Deadline by Sandra Brown

Audiobook narrated by Stephen Lang

 At some point around the turn of the 21st century Sandra Brown became brilliant. Well, she was probably always brilliant, but the day came when she threw off the rules of genre fiction and let her inner storyteller fly without constraints. Brown is a supremely clever and compelling storyteller as well as a seasoned wordsmith and that is what keeps me coming back to her books for more. In any case, I have mad love for just about every word she’s written since I read Envy originally published in 2001. Sandra Brown  is my go-to, can-do writer of romantic thrillers and her annual new book has become my most anticipated of the year. She’s pioneered her own unique genre while honoring her romance writer roots and her romance reader fans; setting a meticulously crafted mystery/thriller at the heart of–and dependent on–a love story at its core. Or is it the other way around–romance at the heart of the mystery? Either way you choose to look at it, one needs the other, and it’s a happy confluence that pleases me greatly.

 I’ve been struggling with false starts and wholesale deletes in writing this review for fear of spoilers. I had an early print ARC  that I raced through with alarming speed while waiting not-so-patiently for the audiobook. Now that I’ve read Deadline and listened to it twice (okay, thrice), I realize that just about everything I was going to talk about is slightly spoilery. Since I’m a spoiler hater, I’m going to err on the side of caution and rely on the blurb to summarize the plot. I’m glad that I experienced Deadline knowing only what is revealed in the blurb and I reveled in Brown’s diabolical plot twists without having a clue as to where she was going. 

Central to my ravishment of Sandra Brown’s books is the audio performance. Stephen Lang is my second favorite Brown narrator because, well, he’s not Victor Slezak who is the voice of my dreams. This is not Lang’s fault and once I got over my snit that Stephen is not Victor, I allowed myself to appreciate Lang’s narration. In addition to the main protagonists Dawson and Amelia, there are numerous characters who are important to the story, each requiring a unique voice. Stephen Lang aces it in that respect, seamlessly delivering dialogue between/among the entire cast while consistently staying in character. I especially love his voicing of a certain villain. An unexpected choice, but oh so devious and insightful. And extra kudos to Lang for his heartbreaking reading of Flora’s journal. I don’t love Lang’s Amelia voice, finding her sound too soft and hesitant, bordering on apologetic, for an accomplished professional woman of aristocratic upbringing. A bit of a misinterpretation there, but I did get used to it. Hero Dawson’s voice is exactly right to my ear. Dawson Scott is a different sort of Sandra Brown hero and that’s all I’m going to say. Stephen Lang clearly understands him and I love him for that. 

So now I’m off for repeat listens of my favorite Sandra Brown books, a phenomena that occurs every year at this time. Hmm, I wonder what causes it. On deck: My Victor Slezak favorites Envy, Lethal, Play Dirty, Smash Cut, Rainwater, and Smoke Screen. Read by Dennis Boutsikaris, Ricochet.
 

Deadline rates an A+ for Sandra Brown who serves up another winner and for Stephen Lang who pretty much nails it.

Here is the blurb:

Dawson Scott is a well-respected journalist recently returned from Afghanistan. Haunted by everything he experienced, he’s pivately suffering from battle fatigue, which is a threat to every aspect of his life. But then he gets a call from a source within the FBI. A new development has come to light in a story that began 40 years ago. It could be the BIG story of Dawson’s career.

Soon, Dawson is covering the disappearance and presumed murder of former Marine Jeremy Wesson, the biological son of the pair of terrorists who remain on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. As Dawson delves into the story he finds himself developing feelings for Wesson’s ex-wife Amelia and her two young sons. But when Amelia’s nanny turns up dead the case takes a stunning new turn, with Dawson himself becoming a suspect. Haunted by his own demons, Dawson takes up the chase for the notorious outlaws…and discovers the startling secret behind their story.

 

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Broken Silence by Karen Rose

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Audiobook narrated by Marguerite Gavin

One of the few good things about February is the release of a new romantic thriller from favorite author Karen Rose. This year a bonus novella following up with prosecutor Daphne Montgomery and FBI agent Joseph Carter from last year’s Did You Miss Me? is just the thing to prime the pump for Rose’s next novel in her gritty Baltimore detectives series. That said, I’m of two minds about recommending a novella with a large cast of previously established characters as a vehicle to entice new readers who might want to try out a new author. I lean towards no, new reader, go with one of Rose’s series from the beginning and enjoy the full ride. For those of us who are already happily drinking this author’s kool-aid I urge you not to miss this charming (the characters are charming, not the crime) epilogue that nicely rounds out the jagged edges left with Daphne and Joseph after their work on the case in DYMM.

Marguerite Gavin is an excellent narrator for Rose’s frenetically paced thrillers and I’m glad that she’s the voice of choice as the series continues. Rose’s trademark plots are compressed into a very short few days. Gavin convincingly conveys nail-biting suspense and the crimesolver’s sense of urgency as they race against the clock. Well done and a good author/narrator match.

