Audio Reviews | December 15, 2005

By LJ Staff

Fiction | Nonfiction


Anderson, Kevin J. Scattered Suns. 17 CDs. unabridged. 20 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2005. ISBN 1-59737-208-0 [ISBN 978-1-59737-208-4]. $127.25. f

A number of factors bog down this fourth installment in Anderson’s epic "Seven Suns" space saga (e.g., Forest of Stars), which continues the conflicts and alliances among the different civilizations in the Spiral Arm – Ildiran, hydrogue, Verdani, faero, Klikiss, Wental, and varying factions of humans. The story arcs feel a bit lifeless, while retreading characters and their motivations – and the sheer number of them (literally dozens) – will befuddle listeners new to the series. Also, a change in publisher brings a new narrator; Amber Jewelry, Tea Sets, Sleeping Bags, Wholesale Tea Sets while David Colacci provides a rather generic, if serviceable, reading, his can’t compare with George Guidall’s for Recorded Books. Each track averages only about 45 seconds in length; having 99 per disc is positively annoying. Only for libraries where demand is extraordinary.Douglas C. Lord, Connecticut State Lib., Hartford

Block, Lawrence. All the Flowers Are Dying. 8 CDs. unabridged. 10 hrs. Sound Library: BBC Audiobooks America. 2005. ISBN 0-7927-3514-5. $74.95; 6 cassettes. ISBN 0-7927-3513-7. $54.95; 1 MP3-CD. ISBN 0-7927-3515-3. $29.95. f

In this 16th Matthew Scudder mystery, Matthew and his wife are targeted by a crazed but brilliant psychologist – turned – ­serial killer, a character Matthew foiled in Block’s previous novel, Hope To Die. After leaving New York, the psychologist traveled across the United States committing a series of murders. This work opens with him setting up a complete stranger to take the blame for the torture and murder of three boys; the psychologist then befriends the accused man, eventually witnessing his execution in a Virginia prison. Afterward, he returns to New York to settle his score with Matthew. During the tale, the 65-year-old Matthew muses about his life, mortality, and the many people he knew who have died. Block’s book is well paced and holds the listener’s attention. Alan Sklar, who also read the author’s In the Midst of Death, does a wonderful job. Recommended for all collections.Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ. Parkersburg Lib.

Cullin, Mitch. A Slight Trick of the Mind. 6 CDs. unabridged. 7¼ hrs. HighBridge Audio. 2005. ISBN 1-56511-950-9. $29.95. f

Cullin takes an unusual approach to Sherlock Holmes by creating a character study of the elderly detective instead of having him solve a traditional mystery. A Slight Trick of the Mind alternates between three narratives: the 93-year-old Holmes in retirement, keeping bees at his cottage on the Sussex coast; a visit to Japan shortly after World War II; and flashbacks to a case of a missing wife years earlier. The author smoothly ties the three strands together to present Holmes’s regret over his underdeveloped emotional nature. A death for which Holmes bears some responsibility results in the cold, distant old man seeking forgiveness. The sections depicting the detective in his prime and the sojourn to Japan are full of colorful period detail. Cullin’s moving story of the necessity and pain of love is brilliantly handled by Simon Jones, who creates a wonderfully evocative, gruff voice for Holmes. Recommended for all collections.Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr.

Hoffman, Jilliane. Last Witness. 9 CDs. unabridged. 11 hrs. Penguin Audio. 2005. ISBN 0-14-305720-0. $39.95. f

All of Hoffman’s intriguing characters return in this sequel to Retribution. When the listener last encountered reluctant heroine and Florida state prosecutor C.J. Townsend, she had won her latest case, sending William Bantling to death row. William, charged as a serial killer, was innocent of his accused crimes, though he had brutally raped C.J. more than a dozen years earlier. Through some subtle legal maneuvering, C.J. managed to conceal a key piece of evidence and send William away for his prior sins. In Last Witness, someone knows C.J.’s secret and is systematically and symbolically killing everyone who knew about the suppressed evidence. In a swiftly moving tale, the author reveals more of her characters’ strengths, foibles, and personalities. Actress Kathe Mazur’s performance is nuanced and does great justice to Hoffman’s text; the audio production itself is very well done and moves along smoothly. Definitely recommended; suited for all public library mystery collections.Nicole A. Cooke, Montclair State Univ. Lib., NJ

Kaminsky, Stuart M. Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express. 6 cassettes. unabridged. 8½ hrs. Recorded Bks. 2005. ISBN 1-4025-3874-X. $59.75. f

