Audio books reviewed

Bungled Cockney or Yorkshire guile? Sue Gaisford finds that not all readers can chill you to the marrow
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The Independent Culture

Sometimes part of your brain urgently needs diversion. When, say, you're peeling muddy carrots, the best treatment is to offer it a thriller, murmured into your ear, creeping silently into your head.

For complexity, tension and urgent suspense, two Americans currently lead the field. Tim Machin doesn't so much read as inhabit Harlan Coben's One False Move (Orion Cassettes £12.99, CDs £16.99). The book is about a young woman basketball player whose father has disappeared - but it's really about race and sport and courage and love and frailty and wickedness. Coben's weary realism is chilling but his language sparkles. The dénouement comes fast and sideways, sad and grimly satisfactory.

Patricia Cornwell defends the female corner with the latest of her Kay Scarpetta novels, Blow Fly (HarperCollins £10.99/£13.99). Like Machin, the reader Lorelei King moves easily between her characters' voices with subtle, unobtrusive skill, telling a gruesome story with trustworthy authority.

Minette Walters is an English Cornwell, unafraid of the psychotic and fastidiously forensic in her plotting. The canvas of her Disordered Minds (Pan Macmillan £10.99) is smaller than Cornwell's but the perspective is deeper. Straightforward narration is interspersed with emails, letters and notes to tell an ambitious, if bleak story of two pathetic, bungled murders, committed long ago and never solved. The killers, still at large, are painstakingly pursued by an anxious black male academic and a female councillor called George whose roots are Cockney but who lives in Bournemouth. To distinguish between these voices is, understandably, a little beyond the abilities of the reader, but the story itself proves convincing and the conclusion surprising and satisfactorily neat.

A plot as twisty as barley sugar runs through Peter Robinson's latest, a terrific book mystifyingly called Dry Bones That Dream (Macmillan £9.99) There's not a dry bone in the book and precious little dreaming, but there is a marvellously ingenious story involving hired assassins, money-laundering, stolen identities and a wide range of Yorkshire voices, each subtly distinguished by the excellent reading of Neil Pearson.

Hugh Fraser's cheery reading of Agatha Christie's The Secret of Chimneys (HarperCollins £12.99) is a hoot. Our hero leaves Bulowayo for the Blitz hotel, to romance a fine gel and defy all dastardly foreigners. Totally unemotional, this is audible Cluedo - with a dash of bogus Wodehouse and a nod to Enid Blyton.

Not far from Bulowayo, a huge fan of Agatha Christie's decides to set up The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Time Warner £12.99/£14.99). She is Mma Ramotswe, the magnificent heroine of Alexander McCall Smith's best-selling series. She has a heart so firmly in the right place that she can tell bare-faced lies and incur no unpleasant consequences. Evocative original music surrounds these beguiling stories, read by the fine RSC actress Adjoa Andoh, a perfect choice. Technically, perhaps, they don't qualify as thrillers since there's nothing alarming about them, but they are wonderfully cheering and they'll see you through buckets and buckets of carrots.