Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Starling Project – Audiobook Review

Narrator: Alfred Molina, Full Cast
Unabridged Length: 4 h, 10 m
Published by Audible Studios, 2014
Genres: Mysteries & Thrillers, Audio Drama

From the Publisher:
New York Times
best-selling author Jeffery Deaver will make your ears tingle and your pulse race in this Audible Studios original full-cast audiodrama starring Alfred Molina.

An aborted raid targeting a major arms dealer. A hostage standoff at a bank that may not be what it seems. A plot to spring a former African dictator from prison. What is the threat that connects them all? And just who is the mysterious mastermind, The Starling? From Mexico to Washington - from London to Marseille to Prague - war crimes investigator Harold Middleton and his team of Volunteers risk their lives to follow the trail of clues. But how can they stop The Starling - when he always seems one step ahead?

With more than 80 speaking roles and state-of-the-art sound and music design, The Starling Project is an immersive listening experience written by a master of the thriller.

My Review:
The Starling Project is a full blown movie in your ears. It includes a full cast, music, sound effects, and a fast moving plot. From the opening sequence in northwest Mexico, this audiobook grabs the listener.

This is the story of Harold Middleton and his Volunteers, a group that works for the International Tribunal for Justice. Their mission is to find, arrest, and extradite fugitive war criminals and those who support them. The story begins in the jungle of Baja California where Middleton and his crew, along with a team of UN Peacekeepers is attempting to remove computer hard drives from a house owned by Anton Gregory, a money launderer who supports war criminals, gun runners, terrorists, and dictators. The drives may include important information relative to the Starling Project, an upcoming operation that the Tribunal expects a lot of people to die.

So, what is the Starling Project, who is the mastermind, and how can he be stopped? Get ready for a wild four hour ride with lots of plot twists, red herrings, and interesting characters.

The Starling Project was written by Jeffery Deaver specifically as an audio drama, with no intention of ever having it in print. It allowed for natural dialogue without the “he said” or “said Middleton” and so no need for a narrator. Music was effectively used to transition between scenes and to build suspense during scenes.

I first listened to this in the car, and it was good, although road noise garbled some dialogue such as radio voice transmissions. Next, I re-listened to specific parts on my desktop speakers (which are really good). That ironed out many of the audio issues for what otherwise was a great story. I also spot listened through my Sony wrap-around ear-buds, which was similar to the experience with my desktop speakers.

Finally, I listened to the entire performance through my closed-cup Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones. This experience was AMAZING!!! It is the audio version of surround sound in a movie theater. All of the dialog was clear. The scene-specific ambient noise in the background made perfect sense. The somewhat garbled radio communication was realistic.

I really like Alfred Molina’s portrayal of the Harold Middleton character. He fully brings Middleton to life. The other major players that make up the Volunteers include Lisa Stathoplos as Sonya Tadic; David J. Curtis as Devon Carter; Aaron Abano as Mustafa Haddad, and Ian Carlsen as Kyle Nelson. Additionally, a couple dozen or so others voice actors portray the remaining 75 characters.

This is a fantastic production. While fairly short at just over four hours, the story is well written, with steady action, adequate character development, and good dialogue. The voice acting is superb.

My recommendation is to get this to your ears as soon as possible, if you like thrillers and audiobooks. This production pushes the envelope of what is possible with audio drama. The combination of a good story, great voice acting and great production makes for a fantastic listening experience.

The Starling Project was produced by AudioComics for Audible Studios. Co-producers include William Dufris, Lance Roger Axt, and Elaine Lee of AudioComics, as well as Michael Charzuk of Audible Studios.

As a disclosure, I asked for and received a review copy of The Starling Project from my social media friends Bill Dufris and Lance Axt. I really like the work they do with their AudioComics productions, including personal favorites Starstruck, Honey West, Titanium Rain, and Battle for LA. This did not influence my thoughts concerning The Starling Project.

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