Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lisa Gardner's Hide Makes for an Amazing Audiobook Experience

My relationship with Lisa Gardner's books started long ago with an audiobook I picked up on a whim from my local library. It's been kind of rocky -- not in literary terms (I love her books), but in terms of my ability to read her series books in order. Seriously, I don't know what my problem is, and it drives me crazy to read books out of order. Yet I continue to do it, but only with her books! Here's a quick timeline of my failure with Gardner's books:

  • December 2009: Listen to audiobook of Gone (#5 in FBI Profiler series). (Yes, that's right. Fifth!)
  • January 2010: Realize that I have read books in a series out of order. Panic ensues. List every book in her FBI Profiler series in order -- on my blog!)
  • May 2010: Listen to audiobook of The Neighbor (#3 in D. D. Warren series). (Again!? The same author. Different series. Totally out of order. Plus side? It's one of my best reads of 2010.)
  • December 2010: Start to listen to audiobook of Hide (#2 in D. D. Warren series). (There are no words. How could this happen for a third time?!)
  • February 2011: Read Kindle version of Alone (#1 in D. D. Warren series). Amazon had it on sale for $0.99. Ahh. The calmness that comes from reading a series in order (as opposed, of course, to out of order -- the way I had been reading Gardner's books).
  • March 2011: Finished listening to audiobook of Hide (#2 in D. D. Warren series). At last!
  • Spring/ Summer 2011: Purchase Audible audiobooks of Live to Tell (#4 in D. D. Warren series) and Love You More (#5 in D. D. Warren series). They're loaded on my iPod and ready for listening. By the pool, in the car, as I garden -- whatever. Super excited. 

Not only does Gardner write thrillers full of suspense that are perfect for listening, but her books are read by an amazing voice actor -- Kirsten Potter. Voice on an audiobook is almost more important than the book itself. A great voice actor can turn a so-so book into something special. Likewise, a boring voice can turn a wonderful book into a ho-hum, excruciating-to-listen-to DNF (did not finish). (For example, the audio version of The Hunger Games is terrible! No inflection or change in tone. I bought it on Audible without listening to a preview -- mistake -- and my students refused to listen to what they described as a "robot" reading it.)

Hide is the second novel in Gardner's D. D. Warren series. This series is interesting in that D. D. is a recurring character throughout the series, but never truly a "main" character. Gardner writes her novels from various perspectives, and the audio versions always reflect that. Potter is joined by different people on each of the Gardner books I've heard, and they read varying chapters depending on the narrator. Gardner, interestingly enough, writes much of her books in third person -- the sections with Warren, anyway. First-person perspective is usually saved for a character unique to one particular book, rather than a character who appears in the whole series.

In that way, Gardner's series novels almost read as standalone books. Almost but not quite, because there is some progression in plot and in character development, both of Warren and of state police officer Bobby Dodge. Dodge factored hugely into the first novel in the series, Alone. He appears again as a large part of the action in Hide.

Decades ago, Catherine Gagnon was kidnapped and held hostage in an underground room dug from the earth. Her kidnapper was caught and brought to justice. Alone dealt with Catherine's present-day life and Dodge's involvement in her husband's death. In Hide Catherine is long gone to Arizona, and Dodge has returned to the police force. He and D. D. catch a case that seems hauntingly familiar to Catherine's childhood kidnapping. Several bodies are found in an underground holding cell on the grounds of an old state mental hospital. All signs point to Catherine's abductor as the culprit, but there's one small problem: he was imprisoned long before these girls disappeared.

Although the bodies found is the main case for D. D. and Dodge, Gardner also includes a fabulous side story -- which, in my opinion, is actually the star of this novel. Annabelle Granger has returned to the Boston area after a lifetime on the run. Her father took their family away from Boston decades ago, and their family assumed one name after another in one town after another. After her father's death, Annabelle craves normalcy. She returns to Boston, unaware of her father's reasons for leading his family around the country. When it is discovered that a necklace on one of the girls found has Annabelle's name on it, she is pulled into a family history more bizarre than she had ever dreamed.

Hide was a highly entertaining audiobook. I look forward to listening to Gardner's two latest D. D. Warren series novels this spring and summer. One thing is certain -- Gardner definitely has the ability to pull her readers into her novels and not let them go until the last word is read (or spoken). Hide kept me up nights, and probably contributed to some crazy dreams, but it was all worth it in the end.

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