A Cautionary Tale for Narrators Or, Show Me The Mercy!
The second book in the Buchanan-Renard series, this one features Justice Department attorney Theo Buchanan and brilliant backwater surgeon Michelle Renard. Another of those backwater-bayou Louisiana towns authors love is the setting – let’s just say it’s driving distance from New Orleans and there’s a swamp involved.
Buchanan is in New Orleans giving a speech when his appendix ruptures, and speech-attendee Dr. Renard rushes him to the hospital and saves his life. When her father asks him to come to Bowen, Louisiana to go fishing, he is intrigued enough with Michelle to take him up on it while taking a vacation from his Boston job.
That’s merely the setup for the romance behind the thriller. As it turns out, Michelle was supposed to have received some very damning evidence against 4 white-collar thieves in a special delivery envelope, but she dropped the envelope unopened in the hospital to attend to an emergency. The thieves hire Monk, a hitman, to get the envelope and take her out before she can turn the evidence over to the police. They didn’t count on a Justice Department attorney and his FBI friend Noah Clayborne to be in Bowen with Michelle and her father as well.
I found it to be a fairly exciting and entertaining read 2 years ago in print – I knew who (most of) the characters were, so there wasn’t really a mystery. And Theo is pretty much one of my favorite types of characters, the besotted hero.
But let’s talk about the narration. Full disclosure: I grew up in one of those ubiquitous backwater-bayou towns in Louisiana, so I feel fairly confident in my critique of Traister’s narration. It was really, really awful.
OK, back up, let me start over. Her voice in pure, read-the-book narrative mode is good. Her reading and pacing is ok – she needs to read ahead and stop taking breaths mid-clause, but if she used just the same narrative tone for the entire book, including the characters, this would have been a good B narration and I would have been recommending it to all. But no – she decided to give everyone an accent. Every. One. A thick accent. In a behind-the-scenes email discussion, Brenda gave me her take on the hero, Theo Buchanan: “LOL – Theo sounds like a mobster instead of a rich elite lawyer right??” Right. Because we all know that everyone from Boston sounds like street thugs, Harvard education be damned. Just like everyone in Bowen, Louisiana, uses their outside voices and forgets to use consonants. Luckily I had already read the book, so I could follow along with these shouting, unintelligible people. The one exception is Michelle. At least 85% of the time she just has a thick Southern-esque accent, but I can easily understand it.
Then there’s Noah – another hero in the series – whom Traister gives a zombie voice in an apparent attempt to differentiate him from Theo. The real killer for me (wait, it’s a thriller, so I mean the deal killer) is that her hero’s pitch and timbre and pacing are really, really good. Really good – solid B, maybe B+ good. If only she realized EVERY CHARACTER DOES NOT NEED A THICK, REGIONAL ACCENT. Subtlety would have been appropriate. As some of the discussion in the SOA article in January mentioned, just forming some of the vowels in the accent can give the reader the right impression while still sticking to the author’s intent. We aren’t talking identifiably Australian or Scottish accents here – these folks all live in the US of A and speak a common language, really. I know dis fo’ a fact cuz I grew up in dem dere swamps. (note: while Garwood does mention Jake has an accent, she does not write her dialog to show it without consonants.)
I just cannot reward this narration with anything higher than a D. The Audible 5-minute sample is narrative only – no character voices, so no way to learn that you are in for some big ol’ accents. Traister isn’t new or untrained – she has 38 listings at Audible which doesn’t include her 2010 recording of Mackenzie’s Mountain by Linda Howard, a highly-anticipated recording that fell flat for different reasons, and was only released in hard copy (at least we never saw it available at Audible). At the time, I indicated that her voice in MM was monotone and inflectionless. Two years later, I’m rueing that critique if it had anything to do with her decision to use the accents in this book!
So: good story; unbearable, practically DNF narration. That’s my take.
Book Content: B
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Violence: Escalated fighting
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Mercy was provided to AudioGals for review by Brilliance Audio.