Thursday, May 8, 2008

"Jack Penny's New Identity" by Lee Child

Length: 37 min
Reader: Dick Hill

The story: Brilliance Audio has released several selections from Thriller, a short story collection edited by best-selling author James Patterson. If you’re interested in crime, mystery, or spy stories you may be able something you like. This story, from the fugitive subgenre, follows factory worker James Penny as he is laid off from his job. Penny rather emphatically cuts off his ties to his old life, catching unfavorable attention from the local police in the process.

The direct style of Child’s prose reminds me of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, No Country for Old Men, probably now better known from the movie adaptation. Like that novel, the protagonist is a basically good person who has done something illegal, though without malice. Unlike McCarthy’s book, which chillingly paints the extremes of good and evil, Jack Penny only finds more moral ambiguity in the end. This is the first piece I’ve read by Lee Child, so perhaps my understanding of the final scene is incorrect, but it certainly provides a glimpse of a morally complex character that may hook you into reading more of Child’s work.

Rating: 7/10

The reader: This is a sample from a commercially-produced audiobook, so the production values are predictably very high. The sound quality is impeccable. A short introduction orients you to Child’s crime series, though unlike other stories from this collection, I thought the intro to this story wasn’t absolutely necessary. Dick Hill is a great narrator whose work here breathes life into the story. He puts his professional voice acting to good use, rising and falling in tone and cadence with the action and performing the characters' voices convincingly.

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