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Recommended new audiobooks #10

Written by · Published Jun 27, 2018

The Bedlam Stacks, The Witches' Tree

CD audiobooks

He, by John Connelly, read by Simon Slater

“An extraordinary reimagining of the life of one of the greatest screen comedians the world has ever known: a man who knew both adoration and humiliation; who loved, and was loved in turn; who betrayed, and was betrayed; who never sought to cause pain to others, yet left a trail of affairs and broken marriages in his wake. And whose life was ultimately defined by one relationship of such tenderness and devotion that only death could sever it: his partnership with the man he knew as Babe. He is Stan Laurel.

“But he did not really exist. Stan Laurel was a fiction. John Connolly recreates the golden age of Hollywood for an intensely compassionate study of the tension between commercial demands and artistic integrity, the human frailties behind even the greatest of artists, and one of the most enduring and beloved partnerships in cinema history: Laurel and Hardy.”

My Sister and Other Liars, by Ruth Dugdall, read by Henrietta Meire

“Sam is 17, starving herself and longing for oblivion. Her sister, Jena, is mentally scarred and desperate to remember. Between them, they share secrets too terrible to recall. 18 months earlier, Sam was still full of hope: hope that she could piece together Jena’s fragmented memory after the vicious attack that changed their family forever.

“But digging into the past unearthed long-hidden lies and betrayals, and left Sam feeling helpless and alone in a world designed to deceive her. Now, in a last bid to save her from self-imposed shutdown, Sam’s therapist is helping her confront her memories. But the road to recovery is a dangerous one. Because Sam has not only been lying to her doctors: she’s been hiding dark secrets from herself.”

Girl on Fire, by Tony Parsons, read by Colin Mace

“When terrorists use a drone to bring down a plane on one of London’s busiest shopping centres, it ignites a chain of events that will draw in the innocent and the guilty alike. DC Max Wolfe of West End Central finds himself caught in the crossfire between a tech-savvy terrorist cell and a revenge-seeking, Bible-quoting murderer called Bad Moses. And when Max’s ex-wife suddenly reappears to reclaim custody of his beloved daughter Scout, he finds himself fighting the greatest battle of all.”

Sunday Morning Coming Down, by Nicci French, read by Beth Chalmers

“Psychotherapist Frieda Klein’s home is her refuge until she returns to find it has become a disturbingly bloody crime scene. Beneath the floorboards the police have found the body of a man she had hired to help protect her. The killer’s message is all too clear: you’re mine.

“When those closest to Frieda begin to be targeted, the picture becomes more skewed: the patterns unclear. Unless Frieda can find and stop whoever is threatening her friends and family, her love and loyalty could come at a truly fatal cost.”

The Lie of the Land, by Amanda Craig, read by Emma Powell

“Quentin and Lottie Bredin, like many modern couples, can’t afford to divorce. Having lost their jobs in the recession, they can’t afford to go on living in London; instead, they must downsize and move their three children to a house in a remote part of Devon. Arrogant and adulterous, Quentin can’t understand why Lottie is so angry; devastated and humiliated, Lottie feels herself to have been intolerably wounded.

“Mud, mice and quarrels are one thing - but why is their rent so low? What is the mystery surrounding their unappealing new home? The beauty of the landscape is ravishing, yet it conceals a dark side involving poverty, revenge, abuse and violence which will rise up to threaten them.”

The Collector, by Fiona Cummins, read by Karen Cass

“The gripping follow up to Rattle.

“Jakey escaped with his life and moved to a new town. His rescue was a miracle but his parents know that the Collector is still out there, watching, waiting. Clara, the girl he left behind, is clinging to the hope that someone will come and save her. Life has fallen apart for Clara’s mother as she starts to lose hope. The Bone Collector has a new apprentice to take over his family’s legacy. But he can’t forget the boy who got away and the detective who had destroyed his dreams.”

Bring Me Back, by B. A. Paris, read by Kevin Hely & Cathleen McCarron

“12 years ago Finn’s girlfriend disappeared. He told the police the truth about that night, just not quite the whole truth. Now Finn has moved on. But his past won’t stay buried.”

The Last Laugh, by Tracy Bloom, read by Caro Clarke

“Jenny discovers her days are numbered at the same time she discovers her husband is having an affair. Frankly, her life was tough enough already. Two tricky teenagers, her mother’s constant complaints, friends who aren’t up to the job and a career which has been spiralling downwards since she won ‘Sunseeker Tour Rep of the Season’ 20 years ago. And now this: a cheating husband and a death sentence. Enough is enough.

