Book Reviews: The Thirst by Jo Nesbo and A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly

The Thirst
A Harry Hole Novel #11
Jo Nesbo
Translated from the Norwegian by Neil Smith
Knopf, May 2017
ISBN 978-0-385-35216-1
Hardcover

Harry Hole, Norway’s most experienced serial murder detective, is content to no longer serve on the murder squad, instead lecturing at the police college and living happily after marrying Rakel three years ago.  Unfortunately, such bliss is interrupted when evidence of a possible murder too difficult to solve leads the police chief to blackmail Harry into joining the hunt.  And then he jumps in with both feet.

It turns out that the villain in a previous novel in the series, Police, may be the sought-after culprit, especially when Harry recognizes the killer’s MO.  As the frustrating hunt continues, we learn more about vampirism than, perhaps, we’d like.  It appears that the murderer has a taste for drinking the victim’s blood.  And Nesbo delves into the subject deeply and often.

In this, the 11th Harry Hole novel, the author once again demonstrates why the series is so popular:  a plot so well-developed that the reader hardly notices the length of the book.  And the twist that draws the tale to an end certainly is an added fillip.  The Thirst demonstrates to what lengths Harry Hole will go to solve a case.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2017.

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A Game of Ghosts
A Charlie Parker Thriller #15
John Connolly
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-5011-7189-5
Hardcover

This is Book #15 in the Charlie Parker series.  In it, Charlie has made a deal with Special Agent Ross and is on retainer to the FBI, and he is asked to find a private investigator, Jacob Eklund, also working for Ross, who apparently has disappeared.  With few facts, especially what the PI was doing for Ross, Parker begins his investigation.  And it leads him into the weirdest of investigations. It seems Eklund, on his own, was involved in tracking down a series of homicides and disappearances, each linked to extraordinary events or sightings.

Meanwhile, Parker is also facing pressure from Rachel, his onetime girlfriend and mother of his daughter, Sam; she is convinced Sam’s exposure to Parker places her in jeopardy.  This belief, reinforced by Sam’s abduction in a previous novel and possible harm, leads Rachel to seek judicial relief preventing direct contact between Parker and his daughter without direct supervision.

As the author acknowledges: “This odd book—if mine are not all odd books—is as much a product of a lifetime of reading ghost stories…”  And it is odd.  And it is filled with ghost stories.  It is an intriguing tale of the supernatural, together with a basic crime story.  It is one fascinating account and well-plotted, bringing together what amounts to a detective story and a ghost story, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2017.

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Book Review: Lucky Penny by Ellie Ashe

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Title: Lucky Penny
Series: The Miranda Vaughn Mysteries #3

Author: Ellie Ashe
Narrator: Teri Schnaubelt
Publication Date: April 7, 2017

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Lucky Penny
The Miranda Vaughn Mysteries #3
Ellie Ashe
Ellie Ashe, April 2017
Narrated by Teri Schnaubelt
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the author—

A year after her acquittal on fraud charges, former financial analyst Miranda Vaughn is finally getting her life back. Not only does she have a chance for romance with her sexy neighbor, FBI Agent Jake Barnes, but she’s also got a new job…one that’s taking her to a vacation paradise!

Perched above the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe, the Whispering Pines Resort & Spa is a local landmark and a popular destination for the rich and famous who are stressed out from being rich and famous. And down on the water’s edge is the Lucky Penny Casino – an abandoned shell of a once-stylish casino. Max Emmerson, the owner of the Whispering Pines Resort, used to own the Lucky Penny, and he wants it back. Miranda’s job is to get Max’s finances in order so he can borrow the money to buy the casino, and make sure nothing jeopardizes his gaming license. Easy, right?

But the nice boring accounting job spirals out of control with the addition of a Hollywood film crew, an underground gambling ring, and Jake going undercover at the resort as a newlywed – with another woman. As Miranda and Jake each dive into their investigations, they can’t deny their growing feelings for each other. But it’s more important than ever that they keep their attraction hidden. Especially since someone at the resort is watching them very closely, and is willing to do just about anything to keep them from uncovering the truth.

Fair warning to readers new to the series: I had no trouble jumping into it with the third book but those who are chronologically-driven probably would prefer to read in order. I’m just sayin’  😉

Technically speaking, Lucky Penny is a cozy that doesn’t quite meet the so-called requirements because it doesn’t take place in a small town, most of the characters don’t start out as bosom buddies and the protagonist isn’t a cook, crafter, organic farmer, bookseller, yogi, petsitter, etc., etc., etc. So, let’s just call it a cozy chick-lit caper, OK?

