Audiobook Review: The Bourne Legacy By Eric Van Lustbader, Read By Scott Brick

The Bourne Legacy is an interesting creature as far as stories go. First off, it’s one of the Bourne books published after Robert Ludlum’s death and written by an author named Eric Van Lustbader. This is the first Bourne book I’ve ever encountered, so I won’t be able to compare styles until I get to The Bourne Identity in my most recent Ambitious Reading List. It’s also interesting because, even though there was a film out earlier this year with this title, I’m fairly certain the two have nothing in common aside from names.

With all that out of the way, I actually really enjoyed this audiobook, which was read by one of my favorite readers Scott Brick (he does an awesome job on Nelson DeMille’s books and Brad Meltzer’s). From what I gathered and remember (it’s been a while since we finished this one actually, so some of the details might be a little fuzzy, Bourne has been doing his whole history professor thing for a while until someone tries to kill him and then takes out some of his friends. Bourne confronts the assailant, but neither kill the other. Bourne thinks he’s being framed and heads to France and Hungary to try and find out what’s going on. Meanwhile, the story also focuses on the assailant, a group of Chechen terrorists and a Lex Luthor-esque bad guy who, when not screwing with people in his secret, soundproof torture room, runs a global aid organization. In other words, there are a lot of pieces.

I liked the spy/adventure/Bond-ish nature of this story. The bad guy is a true, all evil bad guy, though some of the people he’s working with are more in the “I guess I can see where they’re coming from” vein. Bourne himself is a steadfast hero who wants to both clear his name and do the right thing. And, while I might have had a hard time following the details of the action in the fight scenes at times while driving, it was nice to listen to a book that wasn’t the usual crime, cop or PI drama. I dig those books and they work great for road trips, but it’s nice to read something different (I felt the same way when we listened to Kyle Mills’ The Second Horseman, which I now realize I never reviewed).

I want to get into some SPOILER territory here. I’m curious if other readers/listeners were tipped off to the relationship between the assassin Khan and Bourne? I felt like I knew he was Bourne’s son as early as the scene in the woods towards the beginning of the story. I don’t remember exactly what put the idea in my head, but it just clicked. I’m glad that we didn’t have to wait a super long time for them to bring it up in the story itself, but it still felt like a while.

All in all, I had a good time listening to this book. I didn’t feel like I was lost, even though this is the fourth book in the series. I just realized form looking at the series’ Wiki page that it’s actually the first one Van Lustbader wrote and the first one that came out post-Ludlum. It was a fun, taught ride that made me want to drive around even longer, which is the criteria by which I judge these things.

Audiobook Review: Book Of Fate By Brad Meltzer, Read By Scott Brick

I’ve talked about how much I dig Brad Meltzer’s books before (The Zero Game, Book of Lies and The Millionaires). He has a great ability to write tight thrillers that never fail to keep my interest. Most of his books that I’ve read involve a regular guy stumbling onto something big that he has to run away from. Said hero tends to go on the run in order to clear their name, usually aided by a friend, family member or confidant. It might seem a little formulaic, but Meltzer also does a boatload of research and puts that into his books that give all kinds of extra information, something fans of his TV series Decoded will not be surprised by.

The Book of Fate is about a presidential aid named Wes who was wounded in an assassination attempt on the president’s life. Because of a misunderstood picture taken during the incident, the prez lost favor with the people and did not get re-elected. The meat of the story finds Wes working for the former president eight years later when it just so happens that a guy who seemed to die during the assassination attempt is actually alive. This gets Wes and his friends digging into what really happened. They stumble onto a powerful organization called The Three and have to deal with the crazy man who shot him, Nico.

As with his other books, this one kept me interested and guessing as to what was really going on the whole time which made it a great audiobook to listen to on our almost 12 hour drive home from Michigan to New York on Monday. I do have one minor complaint though. At the beginning of the book, there’s a note written by Meltzer that reader Scott Brick reads that talks about the Masons. He offers historical information about the group, saying that he doesn’t necessarily believe the conspiracy theories about the group, but does note it’s interesting all the important and powerful people who joined. This is the kind of thing I tend to skip when reading a book, but you don’t really have as much choice when listening to an audiobook. The problem I had with this is that it primed my brain to constantly think of the story in terms of the Masons. But, as it turns out, they’re not even a part of the book, but instead stories The Three tell Nico to get him on their side. Basically, “These evil men built the country as a way to open the gates of hell, so I must kill them.” Maybe it was put in there to do exactly that, but I didn’t like it. I usually just jump in and read a book, I don’t like too much advanced information.

