Spoken Word

<i>Hot Six</i> read by Lorelei King | <i>Jane Austen: a biography</i> read by Teresa Gallagher
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The Independent Culture

Hot Six read by Lorelei King (Macmillan, c3hrs, £8.99) I tried hard to broaden my range of preference for lady detectives by investigating the much-feted Lynda La Plante trilogy, Cold Blood, Cold Shoulder and Cold Heart (all Macmillan, c3hrs, £8.99) and they are certainly gripping listening. Glynis Barber's utterly English narrator is a bit of a shock at first, but transforms herself into appropriate Low Angeles/New Orleans character with skill. Lorraine Page, La Plante's heroine is certainly a tough cookie, and the pace of action is rapid. But I can't help suspecting that La Plante's customary cushioning of plot with current wisdoms about women must have been ruthlessly ripped away. So I remain unrepentant in putting Janet Evanovich several character-filled New Jersey blocks ahead of any of her competitors. This is the sixth in her Stephanie Plum series (start with One For The Money if you don't know them). It begins in classic style: Joe Morelli drop

Hot Six read by Lorelei King (Macmillan, c3hrs, £8.99) I tried hard to broaden my range of preference for lady detectives by investigating the much-feted Lynda La Plante trilogy, Cold Blood, Cold Shoulder and Cold Heart (all Macmillan, c3hrs, £8.99) and they are certainly gripping listening. Glynis Barber's utterly English narrator is a bit of a shock at first, but transforms herself into appropriate Low Angeles/New Orleans character with skill. Lorraine Page, La Plante's heroine is certainly a tough cookie, and the pace of action is rapid. But I can't help suspecting that La Plante's customary cushioning of plot with current wisdoms about women must have been ruthlessly ripped away. So I remain unrepentant in putting Janet Evanovich several character-filled New Jersey blocks ahead of any of her competitors. This is the sixth in her Stephanie Plum series (start with One For The Money if you don't know them). It begins in classic style: Joe Morelli drops in for a quick - er - oil change, Stephanie talks a suicide out of jumping by complimenting her on her highlights and the shady but fascinating Ranger limps in a wanted man. I'd rather not have an abridgement as almost every Evanovich line is a comic triumph, but Lorelei King's reading is more than adequate compensation.

Jane Austen: a biography read by Teresa Gallagher (Naxos, 2hrs 30mins, £8.99) The versatile novelist and biographer Elizabeth Jenkins, who is now in her nineties, gave permission for this abridgement of what Naxos rightly call her "classic" Jane Austen biography with one proviso: nothing was to be added. So you will not get the latest scholarly speculation - go to Claire Tomalin's book for that. But you will get both the most essential facts of Austen's life and some extraordinarily good listening.

Jenkins became so saturated with Jane's prejudices and sensibilities that the rhythms of her writing elegantly echo those of her subject. To listen to her life of Austen read aloud with freshness and clarity by Teresa Gallagher almost feels like listening to, if not an unknown Austen novel, perhaps one by her niece Fanny. It is to be hoped that this is the first in a series of classic biographies. For though the latest life of an already thoroughly dissected literary legend will always find something to add, or at least contradict, it can often be long and convoluted in comparison to the elegant literary felicities of, say, Thomas Carlyle on Cromwell, Siegfried Sassoon on George Meredith, or David Cecil on Max Beerbohm.

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