Miranda is a very likeable character who got in some legal trouble a while back and, although she was acquitted, her career is in shambles so she takes on a freelance job at a casino, one that she might not have been offered in the past but it could be a real boon for her. Naturally, what seemed to be a pretty simple task, not to mention a free luxury vacation, turns out to be much, much more. Before she knows what’s happening, Miranda is in the midst of financial shenanigans, an illegal gambling investigation, the filming of a movie and a couple of twisty turny romantic developments.

I could do without the woman-has-to-choose-between-two-guys routine but the romantic elements weren’t too intrusive and the various mysteries were entertaining enough plus the main players are appealing. Bottomline, I liked the story and the narration of the audio edition was a big plus. Ms. Schnaubelt is a very good reader with an easy tone and excellent pacing, clear diction and she does different voices quite well. Her interpretation of Miranda is especially good, exactly the right touch to pull me into Miranda’s world. Both Ellie Ashe and Teri Schnaubelt bring Miranda and crew to life.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2017.

About the Author

USA Today best-selling author Ellie Ashe has always been drawn to jobs where she can tell stories—journalist, lawyer, and now writer. Writing quirky romantic mysteries is how she gets the “happily ever after” that so often is lacking in her day job.

When not writing, you can find her with her nose in a good book, watching far too much TV, or trying out new recipes on unsuspecting friends and family. She lives in Northern California with her husband and three cats, all of whom worry when she starts browsing the puppy listings on petfinder.com.

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About the Narrator

Teri Schnaubelt is a Chicago-based actor, voice actor and audiobook narrator with over 100 titles, including NY Times Bestsellers.

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Chasing the Dollar (Book 1)

Apr. 16: CGB Blog Tours (Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Apr. 17: Dab of Darkness (Review)

Apr. 18: Guilty Indulgence Book Club (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Apr. 19: Desert Rose Reviews (Review, Spotlight, Audio Excerpt & Giveaway)

The Book Junkie (Spotlight & Interview)

Apr. 20: Lomeraniel (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Apr. 21: The Book Junkie (Review)

Apr. 22: Bound 4 Escape (Review)

Between the Coverz (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Dropping the Dime (Book 2)

Apr. 23: CGB Blog Tours (Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Apr. 24: Dab of Darkness (Review)

Apr. 25: The Book Junkie (Spotlight)

Apr. 26: Desert Rose Reviews (Review, Spotlight, Audio Excerpt & Giveaway)

Apr. 27: Guilty Indulgence Book Club (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

The Book Junkie (Review)

Apr. 28: Lomeraniel (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Apr. 29: Bound 4 Escape (Review)

Between the Coverz (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Lucky Penny (Book 3)

Apr. 30: CGB Blog Tours (Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

May 1: Dab of Darkness (Review)

May 2: Read Day and Night (Review)

The Book Junkie (Spotlight)

May 3: Spunky-n-Sassy (Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

May 4: Desert Rose Reviews (Review, Spotlight, Audio Excerpt & Giveaway)

May 5: The Book Junkie (Review)

May 6: Between the Coverz (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

May 7: Buried Under Books (Review)

May 8: Lomeraniel (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

May 9: The Book Addict’s Reviews (Review)

May 10: Guilty Indulgence Book Club (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

May 11: terriluvsbooks (Review, Author Interview & Giveaway)

May 12: Bound 4 Escape (Review)

May 13: Celtic Lady’s Reviews (Spotlight, Audio Excerpt & Giveaway)

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Book Review: Compromised by James R. Scarantino—and a Giveaway!

Compromised
A Denise Aragon Mystery #2
James R. Scarantino
Midnight Ink, February 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5040-8
Trade Paperback

The body of a teenage girl is found in a dumpster—she’s beautiful, even in death, and is surrounded by six dozen red roses. Santa Fe police detectives Denise Aragon and Rick Lewis , along with FBI Special Agent Tomas Rivera, investigate. Their job is complicated by the fact that their witness, former model Lily Montclaire, is not being entirely truthful with them. Montclaire is currently working for ruthless attorney Marcy Thornton, who is involved with Judge Judy Diaz. The detectives are sure that Thornton and Diaz used the victim for sexual purposes, but can’t connect her to the murder without Montclaire’s help. Montclaire only wants to save her own skin.

When the detectives contact the waste disposal company that owns the dumpster, E. Benny Silva Enterprises, they discover that Benny Silva and his twin brother are involved in a multi-million dollar lawsuit that they want to come to a speedy decision. Marcy Thornton and Judge Diaz are not moving fast enough for them.

