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He boasts hundreds of credits to his name, a classic storyteller’s gravitas, an impressive stamina for lengthy historical nonfiction, and multiple series credits. Most audiobook listeners will immediately recognize the impressive work of John Lee. With the release of The Evening and the Morning, the fourth volume of the Kingsbridge saga and Lee’s eighth narration of a Ken Follett title, we look back at some of Lee’s memorable recordings.
The Abyss Beyond Dreams. By Peter F. Hamilton. 2014. 22.5hr. Tantor, CD, $59.99 (9781494505325).
Lee excels in evoking setting, whether historical or, as in this tale, the distant future. In this prequel to Hamilton’s Void trilogy, also narrated by Lee, he builds tension upon a base tone of reverence and awe all the while throwing off high-science terms like a pro.
The Last Train to London. By Meg Waite Clayton. 2019. 12hr. Harper, CD, $59.99 (9781094026640).
American fans revel in Lee’s rich and versatile native English accents, which are on full display in this WWII novel simmering with tension and intrigue. English-accented characters are easy to distinguish from German-accented Austrians in dialogue.
Metropolis. By Philip Kerr. 2019. 11.5hr. Books on Tape, CD, $45 (9781984840646).
Listeners get to hear Lee one last time as the cynical but endearing PI in the final and posthumously published fourteenth book in Kerr’s Bernie Gunter series, in which Lee’s soft accent work, lingering and emotive setting descriptions, and character empathy shine.
One Hundred Years of Solitude. By Gabriel García Márquez. 2014. 14hr. Blackstone, CD, $89.95 (9781482939668).
Audio is an ideal format for classics, and Lee’s rich timbre and expert pacing make him a natural narrator for the genre. Here, Lee is mesmerizing in expressing Márquez’ s lyrical language in this seven-generation family saga steeped in magical realism. This is a fine entry into the novel and a warm return for those already familiar with it.
The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. By Erik Larson. 2020. 18hr. Books on Tape, CD, $45 (9780593167168).
It isn’t just fictional characters Lee brings to life. In this glimpse into a pivotal year in WWII, he clearly delights in capturing the personalities of Churchill and his cohort with plummy British accents, and, for others, slight French, American, and German accents. Larson’s nonfiction storytelling and Lee’s voice are a perfect match.
A Strangeness in My Mind. By Orhan Pamuk. 2015. 22hr. Books on Tape, CD, $55 (9780385368568).
As Pamuk’s regular narrator, Lee ably conveys Turkish names and accents, and draws listeners in with a pacing that evokes Pamuk’s writing—all this while keeping an intuitive understanding of individual characters, their personalities, and motivations at the forefront of his impeccable delivery.
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