Here’s the blurb:

After a traumatic kidnapping, Daphne’s boss insists that she take time off. But she refuses to sit on the sidelines when she meets a six-year-old girl who the police call Angel…Joseph knows that helping Angel is exactly what Daphne needs right now. But when Daphne gets Angel to talk, a mysterious and chilling crime begins to unravel–one that drives Daphne into the darkest corners of her past as she and Joseph track a ruthless killer.

Review copy provided by Blackstone Audio and Audiobook Jukebox.

Grade B+

Hush by Anne Frasier

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Audiobook narrated by Emily Beresford 

I’ve been a regular reader of Anne Frasier’s thrillers for almost as long as she’s been writing them. What a happy surprise to see that Hush has made its way to audio!

This is a tautly constructed police procedural, an intelligent and meaty story with a deliciously creepy serial killer. Chicago police detective Max Irving and criminal profiler Ivy Dunlap are refreshingly human and a welcome change from the stick figure kickass heroine and waxed-torso-of-steel hero so tiresomely prevalent in romantic suspense. They’re professionals who work together to stop the Madonna Murderer’s latest killing spree after a hiatus of sixteen years. A supporting cast of police personnel, reporters, victims and their families, and Max’s troubled teen son all play necessary roles as Max and Ivy close in on the crazy (yes, crazy) killer. 

Narrator Emily Beresford succeeds in bringing distinct voice to each of the book’s key characters. Maybe a little too crazy-sounding for the villain, but certainly entertaining. Very nice job from a new-to-me narrator.

Grade B+ for author and narrator. I liked it a lot!

Note: As I post this review the audible whispersync price is $1.99. Great deal.

Review copy provided by the author.

 

You Belong to Me by Karen Rose

Audiobook narrated by Marguerite Gavin

 Karen Rose’s romantic suspense has set the high bar for tightly plotted, realistic police procedurals with a romance organically woven in. You Belong to Me kicks off a new series set in Baltimore and as anyone who is familiar with her style knows, the action starts with the discovery of a murder victim and the tension doesn’t let up until the last page. Medical examiner Lucy Trask and homicide detective JD Fitzpatrick literally meet over their victim’s corpse and team up to solve what turns into a series of brutal murders. Soon it becomes apparent that all of the victims hail from a nearby small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, which just happens to be the home town Lucy left behind as a teenager. JD realizes that convincing Lucy to spill the town’s secrets is the key to stopping the murder spree. But as much as Lucy wants to help, she’s as much in the dark about what turned someone she may know into a mad serial killer as the detectives are. Reluctantly agreeing to return to the place that holds dark secrets and memories for her, Lucy and JD work together, get their man, and fall in love. The entire book takes place over the course of a few days and the pace is frenetic.

Aftershock by Jill Sorenson

Audiobook narrated by Piper Goodeve

I’m a thriller fan from way back and the thriller aspect of Aftershock is well-constructed, taut, suspenseful, and, well, thrilling. Being buried alive under a collapsed freeway with a bus full of violent felons isn’t exactly a stroll through Disneyland. I like that the earthquake occurs at the very beginning allowing the listener/reader to get to know the characters as they cope with disaster. Sorenson doesn’t sugarcoat the grim and gritty reality of the survivor’s plight. Garrett and Lauren as well as the cast of secondary characters are meaty enough to sustain this darn good thriller.

Edge of Midnight

Audiobook narrated by Bernadette Dunn

Edge of Midnight has interesting leads and Leslie Tentler is a compelling storyteller. Problem is I’m tired of this same story told over and over again by every author of romantic suspense. In fact, lore says that no romantic suspense author worth her salt can join the club until she’s written this story.

  • Serial killer targets heroine.
  • Cop/Navy SEAL/FBI agent swears to protect her with his life.
  • Heroine blithely/stupidly ignores dire warnings that she’s not safe and delivers herself into villain’s clutches.
  • Hero tortures himself with guilt but pulls it together just in the nick of time.
  • Rescue! Happily ever after.
I’ve read this plot dozens of times. Some writers like Tentler tell it better than others. But, gosh, I’d love some variation. Still, I’ll try this author again. She’s got a style. Dunn’s narration was appropriately suspenseful and a good match for the book’s content.

I liked it. THREE QUARTER MOONS for both author and narrator.

All the Queen’s Men by Linda Howard

Unabridged Audiobook narrated by Kate Forbes

Abridged narrated by Megan Gallagher 


I’ve often said that I came to romance through the door marked Romantic Suspense and All the Queen’s Men is that door. Back in 1998 I picked up the paperback on a mass market table in a mall bookstore. I’d been reading a steady diet of man thrillers and my joy knew no bounds as I sat in that mall food court falling in love with my new discovery. A thriller with romance, a hero who falls hard when he zeroes in on his woman and…sex! Do I love it as much now as I did way back then? Why, yes, even more now that I own two audio versions, a Kindle book, and more than one paperback (just in case).
John Medina is the sexiest, coolest, most mysterious, and darkest special ops guy ever. He’s hotter than James Bond; a hero that every woman can love. I’ve read countless romantic suspense series  with covert ops guys who are pale shadows of the original iron man John Medina. There is nothing he doesn’t do better than anyone staying cool and composed as he stares down and outsmarts the baddest terrorists. All while clad in his tailor made Armani tux. Oh yeah, baby. It’s a new world order.

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