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AUDIO REVIEWS: Two thrillers, a memoir, and a fairy tale

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By Sunday, Jul 15, 2018 Arts & Entertainment

A couple of thrillers, a memoir and one surreal fairy tale are on the agenda this week.

A Truck Full of Money: One Man’s Quest to Recover from Great Success
Tracy Kidder; read by Paul Michael
Random House Audio; 7 CDs; 8.5 hours; $40/www.audible.com download, $28

This meanders a bit and sometimes sounds like a magazine article, but is still (mostly) too interesting to shut off. Kidder is an exemplary writer and much of his talent shines through this story of a dot-com millionaire and philanthropist who sees the world differently from the rest of us. Paul English, who co-founded Kayak.com, has bipolar disorder and, when he is “on fire,” ideas pour from him—some feasible, some a little crazy, but all fascinating. Narrator Michael takes a casual, almost homey approach, and thankfully only attempts Boston accents a few times. His manner matches Kidder’s style, which may lack some focus but remains compelling nonetheless. Grade: A Minus

Darktown
Thomas Mullen; read by Andre Holland
Simon & Schuster Audioworks; 10 CDs; 12 hours; $39.99/www.audible.com download, $27.99

Racism, crime, mystery, historical fiction—this novel has a killer plot that resonates. When a young black woman, last seen with a white man, is discovered dead in a dumpster, no one seems to care, save a black rookie cop who has limited power and is subject to the laws of segregation. Inspired by the first African-American cops in pre-civil rights Atlanta, this evokes a shameful historical era on the verge of change and all the disruption that followed. Holland, whose soft, deep voice is calm and trusting, is the perfect foil to the novel’s violence; he often captures sly sarcasm that is floating below the surface. Grade: A Minus

The Girl from Venice
Martin Cruz Smith; read by Zach Appelman
Simon & Schuster Audioworks; seven CDs; eight hours; $29.99/www.audible.com download, $20.99

For the most part, Smith’s research and ability to create atmosphere and a thrilling plot carry this audiobook, but it is slower and somewhat clunkier than his past novels. When Cenzo, a fisherman with many hidden talents, finds a Jewish heiress floating in a lagoon in 1945, he secrets her away from the Nazis and the fascists. An exciting chase ensues, and plenty of oddball and interesting characters are thrown our way, but the pacing is uneven and sometimes the story relies on coincidence. Appelman gives us an array of characters and drums up Italian, Russian and German accents, all of which sound realistic enough to flow smoothly with the narrative. Grade: B Plus

The Hike
Drew Magary; read by Christopher Lane
Brilliance Audio; seven CDs; eight hours and eight minutes; $29.99/www.audible.com download, $20.99

This odd little audiobook has been developing a cult following. It’s a surreal fairy tale in which average guy Ben wanders away from a business trip and finds himself lost in the woods. Soon, talking crabs and giant women are inhabiting an ever-changing road trip that ends with a heck of a twist. Lane has a mellifluous British accent that captures the novel’s weirdness and sly, twisted humor. He keeps the pace bopping along and expresses the protagonist’s fears and the general absurdity of the situation. Magary sometimes uses vocabulary in a strange way, but ultimately this allegory about loneliness and fear of loss is well worth hearing. Grade: B Plus


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