E-/audiobooks: Fiction

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 November, 2014, 11:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 November, 2014, 11:15pm

by Alexander McCall Smith
(read by Georgina Terry)

Emma is the latest instalment of a venture that asks contemporary authors to update Jane Austen. To be honest, the choice of modernisers - Joanna Trollope, Val McDermid and now Alexander McCall Smith - has hardly been ground-breaking. How much more fun would Stephen King, E.L. James and Milan Kundera have been? But I digress. McCall Smith is a safe pair of hands for one of Austen's less safe works. Emma Woodhouse is a heroine who, Austen believed, only her creator would like - the blushful scene where mistaken love for Frank Churchill pushes her to mock the garrulous Miss Bates is one of the most embarrassing in literature. McCall Smith's idea of modernity is largely technological: Emma's father has made a mint by inventing a gizmo. Her relationship with the shy Harriet Smith hints at bisexuality, but ducks the issue in favour of conventions that Austen herself would recognise. Smith is not helped by Georgina Terry's halting, rather stilted rendition.


The Burning Room
by Michael Connelly
(read by Titus Welliver)

Michael Connelly's recurring anti-hero, Harry Bosch, has ensured his place in the modern pantheon of hard-boiled cops. Terse, angry but capable of compassion, he has investigated everything from his daughter's kidnapping to the Los Angeles riots. A recent television pilot suggests he may be ready for the big time. Bosch's screen actor was the impressive Titus Welliver, who has been drafted in to read this 17th adventure. Bosch, who is on the verge of retirement, is investigating one of 10,000 unsolved cases in Los Angeles. His latest victim, Orlando Merced, was a mariachi musician when he was shot 10 years before but has only just died after a decade in a coma. Helped by a new partner, the young, Mexican and female Lucía Soto, Bosch finds himself embroiled as ever in an investigation mixing violence and political intrigue: the murdered man was sleeping with the wife of an influential political donor. The real fun is listening to the friction between Bosch's old-school, Chandler-esque methods and Soto's hi-tech 21st-century police work.


Foxglove Summer
by Ben Aaronovitch
(read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith)

Ben Aaronovitch's recurring hero, PC Peter Grant, is now on his fifth adventure in the "Rivers of London" series. Grant is no ordinary detective: he can see dead people, or at least spooks and supernatural beings of all sorts. Recruited into a little-known branch of the police that deals with such paranormal activities, he has dealt with London's riverside deities and a strange case of possession. In Foxglove Summer, Aaronovitch tries his hand at the "fish out of water" genre, throwing Grant at the English countryside. In the town of Leominster, several children have gone missing. While the local force suspect old-fashioned foul play, Grant senses the hand of the netherworld. The absence of Peter's usual gang - the wizard Nightingale, Lesley May - actually makes this a pleasant introduction for the uninitiated. There are good jokes about race, sex and the town-country divide, but the main subject matter creates a darker mood than before. This is caught by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith's breathy reading, which takes getting used to but works well after a while.