But, that’s a small complaint. Like I said, this one moves along at a pretty breakneck pace making for a great listen. Brick once again did a killer job on the reading just as he did on The Millionaires and the Nelson DeMille books we’ve listened to. On a bit of a funny side note, I let my dad borrow The Millionaires. He really liked it so when I saw The Book of Fate discs on sale for cheap on Amazon, I recommended he check it out. I was actually thinking of The Book of Lies, though, so I told him it had all this stuff about Superman and was partially set in Cleveland. When I saw him on vacation he was like, “I really liked that book, but it didn’t have anything about Cleveland in it.” Whoops! It worked out, though, because I hadn’t read Fate and it wound up being the perfect driving audio for our trip home.

Audiobook Review: Devil Bones By Kathy Reichs

My wife and I were pretty excited when we saw a cheap copy of the audiobook version of Kathy Reichs’ Devil Bones. We’re big fans of the Fox series Bones which is based on the books and have not read any of the source material, so this seemed like a good thing to both of us. It wasn’t.

There are actually two very different reasons why neither of us enjoyed the experience of listening to this book. First off, the character of Temperance Brennan found in the book series is completely different from the one in the TV series. Brennan from Bones is a cold, calculating woman whose relationship with Agent Booth had grown over the years while the book version is, well, like pretty much every other person in a procedural book. I mentally compared her to Kay Scarpetta from the Patricia Cornwell books like The Scarpetta Factor, but less interesting. What I like about the TV version is just how strong and confident Brennan is as a character, but that’s not the case in the book. But, I can put the whole show versus book thing past me and did fairly quickly, though I kept looking for characters from the show in the book that never showed up. This was something that just threw me a bit, it was something else that made my wife and I dislike the story overall.

It’s just plain boring and felt loooooong, which is crazy because we actually listened to the abridged version instead of the longer one shown in the picture above. The first and foremost problem is that Reichs throws in all kinds of unnecessary details. I appreciated how she explained who the character was, especially because we were new readers who were used to the different status quo of the television show, but the overly complicated history lesson of the surrounding area the book is set in? Completely unnecessary and about as interesting as a seventh grade history lesson. Worse yet, it didn’t matter as the story left that area fairly quickly.

As my wife said, you probably could have skipped the first three discs, started with the second and had a much better listening experience. There’s enough recaps to keep you filled in and that’s where the first actual bit of action takes place. I know procedurals aren’t always action packed, but it this one felt even less so with all the boring moments. However, things did finally get interesting at the very end making it a somewhat worthwhile listening experience. At the end of the day, though, we will most likely not be returning to this author or this series because it’s being done much better on television and there are plenty of other, more interesting books out there that will actually make our long car trips feel shorter, not longer.

Audiobook Review: The Millionaires By Brad Meltzer & Plum Spooky By Janet Evanovich

My wife and I have been listening to the unabridged audiobook version of Brad Meltzer’s 2002 novel The Millionaires. I read the book back around 2002 after hearing about or actually reading his comic book work. As it turned out, I remembered almost nothing about the story except for a few random bits, so when I started loading up my gigantic iPod with my iTunes back-up files and remembered that I had downloaded a free copy of the audiobook version at some point, I was excited to listen to it. I’ve never listened to a book that I’ve read before, so that was an interesting experience, especially as I kept challenging my brain to remember exactly what happening (and actually questioning whether I read this book or not in the first place).

The key, much like an important part of the book, rests in Disney World. There are some thrilling scenes that take place at the happiest place on earth that did stick in my mind and also helped me convince my wife to give the book a listen. I remember reading or hearing Metlzer say at one point that doing behind the scenes research at Disney was actually more difficult than doing research at the White House. I believe it.

