The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 12, 2008

Phyllis Sessengood: Audiobooks offer riveting thrillers


‘The Darker Side’

By Cody McFadyen (Compact disc audiobook)

The transsexual son of a prominent Congressman is found murdered on a commercial airplane. No one witnessed the murder or saw the murderer, despite the fact that the murder occurred during the flight.

An autopsy reveals that the killer left a signature — a small silver cross inserted into the wound. At the request of the Congressman’s grieving wife, the FBI director himself summons FBl Special Agent Smoky Barrett and her team from L.A. to Washington, D.C. to work this extremely sensitive case.

Smoky and her team determine that the attacker has killed before. Another body is discovered with the murderer’s trademark cross in the wound.

As they probe further into the case, they realize that all the victims had something in common: deep secret sins that the killer made them confess before he killed them.

“The Preacher,” as Smoky and her team dub him, has taped all of his victim’s confessions and murders, and he begins putting them on a You-Tube-like Internet site. Clues also indicate that he has been killing for years and wants to be stopped. Smoky and her team race to find out how the Preacher discovered his victims’ secrets before he kills again and before the media discover the Internet videos.

“The Darker Side” is an intense, suspenseful thriller with well-developed characters and vivid descriptions. Joyce Bean lends her usual excellent narrative abilities to this thriller.

This is the third in the Smoky Barrett series, and I highly recommend reading the other books in the series, “Shadow Man” and “The Face of Death” first. Those thrillers give insight into Smoky’s deep emotional and physical scars.

The Joplin Public Library also owns the print version of “The Darker Side.”

‘Exposed’

By Alex Kava (Compact disc audiobook)

A note is discovered at the bottom of a box of donuts delivered to the FBI offices at Quantico. The note appears to suggest a bomb threat to a Virginia home.

FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell and her boss, Assistant Director Cunningham, with a SWAT team and bomb squad, rush to the home where they believe there is about to be an explosion. But, instead of a bomb, Maggie and Cunningham find an extremely ill mother and her five-year-old daughter. Medical tests reveal that the little girl’s mother has the deadly Ebola virus.

Since Maggie and Cunningham have been exposed to the deadly virus, they are placed in quarantine at the United States Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

Maggie is given a computer and spends her time in isolation as she waits to see if the deadly virus will manifest itself in her own body. She tracks clues to a killer who seems to be randomly sending out the virus in packages to people across the United States, and discovers that the killer employs clues from cases such as the 1980s Tylenol murders, the Beltway Sniper and the Unabomber.

Agent Tully, Maggie’s partner, investigates on the outside with information provided by Maggie. Tully’s daughter unknowingly provides a valuable clue at the same time that Tully’s ex-wife receives one of the deadly packages.

As the pieces of the puzzle start coming together, they discover that killer’s targeted victims may not be random at all.

Alex Kava’s psychological thriller is the sixth in the Maggie O’Dell series, but was the first for me. It works as a stand-alone novel, although I’m anxious to read the others now that I’ve been “exposed” to this author.

“Exposed” has several plot twists and turns, engaging characters and offers some insight into biomedical research. Tanya Eby Sirois does a fine narration with the audiobook.

Phyllis Seesengood is the technical services librarian at Joplin Public Library,