The Unsung Hero
Suzanne Brockmann has been recommended to me by print and audiobook enthusiasts alike. It seems that almost every romance reader I know is a fan of at least one of her books. So, when I learned that The Unsung Hero, book 1 in Ms. Brockmann’s wildly popular Troubleshooters series, had been re-released with narrators Patrick Lawlor and Melanie Ewbank at the helm, I jumped at the chance to listen to it.
At first, I was skeptical. Tom Paoletti, our hero, comes off as more than a little deranged. After being sent home on medical leave after a head injury, Tom is convinced an international terrorist is hiding in the small New England town where he grew up. The Navy SEAL contacts his superiors who, as I did, chalk it all up to a side effect of Tom’s head injury. Luckily, Tom doesn’t give up. He forms his own band of investigators to learn the truth.
This is no ordinary group. Not only is it made up of a few of Tom’s most trusted fellow Troubleshooters, but Tom’s elderly uncle and their neighbor, an old man who fought beside Tom’s Uncle Joe in World War II, also agrees to help. Soon, Tom’s niece and her geeky boyfriend are also lending a hand.
And then, there’s Doctor Kelly Ashton, the girl Tom had a crush on when they were both teenagers, and the woman who’s sure Tom could never want more than a fling. Kelly, recently divorced and home to care for her dying father, decides she can give Tom the kind of string-free relationship she thinks he wants. She’s tired of being hurt by men who claim to love her. But what will she do when she realizes Tom wants far more than a summer fling? Will she be able to get past all the pain she’s suffered?
Patrick Lawlor is a masterful performer, and I was thrilled to have him narrate my introduction to the work of Ms. Brockman. He doesn’t possess the resonant purr I usually prefer, but his voice is pleasing just the same. He portrays each of the male characters in a way I found extremely believable. Age and social class did not seem to present a problem for Mr. Lawlor. This story is full of men, but I always knew who was speaking.
His portrayal of Kelly is also very good. Since Mr. Lawlor speaks in a higher voice than most of the other male narrators I’ve listened to, he wasn’t forced into a falsetto. He softens his tones slightly when speaking for Kelly, and takes away some of the hardness that exists when Tom and some of the other seals are speaking. His depiction suggests Kelly’s femininity without sounding silly or forced.
Melanie Ewbank performs well in The Unsung Hero. Her narration didn’t wow me the way Mr. Lawlor’s did, but neither can I point out specific problems with it. Somehow, it seemed slower to me, like she was thinking each sentence through a few seconds too long. When Mr. Lawlor reads dialogue, it crackles with various types of energy. In Ms. Ewbank’s hands, it fails to be quite so electrifying.
Even so, she does an admirable job of differentiating the various characters. Both men and women are portrayed in a believable manner.
I am especially fond of Ms. Ewbank’s portrayal of Tom’s teenaged niece. Malory is a difficult character on a number of levels, but Ms. Ewbank nails her every nuance. It adds an extra dimension to Mal’s character, a dimension that helped me like her more than I might have had I been reading the book rather than listening to it.
There’s a subplot to The Unsung Hero. We’re taken back to the days of the Second World War where Tom’s Uncle Joe and Kelly’s father Charles fought as members of the French Resistance. Both of them loved a young Frenchwoman, and the secrets they’ve kept for so long are about to come out. This adds an extra layer of enjoyment to Tom and Kelly’s story.
Some of the scenes made me roll my eyes in a mixture of disbelief and disgust. I sometimes had trouble taking Tom seriously. Ms. Brockmann made him seem a little too paranoid for my liking. However, other scenes were incredibly poignant. The end of the story had me in tears.
While I’m not a devoted fan of Ms. Brockmann’s work, I do plan to listen to other books in the Troubleshooters series. I’m eager to hear more from Mr. Lawlor, and my hope is that Ms. Ewbank will step things up just the littlest bit.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: Patrick Lawlor: A; Melanie Ewbank: B and Book Content: B
Unabridged. Length – 15 hours 15 minutes