'Reasons to Be Cheerful'
Nina Stibbe’s third, semi-autobiographical novel follows “Man at the Helm” and “Paradise Lodge,” and is just as exuberantly witty as its predecessors. It’s 1980, and the central character, Lizzie Vogel of Leicester, England, is now 18 with no special skills except the ability to blow perfect smoke rings and do spot-on impressions of Prince Charles. She is working as a dental assistant and, on occasion, as a dental practitioner — for which she has no qualifications aside from bravado. The dentist himself is an unlovely specimen — racist, ungenerous and vain — a man whose two ruling goals are to become a Freemason and to continue his blood line. Lizzie lives in a small apartment whose great feature is its washing machine, an irresistible lure to the young man upon whom she has designs. Gemma Whelan (who played Yara Greyjoy in “Game of Thrones”) narrates the story in a clear, young English voice. She delivers its many droll observations with flawless timing, while still conveying the some of the poignancy of a young woman becoming an adult. (Penguin Books, Ltd., Unabridged, 9 hours)
'The Substitution Order'
Martin Clark’s fifth ingenious legal thriller presents us with the unhappy spectacle of Kevin Moore, disbarred trial lawyer, once of Roanoke, now on parole working in a sub shop in Stuart, Va., thanks to his conviction on drug charges. He has lost his wife and his reputation but intends to keep his nose clean and regain his license. Alas, he is seized upon as a useful tool by some major league scam artists. When he refuses to take part in their multimillion-dollar insurance-fraud scheme, he is set up with planted cocaine and a phony drug test. Shortly after, he suffers a stroke, a misfortune that is compounded by his health insurance company attempting to stiff him. But Kevin is nobody’s patsy, and he puts together a truly diabolical plan of revenge (“some impressive, head-snapping three-ring mojo,” exclaims an admiring friend) that will bring gladness to every listener’s ears. The book is narrated by David Aaron Baker, a Southerner himself and an accomplished actor whose calm, rueful delivery accords with the sly humor of this terrifically entertaining book. (Recorded Books, Unabridged, 13 1/3 hours)
Katherine A. Powers reviews audiobooks every month for The Washington Post.