Anyway, the story itself revolves around a pair of brothers who wind up stealing a lot more money than they intended to. What was supposed to be a quick, small grab of money no one would notice turned into an uncovering of a much larger, more nefarious plans that put the brothers on the run. Like the other two Meltzer books I’ve read–Zero Game and Book Of Lies–he keeps the chapters short and the reader on the run along with the characters, making sure not to reveal too much or too little. The reading by Scott Brick–who also does the Nelson DeMille books, which I’ve only reviewed one of, but have actually listened to many more–keeps the story moving along perfectly and matches the tension to a tee. Sure, some of the accents are off, but what are you gonna do?

While The Millionaires was a taught thriller filled with interesting characters I actually cared about and wanted to see do well, Janet Evanovich’s Plum Spooky (2009) was filled with head-scratching events, confusing characters and monkeys. To be fair, neither my wife nor I have read or listened to any of the Stephanie Plum books, but she’s a real world bounty hunter, right? So, why does the end of this book feel/sound like a cut rate James Bond film mixed with superheroes? The bad guys want to control weather! The good guy literally disappears at the end! Another man farts fire! Huh? I swear, I didn’t make any of that up.

The plot revolves around Plum going after a a science guy who skipped out on a bond after smashing his boss in the face and stealing a piece of equipment. Actually, before any of that actually, someone drops off a monkey for her to watch, so he becomes her de facto partner in addition to all her other partners. While going about her job, she happens to smell a dude she knows named Diesel who later shows up at her apartment. He’s what he calls an Unmentionable which means he’s got some kind of supernatural powers or some such. He’s helping Stephanie because his cousin Wolf is also an Unmentionable who is working with the guy she’s after. Confused? If it sounds like a comic, it sure does. Not only with the super-type folk, but also because most people in the book go by colorful nicknames: Wolf, Diesel, Ranger, Flash, Sasquatch, the Easter Bunny, etc. Wolf and the scientist–who also wants to be a rapist, by the way–are working on something that will SPOILER control the weather. To do so, they’ve kidnapped a woman who has her own monkey collection. There’s more, but I won’t get into it.

What threw me with this book is that I felt like I could never get a grip on what kind of reality we’re dealing with. I assumed that it was just the real world, especially after my wife explained that this is the character that Katherine Heigl just played in One For The Money. But then you get the Unmentionables (terrible name, by the way) and her partner Lula constantly talking about the Jersey Devil and even a man who literally farts fire and I just don’t know what I’m supposed to know about this world. Plus, the stakes just felt too high for what I was being shown. As a bad guy, Wolf might have been dangerous, but he came off as super goofy and the science guy was just trying to touch a boob (or worse).

Part of the problem stems from Lorelei King’s reading of the book. Her voice for the science guy is as stereotypical for a nerd as you can get (think the annoying kid from Polar Express and you’re there). I also thought her voice for Lula was grating at the very best, though I’m not sure if that’s a character I could ever get behind as written. In fact, most of the voices were so stereotypical and obvious that they were groan-worthy. At the same time, though, she can only work with what she’s given by the author. There were some genuinely funny moments in there, but I got the overall feeling that Evanovich was trying way too hard to make every single character seem cool and failed. As my wife put it, she missed more than she hit. This was definitely the case at the end when we actually lost track of what was happening and then, bang, it was over. The ending felt anticlimactic, especially given the potential scale for trouble the bad guys were working towards. On the other hand, the abridged version was short and gave us exactly the amount of story we needed to get home from Massachusetts today, so I can’t complain too much.

I know Evanovich spun Diesel and Wolf out into their own Wicked series of books. Did they get even more into the superhero/supernatural stuff? I’d honestly be curious to check them out, especially if she really dove into that realm and had fun with it.

Audiobook Review: The Ten-Cent Plague By David Hajdu, Read By Stefan Rudnicki

This is another one of those posts that have been kicking around in my head for a while. I actually finished the 10-disc audiobook version of David Hajdu’s The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare And How It Changed America a few weeks back, but haven’t gotten around to talking about it until now. My inlaws actually brought me this set the day our daughter was born, I’m sure I thanked them and set it aside next to my bed for weeks without really realizing what it was. A month or two back I finally dug it out, noted the awesome Charles Burns cover, and decided to start listening to it while driving around in my car. My dad does this instead of listening to the radio and it seemed like a good idea, plus I knew that my wife wouldn’t have much interest in listening to the book while on our trips to either Ohio or New Hampshire, though I do think it would have been highly informative for her.

