commando named Keller to find Eamon Quinn, a former IRA bomb maker. Not only is Quinn a vicious terrorist for hire, but Allon and Keller also have intensely personal reasons for wanting him stopped. Guidall’s warm, lived-in voice brings so much to the experience, somehow always conveying understanding of and sympathy for the human dimension in the most terrible scenes of mayhem, the most morally ambiguous situations. His attention and pace never falter, and he is wonderful at the accents, including several flavors of Irish, along with Russian, Iranian, and an uncanny Israeli. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Robert Glenister is the man in this fine performance of Robert Galbraith’s (aka J.K. Rowling) most recent detective thriller. Having narrated the first two books in the series, Glenister knows the main characters—Cormoran Strike, Afghan War vet turned PI, and his smart, increasingly talented assistant, Robin Ellacott—to a fare-the-well. In this thoroughly involving story, both Strike and Ellacott are targeted by a killer, who starts the action with a severed leg delivered to Ellacott. The real-life pacing and vocal differences between the rough-hewn, older Strike and the younger Ellacott bring their scenes particularly to life. And Glenister’s use of a flattened, even tone for the sections that take place inside the mind of the killer adds chillingly to the tension. A.C.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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A terrific performance by Jim Frangione makes Lehane’s novel featuring Joe Coughlin (THE GIVEN DAY, 2008; LIVE BY NIGHT, 2012) much more than a simple crime thriller. Characters are a nasty, murderous lot, but Frangione turns them, if not sympathetic, into something more than two-dimensional thugs with an appetite for blood. Coughlin, now a widower and fiercely devoted to his son, learns that someone’s put a hit out on him. Using his connections to Cuba and Tampa’s 1942 gangster hierarchy, he tries to find out who’s behind the contract. Frangione’s delivery of Lehane’s no-nonsense dialogue is as sharp and piercing as machine-gun fire. “Gangster ethics” may seem like an oxymoron, but Frangione turns Coughlin’s uncertainties into a moving exploration of a flawed man’s life. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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British narrator Derek Perkins authentically delivers this spy story set in Paris in the early twentieth century. His facility with accents makes for an outstanding listening experience as he depicts James "Max" Maxted's investigation into the death of his father, a diplomat involved in the Paris Peace Conference after WWI. With verve and flawless pacing, Perkins displays excellent storytelling skills. His French and American accents are good, so the international cast is fully believable, and the clever plot moves forward quickly and precisely. Listeners familiar with Goddard’s thrillers won’t be surprised by the many twists in the plot. The serialized ending leaves the story open for the next installment. S.C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Edoardo Ballerini’s performance of this thriller is like watching a tightrope walker working without a net. You can see that the balance is perfect, and yet you can’t tell why it works. Assured and quiet, Ballerini rolls out the story, simply paying attention to the meaning and diction of every word, the pacing of every sentence. Young women from Eastern Europe, promised "modeling" jobs in America, are betrayed, then packed in containers like animals and delivered to really nasty sex slavers. One girl escapes, but, as authorities race against time to save more, she won’t cooperate because the traffickers still have her little sister. The higher the tension on the page, the more effective Ballerini’s no-drama delivery becomes. And he does a killer Romanian accent. B.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In 1180, the dying abbot of Perton Abbey calls for a scribe to take down a story filled with political maneuvering, war, pillaging, and sexual perversion. Kate Reading proves the perfect chronicler of this complex tale, endowing each character with a credible voice and a multilayered personality. In England the year 1141 finds King Stephen and the Empress Matilda in a battle for the throne. Thousands have been killed, castles routed, and the countryside left in ruins. Reading adds immediacy and poignancy to the story of crossbowman Gwil and Em/Penda, the child who was left for dead after suffering brutality at the hands of mercenaries. Reading delivers the heat of battle as well as characters’ personal doubts, fears, and inner monologues with such deftness and artistry that hopes, dreams, and motives are crystal clear. Wonderful listening. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This thought-provoking literary mystery will shock listeners into realizing how little we know about the world we live in. At times, it’s difficult to absorb that this story is based on real events that happened in the 1990s. Peter Ganim narrates clearly and dispassionately but with empathy. His pacing and tone are consistently suited to the descriptions of the suffering and travails of ordinary people during the ethnic cleansing and cultural destruction of the Bosnian war. Each chapter begins with a quotation from witness testimony; endnotes present numerous references to victim statements from the International Criminal Tribunal. Ganim's accents seem appropriate to the victims represented and add a grittiness that tears at listeners’ hearts. Khan's novel is compelling and haunting, as is Ganim’s presentation. S.C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In 1951, Boston is suffering a winter so cold that the frozen body of a murdered woman won’t be buried until spring. Narrator Jim Frangione has listeners buckle their seat belts as he drives a shadowy route with Dante Cooper, an ex-heroin addict, and his ex-cop friend, Cal O’Brien, who independently set out to solve the murder of Dante’s sister-in-law. This turns out to be unpopular as it brings to light the involvement of the Church, Irish mobsters, and crooked politicians. Frangione’s dynamic performance illuminates the dark underbelly of Boston as he delivers a mystery packed with gangsters, loan sharks, drug dealers, crooked cops, and a psychopath known as the Butcher. Frangione’s ability to transition effortlessly between colorful characters with various Boston accents highlights their temperaments and classes, making this post-WWII era sound authentic. As narrator, Frangione never loses the listener in the violent exploits of the perilous journey. B.J.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Pirates, sapphires, treasure, and conspiracies abound as narrator Jake Weber brings out the sense of danger and drama in this novel--an international caper worthy of cinema screens. Jack, a hired assassin, and Angela, his boss, are one step ahead of a multinational crime gang that is bent on taking back what is theirs--at any cost. Weber's bass pitch and raspy timbre work well, and his narrative pace is smooth as the story takes the listener from the mines of Africa to the cities of Asia. He makes the most of the plot's twists and turns, which thriller lovers will appreciate. M.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This is an audiobook that grips the listener from the opening sentence and gets even better as the story progresses, all because the engaging performances of narrators Johnny Heller, Karen White, Kathleen Early, and Keith Szarabajka complement Swanson’s compelling psychological thriller. While an ensemble cast could have overwhelmed this book, these narrators enhance the story by creating distinct and memorable personas of its many psychopaths. From the moment Ted Severson and Lily Kintner meet on a transatlantic flight and begin playing a seemingly fatal game of psychological chess, the production shines. It’s hard to say which performance is best; however, Kathleen Early’s seemingly emotionless presentation of Lily's complex character stands out among the narrators’ stellar presentations. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator P.J. Ochlan portrays several characters as their stories converge in a Louisiana bayou in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. The story is excellent on its own—add a top-notch narration, and it’s something special. Ochlan nails both the accents and the personalities of the oddballs, pillheads, and rip-off artists who live in Jeannette, just another Louisiana shrimping town devastated by nature and man. He believably renders psychotic twins, a teenager, and a one-armed treasure hunter with an affinity for knock-knock jokes. Ochlan’s performance is a huge win for listeners. G.S.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Seán Barrett is one of the best narrators of Rickman's books, and he doesn't disappoint with this story of the supernatural. Reality TV descends on Knap Hall to film B-list celebrities as they’re locked in for the night, hoping for ghostly visitors. Barrett skillfully presents the mix of skeptics and believers as violence ensues and escalates to murder. Listeners will meet several favorites from other Rickman books: shaman Cindy Mars-Lewis, American Grayle Underhill (with a spot-on accent), and the always grumpy phenomenologist, Marcus Bactin. Barrett perfectly conveys the mood of foreboding, occasional humor, and quotations from actual books about ghosts. A creepy listen—whether you believe in ghosts or not. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Hold on to your sunscreen and shades—Florida's own Serge A. Storms is back, and so is his versatile narrator, Oliver Wyman. This time the likable sometimes-serial-killer (when he goes off his meds) has recast himself as a freelance paralegal—with no training other than rewatching legal classics of the big screen that were filmed in the Sunshine State. A full-cast production isn't necessary with Wyman at the helm. His portrayals of a crew of plucky senior women sound as authentic as his take on the smooth jive of gumshoe Mahoney. Whether it’s the unfocused diction of a drug addict or the speedy chatter of the highly caffeinated, Wyman is seamless in his delivery as he highlights subtle nuances in each character. Dorsey's series is known for its wacky humor, and Wyman delivers it with verve. J.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Karen Ziemba captivates listeners with her low-key portrayals of Westerners, Minnesotans, and Native Americans in the latest Ali Reynolds mystery. The ex-newscaster and her sidekick, Sister Anselm, investigate a situation in Arizona involving a young mother who has escaped with her newborn from a polygamous religious group. In Minnesota, a relative has a break-in after receiving threatening letters—but the police don’t take the elderly woman seriously. Ziemba's pace is often measured, and her tone is grave while still changing pitch and cadence. She excels at portraying the story’s many strong women, adding personality to their dialogue. Ziemba shines a light on Ali as she uses high-tech means to get to the bottom of both mysteries. S.C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The irascible detective Backstrom is in the process of trying not to kill himself. He’s under strict instructions to stop drinking, get more exercise, and vary his diet—all of which makes him irritable, a state of mind that is expertly delivered by narrator Erik Davies. The detective specializes in thumbing his nose at political correctness. His sardonic inner monologue, laced with sarcasm against women and foreigners, will have listeners laughing—maybe in shock—at his frankness. Davies uses a neutral style for the narrative and deftly portrays a diverse range of secondary characters, including Somali refugees and Swedish police. He manages capably with the Swedish names and places, adding even more authenticity to the story. M.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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With his understated Northern Irish accent, narrator Gerard Doyle is an excellent match for Neville’s series featuring Inspector Jack Lennon, of Belfast. In this fourth installment, Lennon, now disgraced and on sick leave, is contacted by an old girlfriend, Rea Carlisle. While clearing the house of her estranged uncle, Rea finds a book that documents years of murder. Her father, a politician who is worried about his reputation, tries to hush it up, but when Rea takes it to Lennon, the cat is well and truly out of the bag. With a reputation like Lennon's, it doesn't take long before the finger of suspicion begins to point in his direction. Doyle's narration is masterly, and the writing is made for him. C.A.T. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Matt Coyle’s award-winning debut novel introduces Rick Cahill, a tough-talking disgraced ex-cop, currently co-owner of a restaurant. Rick has a deep, dark secret, a dodgy past, a strong sense of morality, and a soft spot for beautiful women in trouble. Narrator Nick Podehl’s interpretation of the edgy Rick is solid. He gives Rick an irresistible smart-alecky charm, so no one will be surprised when Rick lets his instincts rule his head as he intervenes to rescue a damsel in distress. He falls hard for the gorgeous aforementioned damsel, a reporter doing an exposé, and from there our hero faces a seemingly endless series of unfortunate events, including beatings, betrayal, and murder. Podehl’s upbeat performance makes Coyle’s well-crafted Chandleresque noir a delight for the ear. