Dirty Business

Dirty Business (Unabridged)

Author: Julie Elizabeth Powell Date: 2015 Narrator: Melanie Fraser Provider: Julie Elizabeth Powell Running Time: 3 h 31 min Audible Enhanced Audio Gavin Bloom and Alex Moore run an online magazine for an adult market; although each insists it has to be within the limits of not only the law but to their sense of decency. Gavin is on the edge of developing a revolutionary turn for that very magazine, a program that will no doubt secure the business, maybe forever. Amidst the excitement and enjoyment of its success, however, is the mysterious and heinous murder of one of their own. Who can have done it? And why? And who is the woman fastened by a chain to a wall? Follow the twists and turns and perhaps you can solve the puzzle before they do.


I have always approached reading a mystery as being akin to playing a friendly game with the author, the goal being to figure out the riddle before I’m told the answer.  But games, even mystery games, have a few rules, and a really good opponent knows how to slip in hints, mask clues, and provide just enough sign posts to keep me on my way, if I am observant enough, and read carefully enough.


When the author doesn’t “play fair” there is no fun in the process, and I find myself disappointed.  Writing a mystery is harder than it seems, because, the author must build a very careful foundation, and know when to give away a tiny bit and how to do that in a way that both reveals and masks the tidbit, making it hard, but not impossible, to find.  In a way, a good mystery is like a good seduction, veiling more than it reveals, until just the right moment, and making full revelation delicately alluring, titillating and exciting.


I did not find that careful foundation in this book.  The clues were either just not there, or so obvious I tripped over them.  I think that, had the author taken her time, the book, even if significantly longer, would have benefitted enormously.


The writing was good; the language was evocative and descriptive, and certain scenes were nearly brilliantly presented, though, with one exception, I found the characters to be either overdrawn or one dimensional caricatures. 


Again, although this narrator has what could be an excellent reading voice and good expressiveness, she reads so fast that her words tend to slur, and that rush to finish the book detracts from my enjoyment of it.


I received a copy of this book in exchange for this unbiased review via the courtesy of audioBookBlast dot com.


Definitely Undead

Man Overboard: The Counterfeit Resurrection of Phil Champagne (Unabridged)

Author: Burl Barer Date: 2015 Narrator: Kevin Pierce Provider: WildBlue Press Running Time: 6 h 04 min Audible Enhanced Audio 1982: Oregon businessman Phil Champagne, age 52, dies in a tragic boating accident off Lopez Island. He is survived by one ex-wife, four adult children, an octogenarian mother, and two despondent brothers. Phil didn’t know he was dead until he read it in the paper. All things considered, he took it rather well. So did Phil’s brother, Mitch, the beneficiary of a 1.5 million dollar policy on Phil’s life. 1992: Washington restaurateur Harold Stegeman, famous for his thick, juicy steaks, is arrested by the Secret Service for printing counterfeit US currency in an Idaho shed. In addition to the bogus bills, Stegeman also has a fraudulently obtained passport, a fabricated Cayman Island driver’s license, and Phil Champagne’s fingerprints. When the uproarious reality of Harold Stegeman’s secret identity hit the headlines, the counterfeit resurrection of Phil Champagne became one of the most celebrated and hysterically funny true-crime stories of the 20th century. And while every supermarket tabloid and television talk show hounded after the untold story, only Edgar Award winner Burl Barer captured Champagne’s confidence and received permission to detail Phil’s post-mortem career of fraud, deception, trickery, lies, and fine prime rib, bringing to life the exploits of a man his family thought dead over a decade ago.


Although this story is, essentially, about one man, it is one of the most complicated tales I’ve ever read.  For one thing, his name keeps changing, as does his location and his nefarious activities.  By the time he is arrested for counterfeiting, he has been a smuggler, an unwilling drug runner, and a gigolo. 


I found this book nearly as confusing as the subject, because the author switched, without warning, between time periods, identities and incidents.  Perhaps there were spacing cues in the print edition, but there weren’t any cues in the audio edition, so I kept having to backtrack to figure out who and what was being discussed, and when the incidents occurred.


I would have preferred a longer, more meticulously organized and constructed book, but, when all is said and done, the subject was so astounding that I rather enjoyed the experience of reading about it.


The narration was, as always when performed by Mr. Pierce, immaculate in every respect.  He is absolutely perfect for this sort of book, so good, in fact, that he is one of the few narrators whose presence can lure me into reading a book, even if I am not fairly certain that it will be of interest to me.


I received this book in exchange for this unbiased review via the courtesy of AudioBookBlast dot com.  3 out of 5 stars.

