To summarize our experience with the nominees this year, let's say it was interesting in an educational way. Although the three of us are fans of mysteries, none of the nominees captured us completely. It must have been a rather slow year for mysteries. Luckily, Audies are awarded for "excellence in narration, direction, engineering, mix, and abridgment," which leaves out evaluating the plot itself. (None of the nominees this year were abridged.)
Here are our thoughts about the nominees:
Rogue Island is set in Providence, Rhode Island, and is about an old school journalist who investigates a series of arsons. Not having lived in RI, I can't vouch for the propriety of delivery of the accents by Jeff Woodman, but overall I found his way of reading the novel pretty dull, I didn't think this particular accent came naturally to him.
Feast Day of Fools is a more ambitious work. This mystery's location is in a small town on a border between Mexico and Texas. The local sheriff is on a mission to investigate a torture in the desert witnessed by a local alcoholic. Will Patton is an engaging and affected reader who can perform very well, and I was impressed by his ability to give voices to Texan, Mexican and even Chinese characters.
One Dog Night is another arson related mystery and by far the poorest audio in this bunch of nominees. Just doing one accent (New Jersey) and reading every character in exactly the same way is not enough to be noted for this rather prestigious award.
Do full-cast audio productions become automatic winners, I wonder, because how do you resist the sounds of banjo, squeaking doors, banging glasses and departing barges in Return to Marshall's Bayou? But I did, however. As it often happens with full cast audios, the dialog felt disjointed, as if pieced together and not read by actors in a group, during an organic interaction.
And last, but not least, Naughty in Nice read by Katherine Kellgren. Oh, this narrator can do anything! French, Russian, British, American, German accent, male or female, a person of nobility or a scullery maid. You name it, Katherine Kellgren can do any voice. Even though Naughty in Nice is book 5 in the Royal Spyness series, I was well entertained by this Agatha Christie-like charming mystery.
My pick: Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen and narrated by Katherine Kellgren
Feast Day of Fools immediately drops you down into the atmosphere of the setting. I was reminded of movies like Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men and the scenes at the wedding chapel in Kill Bill. The narration actually sounded a lot like David Carradine, which can be a great thing if you are into his voice. Patton's narration is mostly consistent and I think this book will be a contender. (another side note: Patton narrates a 2007 audiobook version of On The Road that I have a feeling might be something amazing. Has anyone listened to it?)
One Dog Night was unintentionally funny to me from the beginning of the production because it starts with very 80s music. My co-bloggers both didn't enjoy Grover Gardner's voice narration but I really did. I suppose I've listened to many books with the same type of narration and I find his voice natural and conversational. He's been nominated several times for Audies in the Mystery category and won in 2010.
Gosh, I am kind of a sucker for full cast audio narrations and the inclusion of music. I know it can be distracting for some listeners but generally, it helps me with the tone of the book and aids my imagination in regards to the setting. Return to Marshall's Bayou is more of a production overall than the other nominees and it feels more like listening to a movie without the visual element. Definitely a feat for the editing and production teams.
Naughty in Nice is narrated by this year's only female narrator, Katherine Kellgren. Honestly, in the first ONE minute of the book, she does several different accents and she captured me immediately. I really love her narration but the sound quality doesn't sound as clear as some of the other nominees. After listening to this one, I know I want to listen to more Katherine Kellgren narrations, but I'm not sure if this one will win the prize.
My Pick: Though I really like Kellgren's narration and skill and I thought all the nominees were worthy contenders, I think Return to Marshall's Bayou by S.H. Baker is going to win. The work that went into the production--multiple narrators, music, sound effects, just the entirety of the audiobook is very well put together. I am so insanely curious who will come out on top this weekend.
For the most part I really enjoyed Feast Day of Fools. The narrator has a very deep, raspy, movie theater announcer type voice. He does very well with Texas/Southwest accents but unfortunately, he really doesn’t do well with Spanish. And there are a few scenes actually in Spanish so that would seem to be a crucial skill. He also has a tendency to be really over-dramatic (also much like a movie theater announcer).
The narrator for Rogue Island has a very nice voice that I could easily listen to. Plus, he uses a Rhode Island accent (sounds sort of Boston-y if you’re more familiar with that) which I find endlessly interesting. Still, there was nothing truly special about his delivery or characterization. His characters all sound basically the same, with very slight differences in pitch.
Return to Marshall’s Bayou is a “bells and whistles” type audiobook: full cast, sound effects, music in the background. Some readers love that sort of thing and some find it distracting. For some reason, it’s always harder for me to focus when the dialogue is switching back and forth between narrators (and even more so with sound effects and music going on in the background), so this audiobook was definitely not for me. However, I have to give it credit for being very well-produced.
My favorite narration by far is Katherine Kellgren’s work in Naughty in Nice. She’s already earned a place on my list of all-time favorite audiobook narrators (based on her work in the Jacky Faber series). Her delivery is just dramatic enough, her characters feel distinct, and her wide array of accents are always spot-on. I could listen to her forever.
My pick: Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen and narrated by Katherine Kellgren _____________________________________________________________________________
So, looks like we are a little torn here. But, statistically, we, as a trio, are predicting a victory of Naughty in Nice. Only a week before we find out if our prediction is a correct one...
Be sure to visit The Literate Housewife for links to the other blogs participating in the 2012 Armchair Audies.