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Jenny Sterlin is required to be nimble of tongue as Sherlock Holmes’s wife, Mary Russell, journeys from Oxford to Japan and back to expose a blackmailer and save the honor of Japan’s future emperor. With a variety of native Japanese and English speakers with various accents in conversation together, some voices tread close to clichés, but every one precisely fits author Laurie King’s descriptions—whether it’s the vaguely Australian-sounding crew member, the arrogant aristocratic youth, or the Japanese. The plot is intricate, with myriad details of Japanese culture, a portrait of shipboard life, and fascinating details on Oxford’s Bodleian Library. K.W. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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After spending time in India, Maisie starts out for England to be with her aging father. However, she’s not really ready to return home and impulsively leaves the ship in Gibraltar. Orlagh Cassidy offers a quieter Maisie, a Maisie suffering emotionally after a series of personal tragedies. One night in Gibraltar, she stumbles upon the body of a murder victim. Unhappy with the police inquiry, she’s drawn into the case. Cassidy’s sensitive interpretation enhances characters and details in a Gibraltar overrun with refugees fleeing the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. Cassidy makes the tension palpable as German planes bomb Guernica, while her insightful performance develops the thought-provoking ideas in Winspear’s 11th Maisie Dobbs adventure. Series fans will be delighted. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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If an audiobook disturbs your dreams, would you call it a success? Brace yourself. SHATTER is a nerve-shredding cat-and-mouse contest pitting psychologist Joe O’Loughlin against a master manipulator of psyches who persuades his victims to kill themselves just by talking to them. The story is told in alternating first-person accounts, and Sean Barrett wisely voices healer and murderer almost identically, making the point that they have much in common except that one of them uses his skills to torture and kill. When for a moment you’re not sure who is speaking, it’s thrillingly creepy. Barrett creates a wide range of wives, children, crusty cops, and panic-stricken victims with perfect control, and his pacing is propulsive. This is one you won’t forget. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Twelve short stories featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire and the regular Absaroka County cast previously released separately have now been gathered together on audio—along with one new story—fittingly delivered by George Guidall, who narrates the Longmire novels. Guidall's stellar insight into the characters and their motivations continues to grow with each new production. Every time he seems perfect he tops himself as he keys into the delicate balance of spiritual concerns, compassion, humor, and social commentary. These elements come through in each story, but especially so in "Ministerial Aid." Guidall embodies Walt's concern for his citizens, his amusement at a character’s belief that he's Jesus, and his shock at the fury rained on an abusive husband. Every story is an aural treat delectable enough to revisit. J.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In this 17th Ian Rutledge mystery, fans will enjoy an exceptional performance by Steven Crossley. Charles Todd (a mother-son writing team) takes a step back to the summer of 1914. In this series prequel, the brutalities of war haven’t yet taken their toll on Rutledge. Newly engaged to the daughter of a military family, Rutledge has picked up a complicated case—suicide or murder? But as he gets closer to a solution, he’s pressured to drop the case. In true storyteller mode, Crossley disappears into every character, offering a seemingly endless supply of accents, voices, and personalities, whether from the Scottish Highlands or the English Lowlands. As war becomes a reality, Crossley’s remarkable character development combined with Todd’s deft plotting provides fine listening, whatever the season. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Barbara Rosenblat’s elegant French enunciation and gutsy portrayal of Anne Marie Laveaud make this mystery ever more entertaining. Laveaud is a seasoned French-Algerian judge who is assigned to two high-profile investigations in 1990s Guadeloupe—the suicide of a prestigious environmentalist and the murder of a white female tourist found on the beach. When Laveaud is removed from the suicide case, she becomes suspicious. Rosenblat portrays her characters with intriguing verve, adding pizzazz to the plot’s twists and turns. As Laveaud gingerly tiptoes between damaging Guadeloupe’s tourism and getting close to identifying killer’s motives, Rosenblat reveals the strength and courage that are necessary for Laveaud to stay the course. B.J.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This is not a war story, narrator Graeme Malcolm explains in the preface to this terrific audiobook; it's a story of broken relationships. Actually, it's both: Two British airmen during WWII must pretend to be mentally ill SS officers in order to avoid capture, and then, 30 years later, the men must reevaluate their friendship. Malcolm is in that rarified group of British storytellers who seem to disappear—as if nothing stood between the listener and the story. His characterizations are subtle, and even the villains have a sinister charm. Adler-Olsen's superb audiobook (and the wonderful research that it’s built upon) will keep listeners’ headphones on all the way through the epic climax. R.W.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Catherine Webb, writing as Claire North, looks at the history of the twentieth century through the the character of Harry August. In an introspective tone, narrator Peter Kenny recounts the stories of August’s many lives, 15 to be exact, each one beginning with his birth in 1919 to the same parents. The book opens with his eleventh life, during which he learns that the world is prematurely coming to an end. So he sets out to discover answers to life’s important questions over the course of his next four lives. Kenny’s narration creates an atmosphere of intimacy with the listener. He sounds earnest without being somber and conveys August’s enthusiasm for exploring questions about the meaning of life without sounding ponderous. J.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Mosley's latest in his McGill series, narrated by Prentice Onayemi, packs all the punch fans expect from the boxing P.I. In little more than two weeks, McGill juggles three women and gains the upper hand (and some uppercuts) over three sets of bad guys. Onayemi has plenty to juggle himself: In quick succession, characters young, old, white, black, refined, and thuggish slink, stumble, or explode into the storyline. There's hardly a moment between door knocks and the ringing phone to express an emotion, yet Onayemi manages to do so and to maintain character. McGill's three cases--sandwiched between family scenes and lovemaking--never truly intersect, but individually they entertain, and collectively they further develop the featured character. K.W. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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George Guidall just gets better and better as the gruff, dependable Sheriff in the 11th Walt Longmire mystery. Johnson’s intricate plot has Walt and his undersheriff, Vic, trying to figure out what caused the death of Danny Lone Elk. Then there’s the $8-million dinosaur fossil found on Lone Elk’s property. The scientists who excavated the skull and named it Jen want it for research, and the U.S. attorney wants it for Wyoming, while the Lone Elk family want Jen for the Cheyenne Nation. Guidall’s interpretations of Longmire and the denizens of Absaroka County conjure emotions ranging from anger to warmth and from jealousy to friendship. When Walt’s daughter and granddaughter visit and bittersweet conflicts arise, Guidall is so genuine he’s almost invisible. First-rate listening. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Keith Szarabajka ferries listeners back to McCarthy-era New York City with such authenticity that they may start seeing their surroundings in black and white. This richly atmospheric crime novel is enhanced by Szarabajka's range of meticulous accents, which reflect the diversity of the period. He subtly teases out the harsh ugliness of a nation in fear and leaders who profit from it. Delivering Taylor's stellar dialogue, he projects a gritty grace befitting hardened cops and dirty politicians while never missing a beat of the deadpan humor that serves as the icing on this delectable performance. A delightful pairing of narrator and story makes NIGHT LIFE a superb audiobook. J.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In the latest Kathryn Dance mystery, the brilliant kinesics (body language) expert is up against a really sicko serial killer and an equally horrific Mexican drug cartel. Narrator January LaVoy excels in her timing, pacing, and sensitivity to the myriad subtleties in the story. She delivers children's voices of both genders extraordinarily well, and the wide array of adult characters allows ample scope for her ability to develop multiple voices for the complex dialogue. Her Hispanic thugs are especially well done. LaVoy is so good as the lead that listeners will want her to be the voice of Kathryn Dance in all future publications. M.C. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This combination of author and narrator results in a remarkable listening experience. Price’s audiobook, with its titular allusion to MOBY-DICK, uses a crime story as a framework for exploring themes of family, love, and forgiveness. The superbly written text enables Ari Fliakos to bring to life a plethora of voices with an accompanying range of emotions. Whether it’s the gut-wrenching funeral, the attempts of the protagonist’s wife to maintain a semblance of normalcy when the family is under attack, or the main character’s anguish over his father’s dementia, Fliakos meticulously delivers each voice with full, rich characterizations. It’s no surprise that he continues to win awards for his narrations. M.L.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Gerard Doyle gives a stunning narration of the fourth installment of McKinty’s Detective Sean Duffy series, which focuses on the period of the Irish Troubles. The plot—involving a suspicious murder-suicide possibly connected to arms dealers—is packed with the subtle nuances and passions of the beat-down, highly complex Royal Ulster Constabulary inspector. Simultaneously, Duffy's protégé, Alexander Lawson, possesses the unrestrained wonder and eagerness of an optimistic youth. Doyle portrays these opposites with an elegant grace that makes listeners forget he's even there. From the subtle changes in dialect to McKinty's distinct writing cadence and dark humor, Doyle hones in on the details that make this procedural a joy to listen to. J.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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From the opening bars of the upbeat musical introduction, soon overlayed by the rich, deep voice of Robert Petkoff, it’s clear this latest chapter in the Nikki Heat series is going to be fun. The sexy and savvy New York investigator must solve the murder of a man whose body falls from the sky through the glass roof of a planetarium. When wisecracking love interest Jameson Rook thinks Heat has the wrong man in her sights, their relationship, as well as hers with her squad, may be in jeopardy. The versatile Petkoff gives each character a distinct and appropriate voice. Combining his talent and this superior material makes for an easy and enjoyable listen. A.C.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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It takes a special narrator to make the powerful but gentle hero Odd Thomas work as the protagonist of an audiobook. David Aaron Baker has what it takes. Dean Koontz's unlikely hero says he's just a fry cook at a diner, but the young man with the strange name can also commune with spirits and battle evil for the lives and souls of the people of the Southwestern town of Pico Mundo. Baker quietly brings out Odd's passive personality as thoroughly as he projects the boisterous yet vulnerable Ozzie, the 400-pound mystery writer who serves as Odd's surrogate father. There’s a lot of nail-biting action in the story, which Baker handles as easily as the many quiet moments. The latest Odd Thomas audiobook is a treasure from start to finish. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Two personable people, Colin and Emily Hargreaves, encounter some serious scoundrels in the ninth mystery in the Lady Emily series. Thanks to Bianca Amato’s exceptional performance, this engaging piece of fluff takes on the necessary gravitas to keep listeners engaged. A woman posing as Estella Lamar, an eccentric heiress who hasn’t been seen in years, is murdered, and the Hargreaves are called upon to unravel a tangled web of deceit. Amato’s reading heats up when delivering each flirtatious exchange between the elegant, well-matched Hargreaves. She makes each voice unique, brings verisimilitude to each event, and is completely convincing as the search for the real Estella intensifies. Kidnapping, madness, unsavory characters, murder most foul—none of it proves too much for Amato. A fun listen. