My Top 10 Audiobooks of 2015

21 01 2016

It was quite hard for me to come up with a definitive Top 10 list this year. In 2015 I listened to just over 80 audiobooks, ranging from Amazing to well, meh. I was more brutal than usual, quickly stopping any book that didn’t grab me pretty quickly. When putting together this list, my rules were pretty simple, I would stick to 10 books, they would be books produced in 2015 and they would be books that hit that sweet spot between performance and content. When I narrowed my selections down originally, I came up with 20 contenders, with about 5 absolute Top 10 books. It took me a while to whittle the final 15 books into the five final slots, but I put my emphasis on the performance at this point, and that helped a lot. I think this list has a lot of diversity with genre and style, and hope all my readers can find something that suits their tastes.

And yes, it’s been a while since I have posted here at the old ‘lobe. 2015 was an interesting year personally, mostly in a positive way. There has been some ups and downs, and my audiobook listening time has been a constant source of positive influence. A big shout out to the storytellers who helped me through this year.

My Favorite Audiobook of 2015

The Cartel by Don Winslow

Read by Ray Porter

Blackstone Audio

If you are going to invest over 40 hours in an audiobook experience, who better to lead you through it than Ray Porter. When I completed THE POWER OF THE DOG, I felt there was so way Winslow could top this story, and was expecting the sequel to be a bit of a let down. It wasn’t even close. THE CARTEL was even more riveting than it’s predecessor, taking characters you already knew in surprising new places. Yet, what truly amazed me about THE CARTEL was the slew of new, fully realized peripheral players, each one brought to life so completely they could have carried a novel on their own. THE CARTEL taught me things about the War on Drugs and the formation of the Cartels that I never really wanted to know and shined a light on the drastic effects our policies can have on developing nations, but more importantly, it told a hell of a story. Ray Porter was simply brilliant, taping emotions I didn’t know I had. I have always believed that Porter was the best 1st person narrator in the business, but here he proves his skills are just as effective in a 3rd person narrative.

 

My Favorite Apocalyptic Audiobook of 2015

The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell

Read by Sasha Dunbrooke

ListenUp Audiobooks

I have a feeling people are either going to love this audiobook, or hate it. Me personally, I found it absolutely friggin’ brilliant. More importantly, Sasha Dunbrooke gives my favorite performance of the year, taking a complex idiomatic tale and seamlessly infusing life into it. Her performance is as much music as it is narration, creating a unique rhythm to the patois of this post apocalytic world. Dibolla explores uncomfortable truths about motherhood and survival and has created one of the most unique and memorable characters in the flooded post apocalyptic subgenre. Her slow burned post pandemic world feels scarily plausible.

My Favorite Horror Audiobook of 2015

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Read by Joy Osmanski

Harper Audio

I think it’s very hard to legitimately scare people. You can thrill them, disturb them, nauseate them, creep them out and disgust them, but to literately invoke fear into the hearts of your audience is a very, very hard task. I can probably name 5 books and movies that actually scared me, not counting that weird train episode of Laverne and Shirley that gave me nightmares when I was 5. Well, A Head Full of Ghost is legitimately, check your underpants for stains, scary. Yet, even better, it is so cleverly written, so well crafted that it may contain one of the most effectively surprising endings that is impossible to spoil because each person reading it, in essence, creates their own ending. Trembley plays on your preconceptions and biases so well, that it feels like he tailors the book to each person who will experience it. Joy Osmanski’s performance is exceptional, capturing the feel of the book, and never getting in the way of the story. In fact, her performance brings added levels to a novel that deserved nothing better than a stellar reading.

My Favorite Hilariously Uncomfortable Audiobook of 2015

Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale

Read by Brad Sanders

Hachette Audio

Joe Lansdale’s tale of Nat Love, aka Deadeye Dick, former Buffalo Soldies and African American Cowboy on the run from an unstable racist upset that a black man looked at his wife’s ass, is maybe the most hilariously uncomfortable audiobook of 2015. There were so many moments that had me laughing out loud, then wondering just what the hell I was laughing at. Lansdale’s punchy, uncluttered prose combined with the ruminations of the main character kept me spellbound, through comedy and tragedy. Brad Sanders performance was delightfully uneven, capturing the essence of Nat Love perfectly infusing the appropriate amount of likeable unreliability into out hero.