This is not my first foray into the history of comics. That honor goes to a tape about collecting comic books I bought as a kid hosted by Frank Gorshin that briefly went through the history of the medium, even talking to EC’s William Gaines in his cluttered office, an image forever burned in my brain. I haven’t read too many books on the subject, but have absorbed quite a bit over the years. Even so, I’ve never experienced anything as in depth and complete as Hajdu’s account. He starts off where most other accounts of comics does with the Yellow Kid and ends with the failure of EC after a series of government inquiries into the effects of comics on children.

What sets The Ten-Cent Plague apart from the other sources I’ve seen or read is the fact that he seemingly interviewed every living person possible. And I’m not just talking about the EC folks who do wind up taking center stage for the last third or quarter of the book (as they should considering what was going on), but also people who just worked in the biz. It gives the sense of a complete account or as complete as can be, though obviously no such thing could actually exist, especially so far away from the events themselves. I do think that, had I been reading this book instead of listening to it, I might have quit because it could be dry, but Rudnicki’s deep, commanding and lyrical voice kept me interested the whole time.

There were three things that really caught my attention while reading the book. First off, I didn’t realize how bad the comic book backlash was, especially in small towns. Places all over the country were rounding up comic books and just burning them. Book burning! In America! The small mindedness really got on my nerves. Second, how crazy is it that 60 years ago comics were such a big deal that the government was looking into them and the millions of copies they were selling while today it takes a complete overhaul of a major company to sell a tenth of that. Can you imagine that much attention being paid to comics today?

Finally, I tried to really think about where I would fall on the issues of the day back then. I’ve read some of the horror and sci-fi comics that EC was putting out as well as some Creepy and Eerie issues and a few other things. They were pretty gruesome, especially in a more sheltered time. Were I a kid back then and a fan of these comics, I would have been incensed that adults were starting to get in my business and take away my secret window into a more adult world. At the same time, if I were a parent at the time, I would probably do my best to keep them out of my younger child’s hands. Note, I’m not making a suggestion for governmental censorship, but censoring kids is kind of a parent’s whole job after keeping them alive is taken care of. Hopefully parents are in tune with their kids and understand what they can handle, but that’s up to them. It’s also up to the merchants to decide what they want to sell, but not the government’s to tell us what we can and can not create when it comes to art and entertainment, assuming no one is getting hurt in the creative process. I have lived my entire life in a world filled with ratings and warnings of content, though. Movies and comics had ratings and stamps of approval, records eventually got notices of questionable content and video games their own system of ratings. I’m used to these things and trust them to an extent. Ratings systems can be great if they are well maintained and keep to a set of public rules that everyone can read and understand. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case back in the 50s and it lead to the end of a lot of great comics. Had things kept going the way companies like EC were going, we’d probably have a much different comic market now.

If you have any interest in comic book history, do yourself a favor and check Hajdu’s book out. I’d recommend hitting up the audiobook, but it’s worth consuming however you prefer.

Audiobook Review: Echo Park By Michael Connelly, Read By Len Cariou (2006)

After listening to Night Fall on the way to Michigan a few weeks back, the missus and I decided to listen to two shorter books on the way home: Echo Park by Michael Connelly and C Is For Corpse by Sue Grafton which I will be reviewing shortly. Both books are in a series featuring mystery solvers, both were easy for us to jump into and both kept us entertained on our long drive home.

Echo Park is a Harry Bosch novel, he’s a cop in California. As I mentioned, I’ve never read a book starring him, let alone any of Connelly’s other creations, but overall I found the mystery to be both intriguing, smartly put together and thrilling. After watching, reading and listening to a lot of mysteries, I’m starting to get a few of the sub-genres. Some mysteries feature the smoking gun in the first few chapters and it’s up to the solver to figure out who it is. A lot of procedural TV shows seem to follow this model. The problem I find with these kinds of stories is that it involves the killer or criminal to become an actor on the level of Hollywood’s best. I can see that happening every now and then, but not with the regularity that television tells me people get murdered. The kind of mystery I like even more happens to be the kind that Connelly wrote with Echo Park, the kind where the solver–in this case an actual detective–uses his skills, resources and intuition to figure out what happened.

