Lethal is the fourth Sandra Brown book I’ve listened to narrated by Victor Slezak. This combination of author and narrator has the kind of chemistry that Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Anna Fields had. Slezak definitely “gets” Brown’s style.
The suspense plot in Lethal is as full of dangerous surprises as the countryside in which it’s set. In this Louisiana backwater, it’s difficult to tell who the good guys are, or more importantly, who the bad guys are. Honor Gillette’s well-ordered life changes in an instant when her four-year-old daughter, Emily, finds an injured man in the front yard of their remote home. Lee Coburn is a fugitive wanted for the murder of seven co-workers. Hurt and on the run, Coburn hasn’t shown up at Honor’s house by mistake. He thinks Honor has something he needs that will prove his innocence and reveal the identity of a ruthless criminal called “The Bookkeeper.”
As the story progresses, the listener is as much in the dark about the identity of the villains as Honor and Coburn. I’ve read mysteries for decades, and I appreciate Brown’s ability to keep me guessing, and second-guessing, all the way through the book.
Slezak sets the mood for the suspense, and it’s easy for the listener to envision the bayous and people that inhabit them. His voices for the secondary characters fit them perfectly, from the small-town sheriff to the big city FBI agent. The female characters are differentiated more by a softening of the tone than by an actual attempt to sound female. This is a technique I wish all male narrators employed – the female characters don’t sound falsetto or breathy yet are still easy to identify as women. I admit wondering as I started this book how Slezak would pull off performing a little girl but somehow he does it convincingly. Of course, Slezak’s male characters all sound wonderful and Lee Coburn’s gruff voice sounds just right.
Sandra Brown’s characterizations are a big part of her appeal for me. I love the way the listener gets to know Honor and Coburn as they interact with each other and with Emily. Instead of being told what kind of people they are, we experience Honor and Coburn as they cope with the near constant danger and stress. Emily plays an important part in revealing the personality of both main characters, but Coburn especially. He doesn’t know what to do with the honest acceptance and affection Emily shows him, and his reactions reveal his character’s growth throughout the story.
Lethal might be lighter on romance than some readers prefer, but the suspense is top-notch and the relationship is still a central part of the book and, for me, quite satisfying.
Book Content: A
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Violence: Escalated fighting
Genre: Romantic Suspense (Suspense with Romance)
Publisher: Hachette Audio