“Untamed Shore,” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. (Recorded Books, unabridged, 8 hours)
Silvia Moreno-Garcia, best known for writing fantasy novels, has come up with a first-rate thriller, a tale of monstrous perfidy set in 1979 in Baja California, Mexico. Here lives 18-year-old Viridiana, whose chief recreations are reading and contemplating dead sharks decaying on the seashore.
She cannot wait to escape — to university, she hopes. She has already shed the boyfriend her mother wants her to marry and takes a job as secretary to an ill-tempered would-be writer. Accompanying him are Daisy, his latest wife, a brittle, glamorous woman, and Gregory, her charming, too-handsome brother. There is something off about this trio, but the money is good, Mexico City beckons, and Viridiana comes under Gregory’s spell.
Maria Liatis narrates the book, capturing, in the youthful spring of her voice Viridiana’s inexperience, first sexual passion and sharp intelligence as her naiveté gradually dissolves. There is a suspicious death; people are not who they seem; and Viridiana, a gratifyingly strong central character, must repeatedly recalibrate her loyalties.
“The Missing American,” by Kwei Quartey. (Recorded Books, unabridged, 13¼ hours)
Ghana’s notorious internet scams are at the center of Kwei Quartey’s first novel starring 26-year-old Emma Djan, formerly of the Accra police and now a private investigator. Upon joining an online bereavement forum, American widower Gordon Tilson makes the acquaintance of “Helena,” a beautiful Ghanaian woman, as shown by her photo and strangely malfunctioning Skype videos. She promises to come to the United States but is repeatedly delayed, she says, by her sister’s medical problems and the need for money. Gordon falls for it and decides to visit her in Ghana and finds, no surprise to us, that she doesn’t exist.
Encouraged by an old journalist friend, he stays on in the country to track down the people who have swindled him. Shortly thereafter, he disappears. This brings his son, Derek, to the country to find him, acquiring the assistance of Emma, her boss and a valiant reporter.
Robin Miles, one of America’s most skilled audiobook narrators, moves adroitly from voice to voice, mood to mood, Ghanaian to American, as she delivers this suspenseful, atmospheric novel of desperation, corruption and murder.
“The King at the Edge of the World,” by Arthur Phillips. (Random House Audio, unabridged, 9½ hours)
Arthur Phillips’ sixth novel is an ingenious excursion to turn-of-the-17th-century England and Scotland. There, an exiled Turkish doctor named Mahmoud Ezzedine becomes the central actor in the transition from the Tudor to the Stuart monarchy. Ezzedine is presented as a “gift” to the queen by the Ottoman ambassador after saving a dying man’s life.
The doctor, who finds the English climate abysmal and the people repulsive, submits, even affecting to forsake Islam for Christianity. Thus, he becomes Matthew Thatcher and eventually ends up in the court of the Scottish king, James VI, the most likely heir to the childless Elizabeth.
Thatcher, repeatedly subjected to the whims of the powerful, has been instructed by a ruthless spymaster to detect the king’s true religious beliefs: Protestant or Catholic? Narrator Euan Morton delivers the novel in a wonderful range of voices and accents — his Scottish burr is especially engaging, and his wry manner wonderfully suited to the novel’s sardonic wit and trapdoor plot.
Katherine A. Powers, a Minnesota native, reviews for the Wall Street Journal, the Star Tribune and elsewhere. She wrote this column for the Washington Post.