In the case of Echo Park, a man found with two corpses in his van admits to killing a woman several years ago. The older case was one of Bosch’s and it’s the one he never solved but always irked him. He had a suspect all his own, a rich guy’s son, but lawyers and a lack of hard evidence kept him away. As the case gets reopened, Bosch wants to believe this killer, he wants to believe that the killer got caught, but something inside him knows it’s not the case. SPOILER Even when the killer leads him and a group of other officials to the grave.

That actually happens about halfway through the book, so I’m not sure if it technically qualifies as a spoiler, especially when it was so incredibly obvious that it was going to happen. See, the killer told his captors that he couldn’t tell them where the body was, but could lead them to it. You know right away that this will lead to trouble and probably an escape and SPOILER, that’s exactly what happens. So, with the killer on the lose, it’s up to Bosch to help figure out who he really is and where he might be hiding. It turns out that the killer is pretty close to a Batman villain. He’s crazy and cold and over the top and even has a murder lair. Bosch figures out who he is, where he is and gets some important information.

But that’s not the end of the story. From there he has to unravel how the killer knew about his cold case, who set everything into motion and what exactly is going on. I won’t get into the details, but I liked how complicated and yet kind of obvious the whole thing was. It made perfect sense and yet wasn’t the kind of thing that was calling attention to itself too early on, but clearly there from the beginning. I also liked that Bosch made a wrong assumption when it came to who might have been involved. I like how these guys and women always use their intuition, but that doesn’t mean it should always be right.

Again, like Night Fall, Echo Park was a great story that kept us entertained and even thrilled. The last few scenes in the killer’s lair are pretty intense. This got us from Michigan through Ohio and maybe a little bit into Pennsylvania which is no small accomplishment. We appreciate your service Echo Park! Are there any Harry Bosch (his name made us giggle every time) fans out there? What other books in his series should we check out?

Audiobook Review: Night Fall By Nelson DeMille, Read By Scott Brick (2004)

Nelson DeMille’s Night Fall is quite a ride. It deals with not one but two real world national tragedies, one of which I knew very little of and one I was quite familiar with, a cop whose search for the truth trumps everything else in his life and a sex tape. Here’s the deal. Detective John Corey works for the made-up Anti-Terrorist Task Force where he met his wife Kate Mayfield. Kate worked the TWA Flight 800 case back in the mid 90s when the tragic plane crash happened. At the anniversary of the crash, she puts a bug in John’s ear about how suspicious the case always seemed. Hundreds of people claimed to have seen some kind of flare leading up into the sky and hitting the plane, but the official report came out and said it was a mechanical failure. Since there’s no proof of what happened, the government was generally believed. John doesn’t like how things are adding up nor does he like being told by some government types that he needs to stay away from the case, so he dives in. There’s rumor that a couple was making love on the beach and recorded it, but no one seemed to ever track them down or find the tape. The thrust of the story involves John digging up enough witnesses and clues to try and find that tape.The second tragedy that looms over the story and eventually intersects it is 9/11. More on that in a bit.

I really liked the story for several reasons. First off, I knew almost nothing about the TWA 800 disaster because I was 13 at the time, so it all seemed plausible to me. I bought what they were selling and it seemed to make sense. I haven’t checked the details in the book against actual reports, but as far as the story itself goes, I was in. DeMille also has a talent for writing taut thrillers that keep the story moving along at a good clip. The missus and I actually listened to the abridged version, which is significantly shorter than the unabridged one, so I’m not sure if that was just good audiobook editing, or DeMille’s skill, now that I think about it. I also really dug Scott Brick’s reading of the book. He gives Corey this great, 50s style detective voice that I always like listening to. His women sound like most male readers–quiet men talking in a helium factory–but what are you going to do? I also liked the ending, but I will get to that shortly.

