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Audi Book Reviews
From sociopaths to fast food

Jonathan Lowe
Audio Book Reviewer


Have you ever wondered about the sanity of your neighbors? You may more than just wonder after hearing “The Sociopath Next Door” by Martha Stout, Ph.D. Read by Shelly Frasier, this bestseller reveals that the number of potential monsters in our midst is greater than many believe.

In fact, one in 25 Americans is a sociopath, and theoretically could commit horrific crimes without feeling even a twitch of guilt.

Of course not all of these “evil” 4 percent are killers. Many are merely cheaters, abusers, thieves or congenital liars.

The profile of a typical sociopath is that they may use charm, flattery or even a play at pity in order to get what they want, which is usually dominance or control over others.

Having no empathy or conscience, they also feel no remorse and will use you whenever suitable.

Could someone you know have been born without feelings? It’s not only possible - it’s likely. What would this person do to you if he or she could get away with it?

These are scary thoughts, but the important thing is to recognize these shameless predators before it’s too late. (Tantor Media/7.5 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜˜

If you wonder how sociopaths might act out in the future, listen to “Market Forces,” a science fiction novel by Richard K. Morgan, about a brutally cynical investment corporation, named Shorn Associates, that bids for contracts in warring Third World countries.

See a potential global market about to erupt in civil war? Well, determine which side is most likely to win, and then supply it with weapons for a piece of the action.

These corporate scum balls even duel one another to the death on the mostly empty roadways of the future for a chance at promotion.

That’s right - if you want a raise or a corner office, all you need to do is crash into your rival’s car until it explodes, then finish him off with a shot to the head before you take his ID. All legal in this scenario of the future.

Simon Vance is a good choice to read this cautionary tale, because he mostly sounds likes a British documentary narrator, and that lends an eerie tone to the action by making it almost believable.

Let’s just hope that good people continue to outnumber those without scruples, or Morgan’s visions could become reality. (Tantor Media/16 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜1/2

Morgan Spurlock has a first book out, which he also reads on audio, titled “Don’t Eat This Book - Fast Food and the Supersizing of America.” As producer of the movie “Super Size Me,” Spurlock talks about eating at McDonald’s for a “McMonth.” Hear this one, though, and you may never eat at McDonald’s again - or Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, etc.

Not only was his health compromised during that month, but now his investigation into fast food in school lunch programs is another eye-opener, along with his derision of sports stars promoting junk food for the endorsement money they get out of it.

Chuck E. Cheese’s is called “UpChucky Cheese,” while Spurlock claims that even fast food salads are loaded with fat and calories. An apple turnover? Forget it. A nutritional nightmare. Strawberry shake? The taste comes from chemicals with names you couldn’t pronounce if you tried.

Thank our insistence on speed and uniformity, requiring food service providers to substitute vitamins with sugar, preservatives and mutated fats. As an experiment, the author even hid a McDonald’s cheeseburger behind a friend’s bookcase, and it was a year later before the guy found it. Not due to the smell, but by accident. The meat in the burger looked exactly the same. Yum! (Penguin Audio/8 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜˜

Ted Bell has a new suspense thriller titled “Assassin,” about a bar-hopping killer in and a deadly virus destined for American shores, thanks to the insanity of radical Islam. While targeted U.S. diplomats drop like flies around the world, a former Navy SEAL named Alex Hawke comes to the rescue, equipped with a 200-foot yacht.

Alex is the descendent of a pirate, you see, and has a score to settle with one of the perpetrators, who resides in the Florida Keys. The novel is quirky, like real life, and skips about between locales and personal stories in a mostly believable attempt to achieve balance between plot and character.

In this way, the point of view on both sides of the conscience coin are revealed, but what makes it work as an audio book, though, is narrator John Shea, a longtime Hollywood actor with a gift for keeping things natural.

As with Bell’s first novel, “Hawke,” Shea maintains the listener’s sense of actually being there with a completely believable and understated performance, and while nailing all the accents. This is the opposite of a documentarian’s modus operandi, which is also believable, but in another way. Shea’s involvement is more difficult; he just makes it sound easy. (Brilliance Audio/15 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜˜

Finally, in case you now need to restore your own sanity, try “Rococo” by Adriana Trigiani, a funny, new small-town novel about an Italian interior decorator living in New Jersey. The town is named Our Lady of Fatima. Here, Bartolomeo di Crespi has a sister named Toot, and a client named Aurelia Mandelbaum.

The plot involves the renovation of a local church, but that is only a device to reveal the true natures of the feisty characters, which are all well drawn and given to various flights of fancy and breathless emoting.

In other words, “social” instead of “sociopathic.” For example, as one character approaches his 40th birthday, another wants to give him a party and says, “You have to let me, it’s a millstone.” To which the birthday boy replies, “That’s MILEstone.”

Comedy Central comedian and actor Mario Cantone narrates the book. A bonus feature on the audio book includes an interview with the author. Verdict? While this book may not appeal to hardcore suspense fans, there are no piles of dead bodies at the end, either. (Random House Audio/5 hours abridged) ˜˜˜1/2

These audio books may be rented from Audio Adventures in truck stops or by calling 1-800-551-6692. Jonathan Lowe’s acclaimed mystery/adventure “Fame Island,” read by Emmy-winning Hollywood actor Kristoffer Tabori, can be sampled