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Audio Book Review
These books on tape are real killers

Jonathan Lowe
Audio Book Reviewer

If you’re into killer thrillers, check out Dick Hill as he reads “The Murder Artist” by John Case. It’s a mystery about the abduction of 6-year-old twins by a twisted killer who is one of the most unusual I’ve ever encountered. When Alex Callahan’s boys disappear from a Renaissance Fair, he goes through all the agonies of doubt, suspicion and rage you’d expect from a young father. But when his investigation into a few bizarre clues left at the scene leads him to a shadowy magician named “The Piper,” the deaths of some previous twins foreshadows a diabolical link. Hill is good at evoking Callahan’s rollercoaster ride of emotions in this story about a parent’s worst nightmare, and while the story moves slowly at times, the long ordeal might not be as believable in an abridged version. (Brilliance Audio/14 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜½

In “Double Homicide” by Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, two best-selling authors who are husband and wife have teamed up to produce two novellas, one set in Boston, the other in Santa Fe, NM. The first is about a basketball foul that leads to a murder, told from the point of view of two detectives with their own problems who must decide how to proceed. The second, and better story, is set during Christmas and features two police officers, one with Native American roots, who must investigate the suspected enemies of a Santa Fe gallery owner. Actor Lou Diamond Phillips narrates with a subdued but on-target pacing, while actor John Rubinstein, a veteran Kellerman reader, narrates the first with his usual gift for accents and a masterful command of the rhythms between exposition and acted dialogue.(Time Warner/6 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜½

Actor Kit Flanagan reads “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” by Sidney Sheldon. It’s a suspense novel by the long-time novelist, television writer and screenwriter, who is back with the intriguing tale of two women whose husbands have been killed for what they knew, and who must now join forces to find out why the killers are now targeting them. With a plot involving an international think tank and the manipulation of weather phenomena, the novel develops into a cross between Michael Crichton and Nora Roberts. Although depth of character development takes a back seat to a strong narrative drive and plot twists, that’s a good choice here, because the people who inhabit the novel do seem real in the hands of actor Flanagan, who maintains a believable sense of tension and surprise throughout. (Harper Audio/12 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜˜

You have to look close to find author Joseph A. West on the cover of “Blood and Gold” a Western novel about a cowpuncher who is entrusted with carrying $30,000 (a fortune at the time) across the Southwest to save a family’s ranch from ruin. That’s because Ralph Compton was a bigger name Western author, but unfortunately he’s gone, and the tradition of attracting an audience must live on. Here, Dusty Hannah is beset by desperadoes of all stripes, including Apaches, as word of his trip leaks faster than a horse can run. It’s a simple story, and narrator Terry Evans succeeds in keeping it interesting, although one has to feel sorry for Western writer West, who has few looking for him. (Highbridge Audio/4.75 hours abridged) ˜˜˜

Finally, how does an author continue a best-selling series when the main character dies? With imagination, of course. If you’re familiar with “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant,” you’ll be pleased to hear that author Stephen R. Donaldson has begun a four-book conclusion to the best-selling fantasy saga, the first being “The Runes of the Earth.” Narrated by the prolific and listenable Scott Brick, this unabridged production begins after Covenant – who was once transported to a magical dreamlike world called the “Land” – is gone. How? By imagining that Covenant’s longtime companion Linden Avery sees her adopted son constructing images of the Land with his toys. So it’s as if another ring is found by Frodo’s twin, and “The Lord of the Rings” has begun again. (Penguin Audio/28.5 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜

These books may be rented from Audio Adventures in truck stops or by calling 1-800-551-6692. Jonathan Lowe’s new novel, “Fame Island,” is read by Hollywood actor Kristoffer Tabori for Blackstone Audio.