My Favorite WTF Did I Just Listen To Audiobook of 2015

The Great Forgetting by James Renner

Read by David Marantz

Audible Studios

“OH, this is an interesting premise….

Wait… what?

But that makes no sense…

Oh, OK…

HOLY SHIT….

Wait…. WHAT!!!!!

I mean, really, can he do that? He can’t do that, right?

HOLY SHIT!!!

What did I just listen to….”

Really, that sums up my experience with THE GREAT FORGETTING only to add that David Marantz does a great job with, well, whatever the hell that was. Brilliant…. I think…

The Final Five

The Crossing by Michael Connelly

Read by Titus Welliver

Hachette Audio

There were a lot of stellar continuations of long running series this year, but top of that list was Michael Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch/Mickey Haller legal/crime thriller. There has been much debate over who should be the voice of Harry Bosch, but with the wonderful new Amazon Prime series, BOSCH, I’m hoping the narrator question is settled for a while. Titus Welliver performance is the perfect blend of stoicism and emotion that befits the main character. Bosch should never be emotive, but Welliver captures the subtleties of the character better than some of the past narrators. Connelly delivers both an effective mystery as well as his best courtroom work since THE BRASS VERDICT.

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong

Read by Christy Romano

Audible Studios

Wong’s first novel not featuring David and John is an effective dismantling of the superhero genre. OK, maybe that’s too fancy a way of saying it. Basically, this novel bitch slaps the normal superhero novel and then screams nasty invectives at its stunned face. Wong has matured as a writer, and while there isn’t the uneven glee of John Dies at the End, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits introduces us to a unique main character and a bunch of weirdos then forces them to deal with duplicitous mayhem using means that defies the norms of genre fiction. Christy Romano is absolutely having fun with this tale, as if she knows she may never get the chance to read something this bizarre again, so she may as well go all out.

Predator One by Jonathan Maberry

Read by Ray Porter

Macmillan Audio

Maberry continues his tradition of making me feel unsafe in my own neighborhood with his latest Joe Ledger science thriller. This times its not alien space bats, or zombies, or mutant animal hybrids plotting to take over the world be releasing a vampyric strain of hemorrhagic fever into Wawa’s delicious coffee. No, instead he just has a drone attack my favorite ballpark leading to a tragedy even worse than the Phillies 2015 season. And that’s just the beginning. Ray Porter should just legally change his name to Joe Ledger, because they are the same dude. So, if you see Ray Porter walking in your direction, I’d say run.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Read by Patricia Rodriguez

Hodder & Stoughton

Well, it may be a stretch to include this book, because it is currently only available at Audible UK, but in a year with a lot of wonderful space adventures from authors like John Scalzi, James SA Corey, Jack Campbell and Ernest Cline, Becky Chamber’s THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANET is the most fun you’ll have hopping around the galaxy in a while. Full of colorful characters and a flexible narrative that comes together so well, this book is a joy for pure scifi fans. Patricia Rodriguez gives a delightful performance teetering between whimsy and seriousness. She never downplays the tension but still manages to keep it fun at all times, no matter how grim it seemed.

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Read by Almarie Guerra

Audible Studios

I didn’t want to read THE WATER KNIFE. Although I know for many this is heresy, I hated THE WIND-UP GIRL. Well, by hated I mean, found boring and couldn’t get more than a third of the way through before flinging it out of my ears and searching for an erotic paranormal thriller to cleanse the palate. But, everyone said “Read THE WATER KNIFE” “THE WATER KNIFE is so good.” “Stop being a stupid poopy head Bob!” Well, grudgingly I listened to it. OK, so, yeah, it was pretty awesome. Great characters, interesting world, and an actual story that went, like places and shit. Plus, it was goddam funny. To make things even bettery, the narrator, Almarie Guerra was fantastic. So, yeah, I loved THE WATER KNIFE. I still stand by my opinion of that other Bacigalupi novel.