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In her sixteenth Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mystery, Deborah Crombie sets up a convoluted puzzle, and Gerard Doyle’s performance keeps listeners riveted. At St. Pancras Station, in the midst of a music concert, a white phosphorus grenade explodes, injuring many and proving fatal for the man holding the grenade. Doyle’s intensity reflects the urgency Scotland Yard Superintendent Kincaid faces as he tries to fit the confusing pieces of the attack together. DI James, meanwhile, is involved with a murder/kidnapping, while at home she deals with the couple’s children, who have rescued a cat and her four starving kittens. Doyle softens his delivery for Gemma and is convincing as the children connive to keep the cats. Crombie’s plotting is credible, fast paced, and smart, and Doyle’s narration is terrific, as always. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Julia Whelan demonstrates her award-winning narration skills once again with her heart-stopping delivery of Hoag’s newest psychological suspense. A year ago, TV reporter Dana Nolan survived being kidnapped by a serial killer. As she rebuilds her life while coping with the aftereffects of a traumatic brain injury, her anguish comes through in Whelan’s practiced voice. The complex emotions of other characters are portrayed believably as well—the grief of a mother and the anger of a disenfranchised veteran, in particular. Occasionally, a male voice seems forced, but, overall, Whelan’s timing and pacing create a superb listening experience. M.L.R. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Jayne Entwistle once again brings to life the beloved British investigative prodigy Flavia de Luce. It is 1951, and 12-year-old Flavia finds herself banished to a girls’ boarding school in Canada, where she’s almost immediately greeted by a blackened dead body falling out of a chimney. Entwistle’s appealing portrayal of Flavia emphasizes the precocious girl’s inquisitive (or perhaps nosy) intellect as she repeatedly breaks school rules to pursue clues about the corpse. Thanks to Entwistle’s refined characterizations, Flavia’s conversations with other characters, including the smooth-talking senior girl and an awe-inspiring chemistry teacher, flow seamlessly. Flavia’s sparkling humor is almost visible in Entwistle’s smiling voice, which switches to occasional melancholy as Flavia reminisces about far-away home. N.M.C. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Tanya Eby delivers in spades for fans of Gerritsen’s bestselling series featuring Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and coroner Maura Isles. Their latest adventure goes global with an African safari gone wrong that is connected to a Boston murder. Eby handles the familiar repartee between the two characters with aplomb and allows the warmth and caring they have for each other to shine through. We know the duo will apprehend the killer, but Eby makes it even more fun and holds listener interest through the last moments. Both Eby and Gerritsen are working at the top of their games. R.O. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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George K. Wilson's narration enhances Cameron’s unique mystery. Ruddy McCann, the novel's repo man, discovers the voice of a dead realtor in his head. Wilson's characterizations maintain each man's distinct sound, never losing listeners during dialogue between the two. He also performs other characters—the daft stud, Ruddy's dowdy sister, and the horny old man—with equal insight. Subtly capturing Ruddy's character and the atmosphere of his backwoods town, Wilson intensifies the story’s humor and reserves his dramatic tone for the rare action scenes. The overall outcome is pure entertainment. J.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Jayne Entwistle narrates with a perfect combination of engaged enthusiasm and subtlety as bibliophile Sophie Collingwood is led into a scandalous mystery: Did her favorite author, Jane Austen, plagiarize PRIDE AND PREJUDICE? The chapters alternate between Sophie's story in the present day and Austen's story in the late 1700s. Entwistle delivers both delightfully with her sublime English accent and ability to completely disappear from the narration. She allows both stories to unfold at a leisurely pace as Lovett's beautiful writing shines through. Even Entwistle's American accent is excellent, just enough for listeners to get the idea without being distracted. There's mystery, danger, and romance as Sophie sets out to prove Austen's innocence. Book lovers, Austen lovers, and cozy mystery lovers will find this an enchanting listen. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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An international gunrunning, money-laundering, and kidnapping criminal mastermind is on the loose, and only war-crimes investigator Harold Middleton can track him down. With his smooth vocal presence, Alfred Molina embodies Middleton’s confidence and continental charm as he leads an outstanding ensemble of 30 actors playing 80 speaking roles in this high-velocity thriller. With its hypnotic musical score and sound effects of gunshots, squealing tires, and all-too-close explosions, listeners may believe they’re listening to a movie soundtrack. And basically, they are—it’s just that the pictures might be even better because they’re being furnished by their own own imaginations. Slip on a pair of headphones to fully appreciate every detail in this carnival ride for the ears. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Whether delivering accents or portraying characters of both genders, narrator Jack Davenport is everyone all at once in Ian Caldwell’s Vatican-based thriller. Two brothers, Alex, a Greek Catholic priest, and Simon, a Roman Catholic priest-diplomat, are swept up in a maelstrom of Church politics, conspiracies, manipulation, and murder. The brothers hope to heal the schism between Eastern and Roman Catholicism, thanks to the reemergence of an ancient manuscript, the Diatessaron. However, the manuscript casts doubt upon the Church’s most holy relic, the Shroud of Turin. Davenport offers a nuanced narration whether delivering Simon’s secretive manner or Alex’s pragmatic one. He highlights Vatican intrigue, clerical infighting, and, most appealingly, tenderness and familial love. Caldwell’s uncluttered, thoughtful writing and Davenport’s performance make worthwhile listening. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Maron is not only an excellent mystery writer but also an excellent narrator. Her slight Southern drawl perfectly presents the list of suspects in this mystery. Judge Deborah Knott's Aunt Rachel is found smothered in her hospital bed. As Deborah and her husband, Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant, investigate the many folks who visited Rachel that day, Maron portrays Rachel's longtime minister, neighbors, the local doctor, and the "designated daughters" with aplomb. Dwight's ever present common sense keeps Deborah from jumping to conclusions. Maron's folksy narration adds atmosphere and warmth to this carefully plotted mystery. Intriguing characters and thought-provoking scenarios result in an outstanding production. Maron's narrating voice shines as brightly as her literary one. S.C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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It won’t take listeners long to get hooked on narrator Heather Lind’s interpretation of Kick Lannigan. Kick, now 21 years old, was kidnapped as a child and rescued from a child pornography ring five years later. Lind expertly weaves Kick’s obsession with weapons and physical fitness as well as the continual flashbacks that are part of Kick’s present-day life. Lind’s control over the characters in Kick’s circle—her publicity-seeking mother; her pretend brother, James; and even Mel, the kidnapper—is impeccable. John Bishop, Kick’s new, mysterious friend, coerces her into helping him search for two recently kidnapped children. As Lind rips through their adventures, this audiobook crackles with the duo’s fierceness to succeed. It all adds up to an engrossing beginning to this series and a daring performance by Lind. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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John Rubinstein is acclaimed for his narrations of Kellerman's psychological thrillers featuring Dr. Alex Delaware. This title is somewhat different from earlier installments, but the quality of the writing and narration hasn't changed. What first appears to be the single murder of a young woman turns out to be just the beginning. It looks like a serial killer is afoot as the bodies pile up--each found with an uneaten meal nearby. Rubinstein is quick to bring forward the author's wit and produces a string of exceptional male and female voices. The team of Kellerman and Rubinstein should never be broken up. A.L.H. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Dig out your dictionary for this chilling story of a word virus, performed flawlessly by Tavia Gilbert and Paul Michael Garcia. In 26 chapters, Gilbert and Garcia alternately narrate a journal that tells the story of technology gone awry. In emotion-laden tones Gilbert delivers Anana Johnson’s account of her search for her father, Douglas Samuel Johnson, editor of the North American Dictionary of the English Language, who has disappeared in the midst of a conspiracy to destroy language. Garcia delivers the entries of Bart, who is also on a mission to find Johnson. In a deep, steady voice, Garcia portrays Bart’s passion for Anana and life in general. Polysyllabic words, requiring dictionaries, are the norm until they’re garbled by the "word flu." This warning about dependence upon technology is performed without a hitch. M.B.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This is the first Hercule Poirot mystery approved by Agatha Christie's family since the author’s death, and narrator Julian Rhind-Tutt does a splendid job with Hannah's creation. Rhind-Tutt is a marvelous Poirot—his accent, French phrases, and confident personality are all present. But the story itself is repetitious, quite the opposite of Christie's style. Still, listeners will remain engaged because of Rhind-Tutt's abilities as a storyteller. When three people are murdered in the Bloxham Hotel, each victim found with a monogrammed cufflink in the mouth, hapless Scotland Yard Detective Catchpool accepts Poirot's guidance in solving the crime. Most enjoyable is Rhind-Tutt’s portrayal of Lucca Lazzari, the hotel manager who repeatedly proclaims the innocence of his staff in an Italian accent. The denouement is rendered Christie style as Catchpool—and listeners—hear the murderer identified. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Carter’s new suspense novel presents unusual challenges for narrator Bahni Turpin, and she rises to them expertly. The setup: A patrician African-American college girl is chosen to act as a conduit for secret negotiations between JFK and Khrushchev during the terrifying public standoff of the Cuban missile crisis. Sound far-fetched? Oh, get over it. Carter makes it plausible; Margo Jensen, though young, is quite a personage and what a great cover story: yet another pretty young thing dallying with JFK. Turpin brings it crackling to life, speaking in those still familiar 1960s voices as JFK, RFK, McGeorge Bundy, Curtis LeMay, and myriad other hawks and doves, spies, and jingoists as both sides struggle to avert or precipitate nuclear war. Delicious. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is found murdered shortly after a visit from his best friend, Osamu Nonoguchi. Police detective Kyoichiro Kaga investigates the case. As the story is told in alternating first-person narratives by Kaga and Nonoguchi, narrator Jeff Woodman expertly differentiates the two so there is never any confusion for the listener. Kaga is portrayed as calm, soft spoken, and steely. Nonoguchi is more outgoing and manipulative. Although the murderer is exposed early on, Kaga continues to hunt for a motive and explores multiple theories, including plagiarism and bullying in Japanese schools. Woodman’s narration is compelling and clear throughout this twisty puzzle. He never hesitates with the Japanese names and lends an authentic air to this “whydunit,” translated from Japanese. A.B. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Susan Duerden can do it all: create a believable Winston Churchill as he rants at the U.S. before it enters the war; mimic a cat, causing listeners to look around for a REAL cat; and replicate a woman who has multiple personalities, including an accomplished soloist and a tiny girl. This latest foray finds Maggie Hope in the Scottish Highlands during WWII. Adding to the authenticity, MacNeal includes many real-life characters such as J. Edgar Hoover and Ian Fleming, who sound just as listeners imagine they should while Maggie's mixed British-American accent—since she's a daughter of both countries—is most convincing. This series is not only highly entertaining but also includes behind-the-scenes snippets about the war that are seldom heard. