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The Zebra-Striped Hearse
By Ross MacDonald
Read By A Full-Cast

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The Zebra-Striped Hearse

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The Zebra-Striped Hearse
By Ross MacDonald
Read by a full-cast staring Harris Yulin as Lew Archer
ISBN: 1-57270-198-6
The Audio Partners Publishing Corp.
A Complete and Unabridged Audio Recording - 6 cassettes.
Genre: Mystery

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - June 6, 2001

Reminiscent of the old radio broadcasts, such as Suspense, this Audio Partners' rendition of The Zebra-Striped Hearse is read by a full-cast, and includes background music and sound effects. This rendition is performed by a 40-person-strong stellar cast that includes such notables as Harris Yulin, Tyne Daly, Kathryn Harrold, and Michael Lerner.

The Zebra-Striped Hearse was Ross MacDonald's tenth novel featuring Lou Archer. It was originally published in 1962. Archer is a hard-biting, gruff detective with an uncanny ability to get the bottom of a problem. This tale is full of twists, family secrets, and an unbelievable - yet totally logical - ending.

The plot begins simply enough but it quickly expands into a complicated, and intriguing mystery. Colonel Mark Blackwell (played by Ed Asner) hires Lew Archer (Harris Yulin) to investigate Burke Damis (Joe Pantoliano). Damis is a down-and-out artist whom Blackwell's daughter, Harriet (Jennifer Tilly), wants to marry. Blackwell fears that Burke is only after Harriet's money. He may not be far off the point, for Archer quickly learns that Burke is not all he seems. Before Archer can complete his investigation, Burke and Harriet disappear. In an instance, the simple background investigation case turns into a manhunt to find Harriet, a hunt which quickly turns deadly. Everywhere Archer looks, bodies seem to turn up, and nothing is ever simply black and white.

The Zebra-Striped Hearse is a moody piece, full of dark images and unspoken evils. It is also a wonderfully crafted detective novel. The plot is complicated and intriguing, and the writing is superb. Throughout the story, MacDonald keeps you guessing, but gives you enough clues so that, in the end, you don't feel like you were tricked or cheated out of the pleasure of discovering, for yourself, 'who did it'.

Ross MacDonald is a skilled and lyrical writer. In The Zebra-Striped Hearse he captures the essence of gumshoe-ese at its zenith. Archer would have fit in well with Sam Spade and his ilk, for at times Archer seems out of place in the 60's surfing culture of Southern California that MacDonald has placed him.

Some books just never sound right when read out loud. This is not one of them. This dramatic reading of The Zebra-Stripped Hearse helps to illustrate the lyrical quality of MacDonald's work, and it is so well staged that you feel like you are listening to a Broadway play. As well, Yulin is perfect as Archer. He renders his part with such expressiveness that you can 'aurally' see Archers expressions. This unabridged, dramatic rendering of The Zebra-Striped Hearse is marvelous. The casting is perfect. The voices superbly match their characters, and their performances greatly enhance an already intriguing mystery. The only fault that I found with this production was that the background music was a bit loud for my liking, and I felt that this caused some of the dialog to be overshadowed. Otherwise, this was an excellent production.

This audio production of The Zebra-Striped Hearse is rounded out by a short biography on Ross MacDonald. This biography includes interviews with people with whom he worked, information about his family life (which serves to make this story more poignant), and insights into MacDonald's literary aspirations.


Related Reviews:

In addition to this audio version, The Zebra-Stripped Hearse is also available in Standard Print - Paperback

The Zebra-Stripped Hearse was also issued in large print, however that edition is now out of print. The ISBN for this large print edition is 0893402494. Back to top


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