 

So, yeah, that’s my Top 10. I’m sure there are many of you screaming “What abouts…” So, here are my What Abouterable Mentions:

Robert Crais told a solid story in THE PROMISE with two of my favorite narrators, Luke Daniels and MacLeod Andrew’s duking it out.

I loved MORTE by Robert Repino, but surprisingly found Bronson Pinchot’s performance a bit flat.

Two Thirds of Neal Stephenson’s SEVENESE was amazing. The last third was pretty crappy.

AURORA by Kim Stanley Robinson was well done, and pissed me the fuck off. Screw you, Mr. KSR, you party pooper. I can haz my space colonies.

Will Collyer delivers a fun performance in Chris Holms The Killing Kind, featuring one of the most fun final shootouts any book of 2015.

John Grisham may have his own Lincoln Lawyer in Sebastian Rudd the titlular ROGUE LAWYER, in this series of vignettes that makes a fun listen.

While I didn’t like Claire North’s TOUCH as much as THE MANY LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST, it was still a fun listen thanks to a good performance by Peter Kenny.

Dan Wells picks up his John  Cleaver series with a bang in THE DEVIL’S ONLY FRIEND, and Patrick Lee continues to blend scifi and thrillers together in THE SIGNAL.

In Print, I really loved Brian Keenes, THE LOST LEVEL. Pulp scifantasy at it’s best.





Audiobook Review: The Black Box by Michael Connelly

4 12 2012

The Black Box by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch, Bk. 18)

Read by Matthew McConnohie

Hachette Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 29 Min

Genre: Crime Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Black Box is another winning entry in this series featuring one of my favorite fictional detectives, Harry Bosch. While this isn’t my favorite Harry Bosch mystery, it’s full of moments that should resonate with fans of this series. The mystery is solid, and Connelly finds a way to merge the 20 years in the sordid history of Los Angeles with the 20 Harry Bosch has been bringing killers to justice.

Grade: B+

I didn’t realize until I started listening to The Black Box that Harry Bosch is now 20 years old. Well, more succinctly, Harry Bosch, as a literary character is now 20 years old. The number 20 is playing a significant role in my life this year. I was never a very social kid in high school, and really maintain no friendships from my graduating class, so, it took me a while to realize that this year would have been my 20th High School reunion. This has been a very reflexive year in my life, hitting this milestone, and dealing with numerous familial issues has caused me to spend a lot of time evaluating the choices I have made over the past 20 years. I really can’t remember when I first encounter Michael Connelly’s writing, or became a fan of Harry Bosch, but I have significant memories of the past that are tied right in with his work. I remember about 12 years ago, taking a trip after deciding that I needed a career change, riding on Septa to 30th Street Station, reading Void Moon. I remember the first audiobook experience that really won me over to the format was The Lincoln Lawyer. The first major post I ever wrote for this blog was my Top 20 Audiobooks of 2010, in which Connelly’s The Reversal took the first spot. Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen Harry take on serial killers, corrupt cops, his often belligerent bosses and solve numerous crimes, including the murder of his own mother. We’ve read of the tragedies in his life, and the joys his daughter brings to him. We’ve rode along side of him as he listened to Jazz and ate at food trucks working his way through the dirty streets of LA acting as the voice of the dead. On the surface Harry may seem like your typical, almost stereotypical gruff cop, but as his fans all have come to know, there is more to this man than any surface glance will ever tell. So, happy twentieth birthday to Harry Bosch, I’m sure you have plenty more tales to tell.

