Bahni Turpin is one of the best audiobook narrators around, a talent who excels across different genres. This range of experience makes her the perfect ironic narrator for Kashana Cauley’s hilarious novel The Survivalists (Brilliance Audio, 10 hours and 23 minutes), about Aretha, an ambitious Black attorney who discovers that Aaron, the coffee entrepreneur she’s dating, shares an old Brooklyn house with two doomsday preppers.
Aretha isn’t sure how deep Aaron is into the movement, and besides, she has never heard of Black survivalists. But one roommate is up on the roof with a gun, and the other sneers at Aretha’s innocence. Does she really think Harriet Tubman didn’t have a go-bag ready at all times? Does anyone have more reason to embrace preparation for the worst than Black people?
Cauley uses this irresistible setup to explore and satirize racial stereotypes, the mendacity of the corporate world, and the perils of modern dating. Turpin’s lively reading is funny but also empathetic as the increasingly erratic Aretha starts to rethink her career and her principles. Turpin turns out to be the ideal inner voice not only for Aretha, but also the rest of the characters struggling to cope with contemporary disasters.
You might think a book that revels in the rules of classic murder mysteries should be read and not listened to, and that’s a fair point: Keeping track of characters and events is easier on paper if you’re trying to guess who the villain is. But then you’d miss Barton Welch’s delightful performance in Benjamin Stevenson’s jaunty, clever Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone (HarperAudio, 9 hours and 30 minutes), and that would be a shame.
As Ernie Cunningham, a crime fiction enthusiast who declares himself a reliable narrator—even his name tells you he’s earnest—Welch gives a profoundly comic reading. He’s so assiduous in his explanations he makes you doubt the truth of them. Ernie is a member of an infamous Australian family, and when a dead body turns up at a ski resort during a family reunion, the Cunningham clan finds itself embroiled in new crimes and old secrets.
The novel is filled with Ernie’s amusing asides to the reader—yes, that brewing storm is a cliché, he knows, he knows! And, of course, internet access is sketchy, because it always is in this sort of book. Happily, Welch pulls off such broad winks with humor and brio.
Elinor Lipman is one of America’s most reliably funny authors, and in Ms. Demeanor (HarperAudio, 7 hours and 27 minutes), she continues to find new ways to tease out laughs at middle-class conceits and moral dilemmas.
The novel follows the misadventures of Jane Morgan, who has run afoul of the law after being caught naked with a younger male co-worker on the roof of her Manhattan condo. Trapped at home under house arrest, Jane proves you don’t have to roam far to create a life, as she considers a new cooking career, braves TikTok, and discovers she’s not the only one in the building wearing an ankle monitor. Reader Piper Goodeve picks up on every comic nuance, and her narration reflects Jane’s alternating outrage, despair, and calculation, driving home Lipman’s wry observations about family, romance, and redemption.
Connie Ogle is a writer in Florida.