Reviews: e-books and audiobooks: Philip Kerr, H. P. Lovecraft, Wesley Chu
Philip Kerr is one of crime fiction's most elegant literary talents. His long-running series featuring Bernie Gunther is one of the most intriguing around. Gunther began life as a pretty decent policeman in the Bohemian mood of Weimar Republic Berlin before being coerced into becoming an investigator for the Nazis. An exquisite "Berlin Noir" trilogy extended into a 10-part series of high if variable quality. Set in 1942, The Lady From Zagreb largely takes place in Zurich where Gunther has been sent by his evil boss, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. His quarry is Dalia Dresner, a young and seductive actress whose (unconsummated) conquests include an obsessed Goebbels and before long a doting but dangerous Gunther. He must persuade her to appear in one of his master's propaganda pieces, fully aware that she will have to lie on the most unpleasant of casting couches. The story stretches from Switzerland to the then Yugoslavia, from American spies to double-dealing actresses.
The Lady From Zagreb by Philip Kerr (read by Jeff Harding) Whole Story (audiobook)
Naxos has taken two of horror master H.P. Lovecraft's shorter works and paired them for a brief but spooky encounter. Written in 1931, the novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth is narrated by a student who ends up in Innsmouth. A "queer" abandoned port in New England, it has a dark mythological past: sub-oceanic monsters who have their wicked way with local residents. Before long he's being chased by the half-human-half-monster children of this union. The reason becomes clear in a final twist. Also written in 1931, The Whisperer in Darkness is shorter, but no less effective. Professor Albert Wilmarth leads an exploration to prove the existence of monsters, who are rumoured to live in Vermont's hills. He and his party end up in the sort of sticky situation that would launch a thousand redneck exploitation movies in the 1970s. William Roberts' reading is high on melodrama, but lends real atmosphere to the overwrought slithers of gothic.
The Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft (read by W. Roberts) Naxos Audiobooks (audiobook)
The Rebirths of Tao is the final part of Wesley Chu's science-fiction trilogy, which offers a novel combination of apocalypse, spirituality and dystopia. Our unlikely hero is Roen Tan - an IT technician whose mind was overtaken by an alien called Tao who had been caught in a war between Quasings. On one side are the kindly, peace-loving Prophus, on the other the bellicose Genjix. Having survived The Lives of Tao and The Deaths of Tao, Roen has made it all the way through to the finale and must help a defecting Genjix scientist end the cosmic civil strife once and for all. The smart twist is that, thanks to Roen's wife, Jill, both sides are now faced with a mutual enemy: the humans who play hosts to the strange beings. Michael Naramore reads the different points of view well enough - from the Roens to the aliens to Roen's teenage son, Cameron. His slightly Mr Spockesque narration actually does Chu a favour, making the stranger parts of his fictional universe sound convincing enough. It is pretty mad stuff, but told with verve and a nice line in humour.
The Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu (read by Michael Naramore) Audible Studios (audiobook)