A Killer Among Us

A Killer Among Us (Unabridged)

Author: Charles Bosworth
Kevin Pierce
Crime Rant Classics and Notorious USA
Running Time:
16 h 14 min
Audible Enhanced Audio

On March 16, 1992, Elizabeth DeCaro, a 28 year-old mother of four, was found dead in her own home, murdered execution-style with two bullets to the head. Her husband, Rick, was immediately a suspect, having previously struck her “accidentally” with the family van after taking out a $100,000 life insurance policy on her. A Killer Among Us presents the true shocking story of Elizabeth’s family and their search for justice against the man who continued to play father to the children whose mother he had killed. This real-life case has fascinating legal elements – three trials, a death penalty conviction, and a dramatic reversal in federal court – and has received extensive local and national coverage. Charles Bosworth Jr. is the author of the New York Times best sellers Previous Victims and Silent Witness.

This is the kind of true crime book I love.  The author takes his time, and not only presents the crime itself, but carefully places it in the context of the people who are affected by it.  He lets us watch the family dynamics, reactions and interactions of all involved, so that, by the time the book ends, he has created a complex mosaic, with each tiny piece in its place, and the whole making an unforgettable picture.

This is reporting at its finest, with every pertinent detail explained, put into proper context, and connected to the whole in ways that make a complicated story entirely understandable and interesting.  One result of this care is that Elizabeth and her family become not just participants in an event but real people, and I found that what happened to them became personal, and that I cared about them, was concerned for them, and wish them well, even now, having finished the book and my glimpse into their lives.

The writing is straightforward and low key, even when presenting emotionally charged material.  The authors use of language is strong enough to give vividness to his descriptions and immediacy to events.  The narration was, of course, as always with this narrator, a sterling example of excellence in all respects.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for this unbiased review via the courtesy of AudioBookBlast dot com.  5 out of 5 stars.

A deeply respectful tribute

Tippy: Tales of Flying Sergeants: Enlisted Fighter Pilots in WWII (Unabridged)

Author: Michael G. Uva Date: 2015 Narrator: Rhiannon Angell Provider: Michael G. Uva Running Time: 3 h 25 min Audible Enhanced Audio How does a backwoods, lowly enlisted mechanic become a WWll, P-51, ace fighter pilot? I wrote Tippy as a tribute to a master gunnery sergeant that I had the pleasure and honor to have served with while in the Marines. I remember as a young marine transferring home from overseas. I had received orders to report to Hams-37, a DC-3 (C-47-military distinction) transport squadron at El Toro Air Base. I was awaiting my discharge from my enlistment. This is where I met Master Gunnery Sergeant Charles Walker Tippie. Man, was he a salty old marine. A fair guy, but let’s just say, seasoned. I flew a few times as his mechanic, crew chief. Boy, did he have some stories. Some may have been “Fairy Tales”, some the “God’s Honest Truth “. You can never tell with the Marines. I was told early on in my marine career, there are only two types of fairy tales told in the Corps; one begins with, “Once upon a time…” the other, “This is no Shite!” Whatever the truth may have been, I wrote Tippy as a tribute, as I imagined this flying marine sergeant may have been in WWll. None of my characters in the audiobook exist in real life. They are composites of the real heroes, the men who flew into battle every day! They crammed their bodies into tiny aircraft, and then hurled themselves across the skies, to protect America. Let me just tell you here and now. War sucks! It’s much better to “Pass the bread, than the Ammo!” But, my lord, you have got to hand it to these souls! This is a personal “Thank-You” to these brave folks! NEWS HEADLINE – 1942 Enlisted Men Become Fighter Pilots! (11 become generals) Only Officers that were commissioned were supposed to be pilots. But despite some discrimination from a few officers, over 2,575 enlisted men are officially, “In the books!” as pilots. These men flew under the banner of “Sergeant Pilots”

This is a unabashedly sentimental, emotional tribute to one man, his comrades in arms, and a time and place, and it is absolutely wonderful.  The author makes his scenes and people come to life, and reading this book feels like sitting with an old Marine, having a beer or 3, and just leaning back to listen to his memories, tall tales, and reflections on the life of a friend.


Even though this author is not a “professional”, his work is so, entirely, in the very best sense.  He grabs his reader, and holds that reader happily captive from the first word to the last.  I read this book with smiles, laughter and tears, and it left me with even more respect and admiration for an intrepid group of fighting men, for the corps in which they served, and for what they accomplished during a time when this country’s back was very tight against the wall.


This is also, unfortunately one of the most inappropriate marriages of book and narrator I have ever come across.  The problem wasn’t that the narrator was unprofessional, although I found her speech rate too fast, to the point that she nearly slurred words together.  Also, the narrator had a true and pleasant singing voice, which added charm to the book; but this book cried out to be read by a male narrator.  Hearing that soft, rather high and sweet voice describe dogfights and bar brawls was more than a little disconcerting.


Even so, this is a treasure of a book, and I enjoyed it wholeheartedly, whatever I thought of the narration.


I received this book at no charge in exchange for this unbiased review via the courtesy of AudioBookBlast dot com. 