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator George Guidall’s performances are always a luxury. While his voice is distinct and easily recognizable, he’s able to shape it to reflect myriad different worlds. This comes in handy in delivering David Ignatius’s spy thriller about cyber-espionage. When a scruffy Swiss kid shows up in Hamburg saying the CIA computers have been hacked, Director Graham Weber must find out how and get to the bottom of the damage. From a gay nightclub in Germany to the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland and Weber’s CIA office, Guidall provides rich atmospheric interpretations to guide listeners through a world of intrigue and deceit. He offers listeners the thumping bass of music, the universal scent of currency, even the soft cushion of sinking into a leather chair. This isn’t merely a narration— this is a luxury-listening experience. J.F. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Eliza Foss delivers a winning performance of this new thriller about an investigative reporter specializing in cold cases. Maxine Revere, an heiress from a fancy Bay Area exurb, returns home for the funeral of her schoolmate Kevin, a suicide. Soon she is waist-deep in a cold case from her own past—who killed her best friend from high school? Her first boyfriend? Her cousin William? Kevin? And while we’re at it, where is her runaway mother, and her vanished college roommate? Brennan has an overstuffed backstory to establish, and she often repeats or over-explains, but Foss is impeccable, her voice warm and engaging, her vocal technique impressive. She performs as if she’s totally in the moment with Maxine, and sweeps the listener with her. B.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In French’s new entry in the Dublin Murder Squad series, a visiting teenager is violently murdered at a girls’ school. Expert narrators Stephen Hogan, sounding emphatic, focused, authoritarian, and Lara Hutchinson, sounding acerbic and knowing, trade chapters. Investigators Stephen Moran and Antoinette Conway deftly explore the nature of teenage friendship and loyalty to uncover the killer after a simple note appears that says, “I know who killed him.” Fans of the bestselling French find able partners in bringing the world of teen angst to life as Hogan and Hutchinson use their honed voices to maintain the tension all the way to the revelation of the killer. R.O. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Where can you find an audiobook that’s gritty, sometimes witty, with ingenious plotting and crisp, honest-sounding dialogue? Look no further. Neely Tucker’s debut novel, enhanced by the capable performance of Scott Sowers, fills the bill. The daughter of a prominent Washington, D.C., judge is murdered in a black neighborhood. Three young black men are arrested, but Sully Carter, a journalist covering the District’s crime beat, believes there are connections between the girl’s murder, the death of a prostitute, and the disappearance of several other women. Sowers is terrific as Sully, a former war correspondent whose PTSD and alcoholism keep him from being trusted by his editors. Sowers delivers Tucker’s street language as convincingly as he delivers the double entendres rampant in the conversations of the pols. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Barbara Rosenblat and writer Linda Fairstein have at least one thing in common—they’re both top-notch at what they do. In the latest Alexandra Cooper mystery, bodies start turning up near New York City's Grand Central Terminal. The victims all have slashed throats and cuts on their lower extremities that resemble train tracks. Like all of Fairstein's efforts, this one is fast paced and gripping. She also gives you a vivid picture of the majestic station. Rosenblat’s narration flows smoothly, and she's best at delivering the repartee between the three investigators, Alex and her colleagues, Mike and Mercer. This listener’s only complaint—Alex's lover sounds a bit more like a beat cop than the sophisticate he's supposed to be. Still, Rosenblat is one of the few female narrators who can make a male character absolutely believable. A.L.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Simon Vance echoes the weight of Inspector Kurt Wallander’s world-weariness, disappointments, and regrets in his performance of this novella. Wallander is looking to buy a house in the country when he finds a body in the garden and a crime to solve. Vance gives side characters, such as Wallander’s live-in adult daughter, Linda, bright, upbeat voices, delineating their personalities while adding depth to Wallander’s feelings of disconnection and isolation as he explores the long and far-reaching effects of a violent act. The production concludes with an afterword in which Mankell reflects on his writing career. A serious, surprising mystery for fans of the series as well as those new to Mankell’s work. A.F. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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It's 1953 in Johannesburg, and apartheid is still new. DS Emmanuel Cooper feels compelled to help his friend, Shabalala, free his son after a false arrest. Narrator Rupert Degas captures every character and nuance to perfection. Since Cooper has a girlfriend and daughter of mixed race, he must be careful when he challenges his brutal boss. Along with the ability to create a growing sense of unease, Degas portrays characters vividly, his best being Fatty, a nightclub owner with a rough yet flirtatious voice. Cooper, a WWII vet, also hears his Scottish major's voice in his head from time to time, when he needs guidance. Listeners will eagerly await his witty advice. Together, Nunn and Degas give a realistic view of a divided South Africa. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Ralph Cosham is back for the tenth installment in Penny's beloved Three Pines mystery series, featuring Armand Gamache, chief inspector of homicide of the Süreté du Québec. Although ostensibly retired and still healing from the physical and emotional injuries incurred on his last case, Gamache agrees to help Clara, his friend and neighbor, track down her estranged husband. Slipping smoothly from French to Canadian accents, Cosham flawlessly conveys each character's distinct personality, particularly the quiet, thoughtful Gamache as he gradually becomes involved in the missing-person investigation. With pitch-perfect rhythm, Cosham pulls listeners irresistibly into the chief inspector's world of art, jealousy, and murder. The pairing of Cosham's narration with Penny's writing continues to be one of the most fortunate matches for audiobook fans. C.B.L. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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If you’ve forgotten how wonderful Fleming’s books are as books, you are in for a huge treat. Bill Nighy’s James Bond is a man who knows he can fail, a man who might not get the girl. That quality marries beautifully with Fleming’s high-octane plotting, Cold-War style. There’s a duel between Bond’s souped-up Bentley and the ghastly Sir Hugo Drax’s Mercedes, which Nighy makes hair-raising. Even better is a veddy British scene in which Bond must catch Drax cheating at cards at a London gentlemen’s club. Drax and his crypto-fascist henchmen are cartoonish, red meat to Nighy; the voice he creates for the loathsome Krebs is particularly entertaining. Most impressively, Nighy convinces you that this Bond is a real human being. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Even before the announcement that James Gandolfini would play the lead character in the movie version of THE DROP, it was clear that the character was created with him in mind. To that end, Jim Frangione performs the audiobook with a remarkable nod toward Gandolfini as Cousin Marv. It's not an imitation but enough of an echo of Gandolfini's Tony Soprano to make this book work on many levels. The writing is expert in its simplicity: The Boston-area Mob uses local bars as drop-off points for their cash, which works until there's a robbery. Marv and his well-meaning cousin, Bob, find themselves in a dangerous situation, even as Bob wrestles with his own demons. Frangione imparts a gentleness in Bob, making him the most decent person in the novel. M.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Continuing the Gideon Crew series of adventure novels, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child add another fast-paced thriller, blending real science with tension, terror, and twists. As the ailing Gideon attempts to solve an ancient mystery, he discovers a long-lost secret that threatens the world, as well as the possibility of saving his own life. While David Collins is a master of enunciation, his narration sounds slightly flat—but still compelling. His vocals for Gideon are understated, allowing the character to command respect through his words and actions rather than his tone. Similarly, Collins gives the crippled Eli Glinn a calculated menace. Collins delivers perhaps his best performance with Amy, Gideon's new assistant, whose high, enigmatic tones slowly reveal the complexity of her character. A.Z.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator January LaVoy does justice to this fourth legal thriller written by former LA Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark. Assistant Prosecutor Rachel Knight teams up with Detective Bailey Keller to investigate a Columbine-like massacre of students and teachers at a Valley high school. At first, it appears that the two masked killers committed suicide in the school library, but on further investigation, they conclude that the perps are still at large. As the team eyeballs suspect after suspect, the story twists and turns, and the plot becomes much more involved than one would expect. LaVoy is a multifaceted narrator. Her voices are clear and realistic. She’s quick and glib and gives real personalities to the two investigators. This reviewer was inspired to backtrack to the first three books in the series. A.L.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In a psychological thriller, the buildup of suspense is vital. The danger in narrating these novels is the possibility of audible spoilers: A pause or change in inflection can reveal everything too soon. On the other hand, Penelope Rawlins’s performance is a masterful example of how sound can enhance suspense. She delivers an intense but not overly dramatic portrayal of the protagonist, Rachel, that elicits listeners’ sympathy for her plight. Even when the plot goes a bit over the top, Rawlins remains convincing and commanding. However, her portrayal of the male characters is less so. Their dialogue sounds like Rawlins is focusing more on gender than on overall characterization. But given the rare presence of male characters in the story, this weakness detracts minutely from her overall performance. J.F. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Raul Esparza’s high-speed narration sets listeners up for one wild ride. With government contractors in control of a piece of dangerous biomedical research, it appears that life on earth is about to change forever. But then, black-ops alum Sam Dryden needs something to do. Esparza manipulates his cadence throughout his narration, and the effect is nothing short of game changing as a listening experience. His characters are completely believable, even little Rachel, the girl Sam must protect. There are even voices in some characters’ heads, which he clearly distinguishes from the actual dialogue. The only disappointment in this listen is that it ends. M.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listeners know exactly what to expect from a Patterson novel, and Jay Snyder delivers the goods. Snyder uses experience and timing to match his voice to the short, action-packed chapters. He accurately tracks the relentless pace of the book, deftly switching between characters with realistic accents and easy transitions between male and female voices. This new book in the Private series finds lead detective Jack Morgan investigating the kidnapping of a celebrity family while joining forces with local law enforcement to stop a murderous threat to the city of Los Angeles. Like most Patterson books, this is a great listen for commuting and travel as chapters are generally about four minutes long. M.L.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Sean Barrett brings a range of tones and emotions to another of Michael Robotham’s psychological thrillers. Marnie Logan’s life is consumed by worries and secrets as she desperately tries to care for her two children since her husband went missing. Someone has been watching Marnie and her kids, and his presence is made clear and frightening all at once. Barrett’s deliberate narration grips the listener every step of the way. The plot dives into Marnie’s past, twisting a bit before its riveting conclusion. Barrett’s pace slowly builds with the tension of the book, never missing a beat. M.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The always engaging Simon Prebble adds immeasurably to one of Robinson's best Chief Inspector Banks mysteries. Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government and the coal miners' strikes of the 1980s are the catalyst for a tragic, seemingly senseless, present-day murder. Prebble captures the diversity of British and immigrant accents and evocatively delivers Robinson's rich descriptions of people and locales. The crime reignites England's class tensions, which sometimes hinder the police as they sift through multiple clues that conflict with each other. Glimpses of the personal lives of Banks and his staff add further interest. Listeners will share the ups and downs as police and victims experience the frustration of the investigation and then exhilaration when the surprising solution finally unfolds. