Clues in Earshot | Top Audiobooks for Crime Fiction Solvers

The tension ratchets up when crime fiction spins out in soundscapes.

The tension ratchets up when crime fiction spins out in soundscapes.

Clevenger, Craig. Mother Howl. Watkins. Jun. 2023. 11:02 hrs. ISBN 9781915523198. $24.04. THRILLER

After an 18-year hiatus, Clevenger (Dermaphoria) returns with a sweeping story of cursed bloodlines and self-discovery. Lyle Edison is a husband and father who is just trying to stay out of trouble. Before he became Lyle Edison, however, he was the son of a serial killer who murdered nine women. Shunned and attacked by society for his father’s sins, Lyle thought all he needed was a name change. However, after Lyle’s years of living under an assumed identity, an enigmatic giant of a man named Icarus, who may not even be a man, threatens to reveal Lyle’s deepest secrets. Clevenger imbues his protagonist’s mundane existence with an evocative beauty and a rough lyricism that is well matched to Icarus’s otherworldly perceptions. Narrator Greg Lockett gives Lyle an everyman quality that shows his quick wit and fiery passion. Lockett helps Icarus stand out by giving him a Southern drawl seasoned with unique euphemisms, such as calling the body he’s inhabiting “this here monkey leather.” VERDICT Though this story doesn’t mention cypress trees or bayous, Lyle’s attempts to reconcile the blood in his veins with the content of his character bring to mind the best Southern gothic fiction.—James Gardner

Cosby, S.A. All the Sinners Bleed. Macmillan Audio. Jun. 2023. 13:05 hrs. ISBN 9781250897626. $26.99. THRILLER

Cosby’s (Razorblade Tears) latest is a grim, layered slice of Southern noir. Titus Crown, the first Black sheriff of Charon, VA, is still settling into his job when he and his team respond to a school shooting. Both the shooter and a beloved teacher are killed, and the ensuing investigation reveals a terror that will soon envelop all of Charon County. There’s a child-killer on the loose, and Titus, under the judgmental gaze of Charon’s residents, relentlessly pursues this monster as the bodies pile up. There are moments of violence that make this story feel more Silence of the Lambs than Flannery O’Connor, but Cosby’s story stays true to the conventions of Southern noir, from the undercurrent of small-town racism that Titus endures to narrator Adam Lazarre-White’s Southern drawl that drips slow as molasses. The real strength of this novel is its main character. In to Lazarre-White’s portrayal and Cosby’s writing, Titus is a man horrified by the actions of the killer he’s tracking and sickened by his town’s history, all while struggling with his own demons. VERDICT A novel that reveals the tension of upholding one’s principles even in the face of malevolence and depravity. A can’t-miss audio.—James Gardner

Cosimano, Elle. Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun. Macmillan Audio. (Finlay Donovan, Bk. 3). Jan. 2023. 8:38 hrs. ISBN 9781250881748. $19.99. M

Single mom and suspense novelist Finlay and her nanny and assistant Vero are back, and they’re still in deep with the Russian mob. To the delight of audiobook listeners everywhere, author Cosimano’s words and Angela Dawe’s narration form an equally powerful partnership (though it’s much more skilled than Finlay and Vero are). Finlay is known for muddling through her escapades, using her skill at plotting thrillers and Vero’s chaotic knowledge to save the day. That won’t be enough this time since her target may be part of the police force. But luck is on her side since she’s attending a citizen’s police academy; luckier still, Finlay’s love interest, detective Nick Anthony, is running the camp. Dawe gamely spins listeners through the layers of humor, from Vero’s sarcasm to Nick’s dry observations, all of which bookend Finlay’s hijinks. It’s unlikely that anyone could perform Finlay’s voice better than the incredibly talented Dawe. VERDICT The latest installment in Cosimano’s “Finlay Donovan” series (following Finlay Donovan Knocks ’Em Dead) will undoubtedly have listeners rolling with laughter. An excellent recommendation for anyone pining for the next Stephanie Plum novel.—Matthew Galloway

Goldberg, Lee. Malibu Burning. Brilliance Audio. (Sharpe & Walker, Bk. 1). Sept. 2023. 8:06 hrs. ISBN 9781978699519. $35.99. THRILLER

Newly minted arson investigator Andrew Walker is not expecting his job with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to be as exciting as his previous job as a U.S. marshal. Still, as the birth of his first child approaches, he reluctantly embraces his new, safer role. As the Santa Ana winds kick up and Los Angeles experiences three devastating wildfires, Walker and his partner, veteran investigator Walter Sharpe, pursue unlikely leads that indicate that all three fires may be arson. Woven throughout Walker and Sharpe’s investigation are glimpses into the story of master thief and con artist Danny Cole, whom Walker put away seven years ago while he was with the Marshal’s Service. Cole endeavors to take advantage of the wildfires to perform an ingenious heist that will not only make his team rich but will also exact revenge for past perceived wrongs. Goldberg is a master of his craft, creating vibrant characters brought to life through Eric Conger’s voice-acting talents. VERDICT Perfect for audiences who enjoy a good action-adventure story and lovers of heist films like Ocean’s Eleven and The Italian Job. A nail-biting thriller that will have listeners on the edge of their seat.—Katy Duperry

Gray, Claudia. The Late Mrs. Willoughby. Books on Tape. (Mr. Darcy & Miss Tilney Mystery, Bk. 2). May 2023. 12:20 hrs. ISBN 9780593739365. $95. M

