Audiobooks: The Murder Room, Packing for Mars, Lost Empire

By on November 8, 2010
RoadKing Mag

The Murder Room
By Michael Capuzzo
12 CDs, 14 hours

Author Michael Capuzzo delivers a thrill in his new audiobook, The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World’s Most Perplexing Cold Cases.

The book centers on three founding members of a Philadelphia group called the Vidocq Society, created 20 years ago to solve cold cases with a team of 82 profilers, detectives, psychologists, coroners and former FBI agents. Former federal and Customs agent turned private eye William Fleischer, forensic sculptor Frank Bender and criminal profiler Richard Walter, known as the “Living Sherlock Holmes” are obsessed with solving murder cases.

Capuzzo guides the listener through each man’s personality and talents as he introduces true stories of unsolved cases filled with desperate families, criminal minds and sometimes, gruesome details. Adam Grupper narrates the story in a fashion that resembles a 1940s private eye film and delivers each line with a punch. The listener gets caught up in the intricate, real-life tango of three crime-solving geniuses investigating cold cases before meeting for gourmet lunches at their elusive headquarters to solve them.

The negative? Capuzzo breaks up the stories of the Vidocq Society and the murder cases in the book repeatedly, moving to and from stories without much order. The listener could get frustrated or off track, but all in all it would be hard to turn this mystery down.

Packing for Mars
By Mary Roach
9 CDs, 11 hours

We’re going to Mars? Well, of course we are. Why not? The public has become accustomed to the idea of men and women hurtling into space in rocket ships. Astronauts still have an aura of the superhero about them though — a little bit better than us mere mortals who stay rooted to earth.

And that’s where Packing for Mars sets us straight. Astronauts are human and, as author Mary Roach points out, to rocket scientists that is a problem. While machines can be tested beyond their limits, making sure that human beings survived space travel and zero gravity involved a lot of questions that most of us don’t even want to think about.

But NASA has to think about them, conducting a lot of seemingly odd simulations here on earth. There have been experiments in tolerating body odor, since there were no showers in space. Volunteers spend months never getting out of bed, not even sitting up, so researchers can monitor what happens to muscles and organs when a body remains motionless for extended periods of time — as an astronaut would on a long trip to a distant planet. Motion sickness in space is very real — so what happens if someone throws up in their space helmet?

Packing for Mars is a fascinating, quirky and fun look at the things our bodies do that we take for granted and what adjustments must be made for space travel. Narrator Sandra Burr keeps her tone matter-of-fact throughout, but at the end the listener has a wealth of strange-but-true facts and a better understanding of the human side of those superhero astronauts.

Lost Empire
By Clive Cussler
10 CDs, 12 hours

There’s a reason that Clive Cussler is a best-selling author. He knows how to grab a reader’s attention and hold it, spinning tales of intrigue and adventure on the high seas.

Readers have embraced his regular characters, like Dirk Pitt and Isaac Bell, in numerous novels.

Lost Empire is Cussler’s second “Fargo Adventure.” Co-authored with Grant Blackwood, it features the husband and wife treasure-hunting team Sam and Remi Fargo. The happy and rich couple seem cut from the same cloth as Nick and Nora Charles, of the old Thin Man movies.

Here, the Fargos find themselves caught up in a serious tangle after discovering an old ship’s bell while on a scuba-diving expedition in Tanzania. The effort to claim it puts the couple on a crash course with a Mexican nationalist president, who has political reasons for wanting the historic relic himself. Narrator Scott Brick strikes the perfect tone of gravity and fun, sort of like a movie trailer announcer. This pure escapist adventure rambles along at a pleasant pace, and is a perfectly entertaining listen for a long trip.

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