There was one specific aspect of the story that I didn’t quite like. The version we listened to starts off telling the story of the couple on the beach. There’s all kinds of flirting and lead-up and then we’re shown what they see: something firey flying through the sky and then a plane crash. I see two problems with starting the book this way. First off, we know there’s more to the case than what the government is telling us. I guess the explanation of the equipment failure could be bought, but it’s never all that convincing. Without this scene, there would have been a lot more questioning of the theories thrown out on both sides. The other problem this scene offers is that we already know the tape exists. That leaves the question of whether the tape still exists or not, but if the tape is gone, what’s the story about? Yet another eye witness account won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. This also takes out a lot of the mystery of the story. Here’s what I would have done as a writer, instead of focusing on the couple and telling the audience exactly what happened (it’s a third person narrator, so there’s no reason to doubt what’s happening for the record), I would have started the book off at the same location but instead of the couple zeroing in on the cop who found the lens cap on the beach. That would have given the proceedings more of a sense of mystery. But what do I know? I haven’t sold a million books, I can barely keep my blog on schedule.

Alright, finally to the ending. SPOILERS AHOY. Unlike the TWA 800 tragedy, I am quite familiar with 9/11. As soon as I realized the book was set in 2001, it was set in NYC and Corey was part of an anti-terrorist organization, I saw the writing on the wall: someone was going to be in one of the towers or one of the planes. It added a much larger ticking clock to the story in addition to all the other smaller ones going on (Will he solve the case before getting fired? Will someone kill him if he finds out too much? Will he get to the tape in a timely manner? etc.). It added an interesting sense of dread and drama to the story. I’m still not sure if it’s just clever writing or taking advantage of one of the worst attacks on US soil, but that’s how I felt. Okay, the SPOILERS KICK IN NOW. After Corey finally found the woman from the tape who still had a tape–she made a copy, which I had guessed, though not exactly in the same way I was thinking–the date was getting pretty damn close. Corey sets up a meeting with some government types he assumes have been covering up what really happened to Flight 800 at none other than Windows On The World, the restaurant at the top of North Tower of the World Trade Center. That huge ticking clock I mentioned before turns into Big-freaking Ben and that sense of dread gets pretty intense. I didn’t know anything about Corey, whether he was a recurring character or not, so I wasn’t sure if he was going to make it. He did, so did his wife, but that’s about it. Everyone else bought it.

We’re still in SPOILER COUNTRY so beware. I’ve got a theory about the ending. I think whatever shadowy government organization that covered up the bombing (missile-ing?) organized the 9/11 attacks to really cover up whatever happened. Basically, Corey was getting to close to the truth, so someone arranged a terrorist attack that would not only draw attention away from the TWA 800, but also kill Corey and all the potential whistle blowers. It also happened to destroy both copies of the tape, which they couldn’t have known for sure, but it’s a hell of a misdirect. Of course, when I say all that, I mean in the fiction of the book’s universe, not real life. That’s probably obvious, but I just had to say it. I’ve read tiny bits of info on the two books that follow Night Fall in the Corey series–Wild Fire and The Lion–and know that one of the shadowy characters comes back. That seems to back up my theory. I have no idea if it’s outright proven or refuted in the pages of those books, though I would be willing to listen to or read them to find out.

Okay, spoiler time is over. Beginning aside, I still really liked this book. The real litmus test for audiobooks as far as I’m concerned is how well they help pass the time on our road trips to and from the Midwest. We wound up in the car for 11 hours a few weeks ago to see my family and Night Fall definitely helped kill all kinds of time on the way there. We were actually kind of sad that it wasn’t about an hour longer to cover the whole trip (we stopped it every time we stopped the car, the baby went on a crying fit or the rain made it impossible to hear, hence the lengthy listening time). As it was, we got stuck trying to find a radio station that wasn’t playing the last 15 seconds of an awesome song and then immediately going into a block of commercials. Maybe Wild Fire will be longer! We listened to two more audiobooks that I’m also hoping to review in the next week or two, so stay tuned!

Audiobook Review: Double Cross By James Patterson, Read By Peter J. Fernandez & Michael Stuhlbarg

I mentioned yesterday in my review of the audiobook version of Patricia Cornwell’s The Front that I felt like it wasn’t an easy book to jump into. Thankfully, I didn’t have that problem with James Patterson’s Double Cross, though I did have a series of problems with it that I will get to. This is the 13th entry in the Alex Cross series and I didn’t have any problem understanding the relationships or the characters or anything like that. The story revolves around Cross and his new girlfriend/cop Bri trying to stop a serial killed dubbed the DC Audience Killer who likes to create and play characters with the aid of makeup and other disguise techniques and then kill people in front of large groups. There’s also the matter of criminal mastermind Kyle Craig who apparently used to work with Cross who has broken out of a supermax prison and is working his way up to Cross.

