LJ Best Books 2016

A jury of our peers discussed, debated, disagreed, and finally declared LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles. VISIT THE WEBSITE

Audiobooks by Gardner, Hall, Law, Parker, and Perry | Xpress Review

Week ending March 10, 2017

Gardner, Lisa. Three Truths and a Lie: A Detective D.D. Warren Story. 2 CDs. 1:42 hrs. Brilliance Audio. Feb. 2017. ISBN 9781511368896. $14.99. digital download. MYS
Detective D.D. Warren faces an unusual problem in this short story. She is teaching a class on crime detection to a group of thriller writers—a new venture for her. Worried about what to share with her audience, she recounts a case involving a prosperous businessman wanting to amputate his leg. Suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a mental disorder that causes a person to be preoccupied with an imagined physical defect, he is found dead in a seedy motel bathroom with his severed leg sitting in a bucket of dry ice. A terrified prostitute admits to procuring OxyContin for him and helping to amputate the leg but not to the murder. After the man called 911, she had left, but something went wrong, causing him to bleed to death. Despite the inventive crime details, Gardner (The 7th Month) fails to create much suspense. While Warren methodically points out how the detective process works in a murder case, the compelling immediacy of the longer stories is missing. Kirsten Potter’s clear-voiced narration effectively captures D.D. Warren’s no-nonsense persona.
Verdict This book will appeal mostly to Gardner’s fans seeking a quick fix as they await her next full-length book.—Nancy R. Ives, SUNY Geneseo

Hall, Parnell. A Puzzle To Be Named Later. (Puzzle Lady Mysteries, Bk. 18). 6 CDs. 6:30 hrs. Dreamscape Media. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781520068695. $59.99. digital download. MYS
puzzletobenamedlater031017In this 18th installment of Hall’s best-selling “Puzzle Lady” series, noted puzzle creator Cora Felton once again solves the crimes if not the actual puzzles. This time there are two murders in her small hometown of Bakerhaven, CT, seemingly precipitated by the arrival of injured Yankees rookie baseball star Matt Greystone and his beautiful wife. Hall’s gift for misdirection along with Cora’s gifts for gab and sifting through small-town gossip make for a fun listen. In addition to other “Puzzle Lady” mysteries, the prolific Hall also writes a humorous detective fiction series featuring Stanley Hastings. Narrator Nan McNamara’s radio and television experience adeptly engages listeners in the puzzles and the general hilarity.
Verdict Fun and true to series form, enjoyment for series listeners. [“Cora again dispenses her signature wit and humor along with solving the crime”: LJ 12/16 review of the Minotaur: St. Martin’s hc.]—Sandra C. Clariday, Cleveland, TN

Law, Janice. Afternoons in Paris. 6 CDs. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781520052205.
Law, Janice. Moon Over Tangier. 5 CDs. Dec. 2016. ISBN 9781520051727.
ea. vol: 6.30 hrs. Dreamscape Media. $59.99. digital download. MYS
In Moon, the third installment in the Francis Bacon series of mysteries (following the Lambda-winning Prisoner of the Riviera), the gay painter is off to a vibrant expat community in post–World War II Morocco. Summoned by David, his alcoholic and sometimes abusive on-again, off-again lover, Francis finds himself enlisted by the local police to help catch an art forger. His involvement becomes personal when he witnesses another crime, resulting in complications with both the British embassy and the Soviets and placing him in serious danger. Law has based her protagonist on real-life painter Bacon (1909–92); listeners will find plenty of art-related tidbits in the midst of this deliberately paced mystery. Narrator Paul Andsell handles the variety of accents with aplomb, giving Francis a languorous insouciance that aptly fits his character.
The fifth installment in the Francis Bacon mystery series, Afternoon, picks up where Nights in Berlin leaves off, with a young Francis learning the tools of the designer’s trade and sampling the many delights of late 1920s Paris. After a chance encounter makes him an enemy of dangerous Russian expats, he becomes involved with a postmodern theater troupe and a Russian émigré’s search for her missing brother. The reappearance of Uncle Lastings—last seen abandoning Francis to an uncertain fate in Berlin—in the guise of a French art dealer serves only to complicate matters further. Series narrator Paul Ansdell turns in another exemplary performance, bringing the Paris of les années folles to vibrant life.
Verdict Tangier could appeal to readers looking for a different flavor of historical mystery or a sexually liberated sleuth in the vein of Miss Fisher. Law is almost as concerned in Paris with Francis’s burgeoning artistic sensibility as she is with the mysterious spy game in which he is embroiled. The focus on atmosphere over plot movement, as well as his complicated relationship with his lecherous uncle, may leave some readers cold.—Anna Mickelsen, Springfield City Lib., MA

Parker, Samuel. Purgatory Road. 6 CDs. 7:30 hrs. Oasis Audio. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781613758748. $19.99. F
While vacationing in Las Vegas, Peter and Laura, a Chicago couple in a crumbling marriage, decide to take a break from the hectic pace of the strip and go on a long drive through the Mojave Desert. Along the way, their car breaks down, and they are stranded in the wilderness. Eventually rescued by a desert nomad who seems very reluctant to let them leave his remote dwelling, they encounter the victim of a brutal crime, who is another guest of the nomad, and a demented, obsessed killer. What ensues is a dreadfully overwritten sort of Pilgrim’s Progress allegory in which the forces of good and evil battle, sometimes supernaturally, for Peter’s redemption. Narrator Dean Gallagher does a persuasive job enlivening the mixed bag of characters, using effective, if stereotypical, accents (think: Gabby Hayes as the nomad).
Verdict There is an interesting (if not terribly original) idea behind this tale, but the excessively purple prose throughout is downright obnoxious. Not recommended. [“Will grip suspense aficionados from the first page. Fans of Irene Hannon and Dee Henderson who are looking for something a bit grittier will find plenty of it here”: LJ 2/1/17 review of the Baker pb.]—Forrest Link, Coll. of New Jersey Lib., Ewing

Perry, Thomas. The Old Man. 22 CDs. 11:15 hrs. HighBridge Audio. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781681683873. $39.99. digital download. F
Dan Chase seems to be an ordinary retiree and is devoted to his two dogs and his daughter and grandchildren. However, his past as a covert operative in army intelligence, stationed in Libya, when he made a decision that botched an assignment, has found him. And now his life is on the line. Reawakening his professional skills and instincts, Chase turns the tables, and the hunted becomes the hunter. Narrator Peter Berkot gives a strong performance in this exciting tale of espionage, credibly affecting different voices for various characters. His inflection is suitably expressive and confident throughout.
Verdict Public libraries should strongly consider. [“Perry plays his plot with virtuosic deftness, thrilling readers to the core”: LJ 11/1/16 review of the Grove hc.]—Michael T. Fein, Central Virginia Community Coll. Lib, Lynchburg

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