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SUNDAY BRUNCH

book shelf / audio

September 21, 1997|ROCHELLE O'GORMAN FLYNN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ever want to kill your producer? You can do so vicariously, from the safety of your car, with Michael Connelly's latest in the Harry Bosch series, "Trunk Music" (Brilliance Corp.; unabridged fiction; five double-tracked cassettes; 15 hours; $25.95). A complex and intelligent police detective, Bosch travels between Los Angeles and Las Vegas as he unearths the truth about a bullet-riddled filmmaker and the women in his life.

Dick Hill, always a reliable reader, is in top form here as he imbues each major character in this gritty mystery with a distinct temperament. He gives specific personality traits to a few, but he avoids the pitfall of overdoing it. For the female characters, he wisely softens his voice, knowing that a change of attitude is far more effective than the grating falsetto some male readers embrace.

Though the Brilliance Corp. never uses music, it sometimes sprinkles in a few sound effects. In "Trunk Music" these are done with a light touch, such as a variation in tone with a character on the phone.

But Brilliance quite abused its echo machine privileges with Po Bronson's "The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest" (unabridged fiction; four double-tracked cassettes; 12 hours; $23.95). Every time a character offers an aside to a conversation, the producer pulled out that echo machine. The result is annoying and quite out of sync with the rest of the production.

Reader Aaron Frye makes up for it, however, as he slips easily into different characterizations, offering convincing accents and varied tones.

The story, set in the Silicon Valley among the wunderkinder of the computer world, is humorous and irreverent and moves along at a clip. A human spin is put on this high-tech story, and, while it certainly is light, it is consistently amusing.

The Los Angeles of the 1940s is resurrected with senses of wonderment and nostalgia in Stewart M. Kaminsky's "Buried Caesars" (Recorded Books; unabridged fiction; five cassettes; 6 hours, 50 minutes; $42 to buy, $13.50 to rent by calling [800] 638-1304). The tape is further shaded with humor by narrator George Guidall, who has a voice that calls to mind spirited character actors from the Golden Age of radio.

The material provides a witty starting point, but Guidall's sense of timing is what may get you laughing out loud. His voice crackles with attitude and is wonderfully different from the carefully modulated tones and dull styles of so many narrators.

Kaminsky has written a series of these Toby Peters mysteries, all of which involve famous names of the past and a city that now exists only in our imaginations. Most concern film stars, but this whodunit involves a swaggering Gen. Douglas MacArthur and a zealous patriot living in the California desert.

Another mystery in which atmosphere is as important as plot is "Serpent's Tooth" by Faye Kellerman (Simon & Schuster Audio; abridged fiction; four cassettes; 4 hours, 30 minutes; $24). Kellerman's series involving Los Angeles Police Det. Peter Decker and his wife, Rina Lazerus, is unusual because of their intense relationship. Unfortunately, much of that has been excised right out of this audio. In most respects, this is a deftly executed abridgment, because if you have never read Kellerman you won't know what you are missing. But those who have are going to wish they had the hard copy of this book.

Reader Jay O. Sanders is more than capable and can easily pick up a Southern accent or let anger color his words. The complex story line, involving a seemingly lone gunman who vents his rage in a trendy Los Angeles restaurant, maintains a decent amount of suspense. We just could have used more of it.

* Rochelle O'Gorman Flynn will review audio books every four weeks. Next week: Margo Kaufman on mysteries.

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