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Audio Buzz, Past
Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

May 2007

reviewed by Jonathan Lowe

If you want to see what it's like for an award winning literary novelist to cross over into the mystery genre, give CHRISTINE FALLS a listen. Author Benjamin Black is actually Englishman John Banville, whose 2005 novel "The Sea" won the Man Booker Prize. Banville, here writing under a pseudonym, has conjured up a Dublin pathologist named Garret Quirke, who follows Christine's corpse into Catholic high society, where a conspiracy lurks. The novel floats atop an ocean of psychological tension, and is replete with the same finely detailed observations that eddied through "The Sea." One can only speculate why the genre change for Banville, but even without former James Bond actor Timothy Dalton at the helm as narrator, there would still be enough authority and believability here to propel any lifeboat to shore. Suffice it to say that the pacing, tone and accent are unerringly on track under Dalton's careful guidance, since, being the most serious of Bond actors, Dalton is, after all, a classical trained Shakespearean actor who also appeared in "Wuthering Heights" and "The Lion in Winter." As for the novel itself, it is conventional in structure and yet as quirky as real life--or the name of its protagonist. Combine great writing with strong narration, and this production emerges like a pearl of originality surfacing from an abyss of murky banality, revealing a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. (Audio Renaissance--9 1/2 hours unabridged) Amazon

Next, and more traditional in development and convention, is another mystery set within the Catholic church: GOD'S SPY by Juan Gomez- Jurado. Here, a serial killer has been targeting cardinals and priests. When some of them turn up not only dead but tortured, a police inspector gets help from an American priest and former Army intelligence officer who is examining sexual abuse within the church. Not without irony, the two men are led to suspect someone within the Vatican is protecting the killer. Narrated by the wonderful Kate Reading, whose accolades are legion, the novel moves with compelling purpose from the lives of its principal characters-- which come to life in Reading's sympathetic rendering--into that shadowy world behind the lofty hallowed walls of Rome. An international bestseller, the novel will appeal to murder mystery fans of all types. (Penguin Audio--10 1/2 hours unabridged) Amazon

Finally, if, as a publisher, you're going to pick a narrator for your next major biography, you could hardly choose better than actor Edward Herrmann. Here is a narrator whose gentle authority and gift of disappearing behind the fluidity of a timeline entrance the listener to the same degree that a Grover Gardner or a Will Patton enliven a regional fictional tale by the sheer bravura of precisely realized dialog, or by the understated charm of a carefully lilting exposition. Given the subject of Walter Isaacson's new biography-- even though his last was "Benjamin Franklin"--you also need Herrmann's steady, unpretentious tutelage to guide your listeners into the secrets revealed in EINSTEIN: HIS LIFE AND UNIVERSE. After all, this subject was not merely Man of the Year, or even Man of the Decade, but was awarded Man of the Century by Time Magazine, due largely to two astonishing papers that forever changed our concepts of time, energy, motion, and gravity. A rare genius, able not only to visualize complex mathematical relationships in his mind, but to express them as easily understood thought problems, Einstein is here revealed, perhaps for the first time, as a complete person, both scientifically and personally, through both his public and personal life. This is partly thanks to new personal letters and papers released in 2006. What comes to light is a man without political ambitions, who hoped for world government as an end to nationalism. A gentle, kindly and unassuming man with a sense of humor, who prized imagination over intellect. A rebel who believed God was bigger than anyone imagined, yet who also believed the ultimate answers were symmetrical, elegant, simple, and just out of reach. One of America's first true celebrities, Einstein lived in an age when modesty was still respected, and vanity was considered a weakness. He transcended it all with a surprising humility, and so will be remembered throughout the ages as a man for all ages. An icon worth listening to. (Simon & Schuster Audio or Recorded Books--21 1/2 hours unabridged) Amazon

2007 Past Columns


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