In The Black Box, Harry, still working in the Open/Unsolved Unit, is looking into the murder of a foreign journalist which took place during the hectic days of the LA riots. 20 years ago, during the chaos, Harry and his then partner Edgar Styles were the original detectives on the scene of the murder, but eventually the case was rolled into a task force looking into murders during the riots. Now, new forensic evidence has opened new investigative paths, and Harry is feeling things starting to fall into place. Yet, clashes with his bosses and public relation issues are putting pressure on Harry to put the case on the back burner, something that never sits right with Bosch. I have to admit, at first I was sort of ho humm about The Black Box. I love Harry Bosch as a character, and was enjoying the peripheral aspects of the story, Harry’s relationship with his daughter, his clashes with his boss, and his procedural routines, but the case he was working on didn’t really grab me. I loved the early parts, with Harry reflecting on the riots, and walking the reader through how the case fell through the cracks, but the mystery of the thing just wasn’t pulling me in. Until, it did. I’m not sure when the change happened, but at some point, I went from sort of ‘meh’ to utterly engaged. It’s really been a while since Harry’s books have really dealt with a cold case, and like the cases themselves, there is a moment in this story where it moves from being a cold case, with forensics looking for a key piece of evidence, to an active case, where the personalities of the victim and possible perpetrators begin to form. This is why I feel Connelly is probably the best procedural writer in the business today. He gives his cases an organic progression that reflects his characters. The investigation in some way becomes a character in its own right. Connelly doesn’t need trick endings, or out of left field twists to make his stories work. He simply tells the story that needs to be told, allowing the revelations to come in a realistic way. The Black Box is another winning entry in this series featuring one of my favorite fictional detectives, Harry Bosch. While this isn’t my favorite Harry Bosch mystery, it’s full of moments that should resonate with fans of this series. The mystery is solid, and Connelly finds a way to merge the 20 years in the sordid history of Los Angeles with the 20 Harry Bosch has been bringing killers to justice.

Narrations of a long running series are often problematic, and the Harry Bosch series has its fair share of narrators. There have been two main narrators over the course of this series, Dick Hill and Len Cariou, with a few others voicing Harry, including Peter Giles handling Bosch’s appearances in the Mickey Haller series. I recently was discussing "the voice of Harry Bosch" with another fan of the series. For her, Len Cariou was Harry, but for me, it was always Dick Hill. I never really warmed up to Cariou’s Bosch. In reality, my favorite voice for Bosch was Peter Giles, and was hoping that the audio producers would choose him when Cariou was no longer available. Well, Hachette went a new direction with Bosch, having Michael McConnohie take over as the new voice of Harry.  It really took me a while to adjust to McConnohie’s narration, and even now, I have mixed feelings about it. I didn’t hate his performance, but I really didn’t love it either. I liked a lot of his characterizations of the peripheral characters in the book, but I found his pacing to be somewhat awkward, bordering on robotic. There were moments his awkward pacing actually worked. For example, Bosch spent a lot of times reading from websites, and translated text and McConnohie’s style worked really well for this. Yet, his overall reading of the prose and Bosch’s inner dialogue felt a bit stilted. His voice for Harry was gruff enough, and age appropriate, but, there is always some level of disconnect with the voice of a protagonist after a narrator change. Yet, by about halfway through the production, I was engaged enough in the story, where my issues with the narration managed to bleed into the background. It’s hard based on this performance, to find McConnohie’s place within the pantheon of Bosch narrators, but I’m still willing to give him his chance. 





Audiobook Review: The Safe Man and Mulholland Dive by Michael Connelly

29 11 2012

This is the time of year for sales. With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Twofer Tuesday, and We’re Broke Wednesday, the American people are all about value. So, today, I will tap into the consumer spirit and give you two Audiobook Reviews! You can thank me later.

If you are anything like me, and this is an arbiter of good taste, then you anxiously await each new edition in Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series. Connelly is one of the few thriller authors that has me hooked into more than one of his series, the other being that infamous Lincoln loving lawyer Mickey Haller. So, whenever a fresh new book with Connelly’s name attached to it comes out, I just have to have it. The latest Harry Bosch just hit the digital and physical shelves, and to get into the mood last week, I listened to two of his recently released audiobooks, a novella called The Safe Man, and a short story collection called Mulholland Dive.

