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December 29, 2006 Edition

The Collectors, by David Baldacci, performed by various narrators

(cassette) The second installment in the Camel Club series begins with a murder in the Library of Congress. Caleb Shaw, a librarian and a member of the eccentric Camel Club, finds his boss’s body and prods the other members of the club, which is fond of conspiracy theories, to investigate. They focus on Roger Seagraves, a rogue CIA agent, whose selling of classified information threatens national security. Quirky characters and fast-paced action make this an enjoyable listen.

Act of Treason, by Vince Flynn, read by George Guidall

(cassette) Special Agent Mitch Rapp is back and in a hurry to figure out who attacked Vice-President Sherman Baxter’s motorcade. The blast killed Baxter’s wife and several Secret Service agents, but swept him and his presidential running mate to victory via a sympathy vote. Although the attack is first attributed to Al Qaeda, Rapp believes the real attackers are much closer to home. There’s a nice balance of physical action and mental game-playing here that reflects Rapp’s evolving maturity.

Love among the Chickens, by P.G. Wodehouse, read by Jonathan Cecil

(cd) Wodehouse’s first novel features Ukridge, an upper-crust mooch who decides that the easiest way to earn money is by raising chickens. He and his new wife invite Ukridge’s school-friend-turned-novelist Jeremy Garnet along to help get rich. Jeremy’s got other things on his mind: on their way to the seaside, he spotted a young woman reading one of his novels and is instantly smitten. As in all Wodehouse novels, spectacular hilarity ensues.

Joplin’s Ghost, by Tananarive Due, read by Lizan Mitchell

(cd) At 10 years old, Phoenix Smalls is nearly crushed by a falling piano that had belonged to Scott Joplin. The incident requires months of physical therapy and leaves her with an eerie ability to play Joplin tunes that should have been way out of her league. Years later, as a rising R&B artist, she encounters the same piano and finds herself haunted by Joplin. This romantic-historical-ghost story shows the bitter contrast between Joplin’s life as a turn-of-the-century black musician and Phoenix’s modern life with haunting power.

Market Forces, by Richard K. Morgan, read by Simon Vance

(cd) Sci-fi or satire? Morgan looks fifty years into the future and sees a world where, for a share of a country’s GDP, corporations will make sure you get – and keep – power. Advancement within the corporations takes place through highway duels in armored cars, and Chris Faulkener is a rising star. The deeper he gets into the cutthroat world of business and government-building, the less able he is to keep his moral compass. A brutal and bloodthirsty black comedy.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, performed by a full cast

Four of Doyle’s stories of Holmes’ exploits are collected here for 3 hours of listening. In “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Holmes meets his match in a case that pits a king against his paramour. “The Red-Headed League” has a pawnbroker earnestly copying the Encyclopedia Britannica. “A Case of Identity,” features a bereft bride and a runaway groom. And “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” is a twisted case involving murder, robbery, bribery and more.

In the Company of the Courtesan, by Sarah Dunant, read by Stephen Hoye

(cd) Bucino Teodoldo and his mistress, the courtesan Fiammetta, escape the sack of Rome with nothing but the clothes on their backs and jewels in their stomachs. They head to Venice to rebuild their lives, meeting a healer who restores Fiammetta to her former beauty and an old adversary who helps her find a wealthy patron. Bucino’s observant eye and sharp wit help paint 16th century Venice in vivid terms, and his loyalty helps Fiammetta weather life’s traumas and joys.

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