Scarantino’s detective, Denise Aragon, is the character that makes the story breathe in jagged, sharp gasps. The reader slowly discovers her disturbing and violent backstory, and it puts her obsession with bodybuilding and Krav Maga, the Israeli self-defense system, into perspective. She is hard as nails, wears her hair shorn so that the scars on her scalp are visible, and her arms bulge with muscles she has worked obsessively to develop. Also proud of her heritage and her family’s ties to the Santa Fe area, she emerges proud and triumphant in the books final scene at the Santa Fe Fiesta. Compromised is the second book in the series, after The Drum Within.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, March 2017.

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Book Review: Convergence by Michelle Grey

convergenceConvergence
Long Shot Series, Book Three
Michelle Grey
CreateSpace, February 2016
ISBN 978-1530169436
Trade Paperback

Whether we call it a romantic suspense or a mystery/romance, the chase is on in Convergence. The plot and characters satisfy detective story lovers and also please readers of romance novels. It’s told from two points of view. Tori Whitlock, the beautiful, hard-nosed tornado chaser isn’t looking for commitment, and Jack Mathis, the hot FBI detective intends only to chase the serial killer threatening Tori’s life. Their worlds collide when the detective must take up residence in Tori’s home to protect her.

Tori has become a celebrity from her electrifying tornado chase videos, and she’s totally upfront about pursuing Jack for a roll in the sack. But she’s also running from demons and ready to lash out with her sharp tongue against the idea of being protected. Jack finds himself drawn to the intelligent, strong-willed lady but won’t let himself act unprofessionally. He’s also still healing from past heartbreak.

The detective fits right in with Tori’s tornado chase team, but he must investigate each member in case the killer of women meteorologists has infiltrated the group. The reader learns how chase teams work while following the increasing fearfulness and also the sexual tension. As soon as we think we don’t know much about the inner Jack or about Tori’s motivations, the author gives us more. Gradually, the characters become rounded until we care as much as they do.

Convergence gives us two main characters, two intertwined plots, and two climaxes (no pun intended). We turn pages to learn whether the serial killer will ever be identified and whether the protagonists will be able to share their feelings with each other. It’s a twisted path, but worth the turns.

Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, July 2016.
http://www.joyceannbrown.com
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections, Furtive Investigation and Nine LiFelines, the first three Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.

Book Review: Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell

Depraved HeartDepraved Heart
A Scarpetta Novel #23
Patricia Cornwell
William Morrow, October 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-232540-2
Hardcover

Dr. Kay Scarpetta works out of Cambridge, Massachusetts these days. In Depraved Heart, she’s been called to a historic home where a woman has been found dead in rather gruesome circumstances. The death is supposed to be a straight forward accident, but of course, Kay finds much to rouse her suspicions. In the midst of this, a message arrives on her cell phone, consisting of video clips of her niece Lucy which would seem to make Lucy into an enemy of the state. No sooner has Kay watched the whole video (and it seems to take forever) than the whole thing disappears.

Kay is recovering from a near death harpooning and is still not at her best. She almost doubts herself, but surely Lucy is in danger. So Kay, aided by her raucous partner, Pete Marino, is out to save those she loves from a dangerous woman from the past. One who is supposed to be dead. As for the FBI, they appear to be as big an enemy as Carrie Grethen.

The plot is good, convoluted and devious, with surprises around every corner. Still, I’m sorry to say I don’t enjoy Scarpetta like I used to. The characters by whom she’s surrounded never seem like anyone I’d care to meet, let alone spend time with. Especially Lucy, who always plays such a large part in the stories. Kay herself spends a lot of time whining, always distrustful, even of those she should be able to count on. I thought this novel overwritten, rather slow moving, and with a lot of people saying the same things over and over.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, January 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: Notorious by Carey Baldwin

NotoriousNotorious
A Cassidy & Spenser Thriller #3
Carey Baldwin
Witness Impulse, April 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-238709-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

The woman everyone loves to hate is dead.

Dallas socialite Cynthia Langhorne is infamous for her beauty, her philanthropy, and her home wrecking–until she’s found shot through the heart and posed nude at a fundraising ball. The case is high profile, and there’s a bigger problem: Cindy is the wife of a decorated FBI special agent–the prime suspect in her murder.

When the Bureau sends FBI profiler Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy to Texas on behalf of Dutch Langhorne, the special agent-turned-suspect, they’re suspicious of the very man whose interests they’re supposed to protect. But with a psycho hitman on their heels and a trail of evidence leading up the food chain, it quickly becomes clear this is no ordinary case. The truth points to someone–or something–larger than Spenser and Cassidy ever thought possible. Solving this case is no longer a matter of clearing Dutch’s name–it’s a matter of national security.

