Audiobook Review: Countdown City by Ben H. Winters

16 08 2013

Countdown City (The Last Policeman, Bk. 2) by Ben H, Winters

Read by Peter Berkrot

Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 18 Min

Genre: Apocalyptic Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Countdown City is a bigger, better novel than The Last Policeman that manages to maintain the uniqueness that made the first novel special. Winter’s continues to expand his world in interesting new ways while setting in motion its ultimate destruction. Countdown City is a novel that will please both mystery fans and Apocalyptic Fiction fanatics, and fill with orgasmic pleasure those who love both.

Grade: A-

Since I first heard about Ben H. Winter’s The Last Policeman series, about a policeman who continues to investigate crimes despite the fact that an asteroid is due to strike Earth, people have been describing it as a Pre-Apocalypse novel. This was the mindset I took into it when reading The Last Policeman, and its sequel Countdown City. Now, on reflection, I think that classification is wrong. It all comes down to how you define Apocalyptic. For some people, in order for a novel to be truly apocalyptic, an event must occur that devastates the entire world. I have even heard some say that unless over 90% of the population dies, it’s not truly a Post Apocalyptic novel. I have always disagreed with this thinking. I define an apocalyptic event as something that has drastically affected the established order of society, leading to some type of regression. Another argument that I tend to have with other fans of apocalyptic fiction comes in defining the catalyst for said devastation. Some people require a distinct physical event, like an asteroid strike, a plague, a nuclear war or an alien invasion for a novel to truly be Post Apocalyptic. These events lead to two succinct differing eras, a Pre period and a post Period. Before the asteroid strike there wasn’t an apocalypse, afterward there was, simple. Yet, I think this idea downplays social causes for apocalyptic upheaval, or what I like to call a "slow boil" apocalypse.  A series of rolling events like economic collapse, localized natural disasters, political upheaval, social unrests or even scientific discoveries could lead to just as much devastation as a nuclear war or asteroid strike. Yet, for The Last Policeman, I would say there was a true event that led to an apocalyptic shift in the societal order, the announcement of the impending asteroid strike. This even lead to a drastic shift in the social, political and economic status of the world Ben H. Winters has created, and under my definition, that would make it an apocalyptic event. Through this, Winters has managed to flip the genre on its head, and explore aspects often neglected by other novels of this type, yet truly fitting the my classification of Post Apocalyptic.

With only 77 left until the asteroid 2011GV1 strikes the Earth, the last thing former Policeman Hank Palace should do is take on a pointless missing person case. With so many people going "Bucket List", using the last days to fulfill their ultimate fantasies, the likelihood that he could find a missing person and convince them to return were astronomically small. Yet, when it’s your former babysitter asking, how can you say no? Hank doesn’t, and his investigation has him following clues that lead him to black-market dealers, government atrocities, and a strange permissive independent state set up by university students with ties to his estranged sister.  Once again, Ben H. Winters manages to put together another solid mystery novel given even greater depth by the apocalyptic world in which it takes place. Hank’s investigative discoveries almost takes secondary status to the reader’s ability to discover the changes the world has undergone since the day the discovery of its pending destruction was announced. As a fan of both apocalyptic fiction and detective fiction, this series has the potential for the best combination of two things I love since someone discovers just how good peanut butter and chocolate go together. More importantly, Winter’s doesn’t fail to achieve, and may even have surpassed this potential. The mystery is superbly done, with a solid investigative process and lots of small twists that lead to the final big reveal that will surprise even veteran mystery fans. I found the mystery in Countdown City to be even better than the first novel in the series due to its grander scope and more complicated motivations. Here, the mystery and the apocalyptic world seemed to meld together more fluidly. Winters even managed to use my skeptical nature when it comes to fictional mysteries against me. I tend to be a person who assumes that what information I’m told is true, about someone’s character or motivations, is more often than not just a mask for their true nature. Yet, in Countdown City, that natural mystery reader’s skepticism is flipped on its head. I also truly love the world that Winter’s has created. I enjoyed getting a broader look at the world than just Concord City. Winter’s also builds more on the conflict between Hank and his sister, with effective results that truly builds excitement for the final novel of the trilogy. Countdown City is a bigger, better novel than The Last Policeman that manages to maintain the uniqueness that made the first novel special. Winter’s continues to expand his world in interesting new ways while setting in motion its ultimate destruction. Countdown City is a novel that will please both mystery fans and Apocalyptic Fiction fanatics, and fill with orgasmic pleasure those who love both.