The Safe Man by Michael Connelly

Read by David W. Collins

Hachette Audio

Length: 1 Hr 33 Min

Genre: Supernatural Suspense

Grade: B+

I love when authors break away from what you expect and explore areas that they typically don’t. From what I have read, this novella was originally published anonymously, yet, despite it being a break away from his typically straight forward Detective thrillers, it has a lot of the signature style of Michael Connelly. Connelly creates a haunting, moody atmosphere in this tale of a Safe Man who is hired to open a strange safe, which leaves him feeling uneasy. While its essence is that of a ghost story, and a unique one at that, also is a fascinating look at a man unjustly accused of a crime, and how easily people can lose faith in someone. I really enjoyed this story, and would love to see Connelly do more work in this genre. With his talent for setting mood and creating flawed by engaging characters, Connelly can definitely spin quite a Supernatural yarn.

 

Mulholland Dive: Three Stories by Michael Connelly

Read by David W. Collins

Hachette Audio

Length: 1 Hr 51 Min

Genre: Crime Fiction/Thriller

Grade: B

In Mulholland Dive Connelly tackles what he does best, Crime Fiction and Procedurals. He spins three stories, each dealing with a different perspective on Crime. In “Cahoots” he examines the criminal mindset through a twisted poker game among criminals, where the only way to win is to stack the decks. In “Mulholland Dive” he makes accident reconstruction actually interesting as a Police analyst investigates the death of a high profile victim. In the best story of the collection “Two Bagger“, Connelly follows two cops, a hardened veteran detective and his rookie partner, as they follow a recently released prisoner who may have been hired to kill someone on the outside. “Two Bagger” is a wonderful example of what makes Connelly such a great writer. Connelly gives emotional connection to the mundane, turning a baseball game into a metaphor for life. It’s a stunning story with a killer ending, and, personally, I think would make a brilliant movie. While many short story anthologies are sort of like a snack before the meal, Mulholland Dive, and the story “Two Bagger” in particular, is hearty enough for the hungriest of eaters.

Narration

This is my first experience with David W. Collins and I really enjoyed his reading of both audiobooks. Collins has a pretty straight forward reading style. While there weren’t a whole lot of bells and whistles to his reading, I was impressed with his versatility in character voices. Collins did a wonderful job creating the mood in The Safe Man, giving the story a haunting presence while properly progressing the main character from meticulous technician, to a man frustrated by the circumstances. In Mulholland Dive, he gives each story its proper feel, from the old time noir feel of “Cahoots” to the rhythms of urban LA in “Two Bagger.” Connelly’s work never needs a narrator who performs vocal gymnastic, just one who understands the natural rhythms of his writing, and Collins fit the bill. 

Note: Thanks to Hachette Audio for providing me with copies of these titles for review.





Audiobook Review: The Drop by Michael Connelly

4 01 2012

The Drop by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch, Book 17)

Read by Len Cariou

Hachette Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 55 Min

Genre: Crime Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Drop is Connelly at his best, which is like watching a sports legend pull off a career game well after it has been established just how good he is. Its mysteries are satisfying, the characters complex, and has a well plotted fascinating ending that will both excite and sadden the reader.

Grade: A

It seems every year, when I consider my favorite books of the year, somewhere on that list, a Michael Connelly book appears. In 2010, The Reversal topped my list. In 2011 it was The Fifth Witness rounding out my top 5. Although both of these books were Mickey Haller books, the presence of Connelly’s best and most famous character Harry Bosch added a lot to the overall tale. I have been a huge Harry Bosch fan for years, and always look forward to his appearance in any book, no matter the size of the role. The strange thing is I don’t read many police procedurals. Most of the thriller series I read are either legal thrillers, private detective stories, or some other person in some other job who just so happens to get themselves into some sort of trouble every year around the same time. I mean, how many surly cops, who have trouble taking orders from the brass, getting along with others in the department, and who always finds themselves on the wrong side of powerful people can we read about? I guess for me, it’s one. Yet, if you are going to choose one, you might as well choose one by Michael Connelly, who, I believe, is the best procedural writer out there. 

