A Word In Your Ear: Carter Beats The Devil, Fathers and Sons

By Christina Hardyment
Saturday 08 February 2003 01:00

Glen David Gold's Carter Beats The Devil (Isis, unabridged, 20 hrs, £22.99) is a startlingly original novel that takes you confidently into a world both very nearly real and jauntily paranormal. Master magician Charles Carter is compensating for a lonely boyhood by dicing with death in his magic show, but when he involves the president of the US in the act, there is hell to pay. Has he really killed the president? And can he escape the FBI? The world of the roaring Twenties is brilliantly realised, and Jeff Harding's punchy reading makes this a listening experience worth inventing a long journey to enjoy.

Russian novels are extremely approachable on audio, conjuring up as they do domestic worlds as full of intimate, human details as Dutch paintings. I thoroughly enjoyed both David Horovitch's alive and warm portrayal of the clashing generations in Turgenev's Fathers and Sons (Cover to Cover, 9 hrs, unabridged, £22.99) and Alex Jennings entering into the cold-blooded mind of Raskolnikov to chilling effect in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment (Penguin Classics, c 5 hrs, six CDs: excellent value for £12.99). But chic packaging does not compensate for the absence of cast lists, essential for coping with a hail of unfamiliar names. (Their inside covers are used for advertising.) It's obviously possible – similar titles by Naxos always include not just casts, but meaty introductions.

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