If you want to know the problems facing Russia, skip the political treatises and get a hold of an Inspector Rostnikov mystery. Kaminsky frames his police procedurals around the often dangerous, always chaotic world of a nation struggling with democratic reform. Rostnikov is an honest cop in a country where honesty is a commodity to be bought and sold, and in his solid, stoic fashion, he tackles some incredibly intricate cases. This 14th Rostnikov tale is set aboard the storied, 6000-mile-long Trans-Siberian Express. The inspector is looking for a courier who may be trying to purchase a top-secret document written during the reign of Czar Nicholas II. Rostnikov’s fellow cops – Emil Karpo, Elena Timofeyeva, and Rostnikov’s son, Iosef, among them – have their own cases to solve. Keeping everything together is George Guidall, whose world-weary voice perfectly fits the bleak, morose mood of Rostnikov’s Russia. Recommended for all audio collections.Joseph L. Carlson, Allan Hancock Coll., Lompoc, CA

McMillan, Terry. The Interruption of Everything. 10 CDs. unabridged. 12 hrs. Penguin Audio. 2005. ISBN 0-14-280027-9. $39.95. f

Marilyn Grimes, a quintessential McMillan woman – loyal and honest friend, devoted wife and mother, dutiful daughter/daughter-in-law, upfront sister – is faced with a series of midlife crises. The author touches all bases, from menopause and recovering addictions to male midlife challenges and early Alzheimer’s disease. As Marilyn questions her own career options, she must also juggle an extended family’s struggles and life changes. Although the dialog doesn’t always ring true in Desiree Taylor’s delivery of some interactions, her portrayal of the heroine is genuinely felt with wit and wisdom. The ending may be forced, but adult women listeners will identify well enough to forgive the author’s resolutions. Recommended for large fiction collections.Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY

Michaels, Fern. Texas Rich. 16 cassettes. unabridged. 24 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2005. ISBN 1-59737-483-0 [ISBN 978-1-59737-483-5]. $112.25. f

In this rags-to-riches tale, the United States has entered World War II, and high school senior Billie Ames meets a young flyer temporarily stationed at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Shortly after graduating, Billie finds herself pregnant, married, and moving to her wealthy in-laws’ home in Austin, TX, while her husband is off to war. By the end of the tale, the listener has met Billie’s husband, children, and grandchildren and watched her change from naïve, love-struck teenager to strong, courageous family matriarch. Laural Merlington’s evenly paced delivery and Northern and Southern accents sound natural and are appropriately suited to each character. Her wide variety of voices enables her to distinguish among multiple male and female as well as young and old characters. To assist with continuity, the final sentence on each side is repeated at the beginning of the next side. There is no background noise or tape hiss. Pricey but highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.Laurie Selwyn, Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX

Shelton, Sandi Kahn. What Comes After Crazy. 9 CDs. unabridged. 12 hrs. Listen & Live Audio. 2005. ISBN 1-59316-047-X. $34.95. f

Narrated by Fran Tunno, What Comes After Crazy is an offhanded, bland, far-fetched debut. Maz Lombard is a single woman with two daughters, a demanding mother, and a deadbeat ex-husband. She leads an incredibly crazy life, always searching for normalcy. Maz spent her Southern childhood traveling from town to town with her eccentric mother, Madame Lucille, "Fortune Teller to the Stars." Maz’s soon-to-be-ex-husband Lenny left abruptly for Santa Fe after his very public affair with a nursery-school teacher. A year later, Maz decides to date Dan, a handsome, normal physician. Meanwhile, Lenny has decided to move back home. Maz eventually realizes that to keep her family sound, she must get her own life in order. Shelton’s plot is weak, with characters who are energetic, quirky, and bizarre. Not a necessary purchase.Carol Stern, Glen Cove P.L., NY

Spiegelman, Peter. Death’s Little Helpers. 12 CDs. unabridged. 14 hrs. Sound Library: BBC Audiobooks America. 2005. ISBN 0-7927-3693-1. $110.95; 9 cassettes. ISBN 0-7927-3692-3. $79.95. f

In this second John March novel, celebrity stock-market analyst Gregory Danes is missing. His ex-wife Nina Sachs, who left Gregory for a lesbian lover, hires P.I. John to find him. Gregory has many enemies, including his investors, his ex-girlfriend, a sleazy hedge-fund manager, and the legal counsel at his investment firm. During his investigation, John is beaten and his girlfriend and nephews threatened. After much wordy description of offices, apartments, and scenery, John discovers Gregory’s body and confronts his unlikely killer. Nick Sullivan gives a fine performance, using many voices and accents. Featuring strong language and graphic violence, this is recommended for the adult mystery section of public libraries. An abridged version of the book might be more interesting.Ilka Gordon, Park Synagogue Lib., Cleveland

Tracy, P.J. Dead Run. 7 cassettes. unabridged. 10 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2005. ISBN 1-59600-129-1 [ISBN 978-1-59600-129-9]. $82.25. f