The Drop, if not a return to form, is really a return to structure for Michael Connelly and his character Harry Bosch. In the Mickey Haller novels, Bosch rarely drives the action, just influences it along the way, and in the previous Harry Bosch-centric novel, Harry is forced out of his comfort zone of the LAPD and Los Angeles area by truly personal events. Now, Bosch is back waiting for cases to open up in the Open-Unsolved Unit, when he is finally tasked by his Lieutenant to look into a case with potential to embarrass the LAPD and the crime lab. Yet, while working this case, Bosch is summoned by the Police Chief to take on a case ripe with political "High Jingo."  Bosch is made the lead on a case involving a suicide of a man who just happens to be the son of City Councilman Irv Irving. Bosch is leery of the case, being that he and Irving had a history of antagonism going back nearly Harry’s entire career. All this leads to a classic Harry Bosch investigation and one of the best entries in this series in a while. The Drop works because Connelly is true to his character. Bosch is aging, and Connelly acknowledges that, as well as the fact that Bosch has now become the full time parent of his teenage daughter. These changes has allowed Connelly to develop Bosch is ways long time readers may not expect, while maintaining his overall integrity, which, in all honesty, can be a little frustrating at times. Connelly pulls off what very few writers can, balancing two mysteries that interact but don’t intertwine, yet doing it effectively. The Drop is Connelly at his best, which is like watching a sports legend pull off a career game well after its been established just how good he is. Its mysteries are satisfying, the characters complex, and has a well plotted fascinating ending that will both excite and sadden the reader.

I have said before that while I feel Len Cariou wonderfully performs the voice of Harry Bosch in the recent audiobook versions, I have issues with other areas of his delivery. His reading of the narrative can be too meticulously deliberate, with a bit of a slur that you can feel him fighting back. Some of his other characters, particularly the younger men and female characters are just a bit rough. Yet, I should point out that I am a minority here in this opinion. Most people I have talked to enjoy Cariou’s narration and feel any sort of deficiency is more than made up for by the authenticity he brings to Harry. Even with my personal issues, this is a highly listenable audiobook and the story sucks you in so well, you tend to forget what was bothering you in the first place. The Drop is another winner for Michael Connelly, with the biggest downside being that I will have to wait until November for his next novel, Black Box.





Audiobook Review: Suicide Run/Angle of Investigation by Michael Connelly

30 12 2011

Suicide Run/Angle of Investigation by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch Short Stories)

Read by Len Cariou

Hachette Audio

Length:

Suicide Run: 3 Hrs 17 Min

Angle of Investigation: 2 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Crime Fiction

Quick Thoughts: These short stories are the perfect fix for Harry Bosch fans waiting between full length releases.

Grade: B

I’m not really sure why I like Harry Bosch so much. Typically, he’s not the type of character I really like. He is an aging police detective who is outwardly and inwardly gruff, loves jazz, doesn’t really play well with people, and has a lot of integrity. On paper, he seems almost like a caricature of modern fictions view of a Police Detective. Yet, somehow he is one of my favorite literary characters. Having to wait for my library copy of the newest Harry Bosch thriller by Michael Connelly, I decided to give the recent short story collections a listen.

Hachette Audio released two, three story short story collects, called Suicide Run and Angle of Investigation. As you should expect, being unconnected short stories, these tales don’t have the depth of character and complex plotting typical of Connelly’s work. Yet, in my opinion, Connelly is one of the best procedural writers in the business, and these short stories are proof of that. We get to see young Bosch on his first Dead Body call, follow Bosh as he grills suspects in the interrogation room, and see his thought process as he investigates what at first glance looks like a suicide. My favorite stories of the collections where "Cielo Azul" where Bosch reflects on the crimes of a brutal serial killer who is on Death Row and "Angle of Investigation” where Bosch revives the cold case of a call he took as a boot (a trainee patrol officer). These short stories are the perfect fix for Harry Bosch fans waiting between full length releases.

