audiobooks reviews books
We review the latest crop of audiobooks and give you the chance to listen to the best of the bunch
Slumdog Millionaire (Q&A) by Vikas Swarup
Read by Kerry Shale
Abridged, 6 hours, £14.98Dev Patel and Freida Pinto may be grinning from the sleeve, but this is a vastly different experience to the celluloid phenomenon currently Hoovering up awards. Repackaged and retitled to coincide with the film’s release, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ the audio book is an abridged version of Vikas Swarup’s award-winning source novel, ‘Q&A’. And where Danny Boyle’s movie gives us the breathtakingly colourful and chaotic scenery of Mumbai, this version is all about its myriad voices.Ram Mohammad Thomas is being brutally interrogated after correctly answering 12 questions on the Indian ‘Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?’. How could an orphan from the slums know all this? In order to prove he wasn’t cheating, Ram must retell his life story, joining the dots between those random nuggets of general knowledge to demonstrate how a series of desperately unfortunate events could have paved the way to a fortune.
Along the way, he encounters a cast of Dickensian proportions, with Canadian actor Kerry Shale packing character into every undulation of the Mumbai accent. Some are tragic, such as the ageing Bollywood actress obsessed with leaving a beautiful corpse; others are villainous, like the violent john who brands women with cigarettes. Each has a part to play in Ram’s destiny as he jumps from frying pan to fire to inferno, narrating his progress with melancholy wit. Almost all of these people, with the exception of his prostitute love interest and the proprietor of the grotesque cripple factory, are unfamiliar from the film.
Here you won’t find a self-contained and undemanding fairy tale but a hectic patchwork of stories more suggestive of the breadth of modern Indian life than the most detailed panning shot – not to mention an episodic structure that’s mighty handy for the commute. It’s also interesting to note that Ram, unlike his counterpart in the Celador-produced film, has heard of the British ‘Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?’ cheat Major Charles Ingram.
Read Time Out Film's verdict on 'Slumdog Millionaire'
Download 'Slumdog Millionaire' ('Q &A') from audible.co.uk for only £9.79
Keeping the Dead by Tess Gerritsen
Read by Laurel Lefkow
Abridged, 3 hours, £13.99Did you know you can buy mummy wrappings on eBay? Conflating the world of modern technology with the mysteries of ancient Egypt (although, come the climax, our gutsy female detective does utter the immortal line ‘I couldn’t get any reception at the bog’ – rest assured, she means the peat kind), the latest from physician-turned-bestselling author Tess Gerritsen is an extremely silly but perfectly listenable thriller. An Egyptian mummy has been discovered in the vaults of a museum in Boston. But what’s that – something metallic in the aural cavity? And what’s that, a secret chamber in the museum? And what’s that inside, another contemporary corpse, this time mutilated to resemble a ceremonial shrunken head? Clearly, a collector of women on a par with Buffalo Bill is at large. But is he connected to an archeological dig that took place in Cairo over 20 years ago, and are there really such things as demonic bloodlines? ‘Not very cleverly’ and ‘erm, maybe’ are the answers after three hours of plot extensions and two minutes of psychological profiling. A little less crime fiction cliché and a little more ancient history would have gone a long way. Download 'Keeping the Dead' from audible.co.uk for only £9.59
Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott
Read by the author
Unabridged, 15 hours 20 mins, £21.99 (cassettes) or £32.99 (CDs)Here is proof that the best person to read a book is not always its author. Robyn Scott is not a natural raconteur: in fact, her voice is as parched and unsentimental as the landscape she describes. Yet her memoir of growing up in a cowshed in Botswana, to which her adventurous parents emigrated when she was six, wins through with its intensely lived detail. Shy first encounters with the country’s wildlife (she is a Gerald Durrell who tucks her knees up on the toilet to avoid the snakes) give way to canoeing with crocodiles and, eventually, work grappling with the Aids epidemic, while the strange schemes of an eccentric grandfather give lively counterpoint.
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Laurel Lefkow's elegant correction of her name *is* important. She along with C J Critt are among my favourite narrative readers. Often with readers like them, I will be prepared to listen to anything they read, so I''I'll search for lists of anything they've narrated. So it's crucial to have accurate spelling of the reader's name. Often too in this way, I've discovered new authors I'd never otherwise have come across. Incidentally, was delighted to hear Laurel in the cast of a BBC Radio 4 drama the other day.