Lethal by Sandra Brown

Audiobook narrated by Victor Slezak

Sandra Brown specializes in the wronged, seemingly villainous hero who strikes fear and loathing in the hearts of everyone but that one special woman, and she sure has a knack for tortuously testing his heroism until justice prevails. In Lethal, deep undercover FBI agent (c’mon, you didn’t really believe he was a mass murderer) Lee Coburn is about to discover the identity of a particularly nasty criminal mastermind known as The Bookkeeper when all hell breaks loose. Coburn is set up as the shooter when seven people are executed by the Bookkeepers’ minions. He flees straight into a Louisiana swamp, to be found lying muddy and blood-smeared in the yard of widow Honor Gillette by her four-year old daughter Emily.

Coburn strong-arms Honor inside at gun point and demands to search her house. At first Honor fears the worst; that she and Emily will be victimized by a brutal stranger. Grudgingly, Coburn promises Honor that he won’t harm her or her daughter if she’ll help him find evidence against the Bookkeeper that he believes Honor’s late police officer husband had collected and hidden. Honor is torn when Coburn alleges that the local police are dirty, enmeshed in collusion and cover-up. Coburn convinces Honor that going underground with him is her only chance to survive and to prove her late husband’s innocence. And thus begins the thriller part of this most excellent thriller.

Brown weaves a complex mystery with a large cast of characters, villains, and possible villains thick on the ground. I wasn’t sure who was good or a player in the conspiracy for most of the book and, dang, she got me again with a diabolical twist that I did not see coming. I confess that I didn’t correctly guess the Bookkeeper’s identity, although on a second listen I realized that the clues were there.

Victor Slezak reading Sandra Brown is my idea of a perfect audiobook. He gets the cranky, I-don’t-need-no-love outlier with a secret, mushy center exactly right. Thank you, Victor, for simply reading women’s dialogue, never doing that falsetto, breathy thing that so many male narrators are guilty of. An absolutely delightful bonus is Slezak’s voicing of chatty, precocious four-year old Emily, who shamelessly flirts with our perplexed hero. Yes! He pulled it off! 100 bonus points for that alone.

Oh, and the epilogue? It’s perfect. Just perfect.

FULL MOON (A) for Sandra Brown. Victor Slezak, you are my BLUE MOON (A+).

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