Whenever I start a novel that is narrated by Peter Berkrot it takes me just a bit to adjust to his voice. Berkrot doesn’t have the typical BIG narrator voice that would sound perfect guiding us through the latest apocalyptic movie trailer. Instead, he has a voice that is full of character and unique enough to make it stand out. Berkrot gives another solid performance in Countdown City. He deftly switched between the absurdly sarcastic to the deadly serious with ease. It’s a truly human performance, where the characters may not always react in an appropriate way, but they do so in a natural way. His characters all come alive in unique ways, from the dark humor of Hank’s former colleagues, to the desperation of the betrayed wife. Yet, where Berkrot truly steps it up is in his delivery of one particular scene that borders on stream of consciousness. Without going too into spoilerific details, Berkrot captures the poetry of Winter’s prose during a scene that finds a character floating somewhere between life and death. It’s highly affective and slightly disorienting, and delivered perfectly. Countdown City is another wonderful trip into Winter’s world of impeding doom skillfully guided by the skills of the narrator.

Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

This review is part of my weekly “Welcome to the Apocalypse” theme. Click on the image below for links to more posts.





Audiobook Review: The Books of Blood Volume 1 by Clive Barker

17 05 2013

The Books of Blood: Volume 1 by Clive Barker

Read by Simon Vance, Dick Hill, Peter Berkrot, Jeffrey Kafer, Chet Williamson, and Chris Patton

Crossroad Press

Length: 6 Hrs 51 Min

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: With each tale of The Books of Blood, Barker proves himself a modern master of horror, who uses his reader’s expectations to good effect, hooking you in, then shocking you in twisted and disturbing ways. The Books of Blood is a strong collection of horror takes that should, at times, make you laugh while inserting nightmarish visions into your brain to disturb your nights.

Grade: B+

Nearly 25 years ago, after receiving my first paycheck as a 15 year old working a horrible job doing phone surveys about soda and car repair, I walked into The Oxford Valley Mall’s Waldenbooks and bought my first adult books. Before this moment, I had very little control over the books I could read. Most I got from the public or school library and they had to be cleared with my mother. The few times I got my hands on unapproved books, like when my cousin slipped me a copy of Lord Foul’s Bane, I was caught, scolded for introducing satanic things like magic into my brain and forced to return to my copies of The Three Investigators or Agatha Christie or steal copies of my sister’s Danielle Steel or VC Andrews novel, secure in the thoughts that incest and sexual abuse was in no way as devastating as magical rings and Giants. Now, here I was, unsupervised, with my own money, ready to buy my own books. I picked out three novels, one was Stephen King’s It, which of course I loved. I had read Cujo and Christine before, which were, unbeknownst to my mother, available in my school library, so I knew what I was expecting. I also picked up a novel by a new to me author named Dean Koontz, The Bad Place, which sent me into a voracious need to read all his books. Finally, I picked up Clive Barker’s The Damnation Game. The Damnation game scared the hell out of me. I’m not sure I really got the surreal horror style, and some of the images truly disturbed me. I think I may have been too young at the time for that novel. I wanted tales with monsters and kids in peril, and strange weird science fictioney stuff, and I think Barker’s tale was a little beyond me at the time. It would be years later before I returned to one of his novels, the Fantasy tale of Imajica, and was blown away buy his writing.