A quick peek at the last few pages of Notorious tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the inner characters of Atticus Spenser and Caitlin Cassidy and why their story is worth reading if character is important to you as a reader. There’s some very strong plot here, too, but I really thought the players were the major draw. FBI/police tales can be exciting and full of suspense but, bottomline, the people can make an individual story stand out.

(Mind you, I’m not recommending you flip to the end because it would undoubtedly spoil the story for you. I’ve been known to do such things but it’s usually because I’m getting bored. No reason to worry about that here.)

Little touches in the plot of Notorious make a difference, too. As an example, it’s no surprise when the husband of the murder victim becomes the prime suspect but there’s a certain sadness in the lack of understanding between husband and wife. In those few moments before Cindy’s death, we see the longing for her husband’s attention and his seeming dismissal of her, his not caring that she’s probably heading to an assignation, but it soon becomes obvious that Dutch truly didn’t know how bad things had gotten between them. That’s probably one of the great truths of a failed marriage.

And, of course, Cindy’s murder is just the tip of a very large and dangerous iceberg as Caity and Spense soon find out. Asked to look into the situation because a colleague is involved, they discover that nothing is as simple as it first seems and the machinations and repercussions will reach the highest echelons of the FBI and beyond.

Carey Baldwin is an author I haven’t encountered before but I now know she’s got a sure hand with a thriller and she has also made me want to know more about Caity and Spense. Fortunately, there are two previous novels I can check out while I wait for a fourth.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2016.

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About the Author

Carey BaldwinCarey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award-winning author of edgy suspense by night. She holds two doctoral degrees, one in medicine and one in psychology. She loves reading and writing stories that keep you off balance and on the edge of your seat. Carey lives in the southwestern United States with her amazing family. In her spare time she enjoys hiking and chasing wildflowers.

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Book Reviews: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley, Huntress Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff, and The Sound and the Furry by Spencer Quinn

As Chimney Sweepers Come to DustAs Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust
A Flavia de Luce Novel #7
Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, January 2015
ISBN 978-0-345-53993-9
Hardcover
Random House Audio, January 2015
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book
Read by Jayne Entwistle

From the publisher—

Banished! is how twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce laments her predicament, when her father and Aunt Felicity ship her off to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy, the boarding school that her mother, Harriet, once attended across the sea in Canada. The sun has not yet risen on Flavia’s first day in captivity when a gift lands at her feet. Flavia being Flavia, a budding chemist and sleuth, that gift is a charred and mummified body, which tumbles out of a bedroom chimney. Now, while attending classes, making friends (and enemies), and assessing the school’s stern headmistress and faculty (one of whom is an acquitted murderess), Flavia is on the hunt for the victim’s identity and time of death, as well as suspects, motives, and means. Rumors swirl that Miss Bodycote’s is haunted, and that several girls have disappeared without a trace. When it comes to solving multiple mysteries, Flavia is up to the task—but her true destiny has yet to be revealed.

There are just a handful of series that I never miss these days and this is one of them, largely because I so adore the protagonist but also because I can always depend on the author to offer a truly good book. In the case of As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, I was slightly less enthused but certainly not enough to say I didn’t like it.

My discontent stems from the setting of this particular entry. Much of Flavia’s charm comes from her interactions with her family, her father’s “man”, their home, Buckshaw, and their village, Bishop’s Lacey. This time, though, Flavia has been sent to Canada to attend her mother’s boarding school and, to me, it just seemed awkward to have her suddenly isolated from all she has known in her short life. Having said that, Mr. Bradley soon develops some pretty good reasons for Flavia to be in this particular school and, of course, she becomes involved in a death investigation in her quite inimitable way.

As much as I missed those familiar characters, there are certainly some at Miss Bodycote’s that appealed to me in various ways, especially Collingwood, and it doesn’t hurt that a body appears on the scene quite fortuitously, a most welcome distraction for the homesick Flavia.

No matter her circumstances, Flavia cannot be repressed and my only true concern is that I have to wait till September for her next adventure, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d.

Note: I both read the book and listened to the audio edition and, as always, Jayne Entwistle brings Flavia to life and continues to wow me as a wonderful narrator and voice of this charming young girl.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

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Huntress MoonHuntress Moon
The Huntress/FBI Thrillers #1
Alexandra Sokoloff
Read by R.C. Bray
Alexandra Sokoloff, May 2014
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the author—

FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can’t believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of accidents and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers: a female serial.

