Audiobook fiction from Andrews, Dallas, Evanovich, Haddam; Economics from Munk | Xpress Reviews

Week ending April 18, 2014

Andrews, Mary Kay. Christmas Bliss. (Weezie & Bebe, Bk. 3). 6 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 7½ hrs. Macmillan Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781427232953. $29.99; Playaway digital; digital download. F
In Andrews’s (Savannah Breeze) novella, best friends Weezie and Bebe are in very different places, one a bride-to-be and the other a new mother. Weather, pets, family, friends, and legal issues cause bumps in the road for each, but despite these glitches, true love triumphs. While the story includes a few too many details and complications, it remains a believable portrayal of the sorts of obstacles listeners themselves encounter from time to time. Kathleen McInerny provides a fine performance of two contemporary Southern women.
Verdict While Andrews’s fans will enjoy reconnecting with favorite characters, the funny and heartwarming tale stands well alone and will attract new listeners with interests in women’s fiction and the South.—Janet Martin, Southern Pines P.L., NC

Black, Benjamin. Holy Orders. (Quirke, Bk. 6). 8 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 9½ hrs. Macmillan Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781427231673. $39.99; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Newspaper reporter Jimmy Minor is found dead in a Dublin canal, beaten and horribly mutilated. Who would have wanted him dead? Was it because of something in his personal life or connected to a story he was working on? It’s up to medical examiner Quirke and Inspector Hackett to solve the case. Black (Vengeance), a pseudonym for John Banville, fails to create the gripping thriller for which he was aiming. He attempts to develop his characters but only succeeds in bogging listeners down with pointless details. Narrator John Keating tries his best to give the story life and emotion, but he’s defeated by the frequently shifting points of view.
Verdict Not recommended; fans of mysteries and thrillers would be disappointed.—Jessi Brown, Huntington City Twp. P.L., IN

Dallas, Sandra. Fallen Women. 10 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 11 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781470370749. $123.75; 1 MP3-CD. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Warmly recalling childhood visits there with her socially prominent aunt and uncle, New York philanthropist Beret Osmundsen journeys to Denver in the spring of 1885 to attempt to learn who murdered her estranged sister, Lillie. Initially confident that mission work in her own city’s disreputable environs qualifies her to plumb Denver’s depths and assist in resolving the crime, Beret confronts further quandaries: When and why had Lillie joined a brothel? Does Beret herself bear any responsibility for Lillie’s death? Nicely exploiting the contradictions between Gilded Age opulence and depravity, Dallas (The Quilt Walk) melds history, mystery, and hints of romance.
Verdict Expertly voicing a spectrum of players from plummy socialites to denizens of the Tenderloin district, narrator Barbara Caruso reinforces the wide appeal of this satisfying story. Book groups will relish opportunities to discuss social issues and character motivation.—Linda Sappenfield, Round Rock P.L., TX

Evanovich, Janet. Takedown Twenty. (Stephanie Plum, Bk. 20). 5 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 6 hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780385368786. $32; 5 CDs. retail. ed. Random Audio; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Assisted by her equally wacky family, two sizzling hot love interests, and her hamster, Stephanie Plum is, as always, showing the world exactly how not to be a bounty hunter. Mobster Salvatore “Uncle Sunny” Sunucchi is on the lam, and it’s up to Stephanie to find him. Plus, security specialist Ranger asks her to help to investigate the death of one of Stephanie’s grandmother’s bingo buddies.
Verdict Unfortunately, this once-excellent and deservedly best-selling humorous crime series is showing its age. The unresolved love triangle is getting tiresome, the incidental characters ever more eccentric, and the plots…. Even the author’s superb tongue-in-cheek writing can’t save this retread. Lorelei King has voiced several previous Evanovich books and delivers her usual outstanding performance. Recommended for Stephanie Plum fans.—I. Pour-El, Des Moines Area Community Coll., Boone, IA

Haddam, Jane. Hearts of Sand. (Gregor Demarkian, Bk. 28). 9 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 9½ hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2013. ISBN 9781624061264. $59.99; 1 MP3-CD. retail ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Chapin Waring was a young woman with a privileged future, a debutante from a prominent family in old-money Alwych, CT. That changed when a video recording captured Chapin and a school chum robbing a bank. The friend was killed in an auto accident and Chapin disappeared, but the $250,000 they stole was never recovered. Now, 30 years later, Chapin has been found murdered in her childhood home. The hapless local police are baffled and turn to the estimable Gregor Demarkian, a retired FBI agent, to consult on the case. The mysteries are presented in a smart and entertaining style, making this a solid if not exceptional entry in the Demarkian series (after Blood in the Water). Narrator David Colacci does a creditable job propelling the story forward.
Verdict Recommended for mystery collections and Haddam fans.—Cynthia Jensen, Gladys Harrington Lib., Plano, TX

starred review starMunk, Nina. The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest To End Poverty. 7 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 8 hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780307944016. $40; 7 CDs. retail ed. Random Audio; digital download. ECON
idealist041814Jeffrey Sachs is a brilliant economist. Educated at Harvard and a tenured faculty member at Columbia University, he described his bold proposal to apply macroeconomic principles to communities in the developing world in his best-selling book The End of Poverty. In 2006, he convinced funders, including billionaire George Soros, to commit $120 million to the five-year Millennium Villages Project (MVP) in sub-Saharan Africa. Munk (The Art of Clairtone) documented the work of the MVP’s managers and the inhabitants at two sites, Ruhiita in Uganda and Dertu in Kenya. She interviewed international development personnel from the United States, Britain, and Europe whose agencies have invested in sub-Saharan Africa for decades. Imposing First World technology and market economy on rural communities met with a few successes and many failures. Providing farmers with fertilizer and high-yield corn led to a crop that outstripped the storage capacity of the local granary. The transportation infrastructure was inadequate to get the crop to market. The people in that region do not traditionally eat corn and did not have a way to preserve it. The excess bounty was devoured by rats.
Verdict This is a sobering and cautionary tale about Western arrogance and goodwill gone awry. Narrator Susan Nezami reads authoritatively and clearly. Recommended for all collections.—Nann Blaine Hilyard, Zion-Benton P.L., IL