The Books of Blood is a short story collection told in a framework of stories written into the skin of a huckster medium when he was brought into investigate strange haunted house. This first volume had five unique and diverse tales spanning the themes of horror. I have always enjoyed short story collections, although I rarely listen to them in audio. One thing that impressed me with this collection is that for each story, I made an assumption early on in the tale, and each time Barker took the story in ways that surprised me. Most surprising of all was the dark humor that infused some of the tales. With the gruesome framework of the series, I was expecting a full on assault of dark and horrific tales and while he delivered on that, he also managed to make me laugh along the way. My favorite tale of the collection had to be The Yattering and Jack, a story of a battle of wills between a gherkin salesman and the demons assigned to drive him crazy. This story was full of such fun, funny moments that I didn’t expect some of the twists along the way. Being that it’s Zombie Awareness Month, it was nice to see that there was a story dealing with the living dead of a sort. In Sex, Death and Starshine, a struggling theatre is putting on a production of Twelth Night staring a vapid soap actress. When a strange accident befalls the star, the director finds the most odd of replacements, who finds an audience all her own. I loved this story. It started out strange to me, but I was instantly thrust into the story through a menagerie of outrageous characters. The Midnight Meat Train started as a traditional New York City serial killer tale, but takes a strange turn. Talking about strange, the last two tales had some of the most bizarre horror imagery I had ever read. and I won’t even describe them here because it may lessen the impact for those who end up reading.  With each tale, Barker proves himself a modern master of horror, who uses his reader’s expectations to good effect, hooking you in, then shocking you in twisted and disturbing ways. The Books of Blood is a strong collection of horror takes that should, at times, make you laugh while inserting nightmarish visions into your brain to disturb your nights,

Audiobook producers tend to take two approaches when casting anthologies, they either hire a single narrator to read all the tales, or they cast each story. Luckily, Crossroads Press took the later approach to casting, bringing in a strong group of narrators, each suited to the tale. Chris Patton started it off with the framework tale. Despite it being short Patton pulled all the creepiness out of the tale, and slung it right into the faces of the listeners. Jeffrey Kafer read The Midnight Meat Train. What I enjoyed about Kafer’s reading was that he didn’t fall into traditional stereotypical voices. I hate when a character runs into some conspiracy spouting dude at a bar in NYC and they make him sound like a West Virginian hick. Kafer created authentic characters and had a keen sense of pacing as the train sped to it’s horrific finale. Dick Hill was the perfect choice for The Yattering and Jack. His precise pacing accentuated the humor of the tale, upping each absurd moment to the max. Peter Berkrot’s reading of Pig Blood Blues gave me chills, balancing the matter of fact protagonist of the story with the ethereal tones. Sometimes when you become familiar with a narrator, you start imagining them in the role of the protagonist of the story you are reading. So, I wasn’t happy hearing Simon Vance describe the sexual encounters of Theater director Terry Calloway. Other than that, Vance gave his typical performance, which is spot on. The highlight of his story was the theatrical Mr. Litchfield which Vance captured perfectly. Finally, there was Chet Williamson. This was my first time listening to one of Williamson’s narrations, and I felt he had just the right raw creepiness in his tone. Honestly, this story, In the Hills, the Cities, was probably the tale I struggled with the most. It took me a bit to get into, but Williamson’s reading of the stunning finale was paced wonderfully creating one of the most strangely beautiful moments of the audiobook. The Books of Blood is an excellent audio production of one of the masters of horror. Even the stories that I struggled with managed to find a place in my nightmare, thanks largely to the excellent work of the narrators.

Special Thanks to Crossroad Press for providing me with a copy of the title for review.

Zombob2ZAM_thumb

2013 Zombie Awareness Month





Audiobook Review: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

21 09 2012

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

Read by Peter Berkrot

Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 20 Min

Genre: Pre-Apocalyptic Police Procedural

Quick Thoughts: The Last Policeman is the rare novel that is willing to break away from traditional genres and effectively blends two very different styles for something fresh. Crime fiction fans will enjoy the stripping away of investigative tools and Post Apocalyptic fans will enjoy Winter’s depiction of the methodic breakdown off society. While the slow pacing can give it a plodding feel, the reader is rewarded with a strong finale which opens as many doors as it closes. 

Grade: B

One of my favorite little pearls of wisdom that I like to share to those who bother to listen to me is that you never truly know someone until you have been through the bad times with them. Most people, my optimistic side likes to believe, have no problems being selfless and charitable when things are good, but put the same person in a life or death struggle, and often that selflessness goes right out the window. This is one of my favorite aspects about Post Apocalyptic fiction. Just how far a good person would go to protect themselves and those they love when the world turns to shit. Yet, I think there is an interesting added development in Pre-Apocalypse novels like The Last Policeman and Jack McDevitt’s Moonfall. What if you know that in 6 Months time, you and probably the rest of the world will be wiped off the face of our planet. Will you grab a hold of something, like family, religion or even your job, or would you throw off your everyday entanglements and embrace your final moments, taking the chance to experience things you always wanted but were hampered by responsibility. I think many people would be surprised by their own actions. Normal people would turn into hoarders, and the most responsible among us very may abandon all they built to live for one last fling. Many would embrace despair, and either go into an intense state of denial, or become suicidal. For me, personally, I would want to see how the world ends. I am a big fan of people watching, and I think observing the world in its death throws would be too interesting an opportunity to give up. Maybe that’s a bit sadistic, on my part but I accept that.

Hank Palace always dreamed of becoming a detective in the small city of Concord, NH but a massive asteroid on a direct collision course with Earth was never part of the dream. While much of the world has seemed to give up, Hank still believes in his job. When called into an apparent suicide in a MacDonald’s bathroom, something about the body of the dead insurance man just didn’t seem right. Believing it to be a murder, Hank pursues the case, attempting to find justice in a dying world. The Last Policeman is a moody police procedural set against the backdrop of an impending apocalypse. The plot of the investigation is interesting, but like many of Hank’s colleagues, I had trouble really caring about the victim or just why he was murdered. What I did find fascinating was the obstacles that the culture of apathy set in his way. Many of the typical police resources where either unavailable to Hank, or he had to fight to make others care enough to actually contribute. As a fan of procedural thrillers, this was actually a nice little spin, and while I may not have been sold on the investigation, the process that Hank used made up for it. Yet, the true beauty of the novel comes in its characterizations. Everyone in the novel has some level of either obsession, or extreme apathy. Hank is a bit of a boy scout, wanting to do things right, wanting to his job to mean something. He despises the various obsessions of those he interacts with, particularly those fascinated by the religion or the planet‘s impending doom, yet his level of obsession seems just as dysfunctional. It seemed, as we moved through the plot, he was more interested in discovering the story and finding a motive that makes sense, than in actually finding justice for his victim. It’s cleverly done by Winters and it defied my expectations. The pacing itself is slower than your typical thriller, spending a lot of time on Hank’s internal dialogue. This can get a bit frustrating and repetitive, but it gives us many interesting incites into the mind of a man who knows he’s doomed. The Last Policeman is the rare novel that is willing to break away from traditional genres and effectively blends two very different styles for something fresh. Crime fiction fans will enjoy the stripping away of investigative tools and Post Apocalyptic fans will enjoy Winter’s depiction of the methodic breakdown off society. While the slow pacing can give it a plodding feel, the reader is rewarded with a strong finale which opens as many doors as it closes. 

Peter Berkrot gives a well reasoned, smart reading of The Last Policeman. Berkrot has a natural gift for creating characters you can engage with. Here, Berkrot seems to have given a lot of thought into each character. Winter’s places lot of seeds early into his characters that you don’t see fully grown until later in the story. Berkrot’s characterizations help develop the characters. You can feel the transformation, characters giving into their obsessions. Berkrot will quicken the pace of some characters as they become more and more unhinged and slow down others as they retreat into themselves. It’s a good example of how a well studied narrator can enhance a production. Berkrot does have a sarcastic edge to his voice that works well with some of the peripheral characters, but sometimes gives choir boy Hank a bit too much of an edge. Luckily, that wasn’t too distracting, and Berkrot more than makes up for this in many other areas. Berkrot is rapidly becoming one of those narrators that I trust to read almost anything. His performance in The Last Policeman only strengthens this belief. With two more books in this series scheduled, I for one hope that Peter Berkrot sticks around to bring them to life for us.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

This review is part of my weekly “Welcome to the Apocalypse” theme. Click on the image below for links to more posts.





Audiobook Review: The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse by Steven C. Schlozman

23 05 2012

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse by Steven C. Schlozman

Read by Peter Berkrot, Stephen Hoye and Emily Durante

Tantor Audio

Length: 3 Hrs 44 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse Mocumentory

Quick Thoughts: The Zombie Autopsies is at times fascinating and at times confusing. Schlozman combines fiction and science in an interesting way, and hardcore Zombie enthusiasts, who enjoy Discovery Channel type programming, will find this book a welcome addition to their Undead Library.

Grade: B-

I have always been fascinated by the science behind Zombies. While many books either do not explain the advent of the walking dead or use mysterious or supernatural events to explain reanimated copses, I have always preferred books that offer a scientific reason. For me, it makes it all the more scary. As someone who grew up in a religious household, we head a lot about apocalyptic events destined for our future. For me, events like The Rapture, Armageddon and the Tribulation has always been tied to faith. Faith is something you can choose to have, or choose not to have. In this way, I can control the apocalypse. I can decide whether or not I believe in a God who may eventually destroy the world. Yet, with science, I have no control. I can not control what made scientists are cooking up in the labs. I have no say over whether or not a brain parasite could infect our cerebrum and take over our central nervous system. Prions, amino acids, neurotoxins, mutated viruses, and DNA take no heed from me. This is why I find it scary. We are living in a time where science is at such a cutting edge, it could either save us, or kill us all. While I believe science has good intentions, even these intentions have side affects. These side affects may include our bodies rising from the dead, hungering for human flesh and incontinence.

In the Zombie Autopsies by Steven C. Schlozman we find the world in the midst of a Zombie Apocalypse and our last hope may be experiments being conducted in a secret facility called The Crypt. Here, Scientists are conducting autopsies of Stated 4 subjects to try to isolate the causes and possible solutions to the ANSD virus. Yet, as the scientists succumb to the virus, Dr. Stanley Blum, more administrators that scientist, is left to try to figure out and record the potential breakthrough the team has made. The Zombie Autopsies is a strange blend of fiction and Discovery channel documentary. I found the science, and scientific method used to try to understand the virus causing humans to transform into zombies to be fascinating, if not a bit over my head. As a layman, who is well read in science fiction and zombie literature, but who isn’t especially knowledgeable in Science, my understanding of the discoveries and theories being displayed in this novel was shaky at best. For the most part, the science was presented in an accessible manner, yet, the rambling of Dr. Blum becomes harder to follow as he begins to suffer cognitive issues, as a result of either catching the virus, or losing his mind. Here is where the fictional aspects of the novel took away a bit from the tale. I enjoyed the blending of fiction, but I feel right as I was starting to get a feel for the scientific speech of Dr. Blum, things began to fall apart. One aspect of the boom I really enjoyed was the Appendices. The author did a good job mimicking Bureaucratic speak when compiling governmental and scientific supplemental materials for the story. I found a sort of dark humor in the wording, particularly when discussing the legal status of the undead. The Zombie Autopsies is at times fascinating and at times confusing. Schlozman combines fiction and science in an interesting way, and hardcore Zombie enthusiasts, who enjoy Discovery Channel type programming, will find this book a welcome addition to their Undead Library.

I was unsure about listening to an audiobook version of this title, and almost went with a print version instead. I’m glad I didn’t. I think the performances of the narrators easily overcame any of deficiencies in experiencing the novel is audio format. Peter Berkrot gave a fast and frightening interpretation of Dr. Blum, which contrasted nicely with Stephen Hoye’s calm bureaucratic voice. Berkrot was all frantic performance, while Hoye brought a crisp matter of fact reading, and the interplay between the two made the telling even more frightening.  Tantor Audio also included a PDF file of the visual materials of the novel, which included drawling of cross sections of the infested brains, and visualizations of the stages of zombieism. All together, the production was nicely done, and made for an informative and entertaining package.

