Reviews - e-books and audiobooks: Karen Joy Fowler, Kyle Mills and Phoef Sutton
Mills continues Robert Ludlum's Covert-One series, Fowler's back catalogue being mined after her 2014 hit We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and Sutton's Crush is a fun listen
by Karen Joy Fowler (read by Liza Ross)
Whole Story Audiobooks
Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was my favourite of 2014. Its critical and commercial success (victory in the Pen/Faulkner, shortlisted for the Man Booker) has awoken interest in her back catalogue. Sister Noon was first published in 2001, but is before us again thanks to this new audiobook. Set in the 19th century, the novel plays fast and loose with fact and fiction, from the off: "Words were invented so that lies could be told" appears even before the first chapter. We are in a newly prosperous San Francisco, and follow Lizzie Hayes, the sort of novel-devouring spinster that Jane Austen might have created. Working at an orphanage, she is asked by a local celebrity named Mrs Mary Ellen Pleasant to take in a young girl, Jenny Ijub. The story weaves all manner of patterns, reversing through time and characters in pleasant confusion. Liza Ross' quiet authority, spiced with knowing wit, suits Fowler down to the ground. Wonderful.
Robert Ludlum's The Patriot Attack
by Kyle Mills
Orion Publishing Group (audiobook)
There will come a time when more books will have been written by a posthumous Robert Ludlum than by the actual Robert Ludlum. Eric Van Lustbader has cornered the market on Jason Bourne, leaving it to Kyle Mills to continue the butch sounding "Covert-One" thrillers. The titular "Covert-One" is a team of crack US super-agents whose specialities are chemical and biological weapons. Led by Colonel Dr Jon Smith the team are sent to investigate the Fukushima nuclear reactor. These are trying times. Tensions between Japan and China are at an all-time high. Stoking the geopolitical blaze is Masao Takahashi, Japan's military commander who seems hell-bent on war. Is he behind the disappearance of Dr Smith, who goes Awol? The CIA send Randi Russell, whose nudge-nudge name makes her sound like a Bond girl, to find him. The audiobook has some moody music, before Jeff Woodman narrates with a voice that sounds a little too calm given the earthquakes and impending apocalypse.
by Phoef Sutton (read by Peter Berkrot)
Tantor Audio (audiobook)
Phoef Sutton has quite a track record in crime fiction. Crush, the latest of his prodigious output, is set in Los Angeles, and whirls rapidly around Caleb "Crush" Rush. This crumpled nickname gives a good impression of this nightclub bouncer's modus operandi: if you mess with him, Sutton tells us, "you'd better either have a gun or a passel of gangbanger chums all jumping him at once". In a plot that owes something to the frothy high jinks of Raymond Chandler, Crush becomes involved with 18-year-old Amelia Trask, whose dodgy billionaire father he had once helped out. While Amelia's foes include the Russian mafia, the joy of hearing the story owes more to the eccentric characters (oddball magicians, DJ assassins), bizarre scenarios, and vivid locations. Stir in some smart one-liners, and the debt to Elmore Leonard is clear: "Her hair was blonde, this week." Peter Berkrot reads eccentrically, with odd stresses ("caaaa-suale") but lots of vim. It is the most fun you'll have this week with headphones on.