Audio Reviews: Fiction, December 2011

Adams, Richard. The Plague Dogs. 13 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 15¬Ω hrs. Blackstone Audio. 2011. ISBN 9781441789259. $109; 1 MP3-CD. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Adams’s third novel, published in 1977, is a rewarding but long and difficult listen. Two tortured dogs, Snitter and Rowf, manage to escape from Animal Research, Scientific and Experimental (ARSE), and cause mayhem throughout England’s Lake District, surviving in the rugged and hostile yet human-controlled environment. The work is excellently read by Ralph Cosham, who adds several British local dialects‚ some difficult to understand‚ to his interpretations of human and animal characters. Overall, this is a witty tale of adventure and longing that suffers somewhat from viscerally brutal descriptions of torture and the lingering effects of vivisection (brain surgery). Along with showing disdain for animal research, Adams also heaps scorn on British politics, governmental obstructionism, bureaucracy, the tabloid press, and at least some British women. Strange poetry and animal songs also show up. Recommended with reservations; strictly for adults!‚ Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH

Atwood, Margaret. Cat’s Eye. 13 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 16¬Ω hrs. Books on Tape. 2011. ISBN 9780307939951. $60; digital download. Random Audio. SF
Returning to her childhood home for an art show, Elaine Risley finds herself confronting old, painful memories and current identity issues. Told retrospectively, the book examines Risley’s life and relationships as she tries to understand herself. Atwood again creates a multilayered tale that will keep the listener’s attention. Narrator Kimberly Farr provides an excellent reading in a distinct accent-free voice. The consistent volume and lack of background noise make this an enjoyable listening experience. A solid choice for Atwood fans and those interested in sf and fantasy titles.‚ Laurie Selwyn, formerly with Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX

Diffenbaugh, Vanessa. The Language of Flowers. 9 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 11 hrs. Books on Tape. 2011. ISBN 9780307878953. $40; 9 CDs. retail ed. Random Audio; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Victoria Jones, a product of California’s foster -care system, overcomes her psychological and social woes through the language of flowers used by lovers in the 19th century and her own love of flowers. She confronts a dark secret in her past and resolves her issues with the help of friends and acquired family. Unfortunately, Diffenbaugh’s protagonist borders on sociopathic‚ antisocial, violent, and unschooled. The cure she experiences is somewhat implausible given the seriousness of her problems, and the happy outcome is predictable but not very probable. Well read by Tara Sands, this audiobook still might appeal to fiction readers. [LJ‘s reviewer enjoyed the book far more, calling it a solid and well-written debut in a starred review of the New York Times best-selling Ballantine hc, LJ 6/15/11.‚ Ed.]‚ Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence

Feldman, Ellen. Next to Love. 9 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 11¬Ω hrs. Books on Tape. 2011. ISBN 9780307967251. $40; digital download. Random Audio. F
This novel looks at the impact of war on those left behind, specifically the women who must deal with many types of losses during the postwar aftermath. Although very different from one another, the three main characters are lifelong friends who support one another during and after World War II. Two lose their husbands in the fighting, and the third must deal with a physically and emotionally damaged veteran. Feldman portrays the 20 years following the war and the concomitant social changes realistically and sympathetically, despite covering a lot of time in a short span. The audio is professionally and unobtrusively read by Abby Craden. This well-written story will appeal to fans of historical and women’s fiction. [Feldman’s (Scottsboro) scathing prose intensifies the daily routines of these families and makes readers fearful and worried along with them, read the starred review, LJ 5/15/11.‚ Ed.]‚ Mary Knapp, Madison P.L., WI

Griffin, W.E.B. & William E. Butterworth IV. Victory and Honor. 8 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 10 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2011. ISBN 9781461808930. $123.75; 1 MP3-CD. library ed.; 8 CDs. retail ed. Penguin Audio; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Part of Griffin’s Honor Bound series of World War II espionage, this title focuses on the end of the war in Germany and the political and military backstage operations of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The central character is the heroic Cletus Frade, who has been a major player in smuggling Germans into Argentina. The novel offers history lessons on the multilayered issues the end of a conflict brings‚ the revelation and safety of secret German spies who helped the Allies, the actions of Nazis seeking refuge and wealth in the postwar chaos, the rise of Joseph Stalin and the shift in Russian alliances, and the continued existence of the OSS and America’s need for its kinds of services. The program is well read by Scott Brick, a familiar Honor Bound series voice. Highly recommended for historical fiction collections.‚ Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo

Hubbard, L. Ron. The Phantom Patrol. 2 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 2 hrs. Galaxy Audio. 2011. ISBN 9781592122776. $9.95; digital download. F
This full-cast production (with most of the actors pulling double or triple duty) of Hubbard’s pulp thriller follows the briny exploits of Johnny Trescott, a fearless, nail-tough U.S Coast Guard CPO and skipper of Patrol Boat 1004. While in pursuit of notorious drug smuggler Georges Coquelin, Johnny receives an SOS when the plane containing money-bags businessman James Ferguson and his knockout assistant, Alicia Reynolds, ditches at sea. Johnny forgoes the chase knowing that Ferguson would fetch a steep ransom and that the smugglers will surely try to reach the plane first. Johnny makes the rescue, but Georges and his baddies get the drop on him and take Johnny, his crew, and the rescued flyers hostage. Having the 1004 and Coast Guard uniforms at his disposal, Georges begins raiding and looting ships, leaving the captive Johnny and his sailors to take the blame and face hanging. But Johnny, his mate Heinie Swartz, and the alluring Alicia decide to escape‚ even if it means death! This is a rip-roaring, old-fashioned adventure like the kind they don’t make any more. A blast for Hubbard fans and pulp fiction lovers.‚ Mike Rogers, Library Journal