In Tracy’s newest mystery, Monkeewrench members Grace McBride and Annie Belinsky, joined by Deputy Sharon Mueller, are taking a road trip to Green Bay, WI, when their car breaks down. After a walk in the woods they find themselves in the small and what appears to be very empty town of Four Corners, MN. Finding out what happened to the inhabitants and why two people are shot dead in the street by men in military garb will have Annie, Grace, and Sharon running and fighting for their lives. When they fail to arrive in Green Bay, Roadrunner, Harley Davidson (also members of the gang), and police detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth begin a frantic search for the missing women. But missing friends and deserted towns are not the only problems our protagonists face. Something big is happening, and the FBI is right in the middle of it and standing in our heroes’ way. Experienced reader Buck Schirner returns, adding his distinctive voice to this gripping story that will keep you driving around the block or running an extra mile just to hear what happens next.Tim Daniels, Georgia State Univ. Lib., Atlanta


Eichenwald, Kurt. Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story. 20 cassettes. unabridged. 30½ hrs. Books on Tape. 2005. ISBN 1-4159-1581-4. $95.20; 25 CDs. ISBN 1-4159-1666-7. $119.20. crime

Enron was once a corporation revered by its stockholders, but suddenly in 2001 this Fortune 100 company was bankrupt, laying off thousands of workers, costing investors thousands of dollars, and toppling major accounting firm Arthur Andersen. How did this business that appeared to be thriving suddenly crash and burn? According to Eichenwald, a financial reporter for the New York Times who followed the collapse of Enron and the indictments of Ken Lay; CEO Jeffrey Skilling, the man who replaced Lay; CFO Andrew Fastow; and other Enron executives, the destruction of Enron was years in the making. Conspiracy of Fools starts with Lay’s arrival and the corporate climb of Skilling and Fastow. Eichenwald tells the story in great detail, relying on court papers, interviews, government documents, and other resources. Robertson Dean does a fine job as reader and makes one want to continue listening. A long but satisfying book that will find a home in all libraries; it will be especially welcome in strong business collections.Danna Bell-Russel, Library of Congress

Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. 7 CDs. unabridged. 8 hrs. Time Warner Audiobks. 2005. ISBN 1-58621-719-4. $39.98; 5 cassettes. ISBN 1-58621-761-5. $29.98. psych

Gladwell (Tipping Point) discusses how some decision-makers make successful and sometimes unsuccessful snap judgments without a lot of information. Using a large variety of examples, including marriage studies, malpractice insurance studies, test-taking results, and police shooting investigations, he explores the decision-making process. The book is broken down into three sections: the strategies involved in making conscious, well-researched decisions and those involved in unconscious, quick decisions; a discussion of how these quick decisions can be unconsciously skewed by prejudices, stereotyping, or personality traits; and using police training examples to illustrate how it is possible to consciously train yourself to make better snap judgments. A solid addition to any public or university library psychology collection.Beth Traylor, Univ. of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Libs.

Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang. Introduction to Buddhism: An Explanation of the Buddhist Way of Life. 4 CDs. unabridged. 4½ hrs. Tharpa Pubns., 47 Sweeney Rd., Glen Spey, NY12737. 2005. ISBN 0-948006-95-1. $24.95. rel

Introduction to Buddhism offers a clear and comprehensive overview of Buddhist history, theory, practice, and lifestyle. Gyatso, who was born in Tibet, has been a resident of the United States since 1977 and is a renowned master teacher of Buddhism. His goal is to establish large centers dedicated to world peace in countries around the globe. To that end, he has traveled extensively, exploring what it means to live up to our finer natures as humans. Divided into sections, this work details who Buddha was, what it means to have past and present lives, why and how to meditate, and more. Using simple yet lovely language, Gyatso leads the listener to an understanding of the essential principles of the Buddhist way of life. Over 2500 years after Buddha’s death, Gyatso proves the argument that this religious leader’s message is still relevant. The overall quality of the recording is excellent, with minimal distracting sound effects. Read by Michael Sington, this book is recommended for public libraries with large religion collections.Pam Kingsbury, Univ. of NorthAlabama, Florence

Santana, Deborah. Space Between the Stars: My Journey to an Open Heart. 7 cassettes. unabridged. 9½ hrs. Books on Tape. 2005. ISBN 1-4159-1587-3. $81; 11 CDs. ISBN 1-4159-1672-1. $99. autobiog

Santana writes a candid account of her life, starting with what it was like to grow up in San Francisco during the 1960s as the daughter of a black father – legendary blues guitarist Saunders King – and a white mother. Seemingly destined for a life intertwined with musicians, her first serious relationship was with Sly Stone (from Sly and the Family Stone fame). Their time together was both tumultuous and destructive, marked by drugs, an abortion, and physical abuse. Reluctant to become involved with yet another musician, she initially resisted Carlos Santana’s advances. Ultimately, it was their spiritual connection and the search for truth that bound them together. Against the backdrop of Woodstock, the Civil Rights Movement, and Eastern meditation, Santana’s memoir, read by Carrington Macduffie, is both honest and moving; she dispels the fantasies that often accompany rock stars, fame, money, and gurus. This is a gem, a true gift from an amazing woman: flawed at times, misled, but ultimately triumphant. Highly recommended for public libraries.Gloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll., Kansas City, MO