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Three narrators alternate as the author paints the isolated Ozark Mountains and the small-town setting of McHugh’s crime novel. With gentle Southern accents and relaxed tempos, they portray the youthfulness and naïveté of Lila and Lucy, the mother and daughter whose parallel narratives dominate the story. However, what works to illustrate character also decreases the gravity of the novel’s dark crimes: kidnapping, forced prostitution, and gruesome murders. Each of the narrators delivers a strong performance, but their voices sound similar enough to confuse a listener who is not paying strict attention. While this is an audiobook well worth a listen, a more varied sound in the narration team, possibly by including a male, would have taken the production to a higher level. J.F. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Barbara Rosenblat is the de facto voice of protagonist Anna Pigeon in this renowned suspense series—and for good reason. With 15 of the previous audiobooks to her credit, Rosenblat demonstrates once again in this eighteenth book why she’s so often chosen to narrate. The range of emotions and voices would tax many narrators, but Rosenblat handles them all, whether it’s the menace of the villain or the fearful cries of a terrified teenager. In the north woods of Minnesota, Anna fights for her life, and the lives of four friends, when they’re kidnapped by a band of thugs. Regular listeners know that Pigeon prevails in the end; how far she goes to protect her friends and the emotional and physical costs to all are the crux of the story. M.L.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Someone is selling murder on the Internet, and FBI Special Agent Carla Windermere and Minnesota State Investigator Kirk Stevens must stop him. Narrator Edoardo Ballerini rises to the challenge of portraying a varied cast of characters, starting with Windermere, Stevens, and a series of mentally unstable killers. Additional characters include Stevens's wife, a killer's girlfriend, and sundry cops and FBI agents. Whether Southern or Midwestern, white or African-American, male or female, Ballerini nails each character and captures the urgency of the manhunt. When he portrays the terrifying visions of assassin Malcolm Lind, Ballerini's voice becomes smoother to reflect the nightmare world of the killer's mind. This book is bolstered by Ballerini's outstanding performance. G.S.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Given the humor and grit he liked to mix in his suspense novels, Ross Thomas would rejoice at Johnny Heller’s versatile and often hilarious performance of this work. It is set in 1946 and features unemployed former OSS op Minor Jackson and Polscaru, a Romanian dwarf who hires him to find a young German-Jewish assassin who won’t stop killing Nazis—war or no war. The accents are huge fun: Texan, British, German, Polish, Romanian, and Russian, just for a start. Meanwhile, Heller manages to make Polscaru, a compulsive liar, double-crosser, and indefatigable ladies’ man, weirdly charming. Not to mention the wide-eyed innocence he gives to the assassin’s virginal sister who claims she learned all those esoteric sex techniques from a book. Great acting. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Gildart Jackson gives just the right unobtrusive narration to Jo Nesbø’s stand-alone novel, a richly layered look into the human heart. Nesbø, known for his Harry Hole series, introduces Sonny Loftus, a 30-ish addict who is serving time in an Oslo prison for crimes he didn’t commit in exchange for a continuous supply of heroin. Twelve years into his sentence, Sonny learns the truth about the death of his father, a disgraced policeman. Sonny cleans up his drug habit, escapes from prison, and begins hunting down those responsible for destroying his father’s life. Jackson’s artistry offers soft-voiced women and men whose personalities live in their voices. Nesbø’s thrilling journey into Oslo’s criminal underground of drugs, human trafficking, and murder is nail-biting, thanks to Jackson’s insightful performance. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Have no fear: Narrator Kirsten Potter delivers on this audiobook. Author Lisa Gardner has jam-packed this seventh in the D.D. Warren detective series with action and mystery. With a severely injured shoulder, Warren continues to investigate multiple murders. The story involves two sisters, one who is an incarcerated serial killer and, the other, a psychiatrist with a rare physical disorder; a suspected copycat killer; and a reporter with a grudge. Potter differentiates between all the female characters in the book, giving them markedly different personalities. She narrates smoothly, rapidly moving from character to character and making them all credible. A.L.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Revenge is a powerful emotion that comes to life in Fletcher’s probing audiobook. Jacob Klein seeks to avenge his brother’s death at the hands of “the Rat,” a Nazi concentration camp guard—as well as the rape of his love, Sarah Kaufman, by a Russian soldier. Both Jacob and Sarah must integrate the love they have for each other, and the future they desire, with their need for justice and closure. George Guidall delivers the delicate balance needed to bring this complex, emotional story to audio. The result is a dynamic and, at times, chilling presentation. Guidall accentuates the characters’ psyches and emotions, allowing the listener to fully appreciate the fragility of Sarah and Jacob’s romance. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The time, 1943; the place, an Italian field hospital at the front; the characters, unforgettable as performed by Susie Berneis. She narrates this story of loss and healing with passion and poise. Juliet Dufresne, a 17-year-old American nurse, searches for her missing brother, Tucker, while treating patients wounded and traumatized by war. Dr. Henry Willard, a psychiatrist, studies those hurt and battle-fatigued, particularly Christopher Branaby (who served with Tucker) as he seeks to heal them. Berneis performs this complex story with inflected tones that match the emotions of each scene. Accents range from soft Southern vowels to hard New England cadences, each perfectly matched to the character. Berneis never misses a shift in action, drawing the listener inexorably into the story. M.B.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Robert Ian Mackenzie takes author Walker's perspective of provincial France very seriously. His performance is paced so clearly with unhurried summer warmth and fertile imagery that the listener is transported to the Dordogne countryside. Mackenzie’s beautiful French pronunciations complete the picture. But before the listener becomes too lulled by local cuisine, excellent wines, the complications of new romance, and gardening and renovation plans, Police Chief Bruno becomes immersed in a plot that begins with the death of an elderly WWII Resistance fighter who is linked to a notorious train robbery. More murder and mayhem ensue, but not before a delectable meal and sip of a profound wine. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Cassandra Campbell's narration masterfully plumbs layers of local culture in Williams's story of injustice on the French island of Guadeloupe. Soft-spoken yet determined Juge d'Instruction Anne Marie Laveaud, who is from Algeria, confronts matrimonial and judicial barriers in her investigation of a murder and an improbable suicide while juggling childcare and a wandering spouse. She also worries that she may have been cursed. Campbell's ability to voice the story's social hierarchy and undercurrents of hostility and fear makes for an irresistible performance. She also handles the variety of island accents well. Williams's depiction of a tangled judicial system and colonial power struggles is delivered with clarity and beguiling atmosphere. D.P.D. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy are a great team of narrators in this lightning-paced thriller. More exciting adventures and plenty of violence are in store for trained assassins Will Robie and his partner, Jessica Reel, even though some doubt their ability to follow orders. McLarty’s performance is heartfelt and empathetic, and Cassidy’s warm, low voice takes the hard edge off of Jessica’s character. Cassidy’s use of pacing and accents adds both drama and character to the wide variety of other female characters, including North Korean Min, who is 10 years old, and her savior, Comrade Yie. Together, the narrators pull the listener into the plot’s many twists and turns. S.C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Every parent’s worst nightmare is brought chillingly to life by narrator Ron Livingston in this engaging mystery. When Jake allows his 16-year-old son, Ryan, to drive past the curfew of his learner's permit, he has no idea of the harrowing repercussions he will unleash on himself, his happy family, and their future. Livingston deftly captures the story’s many characters—parents, teachers, other adults, and Ryan's classmates. However, his best characters are sensitive, boyish Ryan and genial Doctor Dave—or, at least, that’s how he seems at first. As the terror grows, Livingston's measured approach keeps the story believable. The surprise conclusion and epilogue also contribute to the riveting listening experience. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Gerard Doyle narrates the third in McKinty's series featuring troubled RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) policeman Sean Duffy. The story is set in 1980s Northern Ireland during the height of the sectarian violence, and Doyle's Northern Irish voices will inhabit listeners' minds long after listening. Duffy, a Catholic in the Protestant police force, is now disgraced and kicked out of the force. Just when he seems destined to go off the rails completely, he’s recruited by British MI5 agents to track down an old school friend and IRA terrorist. Both writing and narration are superb in this combination of political thriller and classic locked-room mystery. C.A.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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R.C. Bray is the perfect narrator to bring Lachlan Smith's unusual legal thriller to audio. Leo Maxwell is not stupid by any stretch, but he lives in the shadow of his older brother and sister-in-law. But when his older brother is wounded and suffers a mental disability, Leo thinks it's his duty to take up the slack. His enthusiasm leads to some bad decisions and involvement with some evil people who are way smarter than he is. Bray has a youthful confidence in his voice. When he performs, he creates a whole world for the listener to sink into. And when the bullets start flying, listeners will grip their steering wheels hard, hold their breath, and pray for the hero's deliverance. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Sean Barrett excels in this fast-paced mystery. He more than keeps up with protagonist Sami Macbeth, recently released from prison and on the run. All Sami wants to do is find his sister, but he winds up caught between bad guys. The narration takes a solid plot and elevates it to another level. As Barrett portrays several levels of criminals—lowlifes, a mid-level crime boss, and a top-of-the-rung criminal overlord—he gives each a clear voice and personality, deftly using emotion, tone, and accents. He also does well with the minor characters Sami encounters. This is an example of an excellent narrator making a story even better. M.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Jonah Miller can bring people back from the dead, briefly, to say goodbye or bear witness to crimes. A routine forensic revival reveals a terrifying side to this practice, and uncovers a sinister plot to use his skill for nefarious purposes. Ari Fliakos’s performance strikes the ideal balance between total immersion in Jonah’s character and a storyteller’s gift to race along with the plot. He offers a fine Irish dialect for Jonah’s friend and colleague, and a light British tone for a major female character, both of which add atmosphere. The listener becomes immersed in Jonah’s periods of depression and loneliness, as well as his determination to stop the evil looming at death’s door. R.L.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Mozhan Marno’s calm, analytical delivery works well with Pavone’s complex mystery. An anonymous manuscript that reveals powerful secrets falls into the lap of Isabel Reed, who is desperate to rekindle her career in the ever-more-crowded publishing industry. Marno keeps her characterizations clear but minimal throughout a large cast of individuals who span nearly three decades as the manuscript wreaks havoc across lives, careers, and continents. Marno does well differentiating the three parts of the story: the events of a dark night decades ago that lead to the concealment of the manuscript, the author’s attempt to hide out in Zurich, posing as an ordinary ex-pat, and the text of the manuscript itself. The team of Marno and Pavone captivates in this mind-blowing mystery. S.