“Jenny vows to keep both catastrophes a secret. She takes her life - and death - into her own hands and decides to live as she did when she was happiest - in 1996. She plans a spectacular 1990s themed party in place of a wake that she herself will attend. But will she be able to keep her secrets for long enough to have the party of a lifetime?”

The Mile End Murder: the case Conan Doyle couldn’t solve, by Sinclair McKay, read by Lewis Hancock

“In 1860, a 70 year old widow turned landlady named Mary Emsley was found dead in her own home, killed by a blow to the back of her head. What followed was a murder case that gripped the nation, a veritable locked room mystery which baffled even legendary Sherlock Holmes author, Arthur Conan Doyle.”

The Only Story, by Julian Barnes, read by Guy Mott

“Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question.

“First love has lifelong consequences, but Paul doesn’t know anything about that at 19. At 19, he’s proud of the fact his relationship flies in the face of social convention. As he grows older, the demands placed on Paul by love become far greater than he could possibly have foreseen.”

Mayday!, by Clive Cussler, read by Jeff Harding

“A psychotic ex-Nazi, a vicious narcotics dealer, a bloodthirsty Greek strongman and a beautiful double agent set Pitt off on the trail of a warped mastermind behind a devastating sabotage plot in this action-packed adventure story.”

A Natural, by Ross Raisin, read by Shaun Grindell

“Tom has always known exactly the person he is going to be. A successful footballer. A man others look up to. Now, though, the bright future he imagined for himself is threatened. The Premier League academy of his boyhood has let him go. At 19, Tom finds himself playing for a tiny club in a town he has never heard of.

“But as he navigates his isolation and his desperate need for recognition, a sudden and thrilling encounter offers him the promise of an escape, and Tom is forced to question whether he can reconcile his suppressed desires with his dreams of success.”

Duplicity, by Sibel Hodge, read by Henrietta Meire & Simon Vance

“Max and Alissa have a fairy tale life - newlywed, madly in love and enviously rich. Then Max is brutally stabbed to death at their home and Alissa, miraculously, escapes with her life. But why was she spared?

“The hunt for the killer begins, uncovering a number of leads - was Max’s incredible wealth the motive? Had his shady business practices finally caught up with him? Or was it a stalker with a dangerous obsession? Devoted friends rally around gentle, sweet Alissa as she is left to mourn the loss of her husband and pick up her life. But not everyone is who they seem.”

The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, by Sebastian Barry, read by Aidan Kelly

“When Eneas McNulty joined the British-led Royal Irish Constabulary, it proved to be the defining decision of his life. Having witnessed the murder of a fellow RIC policeman, he is wrongly accused of identifying the executioners. He is forced to flee, and what follows is the story of this flight.”

A Country Escape, by Katie Fforde, read by Jilly Bond

“27-year-old Fran protests that she always wanted to be a farmer, so quite how Fran ended up as a chef in London is anyone’s guess. But her childhood dream might be about to come true. Fran has been left a beautiful farm, and she’s made the brave decision to move in and run the place for one year. It’s either going to be a wonderful adventure or a humiliating mistake.”

The Dollmaker, by Mary Burton, read by Christina Traister

“Dr Tessa McGowan had never seen anything quite like it. But the mutilated bodies on her exam table tell a stunningly macabre tale: someone with a twisted mind is kidnapping women and altering their faces to resemble real, life-size dolls. As a forensic pathologist, it’s her job to aid the agent leading the case - even if that agent is her estranged husband.

“Twelve years ago an unspeakable tragedy destroyed Dakota Sharp’s world. Haunted by the ghosts of his past, he’s devoted himself to capturing killers. His only regret is that it cost him Tessa. Now, as the Dollmaker case brings them together - and raises his suspicions that he’s crossed paths with this deranged psychopath before - they may just have their second chance. But it seems Dakota’s not the only one who wants to make Tessa his own.”

The Liar’s Girl, by Catherine Ryan Howard, read by Alana Kerr, Alan Smyth & Gary Furlong

“Her first love confessed to five murders. But the truth was so much worse.

“Dublin’s notorious Canal Killer, Will Hurley, is ten years into his life sentence when the body of a young woman is fished out of the Grand Canal. Though detectives suspect they are dealing with a copycat, they turn to Will for help. He claims he has the information the police need, but will only give it to one person - the girl he was dating when he committed his horrific crimes.

“Alison Smith has spent the last decade abroad, putting her shattered life in Ireland far behind her. But when she gets a request from Dublin imploring her to help prevent another senseless murder, she is pulled back to face the past - and the man - she’s worked so hard to forget.”

