Friday, August 22, 2014

Last To Know - Audiobook Review

Title: Last To Know
Author: Elizabeth Adler
Narrator: Joe Barrett, Amy Rubinate
Unabridged Length: 7 h, 46 m
Published by Blackstone Audio, 2014
Genres: Mysteries & Thrillers

From the Publisher
A killer targets a peaceful lakeside community, and one family is changed forever by secrets and lies.

Evening Lake is idyllic, peaceful, with a close-knit community of families who have been coming to this western Massachusetts getaway for decades. Then newcomer Lacey Havnel and her daughter Bea move in. They are nothing like the well-heeled families who populate Evening Lake. Mysterious and rough around the edges, they keep to themselves.

Detective Harry Jordan sees his lake home as a respite from solving crimes on the streets of Boston. The Osborne family views their cottage as a way to avoid the distractions of life—especially for Wally Osborne, a famous horror writer who seems to need the peace and quiet more than anyone.

One night, Harry is walking alongside the lake when the night is rocked by an explosion: the Havnel house is engulfed in a conflagration, and young Bea is seen fleeing, hair on fire, and plunging into the lake. She survives, but her mother does not, and Harry is pulled into the investigation.

Unbeknownst to the rest of the community, Diz Osborne, the youngest Osborne son, carries a weighty secret about who else he saw rowing on the lake that night. When it’s discovered that Lacey died not from the explosion but from a knife wound, it’s soon clear that a murderer is on the loose. And this murderer is poised to strike again and again.

My Review

Burned out Boston homicide detective Harry Jordan decides to take some time off to reflect on his career and his life, after splitting with his fiancée, Mallory Malone. She heads to France, he heads to his cabin at Evening Lake in western Massachusetts to relax.

His next door neighbors include the Osborne family. Wally Osborne is a popular crime fiction writer and likes the peace and quiet of the lake community. His wife Rose is a socialite, gourmet cook, and seems to run the family that is made up of son Roman, twin daughters Madison & Frazer, and son Diz, the youngest. Everyone at Evening Lake knows one another, has for years. Then, the Havnels arrive. Lacey Havnel, and her 21-year-old daughter, Bea have moved in directly across the lake, since Harry was last here. They seem to keep to themselves and don’t seem to fit in with the others in Evening Lake.
As Harry is walking along the lake one evening, he sees the house directly across the lake, the Havnel place, explode and go up in flames. Harry is the first on the scene and pulls Bea Havnel from the lake, as she had run from the house with her hair ablaze and dived into the lake.

It becomes obvious after the fire scene investigation that it wasn’t an accidental explosion, as the burned body of Lacey Havnel was found to have a kitchen knife rammed into her eye. There is a murderer at large in the quiet community of Evening Lake. Bea Havnel was transported to the hospital, but is miraculously unharmed. Bea then has an odd request, after she leaves the hospital. She wants to stay with the Osborne family. Then things started really getting strange.

Very little was as it appeared to be for most of the main characters. There was a lot of character development at the first, but it was offset with later revelations. There were some interesting twists, but I just couldn’t suspend disbelief once it became evident the fire was to cover a murder. The police seemed inept, particularly Harry Jordan, the experienced Boston detective. Key obvious clues were not acted upon. The benefit of the doubt was unusually extended to who should have been a prime suspect, given the facts of the murder investigation. It was amazing how easily Harry was manipulated by the murderer.

Last To Know
was a so-so mystery novel that for me was just too predictable. The suspenseful ending salvaged it as a thriller. The main thing that saved it for me was that I listened to the audiobook and the performances of the primary reader, Joe Barrett and of the murderer (when being introspective), Amy Rubinate, were very good. Barrett just has a good voice for mysteries, and I liked his voicing of Harry Jordan, a gruff detective. He did a good job with all of the dialogue. He has a particularly nice “narrator” voice that is easy to listen to and stay engaged with the story. Barrett kept the book moving along through the slow parts, particularly early on, and picked up the pace when appropriate.

There are several chapters throughout the audiobook that are used to have the killer explain their intention, in a chilling first person narrative, expertly delivered by Amy Rubinate. She gives a very strong psychopathic vibe to the murderer. It was quite scary. That made it work. Just reading it in the book likely would have been flat. Overall, Last To Know was a decent mystery, nothing great. This is a good example of how an average book can be greatly improved with skilled voice acting.

A review copy of Last To Know was provided by Blackstone Audio through the Solid Gold Reviewer program of Audiobook Jukebox.

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