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Lesser narrators might be challenged by meshing two eras and an enormous cast of characters. However, Simon Vance’s transitions are smooth, and his narration fluid despite myriad emotions and the author’s complicated plot. Vance’s accurate pronunciations make listeners comfortable in the Swedish setting, allowing easy entry into the fifth gripping mystery in Läckberg’s series. Present-day crime writer Erica Falck is puzzled when she finds a Nazi war medal in her mother’s possessions. Erica and her husband, police detective Patrik Hedström, juggle parenting a toddler and their investigations. Vance enhances the story’s comic relief, parenting struggles, and culture clashes through outstanding characterizations, all the while reflecting the building tension. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator James Langton portrays a smart, debonair, tenderhearted gentleman sleuth who uncovers evil in drawing rooms, public houses, train stations, and even royal bed chambers in Victorian London. Charles Lenox, member of Parliament, former detective, new father, and loyal friend is the consummate upper-class British detective. In a tone of privilege, Langton eloquently delivers Lenox’s encounters with blackmail, identity theft, murder, revenge, and intrigue. Langton captures the vocal essence of the ruling class as well as the colorful voices of the working class—train conductors, servants, and barmaids. Listeners will experience the ambiance of Victorian London and hear a baffling plot expertly presented. D.L.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator David de Vries handles the strangely alarming but slow beginning of this intriguing and riveting novel with skill, leading listeners deep into the Florida wilderness and trapping them there with Thorn, the series hero, and his recently discovered son, Flynn Moss. Flynn is involved with the self-styled radical environmental group Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and their planned attack on the nuclear power plant at Turkey Point. De Vries offers vibrant character portrayals, especially of Thorn and aging FBI agent Frank Sheffield, an acquaintance of Thorn’s. De Vries adds plenty of drama and suspense to Hall’s examination of some of today’s environmental challenges. Series fans and new ones will enjoy the ride. S.C.A. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Ian Rankin’s latest Rebus mystery is stuffed full of multiple plotlines, but James MacPherson’s pacing and various character voices keep the story rolling along with the listener hooked, and never confused. Rebus is once again an Edinburgh cop, thanks to a change in retirement policy, but at the cost of a demotion, which results in his former protégée, Siobhan Clarke, now outranking him. MacPherson’s tones make clear that Rebus is still cranky and mischievously wayward while Clarke, who has less of a Scots brogue, is more controlled. MacPherson’s fine performance includes gruff crooks, powerful businessmen, sleazy lawyers with stretched out syllables, and a slurring ex-police officer weakened by a stroke. A.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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David Rintoul’s smooth, warm voice and expert characterization keep the listener hooked throughout this involving and long novelistic examination of the Dreyfuss Affair. Based on a case that rocked France in the 1890s—the court-martial and solitary imprisonment of Captain Alfred Dreyfuss on false accusations of treason— the story is told from the point of view of Lieutenant Colonel Georges Picquard, who uncovered the conspiracy against Dreyfuss and led the charge to free him. Although the story is well known, Harris builds terrific suspense, and the colorfulness of his writing helps listeners visualize the past. It’s a complicated tale, which makes Rintoul’s skills invaluable—rhythm, pacing, and, above all, great voicing of individual characters keep everything clear and interesting to the end. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Cathleen McCarron’s wonderful native Scottish accent coupled with her storyteller’s delivery makes this complex mystery come to life. Her idiomatic English is fully accessible to any ear, but listeners will need to pay attention to the time transitions to keep up with the story. Where abrupt transitions can easily be handled in print, they’re a bit more difficult to keep on track in audio. McCarron uses a simple narrative voice throughout but with such verve and appropriate passion and inflection that it produces a stunning result. Her power is especially evident in strained situations like carrying on a conversation in an upper story of a demolition site, a scene in which she makes the reader feel the buffeting winds. M.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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What a ride! January LaVoy, an accomplished narrator with a beautiful, deep voice, does full justice to Coben’s suspense-filled crime story. She offers a strong, believable female protagonist in NYPD detective Kat Donovan. Her pace is good, and her diction is clear. Her New York accents are funny and always under control. Coben’s villains are the stuff of nightmares. Don't listen too late at night. Coben's heroes are complex, imperfect people. While generally sympathetic, Coben could still do some work on his LGBT nomenclature and stereotypes. His plot is carefully wrought, with a few forgivable failures. A compelling listen. F.C. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Nunn’s newest detective fiction is set in apartheid South Africa. Humphrey Bower's portrayal of Detective Sergeant Emmanual Cooper and his Native Police partner, Constable Samuel Shabalala, is compelling as they investigate the murder of the 17-year-old daughter of a Zulu chief. Their investigation trespasses dangerously across the white and Boer farming communities and her Zulu clan. As if presenting the voices of the police, a German-Jewish doctor, a feral schoolboy, condescending Brit farmers, and Zulu warriors and wives is not challenge enough for the narrator, Detective Cooper is also haunted by the voice of his Scots WWII officer. Bower’s storytelling, rife with varying dialects, keeps listeners gripped by the clashes faced by this unlikely police duo who violate professional edicts and social taboos to ferret out the truth. D.P.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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George Guidall’s narration is impeccable in this Walt Longmire novella, which flashes back to Christmas Eve 1988. A critically burned child needs a life flight from Wyoming to Denver, but a terrible snowstorm has made the trip impossible. Guidall is perfect as Longmire, the newly elected sheriff who is determined to save the girl. Guidall’s voice is especially fitting for the cantankerous retired sheriff, Lucian Connally, who decides to fly the girl and crew on a dilapidated bomber, called Steamboat, which he flew during WWII. Guidall renders Connally as an irritating, drunk, yet likable and humorous character. Guidall’s pacing brings out the intense excitement as the crew encounters one disaster after another during the harrowing and miraculous flight. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In this somber, exhilarating period adventure, narrator Barry Press helps listeners empathize with the several lead characters, from an indigent logger to a world-weary woman labor organizer and an orphaned girl and her bird. As they make their way from Seattle to Sitka to Juneau, the story takes on a Mark Twain flavor, but there’s murder, too, and union trouble in the Northwest circa 1935. Press’s voice adds to the author’s portrayals of diverse characters in situations not of their choosing who are burdened with a crime that has a life of its own. In well more than 25 years of audiobook reviewing, I have rarely encountered an audiobook as masterfully written and effectively performed as this. D.R.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrators Cassandra Campbell and Kathe Mazur stride into this eerie literary tale with aplomb. The haunting story is softly told, as though whispered, in direct contrast to the dark saga of the undead embracing the past and the perilous present. The performers' genteel vocalizations suggest a horrifying complacency as the spooky details emerge, although their voicings of grief, fear, and terror are profound. The Vermont woods, witchcraft, graveyards, and the revelations of Sara Shea's 1908 diary provide a fitting ambiance for this gripping ghost story. In present time, a child vanishes, repeating a history of mysterious deaths and dreadful returns. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Edoardo Ballerini gives an impeccable performance of Isabel Allende’s excursion into contemporary crime fiction. Teenager Amanda searches for connections among a series of hideous real-world murders with the help of her grandfather, Blake, and a group of Internet gamers playing a mystery game called Ripper. Ballerini makes individuals of each of Amanda’s fellow online players, including Esmeralda, a boy from New Zealand who’s in a wheelchair, and a boy genius who uses—of course—Sherlock Holmes as his persona. Other intriguing characters include Amanda’s divorced parents—her mother, a shamanistic healer, and her father, a homicide detective—as well as two of her mother’s suitors, wealthy, intense Alan and former Navy SEAL Ryan. As Amanda obsesses over each grisly killing, Ballerini provides first-rate listening. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Lisette Lecat reprises her well-loved role as Botswana's number one narrator as listeners are welcomed back to Gabarone and the investigations of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Setting the tempo with a distinctive accent, Lecat invites listeners to sit, perhaps with some tea, and enjoy Mma Ramotswe as she observes human nature. Two mysteries need solving—an impersonator stands to inherit a considerable farm, and a saboteur threatens to destroy a salon—and Mma Ramotswe is on her own. Mma Makutsi is on maternity leave, and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is distracted by classes for “modern husbands.” Whether its Mma Ramotswe's regular moments of self-reflection or the dialogue of so many memorable characters, Lecat excels at capturing inflection and emotion. Another charming, and addictive, performance. A.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Born in England’s West Midlands, Mark Billingham has a voice that is wonderfully authentic for the task at hand. He delivers this well-written police procedural with verve and storytelling skill. He’s good at emphasis, clear in his characterizations, and flawless in his pacing. His experience as an actor, stand-up comic, and screenwriter clearly informs his narration. As a tough, put-upon cop bucks the authorities who are busily sweeping things under the rug, the listener will find the plot extraordinarily believable. Billingham’s Tom Thorne series has received numerous accolades in the UK with less attention from American audiences. Although the eleventh in the series, this entry is a good place for listeners to become acquainted with this crime writer as author and narrator. D.R.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Nigel Anthony returns to narrate the 24th entry in Rendell’s popular Reginald Wexford series. In this installment, the ex-chief inspector finds a welcome diversion from a quiet retirement when his housekeeper discovers the body of the local vicar (a woman). Wexford is asked to consult on the case. Anthony is a master of characterization, not only varying his register and accent but also coloring the dialogue of each individual with the appropriate personality. Listeners quickly get a feel for Wexford's struggle to remember his new role as interested civilian as Anthony expertly conveys the ex-cop's difficulty in balancing his own opinions of the murder victim with his professionalism as a criminal investigator. Fans will love this glimpse of Wexford's life outside the office. C.B.L. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Flavia de Luce, irresistibly rendered once again by narrator Jayne Entwistle, is an 11-year-old wannabe detective who has a fully functional chemistry lab and a somewhat less functional family. This book, the sixth in a series, is sweet, funny, and sad. The body of Flavia’s long missing mother is returned home, and, yes, there is a murder. Entwistle’s posh accent reflects the family’s more fortunate past, and she manages to capture both the child that Flavia mostly is as well as her slowly emerging maturity. Secondary characters are not neglected; Flavia’s various relatives and friends—especially her sisters, an aunt, and the household help—are fully realized. Newcomers to the de Luce/Entwistle world may want to start with an earlier book, but starting somewhere is highly recommended. G.S.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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A full-bore performance starts off a new series of New York-oriented mysteries by an author with a successful series behind him. Narrator Peter Berkrot gives it his all, making the wonderful characters real: the cops; the apparently naïve P.I., Benji, who with his mom is carrying on his late father’s detective business; and especially the female characters, who are more complex than they seem. Berkrot’s controlled tenor voice allows him to transition smoothly from character to character. The plot? A guy with questionable parentage is on the run, and wealthy unsavory patricians are after him. It’s tough to put this one down. D.R.