5 out of 5 stars.

An Unusual Skill Set

Deep in Death: Shelby Nichols, Volume 6 (Unabridged)

Author: Colleen Helme Date: 2015 Narrator: Wendy Tremont King Provider: Colleen Helme Running Time: 8 h 46 min Audible Enhanced Audio Running “errands” for her mob-boss employer Joey “The Knife” Manetto often ends with Shelby in trouble, making her cautious about continuing her association with him. Instead, she focuses on a new client, who hires Shelby to find her missing mother. What seems like a routine case turns into something more sinister and deadly than she ever imagined. In the meantime, Uncle Joey has summoned Shelby to his office, where she runs into her former nemesis. Shelby inadvertently hears something that makes her fear for the lives of Uncle Joey and his hit-man Ramos. This time, Uncle Joey is not sure he wants to involve Shelby in something he knows could get her killed. Keeping Shelby’s involvement to a minimum has disastrous results, sending Shelby on a dangerous path. As her investigation unfolds, Shelby finds death at every turn, and soon realizes she is in over her head. Can she escape from danger in time? Or will she find herself deep in death?


Although this isn’t the first in series, it was the first in this series that I read, and I had no problems with it, since the author included just enough of the back story t o help me orient myself. 


I did spend a good part of the book thinking that most minds aren’t quite as tidy as the author presented them.  Most people have stray thoughts that intersperse themselves with the “topic of interest”, and I often wondered if Shelby could filter these stray thoughts out, or if what she was really picking up were emotional reactions.  Either way, the premise works, mostly, and adds a unique touch to this story.  One of the things I very much liked was the character development.  Each character was 3 dimensional and unique, and even the mob boss, though a tad stereotypical, had his own personality, and was endearing enough to make it plausible that Shelby not only worked for him (she had no choice in that), but liked and respected him, in a way.


The writing had color and immediacy, and kept the story moving at a brisk pace, drawing all the threads together in an intricate, but neat, bundle.  I rather enjoyed the dichotomy of Shelby’s associations with the police department and the mob at the same time, despite the issues this raised for Shelby.  All in all, this was a very good book, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys mysteries, even if they don’t particularly like those involving the paranormal.


The narration was of very high quality and professional in all respects.  I especially liked the way this narrator could handle various regional accents, and her character differentiation was excellent.


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this unbiased review via the courtesy of AudioBookBlast dot com.  4.5 out of 5 stars.

Murder Among Us

Murder Among Us: The Kate Austen Mystery Series, Book 3 (Unabridged)

Author: Jonnie Jacobs Date: 2015 Narrator: Suzan Lynn Lorraine Provider: Jonnie Jacobs Running Time: 8 h 36 min Audible Enhanced Audio The overlapping threads of two murders lead Kate from cybersex to love sonnets, from a clandestine research project to the deepest of family secrets, and ultimately threaten Kate and those she loves.


This is a nice, if  leisurely paced, cozy mystery.  It reveals family life in a small town, through the eyes of teachers and students of a local high school, and the author has a fine touch with presenting lifelike and believable teens.  The mysteries unravel together, and their potential connectedness is at the heart of the story.  The writing is very evocative, and the characters are excellently drawn, especially the young people, who are neither presented as children nor as teen age adults, but as what most teens really are; a bit of both.  While I did figure out who the villain in one of the mysteries was before the end, the mystery was nicely constructed, and I enjoyed the wealth of incident involving peripheral characters, which provided much of the humor. 


The narration was professional and competent.  I received a copy of this book in exchange for this unbiased review via the courtesy of AudioBookBlast dot com.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.           

The best kind of road trip!

Last train to Toronto: a Canadian rail odyssey DB 35541

Pindell, Terry. Reading time 14 hours, 56 minutes.

Read by David Hartley-Margolin. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.

Subjects: Science and Technology

Description: The author of Making Tracks: An American Rail Odyssey (RC 32611) recounts his year of train travel across Canada, which ended with the Canadian’s final run eastward from Vancouver. Pindell shows that the development of the railroad played an integral role in the history of Canada, just as it did in the United States. He includes personal observations about the landscape, people, separatism, and nostalgia.

This is a travel book of the very best kind, because it not only gives information and personal impressions of places and people, but with its fine writing and beautifully vivid descriptions, puts us right there. The author takes his time, and by doing so, allows us to get a more complete and deeper understanding not just of the Canadian railroad system (which used to be the finest in North America) but of the country, its citizens and its problems.

Of course, it strongly appealed to the gypsy inside me, and reactivated a girlhood dream of touring Canada, but sensibly, by train. Of course, many of the trains that would have made that possible are no longer running, sadly, but this is an absolutely glorious book for anyone who loves to visit new places, or gain depth into already visited places, or who just, as I do, loves trains.

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