Plot-wise, the story was really interesting. They split the reading up between Peter J. Fernandez and Michael Stuhlbarg with one of them reading all of the hero parts and the other reading all of the bad guy parts (both DCAK as he’s called and Craig). I got into the story, was curious to find out what the deal with DCAK was and how he was finally going to get caught and how Craig was going to play into the whole thing. For that I’m grateful because otherwise, the 10 hour drive to Ohio would have been a pretty dull and boring one.

However, I would not call this a well-written piece of fiction. For one thing, everyone comes off as way too perfect. Bri Stone (terrible, made-up sounding name) is basically the pinnacle of womanhood. She’s cool and smart and funny and hot and can kick ass and a supercop and on and on and on. She seems to have zero flaws. Meanwhile, Cross–who came off as super smarmy to me and the missus as we were listening–just bugs me. He’s full of himself and arrogant and I just can’t get away from the word smarmy when I think about him (possibly do to his narrator, but I think it’s inherent in his character). The biggest problem the missus and I had with him though was that he never once tried to hide his three kid or grandmother even though he had not one but TWO crazy serial killers after him. That would be the first thing I’d do and yet you hear little to no mention about his kids except one moment where the oldest runs away after dad missed a meeting with a prep school basketball coach. Even that gets solved in moments and is wrapped up in a nice little bow.

Listening to Double Cross was kind of like watching a movie on a Saturday during the day that you’ve never really seen and don’t need to watch again but might check it out sometime in the future if there’s nothing on again. I didn’t realize until reading a few things online, but the character of Alex Cross is the same one from movie adaptations Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider which I haven’t seen but star Morgan Freeman. I think I’d like his take on the character a lot more than this one.

Audiobook Review: The Front By Patricia Cornwell, Read By Kate Reading

I get the feeling that listening to Patricia Cornwell’s mystery The Front on audiobook is less like picking up a random issue of Spider-Man and more like doing such with Archer & Armstrong. Obviously the metaphor is specific to me, but it’s like this: sometimes books in a series like this (this is only one of two, but you get the idea) either have a built in knowledge that come with them or fill in some of the natural blanks that come with a character who has a long fictional history. I don’t really know Spidey continuity, but I’m pretty sure I could jump right in, read some issues and get the gist. On the other hand, I don’t know anything about Archer & Armstrong, so I have no idea if I’d understand what the heck was going on.

Man, that’s a longwinded and potentially alienating way to explain that I was left a little flat by this book. Our hero Win Garano is a cop who works for a jerky DA whose life he saved previously (not sure if that’s in the previous book At Risk or just talked about). Anyway, she puts him on a 40 year old murder case in a stupid attempt to make herself look good. He kind of works on that, but also puts equal effort into hitting on a detective who also owns a cheese and wine shop. Oh, there’s also a woman who looks like Raggedy Anne poking around, an annoying Harvard journalist, a bunch of copper being stolen from job sites, a bank robber and Garano’s grandmother who is just about every Wiccan stereotype and oddity wrapped into one.

Here’s my problem with the book and this is definitely SPOILER territory. So, as you might expect, the old case turns out to be sad, but not really important politically or otherwise. As it turns out, the DA was under investigation for giving money to terrorists, but more accurately a terrorist group funneling money through a charity aimed at helping children in another country. More on that in a second. So, the main case doesn’t really matter. Then, as it turns out the reporter is not only a criminal but also the bank robber, running the copper thing AND banging the DA. There’s an explanation, but not really the kind you want because it’s explained by someone else and we don’t actually see the reporter again. He’s just talked about. But, the most infuriating aspect of the ending is that Garano winds covering for the DA for no discernible reason. He has an end-of-book convo with the DA where they talk about her losing control after all the bad stuff that happened to her previously, but it still seems weak. Does he feel sorry for her? If so, why does he spend the entire novel complaining about her both thanks to the omniscient narrator and his own comments.

