Death By Didgeridoo ~ Audio Book Review

I have been given the opportunity to review the audio version of Death By Didgeridoo: A Jamie Quinn Mystery by Barbara Venkataraman.

I love to read and listen to cozy mysteries, because I prefer an intriguing mystery to solve without all of the gory details of the murder and/or the intimate details of someone’s relationships. I can often share my cozies with my son, “Buddy”. We sometimes listen to audio books together in the van. He also still loves for me to read to him… partially because of the cuddling that is naturally involved with me and our dog while we are reading. That is my favorite part, too.

This cozy peaked my interest because one of the main characters has Asperger’s Syndrome and it is centered around music. My fourteen year old son has Asperger’s Syndrome and music is obviously one of my favorite topics. If you didn’t know that, you probably haven’t seen my Music Adventures series.

First of all, you may be wondering, “What in the world is a didgeridoo?”

The didgeridoo is a musical instrument developed by Australian Aborigines. It’s played by buzzing the lips and blowing (similar to how brass instruments are played). The didgeridoo is traditionally made out of an eucalyptus tree branch or trunk that has been hollowed out by termites.

You can watch and listen to a talented young woman playing a didgeridoo in the video below.


But what about Death By Didgeridoo by Barbara Venkataraman?

I chose the audio version of this book to review, but I am going to break this review down into the book itself and then the audio version. I did not actually “read” the book myself, but I have listened to the audio version several times (especially in some particular places) in order to be accurate in this review.

The character development of the story was exceptional. I definitely felt like I personally knew all of the characters and could easily picture them. I also could easily see myself as a close friend of the protagonist, Jamie, if that were possible. She is so personable and someone that you would want to have in your corner.

Slight spoiler in this paragraph:  My only question in respect to character development has to do with all that was said about Spike at the very beginning. With everything we learn throughout the book… I would think that Jamie would have a slightly different view of him after everything was said and done, but nothing was ever mentioned about the few (but significant) respectable things he did (especially for her nephew). Jamie is telling about Spike after she has learned at least a little bit of these things about Spike, but there is no mention when she is describing him. I felt that she should have said something about most people not seeing the good things he did, especially because of the relationship between Spike and her nephew.

I appreciate the character development of Jamie’s cousin Adam and his mother (Aunt Peg). I believe that Adam’s characteristics and behaviors were “written” in a quite realistic manner. Several of his behaviors are common with people who are on the Autism Spectrum and who have Asperger’s Syndrome, especially.

I loved how Adam’s hyper-focus interests were showcased throughout, because (at least in our experience) this is a major part of the lives of those who have Asperger’s Syndrome. Ms. Venkataraman nailed it in the way she weaved Adam’s focus on music throughout everything in his life and how he used it to help him cope.

The feeling of being overwhelmed a lot as a mother of someone with some sort of special needs also came through with his mother’s character. I did feel that she was a bit over the top at times when things seemed to be going OK (or she was thinking they were going OK), but there are some parents who are just a bit more tightly wound regardless of if they are parents to special needs kiddos or not. If Adam were much younger and/or was much lower functioning on the Autism Spectrum, I could see her being a lot more like she was. He was now 22 years old, however, and seemed to be pretty high functioning before the story began. Aunt Peg also has me shaking my head when she nonchalantly mentions something much later about something that turns out to be key evidence.

The story was wonderfully written and went at a quick pace. There were enough other suspects to keep you guessing and they were all handled in a plausible way. I enjoyed the humor scattered throughout and how realistic and open with her emotions our protagonist is written. It was also neat that the story takes place in Hollywood, Florida. I have never been to this location, but I used to have cousins-in-law from there.

It most definitely fits the genre of “Cozy Mystery” which clearly pleased me! My only “complaint” here is that it takes only 2 hours and 12 minutes to listen to the whole book. That translates into 111 Kindle pages. I honestly wanted the story to keep on going. This particular mystery was nicely finished, but I still want to know more (especially about Jamie and Adam). Thankfully, this is the first book of a series!

Now, onto my review of the audio narration by Carrie Lee Martz.

For the most part, I enjoyed listening to Ms. Martz throughout this book. I feel that she did Jamie and Aunt Peg well. My issues were with Adam and the private investigator, Duke.

The issues I have with Ms. Martz’s portrayal of Adam are:

  • Adam is 22 years old. Even though he has Asperger’s Syndrome, he is not going to sound similar to a 5 year old in regards to his pitch. The voices of  people who are on the spectrum change just like everyone else’s voices. I honestly had to try to remind myself (after I first went back to see if I misunderstood his age) that Adam was supposed to be 22 years old. It was difficult. To enjoy the story more, it was easier to think of Adam as somewhere in the tween years. The voice was still too young for a tween, but his activities were similar to someone who was at least a tween, if not much older.
  • Although people who have Asperger’s Syndrome are just as different as each other as those who do not… I have never met someone with Asperger’s Syndrome with this speech pattern. Especially at the age of 22. MAYBE if Adam had a more “traditional” (for lack of a better word) form of Autism, he MIGHT speak this way, but I don’t think so. He actually sounded as if he had some other developmental delay. Even the son of one of my friends, who is almost non-verbal and has Autism, doesn’t speak in this particular manner.
  • From what I have experienced, people who have Asperger’s Syndrome often talk rather well (in fact, often better than neurotypicals). When they are talking about something they are hyper-focused on… watch out!  😉   They are not often called “little professors” for nothing. Even those with some problem speaking on other subjects (putting the words together), can often just talk a mile a minute when it comes to something they love. Adam’s speech pattern didn’t even get more realistic at these times. 
  • The part where Adam was speaking with his doctor was actually my favorite part of Ms. Martz’s portrayal of him. He still had a high and broken voice, but he very likely would have had a broken-type of speech to some extent in this circumstance. ~ By the way… This part was SO emotional for a mom of a teenager who has Asperger’s Syndrome. I just wanted to go and hug my son when Adam started crying.

Now for Duke, the private investigator:

I truly did not like the character of Duke at all the first time I listened to this audio book. When I thought about it, though, I realized that it could just be because of the narration of him. I was correct. 
After I listened again, I discovered that it was totally Duke’s accent that was so irritating. He wasn’t written that way. No, he isn’t a great guy…lol… but I liked the character much more when I listened focusing on the words and not the way they were being said. 
So, what is my verdict?
I definitely enjoyed Death By Didgeridoo. I totally recommend that you check it out for yourself, but I honestly suggest the E-book version. I love the fact that there is a high quality cozy mystery series that has a main character who happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome. I would love to see him grow even more in future books of this series. I do hope that they get much longer, though!  
If you get the audio version, just remember what I said and you can enjoy it, too. I have listened to it several times, occasionally fast-forwarding over a couple of parts if I’m in a mood that makes me easily irritated.  😉 

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this audio book for free in exchange for an honest review. This, however, did not affect my review in any way. I will only post my genuine opinions here at The Journey Unexpected regardless of any form of compensation.

*   This review was originally posted on my previous blog on February 23, 2015.


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