This is an arguably over-slender abridgement of Beryl Bainbridge's fictional account of Dr Johnson's friendship with the beautiful and learned Mrs Thrale. It's a wonderful tale, evoking London in the 1770s and 1780s with deft period touches, and much illuminated by Joshua Reynolds's painting of Mrs Thrale and her prodigiously clever daughter Queeney, reproduced on the cover. But the book is told in a mix of letters from Queeney in later life and a narrative of her childhood experiences, and, when it is heard rather than seen, it is easy to miss the the shifts of view. I found that real concentration was needed to avoid becoming muddled. The effort is worth it, but the fan might do well to go for Miriam Margolyes's unabridged reading for Chivers (c. 8hrs, £15.50, mail order: 0800 136919).
No such concentration is necessary to enjoy The Man with the Golden Gun (Penguin, c. 3hrs, £8.99), one of 14 original Ian Flemings that Penguin is releasing on audio, "For Your Ears Only". There's a wonderful period feel about it, what with James Bond jetting over to Jamaica by BOAC and roaring round in a Sunbeam Alpine. Penguin's excuse for the mass launch is the 50th anniversary of the first Ian Fleming, Casino Royale.Reuse content