Audiobook Mystery Starred Reviews | Scott Brick, Gabrielle de Cuir, Billie Fulford-Brown, Tanya Eby, Grace Experience, Jodie Harris, January LaVoy, Ray Porter, Kirsten Potter, and Yelena Shmulenson Read The Season's Top Picks

Crime stories to sound out.

Berry, Tamara. Buried in a Good Book. Dreamscape Media. (By the Book, Bk. 1). May 2022. 8:04 hrs. ISBN 9781666582666. $17.99. M

In this work, best-selling author Tess Harrow travels to rural Oregon seeking solace but finds something much more sinister. When a local blast fisherman sends body parts raining down on her cabin, she and her daughter are swept up in a small-town scandal of epic proportions. Tess’s wandering writer’s imagination is too much for the local no-nonsense sheriff, but when faced with bobcats, Bigfoot, and bookmobiles, it’s tough to keep her fanciful ideas in check. Are her amateur investigative skills enough to keep her from becoming the next victim? In this first installment of her “By the Book” series, author Berry (“Eleanor Wilde” series) crafts an engaging and entertaining murder mystery. Tess’s woolgathering serves as a parallel narrative as she turns peril into plot points. Narrator Tanya Eby’s expressive tone matches well with the offbeat and intelligent writing style. The no-frills audio experience allows Eby to expertly enhance the humor and suspense using only her voice. VERDICT This audio will appeal to listeners seeking a cozy mystery that is compelling, comical, and clever. Recommended for fans of Ann Purser, Elizabeth Blake, and Avery Aames.—Lauren Hackert

Bohjalian, Chris. The Lioness. Books on Tape. May 2022. 10:30 hrs. ISBN 9780593589380. $95. SUSPENSE

Set in the tumultuous Africa of the 1960s, this book tells the story of a safari gone horribly wrong. The guests are a Hollywood star and her new husband, along with her brother, sister-in-law, and some famous friends. Katie Barstow, the star bankrolling the Serengeti trip, expects a fantastic photo safari filled with as much luxury as is possible camping in the wild. It starts out a lovely experience, with giraffes, wildebeests and bucolic sights of other grazing animals. But then, the group is kidnapped by a team of Russians. The party is separated. The guards are gone, and each member of the safari must confront their personal demons in the attempt to survive. Bohjalian (Hour of the Witch) also tackles serious topics of then and today, including homophobia, racism, animal cruelty, and East–West politics. Narrators January LaVoy, Grace Experience, and Gabrielle de Cuir do an excellent job voicing the large cast of characters. VERDICT This is a good read, full of adventure and with twists aplenty.—Cheryl Youse

Carr, Jack. In the Blood. S. & S. Audio. (Terminal List, Bk. 5). May 2022. 12:08 hrs. ISBN 9781797134833. $24.99. THRILLER

New York Times best-selling author and former Navy SEAL Carr makes his fifth entry in the “Terminal List” series featuring his protagonist, James Reece. The action is so heavy it’s palpable, and the characters are rich and nuanced. In this installment of the series, Reece is tracking his nemesis Nizar Kattan, the sniper who killed Reece’s friend and former comrade-in-arms. Kattan sets Reese on his trail once again when he kills a Mossad officer by explosively bringing down an airliner. Carr addresses many subjects, including Israel, global politics, the War on Terrorism, PTSD, African geopolitics, and cyber security in this work. His writing style is reminiscent of early Tom Clancy and will satisfy listeners looking for a good gunfight, as well as a cerebral novel. Ray Porter’s narration is splendid, with spot-on accents that enhance the story and pacing that keeps the action moving. VERDICT Carr’s latest entry is a masterpiece, sure to be a hit, especially considering this summer’s new Amazon series Terminal List, starring Chris Pratt. Highly recommended for fans of military action and spy thrillers.—Scott DiMarco

Grady, James. This Train. Dreamscape Media. May 2022. 10:58 hrs. ISBN 9781666582086. $17.99. THRILLER

The train is carrying a seven-foot cube of paper money and a SWAT team to make sure it arrives safely. There are two computer hackers who intend to divert the money cube into their own pockets; an abused wife who plans to kill her husband; a disenfranchised man who intends to kill himself, a wealthy, self-centered billionaire; and an assassin who wants to kill him. There is also a senior citizen with a pesky little dog, and a military family aligning their moral compasses. In the 47 hours of the trip, these passengers work toward their goals, form new alliances, and make decisions. Most arrive in Chicago, but only some achieve their objectives. Grady (Six Days of the Condor) creates an action-packed adventure with a host of interesting characters. The clackety-clack of the train gives a rhythm to the story, and the reader can nearly feel the sway of the train. Narrator Natasha Soudek deftly delivers a wide range of voices for the many characters and enhances the feeling of being on the train. VERDICT Listeners of thriller fiction will enjoy this book. Highly recommended.—Joanna M. Burkhardt

