Audio Gifts from the Golden Voices to Mystery and Suspense Fans
During the month of June, AudioFile Magazine celebrated the Golden Voices of audiobooks, honoring their work with a lifetime achievement award. The newest additions to this very select group of outstanding narrators are Cassandra Campbell, Michael Crouch, and Soneela Nankani. A full list can be found on AudioFile’s website.
While all of the Golden Voices have audiographies that span multiple genres, this column focuses on the gifts they bring to mystery and suspense audiobooks by celebrating the narrations of Cassandra Campbell, who is well known to those who appreciate her talents voicing a wide range of mystery sub-genres.
First, we have the funny cozy, GATORS AND GARTERS by Jana DeLeon, which won Campbell an Earphones Award. As this series takes place in Louisiana, Campbell effectively dons Southern accents and the light, humorous tone needed.
Then we go to a historic mystery with NEAR PROSPECT PARK by Lawrence H. Levy. Here Campbell demonstrates her talents with the fourth book in the Mary Handley series. She is able to use her voice, tone, pacing, and accents to draw the reader back into Brooklyn in the 1890s. By the way, she also won an AudioFile Earphones Award for this one.
Campbell also demonstrates her skills when delivering the tense, slow burn of psychological thrillers, as in Alison Gaylin’s IF I DIE TONIGHT. AudioFile’s review of this audiobook describes Campbell as having a “beautiful cello voice,” which perfectly matches the intensity needed for this type of thriller. More recently, Campbell narrated Gaylin’s THE GIFT, which was released in the summer of 2020.
Her dexterity with foreign names and accents is apparent in KILL THE FATHER by Sandrone Dazieri. This falls under the sub-genre of police procedural and is set in Rome.
During a recent interview, Cassandra Campbell recounts how she started into Audiobook narration.
“I was teaching a couple of classes in the theatre department at the L.A. County High School for the Arts when my friend and colleague Paul Boehmer asked if I’d be interested in auditioning to narrate audiobooks. I knew only vaguely that audiobooks existed—this was back in 2003, and the industry was much smaller—but I went to the library and took one out. As soon as I started listening, I was hooked. Here was this medium that combined two of my passions: reading and acting. What could be better? I read from David McCullough’s John Adams biography for my audition, and Dan Musselman hired me soon after to narrate R.L. Stine’s THE SITTER. I was immediately at home in the world of storytelling.”
One of the most delightful surprises she has discovered in this profession is how thoroughly immersive the form is.
“I did a book recently called TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE by Ellen McGarrahan that was so involved and gorgeous that when I got to the end, I didn’t want to leave the booth. I was so wrapped up in the ending, so moved. There are many ways in which this work continues to delight me. The deep connection to characters who stay with you.”
Mystery audiophiles are so fortunate to have the talent, energy, and brilliance of such performers giving listeners hours of engaging entertainment.
Mystery & Suspense Audiobooks for July from AudioFile Magazine
Discover five new mystery audiobooks for your summer listening. You’ll be glued to your earbuds as you listen to the suspenseful dual narration of THE MAIDENS from Alex Michaelides. Two narrators also spin a riveting story in Cate Holahan’s domestic thriller audiobook HER THREE LIVES. Looking for a story that’s more on the cozy side? Listen to the first in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen series from Mia P. Manansala. You’ll find more captivating audiobooks in our list below to take to the beach, for a stroll in the park, or to enjoy in your own backyard.
by Alex Michaelides | Read by Louise Brealey, Kobna Holdbrick-Smith
AudioFile Earphones Award
Macmillan Audio | 9.25 hrs.
Between the three of them, author Alex Michaelides and narrators Louise Brealey and Kobna Holdbrick-Smith cast a spell that will have listeners glued to this suspenseful novel every chance they get. Mariana, a group therapist, returns to Cambridge University to comfort her niece after the girl’s friend is murdered. Brealey’s clear, soothing, strong voice transforms with ease, and her pacing manages both to comfort and emphasize Mariana’s peril. That the peril lies in letters alluringly read with a rich, gravelly voice by Holdbrick-Smith is clear. Will Mariana understand in time?
by Ben H. Winters | Read by William DeMeritt
Hachette Audio | 12.75 hrs.
Narrator William DeMeritt is the perfect match for this compelling mix of legal thriller and family drama with a touch of sci-fi. In 2008, a 16-year-old is frozen in time after a neurological procedure leaves him a hollow shell. Jay Shenk, a malpractice lawyer, befriends his family and sues the hospital, kicking off a complicated investigation. In 2019, Shenk is hired again, this time to defend the boy’s father from a murder charge. The storylines alternate as the truth comes to light. DeMeritt expertly captures the cast of characters and their traits: quirky, dark, passionate, and desperate. Listeners will think about this fast-paced and twisted story long after finishing it.
by Cate Holahan | Read by Chris Ciulla, Kylah Williams
Hachette Audio | 9.75 hrs.
Two narrators spin this riveting story of love and suspicion. When Jade and her fiancé, Greg, are the victims of a brutal home invasion, she grows to suspect he knows more than he’s letting on. He suspects she’s hiding something—and he’s right. Kylah Williams voices Jade with rich emotion, turning her into a character the listener roots for, and her voice for Jade’s Jamaican mother is perfect. Chris Ciulla portrays Greg, who is suffering head trauma and gradually devolves into paranoia that keeps him on the lookout for danger in his own home. Intimacy is heightened by having the lead characters deliver their own dialogue regardless of the story section’s point of view.
by Mia P. Manansala | Read by Danice Cabanela
Penguin Audio | 9.5 hrs.
Danice Cabanela is the perfect narrator for this cozy mystery. Lila Macapagal is committed to rejuvenating her Tita Rosie’s restaurant, but her food reviewer ex-boyfriend, Derek, runs a smear campaign to ruin its reputation. When Derek dies after Lila serves him a dish, the Macapagals find themselves under investigation. Cabanela adeptly portrays characters with diverse backgrounds, and she is especially commendable voicing Lila and her Filipino-American relatives. Listeners will savor this treat.
by Laura Lippman | Read by Jason Culp
Harper Audio | 8.75 hrs.
Lippman’s ingenious, allusive, and daring new thriller makes for a massively entertaining audiobook. Narrator Jason Culp creates vivid character voices and delivers emotion, color, humor, and momentum with skill and verve. The setup: Famous (if fading) novelist Gerry Anderson, confined to bed by an injury, starts getting threatening calls from a nonexistent person, a character from his long ago breakout novel, DREAM GIRL. Lippman pulls off a whiz-bang plot on top of a deliciously accurate portrait of the good, bad, and ugly of being a brand-name 21st-century writer.