Audiobook Mystery Starred Reviews | Christina Delaine, Shazia Nicholls, and P.J. Ochlan Thrill

These titles will captivate with a complex puzzle mystery, an all-woman assassination squad, and a suspenseful police procedural.

Ayatsuji, Yukito. The Decagon House Murders. Tantor Audio. (Pushkin Vertigo, Bk. 32). May 2022. tr. from Japanese by Ho-Ling Wong. 8:31 hrs. ISBN 9798765017142. $19.99. M

Japanese author Ayatsuji’s 1987 debut, a brilliant homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, was first translated into English in 2015 (another translation in his “Mansion” mystery series is coming in 2023). This complex puzzle mystery, known as shin-honkuko or “new orthodox,” features two sets of murders to untangle. Seven Kyoto University Mystery Club members visit an isolated island, now owned by a member’s uncle, to enjoy a week relaxing and, perhaps, solving the murders that occurred there just months before. Upon arrival, the students are cut off from the mainland, with no electricity or telephone service in a bizarre, 10-sided mansion that was designed by an eccentric architect who was killed along with almost everyone else on the island. In traditional locked-room style, the students, whose detective skills are useless in real life, die one by one. Narrator P.J. Ochlan’s lively performance accentuates the brisk pace and creepy, somewhat campy atmosphere. He nicely differentiates the large cast of characters, allowing listeners to concentrate on Ayatsuji’s wonderfully elaborate plot. VERDICT A sure bet for classic-mystery lovers, this well-narrated thriller (hopefully just the first of many Ayatsuji audiobooks to come) should also appeal to adult and YA horror fans.—Beth Farrell

Raybourn, Deanna. Killers of a Certain Age. Books on Tape. Sept. 2022. 10:16 hrs. ISBN 9780593626283. $95. THRILLER

Fans of Raybourn’s historical mystery series featuring the feisty Veronica Speedwell (An Impossible Impostor) will relish this contemporary thriller about an all-woman assassination squad confronting an unexpected mission as they near retirement. The Museum, a global covert organization, recruited Billie, Helen, Mary Alice, and Natalie in the late 1970s to dispose of any remaining Nazis, and, later, other evildoers (e.g., arms dealers, drug lords, dictators). The Museum honors their service with an all-expenses-paid cruise on which they quickly learn they’ve been double-crossed and are now assassination targets themselves. The majority of the narrative comes from Billie’s perspective, which Jane Oppenheimer delivers with spot-on emotion and energy. She suspensefully relays the team’s furious quest for answers and empathetically conveys the joys and regrets shared by these resourceful women who, as elite global assassins, understandably struggled with work-life balance and now feel cast aside in a youth-obsessed society. With her beautiful, deep voice, Christina Delaine reads the non-Billie chapters with verve. Each narrator also shows perfect timing, presenting the story’s many laugh-out-loud moments. VERDICT Featuring two great performances, Raybourn’s latest is recommended for mystery lovers of all ages, as well as anyone (assassin or not) trying to balance their professional and personal lives.—Beth Farrell

Toyne, Simon. Dark Objects. HarperAudio. (Laughton Rees, Bk. 1). Jul. 2022. 11:10 hrs. ISBN 9780063246331. $27.99. THRILLER

Narrator Shazia Nicholls’s resonant voice, spot-on characterizations, and excellent pacing immerse listeners in the twists and turns of this suspenseful police procedural by British novelist Toyne (“The Sanctus Trilogy”). North London Murder Squad Detective Chief Inspector Tannahill Khan, already dealing with a rash of violent crimes, comes under immense pressure from his superiors and the press when a wealthy woman is brutally murdered in her posh mansion. The killer has bizarrely staged her body, placing strange objects around her, including the book How To Process a Murder by Laughton Rees, the estranged daughter of Police Commissioner John Rees. Because her book is at the scene, Laughton reluctantly agrees to help Tannahill investigate. Although she is a forensics expert, Laughton focuses on cold cases, rather than current ones, because current cases remind her too much of her mother’s horrific death at the hands of the serial killer whom her father couldn’t keep behind bars. Nicholls perfectly interprets the intense action of this psychological thriller, and her empathetic portrayals help listeners connect with Toyne’s well-developed characters. VERDICT Adeptly weaving in discussions of racism and income inequality, Toyne’s latest (hopefully the start of a new series) is essential for all mystery and suspense collections.—Beth Farrell

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing