by Barbara Nevins Taylor
From historical romance to action-adventure and literary novels, I like well-written stories with great narrators. And a few of my recent favorites cover a range of genres.
Rather Be The Devil, by Ian Rankin, narrated by Michael Page
You can count on Ian Rankin to deliver a solid police procedural, even when his Detective John Rebus retires. Rebus inserts himself into an investigation to help solve a string of murders in Edinburgh. Of course the new people in charge don’t want him around. The story gives a great push and pull between Rebus and authority as the entertaining and surprising story unfolds.
Michael Page performs strong characterizations as he and Rankin keep you listening.
Victoria, by Daisy Goodwin, narrated by Anna Wilson-Jones
Daisy Goodwin tells a vivid, detailed and romantic story about the 18-year-old Alexandrina Victoria as she becomes queen and finds her way through the thickets of political intrigue and love. Goodwin’s research and rich storytelling skills make it fresh and exciting. As you listen to Anna Wilson Jones’ narration, you travel through this coming of age tale cringing and occasionally fearing for this willful young woman and the possibilities that she will make the wrong decisions.
The audiobook gives you insight into life in the royal quarters during the 19th century, the role of Victoria’s first Prime Minster Lord Melbourne as her political tutor and her reliance on him. Clearly she loves him, at least in this book. But much to her chagrin, he keeps her at an emotional arms length and eventually she moves on to a romance with her cousin Prince Albert. I bet a sequel follows and I will listen.
The Dry, by Jane Harper, narrated by Steven Shanahan
In this mystery thriller set in a parched, remote area of Australia, federal agent Aaron Falk returns home to Kiewarra from Melbourne to attend the funeral of a childhood friend. The richly layered and well-written story surprises the listener with one slow and well-timed reveal after another. Jane Harper keeps you listening with the pages turning in your mind. Steven Shanahan’s Australian accent takes a little bit to get used to, but he and the author reward you if you stick with it. And it doesn’t take very long for a listener to warm up to the accent and the story to get rolling.
Falk, we learn, was forced to leave Kiewarra with his dad when he was a teenager. He planned to come back for only eighteen hours, but gets drawn into an investigation of a murder that sent him packing in the first place. He takes a leave of absence and teams up with the town’s only cop and for what happens after that, you just have listen. The town and its people have a lot of secrets.
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, narrated by Claire Danes
Yes. Hulu has the series based on the 1986 book by Margaret Atwood. But this audiobook version of Margaret Atwood’s frighteningly realistic dystopian novel compels you to listen, even as you feel repulsed by the repression.
Claire Danes’ quiet narration and her embodiment of Offred, the handmaid who leads us through the horror of an oppressive anti-woman regime, feels just right.
I didn’t read the book when it was first published because I’m too optimistic and couldn’t buy into the nightmare vision of the world. In our political climate today, it sadly and horribly seems important to listen, read or watch The Handmaid’s Tale.