Reviews: e-book and audiobook fiction -Jeffery Deaver, Ruth Rendell, Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris' name will be forever associated with True Blood, Alan Ball's wonderful adaptation of her Sookie Stackhouse vampire stories. Finally laid to rest in 2013, Stackhouse has been superseded by two new series: Cemetery Girl and the Midnight Texas Trilogy, of which Day Shift is part two. Her new hero is Manfred Bernardo, an exotic name for an exotic if erratic job. Bernardo is a psychic. In this sophomore instalment, one of Manfred's more accurate predictions lands him in hot water. Now established in the odd community of Midnight, Texas (which includes vampires, witches, and supernatural ministers), he meets with a rich, elderly client, who promptly dies inviting the world's media to the tiny town. Susan Bennett might seem an odd choice of narrator for such seemingly male and dark material. Her fluting tones sound a little peculiar reading this tale of murder and devilry. But she handles the constant shift of perspective well and is suited to the many lighter moments.
Day Shift by Charlaine Harris (read by Susan Bennett) Orion Publishing Group (audiobook)
Like Charlaine Harris, Jeffrey Deaver is a man of many series. Lincoln Rhyme is probably his best-known protagonist, but James Bond may have something to say about that. Solitude Creek stars a Deaver heroine, body language expert Kathryn Dance. She first appeared in the smart Lincoln Rhyme thriller, The Cold Moon. Now promoted to leading lady, Special Agent Dance has taken on a Charles Manson impersonator, a troubled teen with Columbine fantasies and a murderous stalker. In Solitude Creek, Dance begins by fighting her superiors at the California Bureau of Investigation, who have suspended her for a botched interrogation. Relegated to checking a local roadhouse after a near riot, she begins to suspect that the accidental deaths may not have been accidental. January LaVoy reads well, navigating the intricate world of CBI politics before the drama starts. Her male voices sometime sound forced, but you get used to it.
Solitude Creek by Jeffery Deaver (read by January LaVoy) Hodder and Stoughton (audiobook)
Ruth Rendell's death earlier this month at the age of 85 ended one of the great crime-writing careers. A published author for more than 50 years, she won every award going and saw her work regularly adapted on film and television. Many of these starred her long-running hero, Inspector Reginald Wexford - but there were fine versions of her devilish alter ego, Barbara Vine. The final novel she released during her life, The Girl Next Door bids a suitable adieu. A standalone, its premise is nastily poignant. Builders working in a run-down part of Essex make a strange discovery: a battered biscuit tin. It contains two severed hands, one male and one female, that we learn has been buried in the ground for almost 75 years. The find reunites a group of men and women, now in their 70s, who played in the area as children. The former gang bond through memory and, movingly, by sharing the trials and losses of old age. This, rather than the slow-release mystery plot, is what lingers, especially in the light of Rendell's death.
The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell (Hutchinson) (e-book)