This year marks the 100th anniversary of the appearance of P.G. Wodehouse’s greatest gift to the world: Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. To honor the occasion, Blackstone has rereleased the late, great actor Jonathan Cecil’s narration of the stories in which the famous duo first figure. Scion of marquesses and an old Etonian, Cecil is matchless in rendering Bertie, the upper-class twit nonpareil and comes right up to the mark — as Bertie might say — in delivering Jeeves, his low, hollow tones cryptic and withering when it comes his charge’s sartorial whims. (“ ‘Injudicious, sir,’ he said firmly. ‘It will not become you.’ ”) Four of the stories star our heroes, all set in New York where Bertie finds himself entangled with wastrels even more hapless than he is. The remaining four feature idle young men of “almost human intelligence” and their several tribulations. A festival of language, happy conceit and peerless delivery: This is a recording for the ages. (Blackstone, unabridged, 5 hours)
Rob Dunn’s wild animal hunt through our living spaces — and our bodies — reveals that “homo indoorus” as he styles us, lives amid millions of tiny, busy creatures, eating, excreting, procreating and expiring, including in freezers, stoves, shower heads, salt and ourselves. Narrator Sean Patrick Hopkins reads this revelatory, fact-filled book in a friendly, buoyant voice and seems just as pleased as the author himself to let us know that the microbial life found on toilet seats and pillowcases is “not as different as you might hope.” Aside from introducing us to housemates whose presence we had not suspected, Dunn explains how the battery of chemicals we enlist to combat nonhuman life in our homes is exterminating benign forms, while malign ones rapidly evolve into poison-resistant villains. Biodiversity is Dunn’s watchword, and he shows again and again how nature takes care of nature far better than we can. (Hachette Audio, unabridged, 9½ hours)
Val McDermid’s genius at plotting, sense of place, and attention to character is all on display in her fifth novel starring Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie of Police Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit. The story juggles three diverse murders, that of a Highland athlete found dead and buried in bog — a crime with roots going back to 1944; a rape that left its victim incapacitated and, years later, dead from her injuries; and a fatal stabbing committed during a marital imbroglio. While these cases are picking up speed, an insolent male underling sent to spy on Pirie by her resentful, grudge-bearing boss is bent on undermining her and following his own ill-begotten schemes. To further complicate matters, Pirie finds herself attracted to a kilt-wearing Adonis whose animal magnetism may be joined to a duplicitous soul. Cathleen McCarron narrates the book in an intoxicating Scottish accent that adds yet another engaging dimension to an exceedingly clever and absorbing tale. (Recorded Books, unabridged, 13 hours)
Katherine A. Powers reviews audiobooks every month for The Washington Post.