For many people, Len Cariou is the definitive voice of Bosch. I’ll admit, I am not a huge fan of Len Cariou’s narration. I personally prefer when Dick Hill narrated the Harry Bosch series, or even Adam Grupper and Peter Giles narration in the Mickey Haller series. Cariou does a great job voicing Harry, I just find he narrative delivery to be too deliberate and his voicing of peripheral characters especially female characters, to be shaky. Yet, these short stories fall well into Cariou’s wheelhouse, focusing on Bosch without a lot of female characters. So, despite any general issues with the narration, these audiobooks short stories work well.





Audiobook Review: The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly

8 04 2011

The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly (Mickey Haller, Book 4)

Read by Peter Giles

Hachette Audio

Genre: Courtroom Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Perhaps the best courtroom thriller since Scott Turow’s 1987 classic, Presumed Innocent.

Grade: A+

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact time where Michael Connelly transformed from “an author who I look forward to his new release every year or so” to one of my favorite authors. Yeah, I always enjoyed the Harry Bosch novels and thought The Poet was one of the best serial killer novels of all time, but until recently, Connelly was never the author that I was scanning websites, searching for news about his next release. If you held a gun to my head, and forced me to give you an answer, I would have to choose between two points. The first was when I began listening to more audiobooks. When I began listening to audiobooks, one of the first things I did was go back and fill in all the holes in my Michael Connelly Bibliography. The second point, if you still had that gun and began waving it menacingly, would be when The Lincoln Lawyer was released and Connelly introduced us to Defense Attorney Mickey Haller. You see, my two favorite sub-genres of books are Post Apocalyptic, and Courtroom Thrillers. Yeah, I know that’s sort of like saying your two favorite kinds of food are Pad Thai, and donuts, but, well it’s true. With the introduction of Mickey Haller, Connelly created a Courtroom Thriller series, better written and more realistic then most novels produced by Lawyers turned writers. The high point of the series, The Reversal, won my (not so) coveted Best Audiobook of 2010.

So, now, Connelly has released the fourth entry in the Mickey Haller series, The Fifth Witness. Mickey and company have fallen onto hard times, and now are specializing in Foreclosure Law. Of course, when one of his clients is accuse of killing the banker responsible for the foreclosure proceedings on her house, Mickey once again dons his Defense Attorney hat, and takes the case. Now, I am going to put this pretty simply, The Fifth Witness may possibly be the best Courtroom Thriller written in the past 10 years, maybe even longer. In fact, the only competition I can even reasonably put against it is Connelly’s own The Reversal, and Scott Turow’s 2010 novel Innocent. Even further, I would say that The Fifth Witness is the best Courtroom Thriller since Scott Turow’s 1987 classic Presumed Innocent (prequel to Innocent.) In The Fifth Witness you will not find any high speed chases, gun battles, or hand to hand combat. What you have is a systematic, yet intriguing step by step look at our legal system. Connelly brings you through the complex system of jurisprudence, examining each step through the eyes of jaded Defense Attorney Mickey Haller. Yet, Connelly also adds a human element, showing Haller’s evolving relationship with his ex-wife, as well as his legal staff. As in most legal thrillers, you have the conflicts, whether is be with his client, her shady benefactor, the prosecutor, and the judge, yet all of these are tempered by Haller’s own conscience, despite his advice against having one. Connelly ends the novel brilliantly, and prepares us for even more change in Mickey Haller’s life with the next novel.

It’s hard to judge Peter Giles as a narrator. The majority of his narrating work has been on Michael Connelly’s books. Giles brings a straight forward, even keeled reading to the novel. While in some works, this would come of as almost robotic, here it fits the rhythms of this novel perfectly. Giles finds just the right tone for each character, never overdoing it. His cadence, especially during Haller’s courtroom scenes, is dead on. I’m not sure if this is by choice, or just his limits as a narrator, but Giles simplistic approach to the reading of this novel allowed the story to shine on its own, needing no over the top performance to keep the listener interested. I would be quite interested to see how Giles would handle other work, where more of a performance is required. Yet, that is for another time. Here, Giles brings home this excellent novel, and hopefully will continue to do it in further installments of this series.