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Sometimes debut novels are a difficult sell, but a surefire way to capture audiences for first novels on audio is to use popular veteran narrators. These debuts may have found an audience anyway, but the outstanding narrators add flair and bring in fans.
The Baker Street Letters. By Michael Robertson. Read by Simon Vance. 2009. 6.5hr. Blackstone, CS, $59.95 (9781433257322); CD, $90 (9781433257339).
With his exceptional reading skills, Simon Vance highlights the humorous dialogue, animates the characters, and pulls listeners into the story, which combines a clever mystery, quirky characters, and the ongoing fame of Sherlock Holmes.
The Blade Itself. By Marcus Sakey. Read by Grover Gardner. 2007. 9hr. BBC, CD, $74.95 (9780792747208).
Gardner’s smooth, deep voice showcases the crime drama’s clipped dialogue, quickly establishing the dangerous mood on Chicago’s mean streets. Can Danny, once a petty criminal, stay clean now that his former accomplice is out of jail? Gardner skillfully contrasts the two men, portraying a growing sense of menace and unease when Danny rejoins the crime game.
The Cleaner. By Brett Battles. Read by Scott Brick. 2007. 12.5hr. Books on Tape, CD, $100 (9781415941300).
Brick builds tension in this page-turning tale of a shadowy undercover operative who works as a contract “cleaner” and is ambushed by a would-be assassin. Who would want him dead? Brick leads listeners through the espionage underworld in this escapist adventure.
Ghostwalk. By Rebecca Stott. Read by Rosalyn Landor. 2007. 12hr. Books on Tape, CD, $80 (9781415938621).
Landor’s British accent suits this haunting genre-blending novel, in which Lydia Brooke ghostwrites the conclusion of a controversial biography of Sir Isaac Newton. The contemporary story occasionally reverts to Newton’s seventeenth-century world, and Landor effortlessly emphasizes the elegant prose and uneasy, unsettling atmosphere, past and present.
The Lace Reader. By Brunonia Barry. Read by Alyssa Bresnahan. 2008. 12hr. Recorded Books, CS, $98.75 (9781436140942); CD, $123.75 (9781436140966).
Psychic and lace reader Towner Whitney returns to Salem, Massachusetts, following her great-aunt’s disappearance. She confronts her eccentric family’s past in a complex story of self-discovery and redemption. Bresnahan voices a large cast, including a modern-day witch, fanatical preacher, and guardian ghost. Her lush, husky alto complements an atmospheric novel filled with mystical elements.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. By David Wroblewski. Read by Richard Poe. 2008. 22hr. Recorded Books, CS, $113.75 (9781436149563); CD, $123.75 (9781436149587).
Veteran reader Poe tackles this compelling novel with skill and heart. From mute youngster Edgar and his father’s ghost to his villainous uncle, all characters emerge fully as Poe effectively communicates the underlying tenderness, poignancy, and tragedy of relationships and events in this contemporary coming-of-age story.
The Teahouse Fire. By Ellis Avery. Read by Barbara Caruso. 2006. 18.5hr. HighBridge, CD, $39.95 (9781598870787).
Caruso narrates this richly detailed historical novel featuring an orphan who is adopted by a prominent Japanese family of tea masters. Skill with accents and voices allows her to disappear into the characters as she pulls listeners into this intriguing tale of nineteenth-century Japanese social and cultural traditions that are ever changing.
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