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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V.I. Warshawski’s latest case spans both decades and continents as the private detective attempts to track down a missing person. Instead, she finds secrets and lies that go back to Austria in the years leading up to WWII. Susan Ericksen, who has narrated several books in this series, gives V.I. a serious, level-headed tone, even as she faces off with Homeland Security and drug dealers. The many German and Austrian-born characters have just the right hesitation in their accented English, and Ericksen adeptly handles the German dialogue. Series regulars Mr. Contreras and Lotty Herschel make appearances in this 16th installment, and Ericksen takes the opportunity to soften V.I.’s tone in her interactions with her close friends. E.N. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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A bad flu bug is sweeping through Department Q—home of cold cases and lost causes. That creates an extra challenge for narrator Graeme Malcolm, who must voice Detective Carl Mørck and his staff with occasional stuffed noses. Adler-Olsen is a master at humanizing his characters, and Malcolm capitalizes on that skill, avoiding clichés, for example, when voicing Mørck’s assistants, the Syrian, Assad and the multiple-personality-afflicted Rose. Villains are also spared any stock qualities, so much so that the listener often sympathizes with them. The overall production is pristine and, like other translated mysteries, applies United Kingdom accents to differentiate characters. In general, Malcolm navigates the book convincingly, and this installment of the Department Q series excels in audio and literary talent. R.W.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In one of his best novels, Dean Koontz tells of a young man named Addison who lives underground to avoid contact with humans. As narrator MacLeod Andrews brings listeners into Addison's strange world, the character meets an equally strange young woman who paints her face in goth makeup and can't bear the touch of another person. As the hero tells it, his visage is so horrible that people immediately try to kill him. Yet Addison remains optimistic, almost angelic, in his insistence that he is to blame for how he looks. Andrews’s voice evokes an otherworldly tenderness in his portrayal of Addison and a world-weary aggression as Gwyneth. Switching from past to present allows Koontz to bring listeners in on Addison's journey to self-awareness as he becomes part of world-changing events. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Michael Boatman gives a first-rate narration in this latest installment in the Alex Cross series. A second narrator, Tom Wopat, artfully portrays the homicidal maniac who plans to destroy Alex by destroying his family. Boatman captures the tension in the plot and keeps the listener engaged with the action. His portrayal of a bereaved Alex Cross—voice trembling with despair—will have listeners spellbound. And his total command of the story is like a zip line to Alex’s hell. Though the symphony of terror isn’t over at the conclusion of the audiobook, fans of Michael Boatman will revel in his delivery of this captivating thriller. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Michael Beck's masterful narration of John Grisham's engaging novel about the validity of a handwritten will offers more than a courtroom battle. Beck expertly guides the story through myriad surprises and suspense-laden twists while affecting the drawls, twangs, and nuances of the characters’ Mississippi dialects. A disgruntled family starts a legal battle against a relative's estate. Jake Brigance, the young defense attorney from A TIME TO KILL, defends the will. A bevy of other characters from the earlier novel become involved as complex entanglements ensue. Beck nails the characters whether they’re confident, sympathetic, unsure, cocky, or even drunk. Overall, SYCAMORE ROW is exactly the compelling work one would expect from Grisham, and it’s even better with the narration of Michael Beck. M.N.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Kathleen Early incisively paces Slaughter’s eighth Will Trent novel, which pulls in characters and events from her earlier work titled BEYOND REACH. Backstory is sharply delivered through the antagonism between Trent’s lover, Dr. Sara Linton, and Macon cop Lena Adams. As Agent Trent, of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, seeks to identify hospital-linked drug dealers, he winds up in a more complex scenario with the lines between good and and evil severely twisted. Early makes the most of these chameleon-like characters. The gruff turf war between the high-ranking female cops is terrific. Only slightly disconcerting is the drug dealer whose voice at times sounds squeaky rather than vicious. Overall, Slaughter’s suspenseful plot keeps the listener as tied up as Will Trent finds himself with this case. D.P.D. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator René Auberjonois is perfection as he portrays the rip-roaring assortment of Preston and Child’s over-the-top characters. Special Agent Pendergast’s ward, Corrie Swanson, hears of a story told by Oscar Wilde to Arthur Conan Doyle about a man-eating grizzly in 1876. Sensing a great topic for her criminal justice thesis, Corrie travels to Roaring Fork, Colorado, where the killings occurred. While investigating perimortem trauma on human bones, Corrie discovers the victims were actually killed by humans—and cannibalized. Auberjonois’s cool persona is ideal for the black-suited mystery-man Pendergast. As Corrie, he’s a hard-headed 20-something who won’t be bullied. A sadistic serial arsonist, a beleaguered sheriff, wizened miners, and “old-money” interests give Auberjonois plenty of opportunities to dazzle. This highly satisfying Pendergast adventure includes an alleged long-lost Sherlock Holmes mystery. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Listeners will be captivated from the first sentence spoken by 9-year-old Starla Claudelle. It’s true that Amy Rubinate should get the credit for the narration, but it’s so perfect and seamless that the listener is only aware of Starla. In 1963 Mississippi, Starla runs away from her Mamie’s house to escape punishment and decides to search for her mother, who’s off in Nashville “getting famous.” On the road, Starla gets picked up by Eula, a black woman who has just taken an abandoned white baby from the steps of a church. Rubinate captures every emotion as Starla faces extreme danger, racism, and heartbreak during her travels with Eula. Rubinate is perfect with every voice, telling a story that paints a vivid picture of America’s past, both bad and good. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Jake Weber is an inspired choice to narrate Marisha Pessl’s dark and utterly addictive new novel. He is at home in the noir, able to treat it as if the nightmarish confusion in which protagonist Scott McGrath finds himself is utterly real to him—and to make it real to you. Weber’s pacing is impeccable, his characters distinguished so subtly that you can’t even say how you knew that was, for example, Hopper speaking, but you unfailingly do know. Pessl’s plotting is intricate and gripping as McGrath is helplessly compelled to pursue the truth about the “suicide” of Ashley Cordova, gifted daughter of a maker of cult horror films, who may be just eccentrically private, or maliciously manipulative, or actually demonic. Trust me: You’ll care. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Anyone who thinks Sweden has a monopoly on soul-shaking Scandinavian murder mysteries should cross the Øresond to Denmark and sample Adler-Olsen’s police procedurals. The characters and stories of Copenhagen’s Department Q will keep listeners up at night. The plots are cunning, and the eccentric investigators earn their clues. This is the third audiobook in the series but the first with Graeme Malcolm as narrator. His British accent matches the slangy but accessible British English translation. His voices for the central characters are distinct, and their dialogue can be hilarious. It helps to have a map of Denmark handy, but confusing place names don’t dim one’s enjoyment. F.C. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Rick Zief's raspy voice is just perfect as he portrays Miles "Mike" Kendrick, who is suffering from PTSD and is also in the Witness Protection Program. He believes he's killed his best friend—though he sees the friend everywhere he goes. The plot gets weird as Mike's psychiatrist is blown up, and Mike is stalked by a hit man. It turns out that Mike, the hit man, and two other people suffering from PTSD are searching for a drug that is a potential cure. It's a complicated story with a slew of interesting characters, and Zief makes the most of them. As the book speeds toward an ending, Zief appropriately picks up the pace. If you close your eyes and just listen, you'd think you were listening to an action movie. A.L.H. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Louise Penny's Three Pines mysteries are eminently satisfying due to their imaginative variety. The stories include scenes of Montreal sophistication and gritty crime contrasted with the idyllic setting of Three Pines. There’s also literary appeal, quirky humor, and—let’s not forget—murder. Here Ralph Cosham infuses his performance of French-Canadian Inspector Gamache with his usual warmth. Cosham ably captures Gamache's controlled musings and infinite patience, and he gives the policeman a signature style: a subtle additional syllable each time the contemplative detective begins to speak. Gamache is drawn deep into the past as he seeks safe harbor from menacing adversaries while investigating a murder in Montreal that has ties to Three Pines. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Scott Brick is such an outstanding narrator that he can draw listeners into this lightweight novel. Strong, independent FBI agent Kate O'Hare and handsome con man Nick Fox are an improbable team—but they have good chemistry. Brick's smooth, pleasing reading style gives the formulaic story humanity and suspense.The motley crew of misfits Nick assembles to go after the huge sums of money of an embezzler adds humor and interest—especially as portrayed by Brick. He also finds unique and identifiable voices for zany characters such as Kate's sister, Megan. Listeners will find the ending perfect—and a perfect setup for Kate and Nick's next adventure. S.C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This series is the inspiration for A&E's show “Longmire,” but fans know the audiobooks are much different—and better! This is thanks to narrator George Guidall's perfect character portrayals. Guidall's depiction of Walt Longmire brings the hardheaded, tough yet emotional Wyoming sheriff to life. He's also perfect as Vic, the foul-mouthed, feisty undersheriff, and best of all as Walt's deep-voiced, steadfast Native American friend, Henry Standing Bear. In this ninth book of the series, Longmire and his friends investigate a missing woman and encounter a polygamous cult involved with serious crimes, including stockpiling weapons and stealing oil. While the plot is sometimes confusing and far-fetched, the characters and Guidall's impeccable performance make the story work. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Our heroine, known only by her code name, Chandler, works for an agency so secret that only three people know it exists. Angela Dawe's mission is to hit the listener with nonstop action from the get-go. As Chandler's mission to rescue a teenager from human traffickers becomes more and more bizarre, Dawe's pace is perfect. She never lets the narrative get away from her, always remaining in control against impossible odds and never out of breath in a fight. Surely a happy outcome is impossible. The only certainty is that once listeners climb on this roller coaster, they won't get off until it stops. C.A.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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First, it looks like a single-car accident killed the drunk driver—but the driver did not drink. Then, a participant in a reality TV show is murdered. Soon, Detective Patrik Hedstrom and his colleagues find themselves in pursuit of a killer. Narrator Simon Vance is a master of his craft. Even his pauses build a sense of character or place. His voice captures the essential moods and emotions of the story’s many characters—the longing of the lovestruck, incompetent police chief; Patrik’s exhaustion as the case drags on; the sadness or aggression of the various reality show participants. This book, part of a series, emphasizes character. Vance’s abilities enhance author Camilla Läckberg’s own considerable authorial gifts. G.S.D. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Nelson DeMille offers up a short account of an American infantry lieutenant and his patrol unit in South Vietnam. The men are struggling to evade a female Viet Cong sniper who is whittling away at them, one by one, as they advance toward their rendezvous location. The depth of emotion and characterization that this thriller lacks due to concision is remedied in the audio medium. Scott Brick’s rich-voiced, gruff narration meshes perfectly with the grim war setting. His signature rhythm, which marries brisk pacing with effective pauses, captures the fear and desperation that links the men. Listeners are propelled through the vivid storytelling as it depicts the atrocities of war without overdoing it. A riveting must-listen. K.C.R. