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It’s funny how I can have piles and piles of print books to read and then suddenly find myself with a glaring hold in my listening needs, in this case for a book on CD for the car. Thus it was that I found myself wandering the teen audiobook section and decided, somewhat at random, that I should listen to more Tamora Pierce, and picked the unfamiliar series with the first book checked in. Please share your favorite Tamora Pierce or fantasy mystery series in the comments!
[Edited to add:] I’m also sharing this post with the April Sound Bytes linky over at Devourer of Books
Terrier. Beka Cooper Book 1. by Tamora Pierce. Read by Susan Denaker. Listening Library, 2006. Print Random House Children’s, 2006.
The Beka Cooper books are set in the kingdom of Tortall, like her Alanna books, which I read in German when I was studying abroad and have largely forgotten. Please feel free to fill me in on any nifty connections between the books – I’m sure I missed some! They are fantasy mysteries, where Beka uses a combination of police/detective skills and communicating with ghosts and other magical voices to solve the mystery.
Beka started life in the very rough Lower City, but was, with her family, taken in by the Provost when she was around eight and was able to lead him to the secret hideout of a gang, one of whose members had robbed her seriously ill mother. Beka has gone through training to be an official Dog, as the city’s police officers are called, and now she needs to beat the high odds and survive her puppy year, during which she will shadow a pair of experience Dogs. In her case, she’s shadowing the best – Tunstall and Goodwin, a mixed-gender partnership that’s lasted for years, so good they’ve never been bothered with a puppy before. Soon Beka uncovers two separate strings of murders – missing diggers, and kidnapped and murdered children, all of whose parents are left notes from the Shadow Snake.
Murdered children is a lot darker than I’m usually willing to go in my reading these days, though I remember being much tougher in this regard before I had children of my own. None of the murders are graphically described, though – only Beka’s hand-to-hand fighting gets a graphic treatment – so that I think that the teens the book is written for will do much better with this than I did. In any case, there’s plenty to balance out the murders: humor (especially involving Beka’s magical talking cat), as well as friendship, a would-be suitor (the hopeful new city Rogue), and lots of adventure.
There’s lots of local slang, which comes out nicely in Susan Denaker’s reading. I liked her accents for most of the other characters, though I thought that Beka herself sounded too innocent and proper American in her accent for a streetwise Lower City Girl. I still went right on to the next book, and plan to go on to the last as soon as I finish the books my love was so anxious for me to hear.
Bloodhound. Beka Cooper Book 2 by Tamora Pierce. Read by Susan Denaker. Random House/Listening Library 2009.
In this second book of the series, Beka is a new, full guard, now looking for a partner. Unfortunately, she can’t find one to keep up with her. After both of Tunstall’s legs are broken during a riot, Beka and Clary Goodwin are sent to a nearby port city to investigate the dangerous problem of counterfeit coins, or coals, that have been showing up with alarmingly increasing frequency. Her magical cat is busy with his own things, but Beka has recently come into caring for Achoo, a talented scent hound recovering from an abusive handler. Beka and Goodwin meet a whole new cast of colorful characters as they infiltrate the city’s underlife to find the source of the coals. As they’re pretending to be corrupt dogs, there’s even an excuse for Beka to start a romance with a handsome young man, Dale, whom she’d first met during the riots. (The reader is not permitted into the bedchamber, but we do come along with Beka on the somewhat embarrassing mission to buy a good child-preventing charm.)
On the whole, I enjoyed this second outing with Beka even more than the first, though that’s probably me personally liking less violent crimes and more romance in my reading. Even more than the first one, this focuses more on how to prove guilt and catch the guilty party – it’s pretty clear from early on who the villain is. I’m finding this another solidly enjoyable series from the reliable Pierce.