Lippman, Laura. The Most Dangerous Thing. 9 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 10¾ hrs. AudioGO. 2011. ISBN 9780062097859. $52.75; 9 CDs. retail ed. Harper Audio; digital download. MYS
Lippman, the New York Times best-selling author and creator of the Tess Monaghan PI series, here offers a novel about five childhood buddies. As teens, they spend time together exploring the woods near their Baltimore homes until a disturbing experience during a hurricane destroys their friendship and has a long-lasting effect on their lives and those of their families. They kept their experience secret and have not had contact with one another for many years until Gordon, the youngest and wildest of the group, dies. The former friends reunite to learn what really happened that day. Televison, film, and stage actress Linda Emond provides an excellent narration, accurately capturing each character’s personality. Recommended for all mystery collections.‚ Ilka Gordon, Siegal Coll. of Judaic Studies Lib., Cleveland

Pelecanos, George. The Cut. 6 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 7¬Ω hrs. Hachette Audio from AudioGO. 2011. ISBN 9781611136104. $29.98; 1 MP3-CD. library ed.; 8 CDs. retail ed. Hachette Audio; Playaway digital; digital download. F
When valuable things are stolen, investigator Spero Lucas is the one to find them. Tired of his modest job working for a Washington, DC, defense attorney, he accepts a proposal from a drug lord. A 40 percent commission may be profitable, but it moves him into the shady side, where ensuing double-dealing produces violence and a growing body count. Audie Award‚ winning actor Dion Graham infuses life into a large cast of characters that include Washington professionals, street punks, and Spero’s ex-military buddies, but keeping track of everyone in this short novel becomes a challenge. Fast moving and hard edged, this first episode in a new series is not for everyone, but those who appreciate contemporary urban thrillers can expect a fine listen. [The Reagan Arthur hc, published in August, was a New York Times best seller.‚ Ed.]‚ Janet Martin, Southern Pines P.L., NC

Porter, Sarah. Lost Voices. 8 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 9 hrs. Blackstone Audio. 2011. ISBN 9781455116881. $38; 1 MP3-CD. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. FANTASY
This first installment in a trilogy by debut author Porter tells the story of 14-year-old Luce, who after a horrific event transforms into a mermaid and finds an unusual home with a tribe of other mermaids. This, however, is not the Disney version of a mermaid’s tale. It paints a darker picture of these alluring creatures, where young women become sea nymphs after suffering unspeakable tragedies and then lure humans to their death with their haunting voices. Luce discovers that she now has strength, beauty, and an extraordinary voice but, despite her horrible past, dislikes using her newfound talents for harm. Julia Wheelan successfully narrates an entire cast of characters, from the strong Queen Catarina to the self-absorbed Anaise. This audiobook will appeal to older teens and Twilight fans looking for a change from vampires and werewolves.‚ Theresa Horn, St. Joseph Cty. P.L., South Bend, IN

Thomas, Donald. Sherlock Holmes and the King’s Evil: And Other New Tales Featuring the World’s Greatest Detective. 8 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 9¬Ω hrs. AudioGO. 2011. ISBN 9780792778110. $79.95; digital download. MYS
The cottage publishing market for books extending Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes and Watson characters continues with Thomas’s King’s Evil. This series of five novellas offers a concentrated mixture of mystery, history, detailed descriptions, and atmosphere reminiscent of Doyle’s original tales. Narrated by John Telfer, the audio production is basic, with little distinction among characters‚ the narrator is more of a reader of the text than a performer here. Though it probably won’t satisfy Holmesian purists, Thomas’s work, along with those from other post-Doyle Holmes authors such as Daniel D. Victor and Edward B. Hanna, may interest people who love the characters. Readers fond of Laurie King and other such writers also might like Thomas’s take on these iconic figures.‚ Nicole A. Cooke, Montclair State Univ. Lib., NJ

White, Kate. The Sixes. 10 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 12¾ hrs. Dreamscape Audio. 2011. ISBN 9781611201093. $59.99; Playaway digital; digital download. Harper Audio. F
Beleaguered best-selling nonfiction author Phoebe Hall accepts a temporary position as a visiting English instructor at a small Pennsylvania college and promptly finds herself involved with a serial killer, a mean-girl secret society, and a romantic liaison. Despite Jennifer Cohn’s somewhat bland if adequate and nicely paced reading, White’s (Lethally Blond) crisp, action-packed writing holds the listener’s attention. Cohn’s female voices are easily identifiable, but her delivery could be stronger with increased use of the emotive voice and a clearer distinction among the male voices. This title will be of interest to White’s fans and those into psychological thrillers. Released simultaneously with the Harper: HarerCollins print edition.‚ Laurie Selwyn, formerly Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX

Young, Moira. Blood Red Road. 9 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 11 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2011. ISBN 9781461806271. $97.95;
2 MP3-CDs. library ed.; 9 CDs. retail ed. S. & S. Audio; Playaway digital; digital download. F

Young’s coming-of-age, young adult action/romance first novel is set in post apocalyptic times. When her father is murdered and her twin brother is kidnapped, sheltered 18-year-old Saba is suddenly thrown into a violent world inhabited by brutal people, giant wormlike monsters, female warriors, superstition, and a vicious king. The text is written in ungrammatical English that can be very hard on the ear, especially when reader Heather Lind annoyingly barks, I says, she says, he says, after each character’s dialog. Recommended for Mad Max and Hunger Games fans who do not mind listening to fractured English. This text might be easier to read than to hear.‚ Ilka Gordon, Siegal Coll. of Judaic Studies Lib., Cleveland

Michael Rogers About Michael Rogers

Michael Rogers ( is Media Editor, Library Journal and Managing Editor of LJ Reviews.