Faye Kellerman,
The Garden of Eden
& Other Criminal Delights

(Hachette, 2006)

I am finally going to rave about a Faye Kellerman audiobook! In the past, I have mentioned how this author can build up an interesting plot only to wrap everything up quickly with little to no climax. Basically, I prefer details, not a synopsis, when I read or listen to a murder-mystery. Hence, I have to mention that I am kind of surprised at how much I enjoyed Kellerman's audiobook of short stories, The Garden of Eden & Other Criminal Delights.

Over five CDs, Kellerman introduces 10 short stories narrated by a cast larger than what you would find on a standard audiobook. The readers include Dennis Boutsikaris, Nancy McKeon, John Rubinstein, Roger Rees, Lindsay Crouse and Theodore Bikel. While some of the folks are more engaging than others, the multitude of voices gave each story a distinct sound that helped distinguish each in its own right. Perhaps it also helped that in between each selection there was a musical sorbet to cleanse the palate before the presentation of the next entree.

A voice can truly set off a piece. In the case of "Mummy & Jack" -- a tale Kellerman wrote in collaboration with her son, Jesse -- the English accents lend the story the eccentric flair of upperclass (or want-to-be-upper-class) English personages. I could not help but think of Jack the Ripper. I also had to wonder how well the twisted, yet seemingly rational, main character would have come across if I had been reading instead of listening.

"Holy Water" is an amusing tale that combines Jewish heritage and the cola wars. There is no murder in this selection, but it is still an entertaining story. Again, the voice may have given this piece an extra layer that would otherwise have been missing. The listener will feel like they have moved into a Jewish enclave and should be forgiven if they pick up a slight accent and some new vocabulary words. I don't want to give anything away, but I can say that you won't feel sorry for the cola companies portrayed in this story.

Some of the stories reference characters you should already be familiar with if you are a fan of Kellerman's novels. Rina Lazarus, Peter Decker and his daughter Cindy are all featured. I enjoyed the story "Bull's-Eye," in which one of Cindy's instructors at the Police Academy is killed at a firing range. In the story "Open House," Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus have to figure out how and why the body of a young Latino woman ended up in the broom closet of a house that is for sale.

The Garden of Eden & Other Criminal Delights is by far one of the best of Kellerman's audiobooks I have heard. Some of the stories are easy to figure out before you get to the end. Some do not involve murder, the typical subject of many Kellerman novels. Some of the narrators are a little amateurish in their presentation. But this audiobook is an example of something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Together, these short stories are well presented and easily digested in bite-sized chunks.

by Wil Owen
30 December 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.