.





Audiobook Review: Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

8 04 2012

Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

Read by Peter Berkrot

Hachette Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 48 Min

Genre: Historic Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Unholy Night is a highly entertaining expansion of the story of Mary and Joseph’s escape to Egypt, told from the perspective of a flawed but compelling character. While the story is full of humor, it never goes for the easy joke, transporting it beyond slapstick to a fun adventure filled Historical Fantasy.

Grade: B+

A few weeks ago I went to see this little movie called The Hunger Games. One of the previews for The Hunger Games is the upcoming, sure to be a hit, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Being familiar with the book, I figured out early what the movie being previewed was. The preview itself slow plays the revelation that this is both a vampire movie, and more importantly, a movie about Vampires being hunted by iconic American Hero Abraham Lincoln. When the movie title was displayed in all its glory, there was this sort of stunned incredulous gasp from the audience, followed by some hoots of laughter. Personally, for me, this was the appropriate response to the concept. Seth Grahame Smith is a writer who has always amused me with the mash up concepts and I look forward to seeing what he was going to do next, yet, I never actually read the books. When Pride & Prejudice & Zombies came out, I had to struggle with my dislike of Jane Austen novels (I know, gasp! Sorry!) and my love of Zombies. Ultimately, my dislike of Austen style romance won out. Yet, I remained intrigued. I have always wondered what kind of writer Smith was. Some books seem so bizarre that it’s often easy to overlook the quality of the writing. When I heard about Unholy Night, a retelling of the Three Wise Man legend, I was intrigued. As someone who was raised in the church, and someone who enjoys a good read, I thought this would be the perfect vehicle for me to jump onto the runaway train of the Seth Grahame-Smith bandwagon.

Honestly, I really didn’t know what to expect going into Unholy Night. I expected a clever and funny retelling of The Three Wise Men, with the added twist of these figures actually being criminals on the run. What I got was a well written compelling story of the life of a legendary career criminal name Balthazar, who by a series of events, gets mixed up in Mary and Joseph’s harrowing escape from the lunatic King Herod. While funny at times, the humor is subtext to the tale and not it’s driving force. Smith proves to me that he is a serious writer who can take a concept further than you would expect. The character of Balthazar is not an easy joke, the Frank Drebin of the nativity, but a complex man struggling with faith and loss. The tale itself is well plotted, full of ever escalating danger and swashbuckling action. Unholy Night works well as a Historic Fantasy, along the way we meet some key figures of historic and biblical import. Each person is not just a caricature of the figure, but a fully realized characterization that was obviously well researched and made to feel like real people. Yet, as much as the detail and character development impressed me, the best part was just how plain fun the book was. As someone who grew up immersed in Bible stories, I enjoyed the heck out of this tale. Smith handled a topic that could bring down the wrath of the pious with grace, and I believe that most Christians would appreciate the respect he gives the characters, even if Mary can come off as a bit annoyingly self righteous at times. Unholy Night is a highly entertaining expansion of the story of Mary and Joseph’s escape to Egypt, told from the perspective of a flawed but compelling character. While the story is full of humor, it never goes for the easy joke, transporting it beyond slapstick to a fun adventure filled Historical Fantasy.

Peter Berkrot reads this story with polish and passion, infusing his obvious delight with the tale into ever word. This is the second time I have listen to Berkrot’s narration, and while I enjoyed my first experience, he really stepped it up for his reading of Unholy Night. The prose was told in a crisp, clear tone, which allowed you to immerse yourself in the tale. His portrayal of the twisted, diseased megalomaniacal Herod was a highlight of this production, balancing humor and a true sense of distaste for this character. I often complain about novels with a specific international locale being read in a sort of Middle American manner. While Berkrot’s accents won’t blow you away, he gives his characters, particularly the woman, an exotic flavor that was appropriate to the text. This was a fun book that was only enhanced by the excellent audio production. Listening to Unholy Night makes me want to go back and check out some of Seth Grahame-Smith’s titles I overlooked.