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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1941. Berlin’s warmest summer on record. Spunky British SOE agent Maggie Hope, chosen by Churchill himself, parachutes into Germany. She must deliver a radio part to a German resistance group AND bug the office of high-ranking Nazi official Clara Hess, who just happens to be her own mother. Susan Duerden slips from dispassionate narrative to completely involved characters so smoothly that listeners will be sure this is a full-cast production. Without striking a false note, Duerden integrates MacNeal’s carefully researched historical facts with Maggie’s indomitable spirit. Maggie discovers she has a German half-sister, Elise, a nurse working to expose Germany's genetic-cleansing program. Elise is also hiding “Mr. Mystery,” an injured English aviator. Duerden’s accents and attitudes make this Maggie Hope adventure top-notch listening. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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It's easy to like Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins, Walter Mosley's black P.I. who works the streets of Los Angeles in 1965. As LITTLE GREEN opens, Rawlins is recovering from a car wreck—apparently an attempted suicide. Narrator Michael Boatman makes the listener feel every ache and pain in Rawlins’s battered body—especially when Rawlins's dodgy buddy, Mouse, persuades him to take on a missing person case that can't wait. Boatman’s command of dialect and accent, especially as voodoo queen Mama Jo, is expert and memorable. His sonorous voice is smooth as butter during the narrative parts and is just what it needs to be when voicing the many different characters. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Eighty-two-year-old New Yorker Sheldon Horowitz, retired and now living in Oslo, is an unlikely hero. Narrator Sean Mangan is matchless in delivering this story, which continually shifts in time and demands diverse accents and emotional range. He’s spot-on every time! When Sheldon hears a violent fight, he steps in to help an orphaned Albanian child. As man and boy flee, Sheldon's family, the police, and criminals trail them. There are laughs, along with painful looks at war, history, and cruelty in this elegant multilayered story. Mangan inhabits the indomitable Sheldon; the tough but endearing cop, Sigrid; and various “ghosts” from the past who help guide Sheldon. This gem could easily become many listeners’ favorite audiobook of the year. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The way they turn out mass murderers, it’s a wonder there’s anyone left alive in Sweden. Lucky for us Lars Kepler is one of them. (Well two of them; it’s a husband/wife collaboration.) THE FIRE WITNESS will have you from the first mashed skull to the final excruciating confrontation between innocents and evil. It’s the kind of jet-propelled read that leads to making squirrelly excuses to get back to your earbuds. (No, really, I’m happy to wash the dishes. No, don’t help, please.) Mark Bramhall gives a faultless, taut, and sympathetic performance, and that coupled with complex but controlled and fast-paced plotting and a silky-smooth translation makes this a completely absorbing production. Bramhall’s timbre is attractively roughened, and his range of character voices is truly impressive. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Forty-three years after the Ratcliffe highway murders, London is again gripped by killings so horrific that the city is immobilized by terror. Having just published an essay glorifying the Ratcliffe murders, author Thomas De Quincey quickly finds himself at the center of the investigation. David Morrell’s mystery is written as a nineteenth-century novel, and narrator Matthew Wolf helps transport listeners back to the 1850s. He switches from character to character with ease, although he doesn’t attempt a female voice for the sole female main character. A wonderfully written book with equally wonderful narration that fits it perfectly. J.L.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Mary Russell, Mrs. Sherlock Holmes, is a feisty little thing. Fearless, inventive, speaks about eight languages, some quite obscure, and is handy with guns and knives. Now, however, she is somewhere in North Africa (Fez, it turns out) with amnesia. “Rare, I know, but it happens,” she explains as she tries to understand where she’s been and who clocked her on the head. Jenny Sterlin performs Russell’s parts of the story with as dazzling an array of skills as Russell’s. French men, English women, threatening Berbers, some with lisps, manifest apparently effortlessly. Robert Ian Mackenzie, who gives us Sherlock’s parts, is an equally gifted chameleon. The story, a fragrant stew of Moroccan atmosphere and politics, European intrigue, and the odd bit of treason, satisfies heartily. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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Grafton’s unique work has two parts: The nine Kinsey Millhone detective stories are gems of witty insight into the human condition, told in Grafton’s familiar authorial voice. The memoir part of the book reveals Kinsey’s origins and takes a sensitive but realistic look at Grafton’s life and dysfunctional family. Judy Kaye’s no-nonsense reading style uses her plethora of voice changes, heightened emotion, and precise pauses to increase the suspense and add to the drama. Kaye has a delightful alto voice and a seemingly innate storytelling ability. The affinity she has developed for Kinsey and Grafton over their 20-plus years of collaboration is palpable. Series fans will be delighted, and new fans may result. S.C.A. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This complex police procedural features a nearly burned-out cop who works in Norway’s capital city of Oslo. John Lee’s sonorous voice, with just the right blend of European highlights, is perfect for the American ear. His pacing keeps all the action front and center, so the listener never experiences any dragging in the story. He expertly delivers a wealth of voices and accents—from the British-sounding English of the Norwegians to the Balkan accent of the Croatian hit man for whom the work is titled. A surfeit of characters—male, female, kids, junkies, and sundry people of various nationalities—gives Lee full range for his vocal mastery. M.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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John le Carré has always been an author who provides a brilliant listening experience when he reads his own work. We hear him here at 81, subjecting himself to the rigors of an unabridged reading of his newest novel. He's very much up to the task, and delivers the many nuances of A DELICATE TRUTH, which explores the moral challenges and questionable compromises of "the global war on terror." Like all of le Carré's work—supposedly fictional—it reads with prickling reality. This "truth" takes on the international intelligence world of defense contractors, arms dealers, government cover-ups, and the treachery of espionage. Two time lines and a hefty weight of bread-crumb clues demand careful listening. Despite le Carré's aged voice, the subtlety of his accents and his signature attention to details through pacing make this excellent listening. The author's passion and anger about the subject are unleashed in the text, yet finely controlled in his performance. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Richard Ferrone's gravelly narration speeds listeners through the latest Lucas Davenport thriller. In a slight departure from the usual "Prey" books, the villains are identified early on—catching them is another matter. Murder, mayhem, pornography, blackmail, and politics in the form of a U.S. Senate campaign add to the action. There's a bonus also: Another of Sanford's popular protagonists, Virgil Flowers, shows up in this title. Ferrone's characters are spot-on, especially when he’s portraying the two ex-military types who are the candidate’s bodyguards. As narrator, Ferrone keeps the plot moving and the listener riveted right up to the point of Sanford's less-than-satisfying ending. A.L.H. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Katherine Kellgren uses a British accent for most of Kaaberbøl and Friis’s second novel featuring Danish Red Cross nurse Nina Borg. Kellgren’s narration is outstanding, with bright energy, sharp intonation, and the ability to move easily between a variety of ethnic accents. The multiple subplots involve a group of ailing and impoverished Romani hiding in a Copenhagen garage, the travails of a senile Danish gentleman and his gardener wife, an “artifact” found by Gypsy boys in an abandoned Russian military hospital in northern Hungary, and a Danish intelligence agent following leads to a possible terrorist attack on Danish soil. The most compelling subplot involves a half-Romani Hungarian law student who is accused of conspiring with Muslim terrorists. As all these subplots converge, Kellgren ramps up her vocal talents for a climax that puts Nina Borg and her daughter in peril. S.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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To say this is a thriller doesn’t do it justice. Scott Brick deftly handles the frenetic pace as Jake Fisher’s life is turned upside down. When the love of his life abruptly marries another man and asks Jake to leave them alone, he obliges. That lasts six years—until he attends the funeral of her murdered husband. Brick is outstanding in the sarcastic and desperate tones he gives to Fisher, who is unable to trust anyone or anything that has happened since he made his promise. Each chapter of Coben’s delicious take on the power of love brings new conflicts as the proverbial rug is pulled out from under Jake—and what he thought was his life. Once again, the Coben/Brick collaboration deserves kudos. S.C. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Agent Will Robie is a master of killing, and David Baldacci’s thriller is an excellent match for audio. Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy prove a formidable team in ramping up the tension as Robie, a highly skilled hit man, pursues Jessica Reel, a fellow agent and assassin who appears to have gone rogue. Robie quickly finds that there’s more to Reel’s apparent betrayal than meets the eye, including a significant global threat. McLarty does the lion’s share of the narration, finding unique voices for Robie and the various agents, while Cassidy smoothly and clearly portrays the various women involved. The use of two narrators helps provide tension and a theatrical atmosphere. Great narration skills and plotting will grip listeners. S.C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Danish authors Kaaberbøl and Friis are best known for their hugely successful young adult fantasy novels. This is the first book in a mystery trilogy featuring Red Cross nurse Nina Borg. Narrator Katherine Kellgren expertly depicts Danish and Lithuanian doctors, nurses, prostitutes, parents, and children as Nina tries to reunite the boy she finds in a suitcase with his mother. Kellgren increases the intensity of her delivery as Nina realizes no one is what he or she seems and makes her voice more bold as Nina slowly discovers what she's dealing with. The tense story is expertly enhanced by this dazzling audio presentation. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2013 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2011, Portland, Maine

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Listeners are richly entertained and enlightened on whatever fascinating subject Greenwood chooses as the springboard for each of her mysteries. Narrator Stephanie Daniel is outstanding, as usual, in delivering the story’s varied cast. The intriguing Phryne Fisher is Daniel’s standout character. When a junior reporter goes missing while investigating the disappearance of several poor pregnant girls, Phryne springs into action. She soon learns that the girls were housed by nuns and worked in their laundry. Phryne; her maid-companion, Dot; and her adopted children assist with the investigation. Daniel deftly creates realistic children and makes Dot the perfect contrast to the almost overpowering Phryne. An afterword reveals Greenwood's sources, further illuminating the sad story. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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Mark Bramhall follows his success with Kepler's THE HYPNOTIST to envelop listeners in another thriller featuring detective Joona Linna. Linna, listeners quickly learn, has a resolute will and uncanny intuition about crimes and criminals. The vicious world of international arms trafficking is entwined with other crimes to challenge nearly every police agency in Sweden. Bramhall is maestro of the musical cadences of endless Swedish proper names and locations. The unfamiliar words, definite tongue-twisting challenges, are rendered perfectly, or at least perfectly believably to American ears. Bramhall orchestrates the highs and lows of both inflection and emotion, as well as tenderness and terror. He carefully sorts dozens of characters with simple vocal and emotional color, including the teams of police officers. The challenges of this narration are all met—brilliantly. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2013 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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