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At Home in Mitford, by Jan Karon

Read by John McDonough

Recorded Books, (Rental) $19.50

Fourteen cassettes, 19.25 hrs., Unabridged

Out to Canaan, by Jan Karon

Read by the author

Penguin AudioBooks, $16.95

Two cassettes, 3 hrs., abridged

Mitford, a sleepy town in North Carolina, is already familiar to many readers of Jan Karon's novels. Father Tim and his varied flock - townspeople, neighbors, Barnabus, his dog, who settles down on hearing the recitation of Scripture, Dooley, his ward, and an endearing succession of characters - populate the four sequential stories. Two narrators offer a contrast in vocal style and expression of the stories.

In her introduction to the recordings, Karon invites listeners, in a light Southern voice "to let Mitford unfold in your imagination in a memorable way." She easily captures the dialogue and gives each character's voice an appealing cadence and rhythm. While the abridgments necessitate extensive cuts and result in unresolved incidents and relationships, Karon gives listeners a companionable introduction to Mitford folk.

From John McDonough, listeners receive a slow, methodical, almost somnolent unfolding of life in Mitford. The stories are indeed long, but they can be savored for all their quirky characters, strong humanism, and Father Tim's humanity.

In the unabridged form, McDonough offers few accents and mellow charm, while Karon can capture a Southern phrase, and entices listeners to get to know the town.

Dangerous Skies

By Suzanne Fischer Staples

Read by Peter MacNicol

Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio, $19.99

Four cassettes, 5.5 hrs., abridged

Peter MacNicol brings a warm and youthful energy to the story of two young people of different races. Buck Smith and Tunes Smith were raised together as their families worked a Virginia shore farm for generations. Their youthful companionship changes, however, when Buck, the son of the white farm owner, and Tunes, African-American daughter of Kneebone Smith, find the body of one of the farm's managers.

Their days of crabbing and lazy drifting through the marshes come to an abrupt end as the children and their families look at the conflicts of racism and hypocrisy. The strong, evocative writing appeals, and MacNicol shines with Buck's narrative, helping listeners to further identify with the young people. He's good with their dialogue and couples this with dramatic tension as Buck and Tunes push and pull their allegiances.

MacNicol draws out Conroy-esque imagery in the loving descriptions of the land and shore. (MacNicol also narrated Pat Conroy's "Beach Music.") The narration plays up a Huck Finn independence and lawlessness in the story and this will surely draw teens' attention. "Dangerous Skies" examines powerful issues - loyalty to family, truth, prejudice - and offers two enticing, independent spirits.

A Firing Offense, by David Ignatius

Read by Cotter Smith

Random House AudioBooks, $18

Two cassettes, 3 hrs., abridged

David Ignatius has a way of weaving a devilish web of intrigue with a sense of firsthand experience. In his newest thriller, a journalist from a prominent newspaper is ensnared by his CIA sources.

Whether or not the story has any factual basis, it's insidiously plausible, and Washington Post editor Ignatius certainly knows his way around a newsroom. Cotter Smith narrates with similar confidence. The story is told in a flashback - after the events have run their course when reflection on how it all happened seems appropriate. Smith successfully conveys the first-person narrative and builds the suspense with ease.

The Green Hornet

Original Radio Broadcast

Dove Audio, $18

Two cassettes, 2 hrs

As the musical theme from Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumble Bee" begins, old-time radio fans will know what's coming - the Green Hornet's fight against crime. The Hornet is the alias of Britt Reid, the daily Sentinel's publisher who pursues racketeers and swindlers in four original episodes collected in this program.

A full cast gives voice to his comrades: Kato, his faithful valet; Ed Lowry, the eager reporter; Casey, his devoted secretary and other stalwarts of the series. The sound effects are wonderful - especially when we consider they were made without the sophisticated equipment available today.

Some listeners may be grateful and others disappointed that the original commercials have been removed, although the stock introduction remains unchanged.

The action and suspense of these period programs have plenty of appeal for young, contemporary listeners. These episodes can be delightful family listening. (Mail-order catalogs with extensive listings of old-time radio shows include Radio Spirits, 800-RADIO-48; Radio Yesteryear, 800-243-0987; The Audio File, 800-555-3179.)

Tiger Woods, by Tim Rosaforte

Read by Arthur Addison

Audio Renaissance, $16.95

Two cassettes, 3 hrs., abridged

Tiger Woods, the charismatic young golfer, Masters champion, and Nike and American Express spokesman, is deservedly attracting a lot of press. Tim Rosaforte's biography will hardly be the last. Arthur Addison delivers this three-hour review of Woods's career with a steady, even narrative.

He chronicles the young golfer's tournament achievements with scores, amazing shots, the length of his drives and the clubs he used, as well as his penchant for Big Macs and strawberry milkshakes. The details are here, but both narrator and narrative miss Tiger Woods's spectacular charisma.

* Robin Whitten is the founder and editor of AudioFile, the monthly magazine of reviews and information on audiobooks. For additional information call 800-506-1212 or

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