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A sultry noir in contemporary clothes, this tight new thriller from Brown plays like measured chaos. The plot is twisting, the characters are well shaded, and Brown manipulates each string with a skilled hand, creating a story that will keep listeners puzzled and rapt. Narrator Boutsikaris is a perfect complement to the material. He lends the characters just enough twang to betray their Southern heritage but not so much as to make protagonist Duncan Hatcher seem anything less than a shrewd and hard-edged detective. And for Elise, the gorgeous but married damsel in distress who ties Duncan's libido and loyalties into knots, Boutsikaris employs a lilting tone that simultaneously suggests sweetness, sin and mystery. Did Elise's husband, a distinguished judge, hire someone to kill her, or is she involved in a plot with a drug dealer? Is Duncan making a mistake mistrusting Elise, or is his wariness the one thing that will save him? With Brown's skill for creating rich, layered characters and Boutsikaris's talent for embodying them, this audio doesn't disappoint. Simultaneous release with the S&S hardcover (Reviews, June 19). (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Detective Duncan Hatcher really doesn't believe the tale spun by Elise Laird, the pretty young wife of Judge Cato Laird, when she kills a man who has broken into the house. Her next story is a real doozie. With a four-city tour. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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