Gray, Claudia. The Murder of Mr. Wickham. Books on Tape. May 2022. 12:03 hrs. ISBN 9780593592359. $95. M

Jane Austen fans will delight in Gray’s (The Fallen Star) 19th-century whodunit featuring the key players of Austen’s works. An unexpected—and much despised—attendee of the Knightleys’ house party, George Wickham, immediately puts the hosts and their guests on edge. When his body is discovered late one night, it is apparent that foul play was the cause. Local magistrate Frank Churchill doesn’t consider the possibility that one ofthe guests committed the crime, causing Juliet Tilney and Jonathan Darcy to conduct their own investigations. Billie Fulford-Brown’s narration fully immerses the audience in this murder mystery, transporting them 200 years in the past, where they will find themselves rooting for the budding romance between the two amateur detectives, gasping at the plot twists, and sympathizing with the characters’ plights. Fulford-Brown expertly performs the extensive cast of characters, easily moving between them while imbuing each with their described personalities, quirks and all. VERDICT A captivating production that’s perfect for readers who enjoy historical mysteries and for those Austen fans who’d love to see Mr. Wickham’s ultimate comeuppance.—Amanda L. S. Murphy

Khavari, Kate. A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons. Dreamscape Media. (Saffron Everleigh Mystery, Bk. 1). Jun. 2022. 8:12 hrs. ISBN 9781666582017. $17.99. M

Khavari’s intriguing mystery promises to be the start of an engaging new series. The tale is set in 1923 London, and listeners will meet Saffron Everleigh, a charming, quick-witted academic turned sleuth, who endeavors to prove that her mentor, Dr. Maxwell, is innocent of fatally poisoning a dinner guest. What Saffron lacks in wisdom, she makes up for in determination, as she meticulously employs her science-based research skills to ferret out every clue. She is joined by her colleague, Alexander Ashton, who appears to be helpful and bright, though unsettling rumors imply that he may not be all that he seems. Narrator Jodie Harris gives Saffron an inquisitive, determined voice that exudes authority when she speaks of botany and poison, but allows the perfect amount of uncertainty to creep in when she enters unfamiliar territory. Harris’s self-assured delivery inspires trust in Saffron’s skills and knowledge as she delivers fascinating details about 1920s scientific research methods and knowledge. Most importantly, once the culprit is revealed, the mystery proves to be cleverly conceived and satisfying. VERDICT The mixture of niche mystery elements (cozy, historical, academic) combined with Harris’s appealing narration make this debut a must-buy for audio mystery collections.—Matthew Galloway

Meltzer, Brad. The Lightning Rod. HarperAudio. (Zig & Nola, Bk. 2). Mar. 2022. 13:43 hrs. ISBN 9780062892447. $31.99. THRILLER

Meltzer follows his New York Times best-selling 2018 book The Escape Artist with another thrilling Zig and Nola novel. When military mortician Jim “Zig” Zigarowski, of Dover Air Force Base, is called in to ready Lieutenant Colonel Archie Mint’s body for his funeral, he encounters a shocking series of unexplained—and dangerous—facts about the dead man. In order to find out more, Zig must locate Nola, which is no easy task. Sergeant Nola Brown, the former U.S. Army artist-in-residence who figured so prominently in Meltzer’s earlier work, has many people trying to figure out who she is, where she is, and how they can find her. While Zig and Nola share a tragic history, they are uniquely situated to unravel the disparate threads that tie this mystery together. Scott Brick’s narration, delivered in his rich tenor voice, is enthralling, capturing the energy and momentum of this exciting book. VERDICT This exceptional audio will have listeners wanting more and hoping that the next installation won’t take long. Highly recommended.—Scott DiMarco 

Scott, Anika. The Soviet Sisters: A Novel of the Cold War. HarperAudio. Jul. 2022. 10:51 hrs. ISBN 9780063141049. $27.99. M

Scott’s (The German Heiress) latest gut-wrenching audiobook, told in alternating chapters, offers countering viewpoints of two Soviet sisters whose lives are filled with emotional upheaval and self-sacrifice. Marya (voiced by Yelena Shmulenson) is a language interpreter stationed in the Soviet zone of Berlin and the younger sister of Vera (voiced by Kirsten Potter), a high-ranking official in the Ministry for State Security (MGB) who was dispatched to Berlin to covertly investigate Marya’s potentially traitorous actions. Potter shines as Vera as she hustles to protect her younger sister without breaking the stern, severe demeanor she maintains in public. Equally matched, Shmulenson gives Marya a vulnerability and compassion evident in her friendship with Felix, romance with Henry, and love of her family and country. Both narrators deliver pitch-perfect performances with well-conceived character voices. Listeners will be mesmerized as they follow the twists, turns, and torture that Marya endures to protect those she loves and the hoops Vera jumps through to save her sister. VERDICT This thrilling mystery, set just after World War II, is filled with spies, lies, and double agents that will keep listeners on the edge of their seats for a bumpy ride.—Stephanie Bange 

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