So, my overall complaint is that the book winds up feeling both confusing and too easily wrapped up. Plus, the title doesn’t make much sense. I know it refers to an organization mentioned in the book and also probably something like the front that the DA or maybe Win puts up towards the other, but I think that’s a pretty weak title. After finishing another audiobook that I will probably get around to interviewing tomorrow, we actually got through this one pretty quickly as it’s only four or so discs. The funny thing is that, going in, both the missus and I were talking and had NO idea how all the different stories would get wrapped up. That should have probably been the sign of a quick, somewhat sloppy wrap up, but I didn’t see it coming.

When it comes to absorbing audiobooks, I think my expectations are much higher, not necessarily from a quality standpoint but at least an entertainment one. If I’m watching a movie on Netflix, I want it to be good, but it’s not really a big deal. It’s just a time investment. But with an audiobook I’m more depending on the story to be good, absorbing and interesting because I need to be sucked in and hopefully forget about some of the hours I have to drive through. Luckily, even though I had problems with this story, it was still entertaining enough to keep me interested and curious. For that, I’m thankful for this book, but I can’t say it was good and I probably wouldn’t recommend it. I think I’ll still to Cornwell’s Scarpetta series, like The Scarpetta Factor which we both enjoyed quite  a bit.

Audiobook Review: IV By Chuck Klosterman, Read By The Author

Chuck Klosterman is one of those writers who I’ve heard a lot about, but never read, so when I saw the audiobook version of his book IV at a discount store, I couldn’t pass up the chance to grab it. This was quite a while ago, but I just got around to listening to the book recently after a renewed interest in the audiobook form. IV is broken up into three sections, the first of which is a series of articles Klosterman wrote for magazines like Esquire and Spin and recap his adventures with celebrities like Britney Spears and Val Kilmer, the second is a series of essays written by the author on topics ranging from music to enemies and the third consists of an unfinished novel of fiction Klosterman started when he was living in Akron.

Unlike the rest of the audiobooks I’ve listened to, I think I’ll be keeping this one around for a while. This is my first foray into the world of essays being read to me and, unlike a novel where you want to get more and more details before finally getting to the finale, this time the details come fast and furious and take some time to be absorbed. I think I’ll give it a few weeks and give this five-disc set another listen. I found the author’s takes on Spears and Kilmer to be very interesting. He doesn’t savagely attack them like some smarmier writers might be inclined to do so. Sure he points out some of their more interesting traits like Spears’ seeming denial that her sex appeal has an effect on her career and Kilmer’s belief that he knows what it’s like to kill someone better than a person who has actually killed someone in war, but the accounts come off as fair and balanced.

But the real reason I dig the book is that I agree with his takes on so many elements of modern life. Americans do care way too much about what other people and countries think, lovers of art and music get way too wrapped up in how well or poorly received their favorite artists are by the general populace and getting worked up about corporations trying to further their own financial agendas when they’re not actively hurting anyone is ridiculous. I didn’t quite get his theories on musical advancement or the difference between an arch enemy and a nemesis, but I think that’s just because Klosterman seemed to get excited and ripped through those sections. That’s why I’m keeping this one aroudn to give it another listen.

I almost didn’t bother with the last section of the audiobook, the one with the unfinished novel because I don’t like things without endings. But, I was enjoying hearing this many telling stories and since the novel was heavily based on himself (the character he presents of himself in the essays and through his words seems nearly identical to the one in the novel minus all the angel dust), so I went along with it. The story follows a movie reviewer for a newspaper in Akron going about his life when a woman falls out of the sky and lands on his car. I was hooked, but of course, the novel just stops without ending and we never find out where the woman came from. Even so, I enjoyed hearing this extension of Klosterman’s larger works.

While I think lots of people would dig the ideas in this book, Klosterman’s voice might be a turn off to some folks. His voice has a nerdy hipster quality to it that reminds me of people who want to tell you about the new band no one else has ever heard of more so so you know they know about it instead of actually wanting to spread the word on something new and cool. But, that’s just the timber of his voice, not the things he’s actually saying. It got annoying at times, but never TOO annoying. He also has a tendency to turn his sentences up just before finishing them. I wound up listening to the whole book in a few chunks and never got completely annoyed with the man’s voice, which you can’t blame him for, I’m sure I would annoy the hell out of someone if they were to listen to me talk for more than a minute or two.

Up next I think I’ll be listening to Clive Barker’s Mister B. Gone which will be the first non-film work of Barker’s I’ve ever experienced.