Seven Days of Us, by Francesca Hornak, read by Jilly Bond

“It’s Christmas, and the Birch family are coming together at their second home in Norfolk. Emma and Andrew’s daughter, Olivia, is back for the first time in years, and while Emma is elated at them all being under one roof, her younger, more frivolous daughter Phoebe is braced for inevitable clashes.

“But aid worker Olivia is only home because she has nowhere else to go. Having recently returned from Africa, where she’s been treating a life-threatening virus, she has been told that she must stay in quarantine for a week, and so, too should her family. For the next seven days, no one can leave the house, and no one can enter. It doesn’t sound too hard. But a week with your nearest and dearest can feel like an eternity, especially when they’re all harbouring secrets.”

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Rocket Boys, by Homer H. Hickham Jr., read by Tom Stechschulte

“With the grace of a natural storyteller, NASA engineer Homer Hickam paints a warm, vivid portrait of the harsh West Virginia mining town of his youth, evoking a time of innocence and promise, when anything was possible, even in a company town that swallowed its men alive. A story of romance and loss, of growing up and getting out, Homer Hickam’s lush, lyrical memoir is a chronicle of triumph–at once exquisitely written and marvelously entertaining.”

Behind the Beautiful Flowers, by Katherine Boo, read by Sunil Malhotra

“As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi’s “most-everything girl,” might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams.

“But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy, terror and global recession rock the city, and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal.”

The Secret History, written and read by Donna Tartt

“A misfit at an exclusive New England college, Richard finds kindred spirits in the five eccentric students of his ancient Greek class. But his new friends have a horrific secret.

“When blackmail and violence threaten to blow their privileged lives apart, they drag Richard into the nightmare that engulfs them. And soon they enter a terrifying heart of darkness from which they may never return…”

Reaper Man, by Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer

“‘Death has to happen. That’s what bein’ alive is all about. You’re alive, and then you’re dead. It can’t just stop happening.’

“But it can. And it has. So what happens after death is now less of a philosophical question than a question of actual reality. On the disc, as here, they need Death. If Death doesn’t come for you, then what are you supposed to do in the meantime? You can’t have the undead wandering about like lost souls. There’s no telling what might happen, particularly when they discover that life really is only for the living…”

Sheer Folly, by Carola Dunn, read by Lucy Rayner

“In March of 1926, Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher and her friend and collaborator, Lady Lucy Gerald, head off for several days to a stately home reputed to have the best grotto in the country. Working on a book of architectural follies, they plan to research and photograph it. Leaving her husband and young twins behind, Daisy is expecting a productive weekend at Appsworth Hall, with the only potential difficulty being keeping Lucy from offending the current owner, a manufacturer of plumbing products. Alas, it’s not to be quite so simple.

“At the home, they find themselves faced with a curious assortment of people, including the abominable, tactless Lord Rydal, who is rumored to be having an affair with one of the guests while in ardent and artless pursuit of the hand in marriage of another. When the grotto explodes with Lord Rydal in it, it’s not a question of who would do it - as most who’ve met him would be sorely tempted - but who actually did do it.”

The Old Ways: a journey on foot, by Robert MacFarlane, read by Roy McMillan

“Robert Macfarlane sets off from his Cambridge home to follow the ancient tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast network of routes criss-crossing the British landscape and its waters, and connecting them to the continents beyond.

“The result is an immersive, enthralling exploration of the ghosts and voices that haunt old paths, of the stories our tracks keep and tell, of pilgrimage and ritual, and of songlines and their singers. Above all this is a book about people and place: about walking as a reconnoitre inwards, and the subtle ways in which we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move.”

Guns, Germs and Steel: the fates of human societies, by Jared Diamond, read by Doug Ordunio

“Having done field work in New Guinea for more than 30 years, Jared Diamond presents the geographical and ecological factors that have shaped the modern world. From the viewpoint of an evolutionary biologist, he highlights the broadest movements both literal and conceptual on every continent since the Ice Age, and examines societal advances such as writing, religion, government, and technology.”

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The Bedlam Stacks, by Natasha Pulley, read by David Thorpe

“Deep in uncharted Peru, the holy town of Bedlam stands at the edge of a forest. The shrine statues move, and anyone who crosses the border dies. But somewhere inside are cinchona trees, whose bark yields quinine: the only known treatment for malaria.

“On the other side of the Pacific, it is 1859, and India is ravaged by the disease. The hunt for a reliable source of quinine is critical, and in its desperation the India Office searches out its last qualified expeditionary.

“Struggling with a terrible injury from his last mission and the strange occurrences at his family’s ruined estate, Merrick Tremayne finds himself under orders to bring back cinchona cuttings at any cost and dispatched, against his own better judgment, to Bedlam.

