E-books/audiobooks review: fiction
by Harlan Coben
In this tale of romantic obsession, college professor Jake Fisher has fixated over the break-up of his whirlwind affair with an artist called Natalie six years ago. The couple had met, fallen in love instantly, vowed to get together - only for Natalie to make a sudden u-turn and return to an old flame, leaving Jake bereft. Harlan Coben has made a lucrative career from dismantling premises like this page by page, adding insights that may or may not stand further scrutiny. Learning that Natalie's husband has died suddenly - and weirdly - Jake tries to make contact, in part to rekindle lost passion, but also to find out why they aren't celebrating their own six-year anniversary. Only the woman Jake sees at the funeral isn't the belle of his ball. And Natalie's sister seems even more confused by his enquiries. Has Jake dreamed the whole thing up? Or are there more plots within plots than the average cemetery? Coben is a rather better thriller writer than romantic novelist: Six Years is gripping if not always convincing. Still, the end is worth the effort.
A Delicate Truth
by John Le Carré
(read by Le Carré)
It is 50 years since John Le Carré published The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, an extraordinary novel of cold war realpolitik driven by a plot with more twists than a high diver. A Delicate Truth deserves to stand alongside his best work - and more importantly has an audiobook read by Le Carré himself. His austere but sensitively cut-glass tones suit the elegant, detailed concision of his prose like a tailor-made suit: "Like much else in the room, the bathrobe, too short for his long legs, reeked of stale cigarette smoke and lavender air freshener." Set in part on Gibraltar, the classic Le Carré plot to arrest a terrorist is derailed - or possibly not - by counter-plots. For Toby Bell, private secretary to the British foreign minister, untangling fact from fiction boils down to a moral decision where doing the right thing becomes a matter of national security. Le Carré struggles slightly with some of the dialogue - he is not at his strongest, for example, when rendering the enigmatic Emily Probyn. But these are quibbles about a really fine, enjoyable novel.
by David Baldacci
(read by Ron McLarty, Orlagh Cassidy)
The Hit is part two of a new series by David Baldacci, the master of the conspiracy thriller and sentences that sound silly after a macho fashion but for some reason aren't: "Feeling energised by the death that was about to happen, Doug Jacobs adjusted his headset and brightened his computer screen." Jacobs' contact will later ask if he is "cocked and locked?" which makes that opening sound like Shakespeare. Will Robie is an assassin who kills bad guys for supposedly good governments: here, he is asked to take out Jessica Reel, a former colleague (read: killer). By "take out", I don't mean dinner and dancing. Reel has killed the wrong dictator. The government suspects she is a double agent and sends Robie after her. As ever in Baldacci, not everything is as it seems. Ron McLarty brings a surprisingly light tone to his narration, which robs Robie of some musculature but makes the story trip by. Orlagh Cassidy's breathier reading injects some mystery and urgency into Reel. The emotional punch of the end is surprisingly effective.