Billie Fulford-Brown returns to read the second in Gray’s historical mystery series (following The Murder of Mr. Wickham), set in the reimagined world of Jane Austen’s beloved novels. Visiting adjoining Devonshire estates, Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney are thrown together once again when the wife of Jonathan’s host suddenly suffers a public and violent death at a dinner party; the cause is quickly determined to be poison. Jonathan and Juliet team up to discover the woman’s murderer; there are several possible suspects, including a returning character from the first novel. Fulford-Brown’s extensive vocal skills are in the spotlight as she performs the plethora of personalities in Gray’s Austenian world, bringing each character to life. Easily switching between characters and their points of view, she keeps listeners’ interest. With a tone that captures the essence of the 1820s England setting and the gentry living within the tale, Fulford-Brown keeps the story flowing, aurally illustrating it and allowing listeners to feel as if they too are visiting the countryside. VERDICT Listeners who enjoyed the Audie Award–nominated first book in Gray’s series will be charmed by Fulford-Brown’s delightful performance of this second whodunit.—Amanda L. S. Murphy

Heard, Wendy. You Can Trust Me. Books on Tape. Jun. 2023. 9:37 hrs. ISBN 9780593743119. $76. THRILLER

An overnight dream date with a self-made billionaire turns into a nightmare in Heard’s (The Kill Club; Dead End Girls) feminist thriller, capably narrated in alternating chapters by Kelsey Navarro Foster and Natalie Naudus. When Leo (voiced by Foster) doesn’t return home after a hook-up with philanthropist Michael Forrester, her friend Summer (voiced by Naudus) cons her way onto Forrester’s private island to search for her. As Leo tries to escape and Summer tries to find Leo, listeners are provided with a window into their pasts, describing their nomadic lives and how they turned to petty theft and cons to survive. With a youthful voice, Foster captures Leo’s innocence and naivete, relating how her relationship with her parents dissolved after her older sister was murdered. Naudus nails Summer’s detached, worldly attitude, gained when her bohemian childhood came to an end after her mother suddenly abandoned her. Foster and Naudus are well matched, with each effectively capturing the friends as they assess their situations and take risks to reunite. VERDICT A chilling production that will keep listeners riveted to the end. Share with fans of Rachel Koller Craft’s Stone Cold Fox or Eliza Jane Brazier’s Good Rich People.—Stephanie Bange

Khavari, Kate. A Botanist’s Guide to Flowers and Fatality. Dreamscape Media. (Saffron Everleigh, Bk. 2). Jun. 2023. 11:19 hrs. ISBN 9781666634013. $17.99. M

In this follow-up to Khavari’s A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons, botanical sleuth Saffron Everleigh returns—and this time, she’s making better decisions. In 1923 London, Saffron is asked to consult on an unusual set of murders in which the victims received unsettling bouquets. Digging deeper into the case, Saffron teams up with her research partner, Michael Lee, who is by turns charming and infuriating. However, there is little time to figure out what the heart wants when a botanist’s knowledge of poisons may be the key to solving the murders—and the deadline for an important research project approaches. Listeners familiar with the first novel in the series will be delighted to see the evolution of Saffron’s character arc. This time, she is less impulsive, better understands investigative principles, and is more willing to work with the police. Narrator Jodie Harris employs a competent, confident voice for Saffron, which she alternates with a gossipy, flighty voice when Saffron is undercover. Amid the large cast of characters, Harris ensures that Saffron’s passion for justice is audibly clear. VERDICT A winner for academic- and historical-mystery fans and lovers of floriography.—Matthew Galloway

Lapena, Shari. Everyone Here Is Lying. Books on Tape. Jul. 2023. 9:30 hrs. ISBN 9780593741108. $85.50. SUSPENSE

When nine-year-old Avery Wooler goes missing, police launch an exhaustive investigation throughout her picturesque suburban neighborhood. Hoping to find just one lead that will bring the child home safely, they uncover so much envy, infidelity, and abuse behind each idyllic door that they begin to wonder if there is anyone who isn’t a suspect. Was it her father, William, with his volatile, violent tendencies? Or the scorned husband of William’s lover, seeking revenge for the shame their affair has wrought? Or maybe the odd boy down the street, quiet and withdrawn with everyone except Avery. Though motives abound, the startling truth will leave listeners in shock. Lapena (Not a Happy Family) crafts unsettling psychological suspense teeming with menace and malevolence. Narrator January LaVoy expertly evokes each flawed character and their frenzied thoughts. Her performance of the fast-paced, plot-driven narrative is eerie and engrossing. VERDICT This audio will appeal to listeners seeking disturbing domestic suspense with tension and twists that are seemingly endless and utterly engrossing. Recommended for fans of Zoje Stage, Ashley Audrain, and Gillian Flynn.—Lauren Hackert

Ware, Ruth. Zero Days. S. & S. Audio. Jun. 2023. 13:57 hrs. ISBN 9781797154824. $24.99. THRILLER

Jacintha “Jack” Cross and her husband, Gabe, are skilled penetration specialists, experts hired to hack into security systems and find vulnerabilities. After a tough assignment, Jack returns home to find her husband dead. A traumatized Jack reports the murder, but the police immediately mark her as the number-one suspect. Desperate to prove her innocence, Jack goes on the run but soon realizes that even those she holds dear may not be the allies that she thought. Ware’s (Lying Game; The It Girl) latest is a heart-pounding thriller with taut storytelling. Narrator Imogen Church gives a stunning performance, conveying the tension as Jack begins to uncover the truth about her husband’s death; she also captures Gabe, who appears in flashbacks, as both tender and serious. Church employs impeccable pacing, ensuring that as the action ramps up, listeners will be on the edge of their seats. VERDICT Ware’s latest fast-paced thriller, enhanced by Church’s outstanding narration, does not disappoint. Fans and newcomers alike will enjoy Ware’s signature twists and turns and will root for Jack as she fights to survive.—Elyssa Everling

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