“There he meets Raphael, a priest around whom the villagers spin unsettlingly familiar stories of impossible disappearances and living stone. Gradually Tremayne realises that Raphael is the key to a legacy left by two generations of Tremayne explorers before him, one which will prove more dangerous and valuable than the India Office could ever have imagined.”

NYPD Red 5, by James Patterson & Marshall Karp, read by Edoardo Ballerini

“When it’s a bad night for New York City’s rich and famous, they call NYPD Red.

“A renowned documentary filmmaker is found dead after a sex game goes horribly wrong. Across town, a homemade bomb explodes at a charity benefit. The only cops who can work both cases are Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald of NYPD Red – the elite, hard-charging, investigative task force called in exclusively for New York City’s most high-profile crimes.

“Racing against the clock to keep the city’s most prominent citizens safe, Zach and Kylie uncover enough corruption, blackmail, drugs, sex and vengeance to shock even the most jaded of New Yorkers. But when their investigation threatens to expose the very citizens they’re supposed to protect, Zach and Kylie must put aside their unrequited feelings for one another and follow the truth, no matter where it leads.”

Macbeth, by Jo Nesbø, read by Derek Riddell

“He’s the best cop they’ve got.

“When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess.

“He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past.

“He’s rewarded for his success. Power. Money. Respect. They’re all within reach.

“But a man like him won’t get to the top.

“Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, Macbeth starts to unravel. He’s convinced he won’t get what is rightfully his.

“Unless he kills for it.”

Dead Men’s Trousers, by Irvine Welsh, read by Tam Dean Burn

“Mark Renton is finally a success. An international jet-setter, he now makes significant money managing DJs, but the constant travel, airport lounges, soulless hotel rooms and broken relationships have left him dissatisfied with his life. He’s then rocked by a chance encounter with Frank Begbie, from whom he’d been hiding for years after a terrible betrayal and the resulting debt. But the psychotic Begbie appears to have reinvented himself as a celebrated artist and – much to Mark’s astonishment – doesn’t seem interested in revenge.

“Sick Boy and Spud, who have agendas of their own, are intrigued to learn that their old friends are back in town, but when they enter the bleak world of organ-harvesting, things start to go so badly wrong. Lurching from crisis to crisis, the four men circle each other, driven by their personal histories and addictions, confused, angry – so desperate that even Hibs winning the Scottish Cup doesn’t really help. One of these four will not survive to the end of this book. Which one of them is wearing Dead Men’s Trousers?”

The History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey, read by Gianfranco Negroponte

“As he flees the police, Ned Kelly scribbles his narrative in semiliterate but magically descriptive prose. To his pursuers he is a thief and a murderer. To his own people he’s a hero for opposing the English.

“Ned, who saw his first prison cell at 15, has become the most wanted man in the wild colony of Victoria, taking over towns and defying authority. Here is a classic outlaw tale, made alive by the skill of a great novelist.”

The Witches’ Tree, by M. C. Beaton, read by Penelope Keith

“Cotswolds inhabitants are used to inclement weather, but the night sky is especially foggy as Rory and Molly Devere, the new vicar and his wife, drive slowly home from a dinner party in their village of Sumpton Harcourt. They strain to see the road ahead – and then suddenly brake, screeching to a halt. Right in front of them, aglow in the headlights, a body hangs from a gnarled tree at the edge of town. Margaret Darby, an elderly spinster, has been murdered – and the villagers are bewildered as to who would commit such a crime.

“Agatha Raisin rises to the occasion (a little glad for the excitement, to tell the truth, after a long run of lost cats and divorces on the books). But Sumpton Harcourt is a small and private village, she finds – a place that poses more questions than answers. And when two more murders follow the first, Agatha begins to fear for her reputation – and even her life. That the village has its own coven of witches certainly doesn’t make her feel any better …”

Meridon, by Philippa Gregory, read by Charlie Sanderson

“It’s the eighteenth century and Meridon, a desolate Romany girl, is determined to escape the hard poverty of her childhood. Riding bareback in a travelling show, while her sister Dandy risks her life on the trapeze, Meridon dedicates herself to freeing them both from danger and want.

“But Dandy, beautiful, impatient, thieving Dandy, grabs too much, too quickly. And Meridon finds herself alone, riding in bitter grief through the rich Sussex farmlands towards a house called Wideacre – which awaits the return of the last of the Laceys.”

Sophie Green

Sophie Green

I work for the Suffolk Libraries stock team. I also write children’s fiction, short stories and comedy. Visit my website.