Thursday, June 30, 2011

Live to Tell Provides Creepy, Satisfying Audio Book Experience

When I search for audio books to listen to, I am really attempting to find books that will give me as good an experience as I've had with Lisa Gardner's D.D. Warren series.

For multiple reasons, Gardner's books work extremely well in audio format. First, they are full of suspense, which lend themselves well to being read aloud and keeping my attention. Second, her publisher does an excellent job of choosing voice actors -- yes, plural. As in, multiple voices reading various sections. Third (but somewhat tied to second), Gardner's novels are written from several different points of view: the police, the victim, the suspect, among others. These varying narrators (all read by different actors) draw the reader in by revealing a full, rounded narrative.

Live to Tell, the fourth book in the D.D. Warren series, is no exception to that rule. It was an exceptional read (or listen, if you will). Gardner's books seem to only get better as she matures as a writer. As she has also written another series as well as several standalone novels (this is her twelfth book overall), Gardner has plenty of experience under her belt at this point. Kirsten Potter once again narrates as voice actor, along with a whole cast of supporting narrators.

Several reviewers both on Amazon and on Goodreads denounced Live to Tell for its difficult-to-stomach content. Gardner does include things that are unsettling to read or listen to, but that's par for the course when you're reading one of her novels. I would venture a guess that those reviewers had never read her previous works. If they had, they would have expected a certain level of unease that comes with reading her books. Gardner writes mystery/thrillers, and that genre brings with it murder, psychological terror, and even fear.

Live to Tell tells three different stories that merge into one throughout the course of the novel. First, Gardner introduces Danielle Burton, a nurse working in a children's psychiatric ward. Danielle lived through her own family dysfunction at a young age and now helps children with similar family issues. As the anniversary of her family's deaths nears, she becomes significantly less stable. Simultaneously, Gardner tells the story of mother Victoria Oliver. Victoria lives with her own family demons, ones that despite her best efforts may beat her in the end. When two families are annihilated, Boston detective D.D. Warren is on the case. Warren's character ties this novel to the others in the series, and Gardner gives her readers plenty of updates on her star detective.

However, my favorite part of this series is how different each novel has been. Rather than following a formula in which D.D. Warren solves a case, Gardner makes this series so much more than that. Warren does work the case(s) in each novel, but Gardner delves into side stories as much as she focuses on Warren. As a result, each novel acts almost as a standalone with Warren running through them as a cohesive thread.

Live to Tell is yet another excellent audio book from Lisa Gardner. If you like mysteries and want to try the audio format, I highly recommend Gardner's books. In fact, you will then be spoiled and want to find others that match your experience with her novels! In some ways I wish that I had saved this listen for my upcoming trip to Africa (I leave Tuesday!), but I do have one thing to tide me over: Gardner's newest D.D. Warren series novel, Love You More, already purchased on Audible and loaded onto my iPod for my journey. (I'm also really enjoying Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches via Audible on my iPod.)

If you are a Gardner fan and an iPod or iPad user, Gardner has her own App. Check it out or visit her website for more information about Gardner or her books.


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