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October 12, 2007 Edition

The Meaning of Night, by Michael Cox, read by David Timson

A monomaniacal hero convinced he’s being deprived of his rightful inheritance, Edward Glyver is both a distinguished scholar and a cold-blooded murderer in this twisted novel of betrayal and revenge. Glyver has been manipulated from youth by an erstwhile friend, Phoebus Daunt, and now Glyver, finding himself supplanted by his now-famous ex-friend, moves in for the kill - literally. The story’s strengths lie in the complex and unlikeable characters, whom Timson brings to life with a dark zeal.

The Gutter and the Grave, by Ed McBain, read by Richard Ferrone

Detective Matt Cordell used to be sober and good at his job, but since he caught his wife cheating on him, his best friends have been bartenders and his reputation has gone down the drain in this hardboiled crime novel. But a desperate request from an old friend lands him in the middle of a case filled with bloody murder, beautiful women, and possible redemption – if he lives. Ferrone’s clipped reading gives this story, first published in 1958, the feel of an old radio program.

The Twentieth Wife, by Indu Sundaresan, read by Sneha Mathan

This complex and intricate novel dwells more on the details of life during the Mughal period in India than on character development, which makes it an engrossing read for those who love history. At the age of 8, Mehrunnisa fell in love with Prince Salim, but wasn’t free to marry him for over 25 years. When she did, following an unhappy first marriage, she worked to become one of the most influential and controversial empresses that India has ever had. Mathan’s rich voice evokes a woman whose outer sweetness hides a steely inner core.

The Rabbit Factory, by Marshall Karp, read by Tom Stechschulte and James Jenner

Something is rotten at the heart of Familyland, a Disney-esque theme park near Las Vegas, and the pressure’s on detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs to figure it out. Days before the grand opening, an employee dressed as Rambunctious Rabbit is strangled while on a cigarette break. Is it because he’s a convicted pedophile hiding out under a new identity? Or is someone out to get Familyland’s owner, Dean Lamaar? When more park employees are picked off, Biggs and Lomax think they’ve got the answer, but in this witty and multi-layered whodunit, they find the answers slipping away fast. Stechschulte and Jenner bring all the characters to life ably and engrossingly.

Heart-shaped Box, by Joe Hill, read by Stephen Lang

Just in time for Halloween, here’s some dark fantasy from Stephen King’s son, who is following his father’s footsteps without riding his coattails. Aging rockstar Judas Coyne collects the unusual and the macabre and is delighted to be able to add a men’s suit, complete with ghost, to his selection via an online auction. When the black heart-shaped box arrives, Judas feels real fear: there really is a ghost, and it’s not a pleasant one. It wasn’t by chance that the suit ended up in his hands: the ghost knows him and is ready and able to make Judas atone for past sins. Lang’s expert narration adds to the spine-tingling, creeping horror.

The Worthy, by Will Clarke, read by Nick Landrum

Here’s another ghostly story, this one told from the ghost’s point of view and sharply funny. Conrad died during a hazing prank at the hands of Gamma Chi chapter president Ryan Hutchins, and now he’s out for revenge, borrowing the body of fellow inductee Tucker Graham whenever he’s not using it. Here’s the seamy side of college life in full color: goats in lingerie, tons of beer, a ghost-spotting frat-house cook, and slow, carefully-plotted vengeance.

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