Note: A special thanks to the people of Hachette Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review. This title will be released April 10, 2012.





Audiobook Review: Lassiter by Paul Levine

29 09 2011

Lassiter by Paul Levine

Read by Peter Berkrot

AudioGo

Length: 8 Hrs 41 MIns

Genre: Legal Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Fans of legal thrillers as well as quirky Florida mysteries should definitely give Lassiter a chance, whether or not they have read the previous editions of the series.

Grade: B+

My first experience with Paul Levine and his ex-football player lawyer Jake Lassiter was back in 1996 with Naked Came the Manatee, a collaborative novel written by some of Florida’s greatest thriller writers. I have always enjoyed the strange subgenre that is Florida based thrillers, and being a fan of Carl Hiaasen and James W. Hall I couldn’t help but snatch that book up. Yet, despite my love of legal thrillers, for some reason which I really can’t figure out, I never went back and read the Jake Lassiter series. It wasn’t until nearly 10 years later that I discovered Levine’s quirky courtroom thriller series, Solomon vs. Lord that I became a true fan of Levine’s work. This series combined two things I love, Florida mayhem with courtroom shenanigans. Yet, this was also around the time that I began to do most of my "reading" with audiobooks. Sadly, the Jake Lassiter series isn’t well represented in audiobook form, so I still neglected it. Yet, when I discovered that Paul Levine was, after a 14 year long break, going to bring back Jake Lassiter, and it would be available as an audiobook, I was both excited and a bit worried. I was excited to be able to experience Levine’s witty writing style again, yet concerned about jumping into a series at book number 8. Yet, I took the plunge and finally entered Lassiter’s world.

Miami Lawyer Jake Lassiter was intrigued by the attractive women starring daggers into him during his closing arguments of a DUI case. Yet, when he finds out that she is the sister of a missing stripper that Jake had briefly met back during his days as a Dolphin’s Linebacker, he gives into his guilty feelings and decides to help find out what happened to the missing girl. This leads him down a dark path of pornography, corruption, and eventually murder. From the moment I started listening to Lassiter I knew my worries about jumping into the series at book 8 would be unfounded. Levine does a good job reintroducing his main character, and I never felt like I was missing any sort of back story. Lassiter is just the kind of character I always enjoy, quirky and sarcastic and not afraid to occasionally break a rule. Levine did a great job setting up the plot, creating a complex and surprising mystery that kept me guessing to the very end. Yet, it wasn’t just the mystery that brings the surprises, Levine develops his characters in such a clever way that you find yourself questioning many of your initial assumptions. I was also quite happy that this novel didn’t fall into the latest trend in legal fiction where the lawyer is simply a detective with an expensive degree. Lassiter had some strong courtroom scenes which were pivotal to the plot. Fans of legal thrillers as well as quirky Florida mysteries should definitely give Lassiter a chance, whether or not they have read the previous editions of the series.

At the start of the audiobook, I wasn’t sure what I thought of Peter Berkrot as narrator. It took me a little bit to get used to his voice, but when I did I found it actually well fitted to the tale. Peter Berkrot isn’t simply reading the book to you, but instead he brings the characters to life and allows them to tell the tale. Berkrot brings a sense of authenticity to Jake Lassiter, that by the time the book hits its stride, I felt I was listening to Jake tell his narrative. Berkrot also seemed to have a lot of fun with his reading, which provided a lot of interesting characters, from an elderly Mafioso to a Jewish/Cuban prosecutor, as well as the various lowlifes and outcasts that make up the scenery of any good Florida mystery. Berkrot voiced them all perfectly, bringing the right amount of humor. Lassiter is a fun legal thriller, a well plotted mystery and a winning audiobook production, and I for one would love to see the backlist of Lassiter novels brought to life in audiobook form as well.

 

Note: A special thanks to the wonderful people as AudioGo for provide a copy of this title for review. This title is available for download through Audible.com.