J.C. Hutchins (episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7)
Length: 3.8 hours
Reader: J.C. Hutchins
The book: While listening to NPR on a car trip last year, I heard a story about Personal Effects: Dark Art by J.C. Hutchins, who I had previously heard of from his podcast novel 7th Son. What intrigued me about Dark Art was that in addition to the printed story, the book came with additional documents, like a drivers' license, case files, and phone numbers to call. Along with these, Hutchins released this free audio novella, Sword of Blood, as a prequel to promote the full-length novel.
I love this marketing idea; it gives me the chance to meet the characters, sample the author's style, and decide whether or not I want to invest the time and money to read a longer book. In this case, though, I decided the longer book really wasn't something in which I was interested. Sword of Blood introduces Zach Taylor, an art therapist at a mental institution. When one of his elderly patients finishes a quilt and lets it slip that a coded message is hidden in the pattern, Taylor begins to investigate the old woman's background and the crime that put her in the asylum in the first place. I enjoyed the plot, though it requires a considerable suspension of disbelief, but Hutchins' writing style, which involves throwing rapid-fire nerd culture references, seemed strained and instantly dated. Although I enjoyed the audiobook enough that I didn't feel like I wasted my time, I don't think I'll be buying the novel.
The reader: Reading his own material, Hutchins gets the chance to enhance his story by putting the right emphasis on words and using his own patterns of speech for each character. He's a gifted reader and does a great job at making the scary parts more exciting. Each episode is bracketed by announcements by Hutchins for his novel, which is understandable, but gets annoying after a few episodes. The aggressive music that starts and ends the episodes fits in well, but listeners should be aware that it's coming, lest they startle themselves.