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Pandemic Playlist: 6 Killer Crime Novels To Listen To While You're Quarantined

(Photo by Findaway Voices on Unsplash)
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In this holding pattern we call sheltering in place, people seem to be divided between two radically different forms of media. There are those who need scary stories (the news, movies like "Contagion"), and those who want escapism (video games, series like "Tiger King"). But there's also a great middle ground: audiobooks of mystery and crime novels.

While you can't hit hiking trails anymore, and long car drives have become a thing of the past, there are still plenty of other opportunities to listen to a good book: walks around the neighborhood, time spent cooking meals, or maybe just taking a break from everything else and collapsing into a comfy chair with earbuds.

The best crime novels are, by definition, about crimes, and sometimes the violence can be graphic. But there's something about hearing books read (rather than reading them yourself) that makes the performance of the text somewhat distancing. And the best readers, including all of the actors who narrate the novels that follow, can transport you out of the real world to somewhere as far away as Australia's Outback or a psychiatric hospital outside of London.

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Of course, you also can read the physical books. But consider ordering from a local bookstore or a great independent shop that delivers, such as Vromans here in Pasadena or Powells in Portland. Amazon doesn't exactly need the business these days, and it already owns Audible (where most audiobooks can be found).

"The Trespasser" by Tana French

Read by Hilda Fay -- The American-Irish author's crime series "Dublin Murder Squad" runs across several novels. But this 2016 book, about a murder that proves far more complicated than a domestic assault, might be her best. Fay's performance is as good as French's prose, which is almost all brilliant dialogue, with a redoubtable female investigator at the center.

"The Silent Patient" by Alex Michaelides

Read by Jack Hawkins and Louise Brealey -- A favorite of critics and everyday readers alike (it was voted the top mystery and thriller book of 2019 at Goodreads), Michaelides's debut novel pits a young therapist against a mental patient who won't talk (the characters are performed by different actors). Its conclusion is both shocking and earned.

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"The Lost Man" by Jane Harper

Read by Stephen Shanahan -- It's impossible to separate the Australian novelist ("The Dry," "Force of Nature") from her Australian reader: they just go impossibly well together. All of Harper's novels are very good, but 2018's "The Lost Man," thanks to its immersive sense of place and portrait of a family with secrets, is arguably her best.

"The Woman in the Window" by A. J. Finn

Read by Ann Marie Lee -- This 2018 novel is probably the pulpiest on the list (a movie is due sometime this year), but it's nevertheless a gripping portrait of an alcoholic agoraphobic who thinks she saw--or did she imagine seeing?--an attack in a home she spies on.

"The Leopard" by Jo Nesbø

Read by Robin Sachs -- The opening paragraphs of this 2011 Norwegian serial killer tale prepare you for what's to come: some very gruesome stuff. While comparisons to Stieg Larsson ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") are inevitable, Nesbø is arguably a better writer and storyteller.

"The Whisper Man" by Alex North

Read by Christopher Eccleston -- Who says child abduction can't be diverting? Last year's novel from the British crime writer combines every parent's worst nightmare with a healthy dollop of "The Silence of the Lambs" (in the form of a jailed murderer who dispenses cryptic clues). Don't worry, it ends well enough.