Roarke’s hunt for her takes him across three states… while in a small coastal town, a young father and his five-year-old son, both wounded from a recent divorce, encounter a lost and compelling young woman on the beach and strike up an unlikely friendship without realizing how deadly she may be.

As Roarke uncovers the shocking truth of her background, he realizes she is on a mission of her own, and he must race to capture her before more blood is shed.

It would be easy to say that if you’ve read one FBI crime novel, you’ve read them all but authors manage to keep finding ways to make their own stories just a little bit different, enough to catch a reader’s attention. In Huntress Moon, I was drawn in by the notion of a female serial killer. In real life, such a person is rare and that’s what makes the idea so interesting, at least for me.

Special Agent Roarke is an appealing protagonist in a number of ways, not least of which are his intelligence and his dogged determination to track down this elusive young woman. What’s surprising is how fascinating she is, especially since we don’t even know her name. Clearly, she has an agenda and she hunts her victims as much as Roarke hunts her; with each new killing, she becomes more real, as it were, perhaps just a little more understandable. It becomes difficult to see her as entirely evil when she meets a young father and his son and, yet, she is a bloodthirsty killer. How she came to be the way she is and Roarke’s pursuit of her are what make this such a fine story.

R.C. Bray is a new narrator to me and, at first, I wasn’t completely on board with him largely because his voices seemed not very distinctive. As the novel wore on, his performance became more satisfying and he has won awards so it was my problem, not his. He is the narrator of the second and third books in the trilogy and I’m looking forward to spending time with him again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

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The Sound and the Furry AudioThe Sound and the Furry
A Chet and Bernie Mystery #6
Spencer Quinn
Read by Jim Frangione
Recorded Books, September 2013
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the publisher—

When Chet and Bernie happen upon a prison work crew that includes Frenchie Boutette, an old criminal pal they sent up the river, getting a new case is the last thing they expect. But Frenchie, who comes from an old Louisiana family full of black sheep, needs help finding his one law-abiding relative, his brother Ralph, a reclusive inventor who has gone missing with his houseboat. Though he’s tempted to take another job (with a big payday) in Alaska, Bernie decides to set course for the bayous of Louisiana, a trip that will introduce Chet to a world of sights, smells, and tastes that are like nothing he’s ever encountered. Out in bayou country, Chet and Bernie meet the no-good Boutette family and their ancient enemies, the maybe-even-worse Robideaus, and at first it seems as if Ralph’s disappearance is connected to a dispute over a load of stolen shrimp. But when Chet uncovers a buried clue, the investigation heads in a dangerous new direction involving the oil business and an impending environmental catastrophe. The more Chet and Bernie discover about Ralph, the more treacherous the job becomes, and soon they’re fighting not only Big Oil, but also shadowy black ops figures, a violent biker gang from back home, and Iko- a legendary bayou gator with a seemingly insatiable appetite. Meanwhile, deep under the Gulf, the pressure just keeps building.

Ah, it’s always so good to be back in the world of Chet and Bernie, two of my all-time favorite detectives, and following them to the bayous of Louisiana was a special treat. If ever a pair were out of their element, this is it and, to make matters worse, they fall right into the middle of a longstanding feud between two less-than-nice families.

What seems at first to be a rather simple case of thievery soon turns out to be much deeper and the missing Ralph, perhaps the only non-criminal in this unruly and menacing bunch, is still missing. Chet and Bernie learn that there’s much more than stolen shrimp going on and these two may be dealing with their most sinister case yet.

As narrator, Chet is a delight as he always is and there were many moments when I found myself grinning out loud, so to speak. I can’t help it, Chet is a terrific storyteller and his ruminations on life are hilarious 😉

There’s definitely a difference between this book and the earlier titles in the series and I think it has to do with atmosphere. Having lived in Louisiana for several years long ago, I can attest to a certain darkness, for lack of a better word, that comes from the insularity of the bayous, a kind of hostility and distrust towards the rest of the world that can lead to an uneasiness not found elsewhere. In contrast, Chet and Bernie’s usual terrain is open, perhaps deceptively so, and one can’t help feeling a little less threatened so these two are definitely in a different world when they go to the bayous.

Speaking of narrators, I always enjoy Jim Frangione as the voice of Chet and The Sound and the Furry is no exception. A good reader can make all the difference and Mr. Frangione really does the job well. He and Spencer Quinn (and the delightful Chet) are a team that can’t be beat.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.