I have had two experiences recently that made me think about how the narrator of an audio book can improve your enjoyment of a book or ruin the book for you. I recently read that Ralph Cosham, the reader of all of the Louise Penny audio books, has passed away. I almost cried when I read that. I love the Three Pines mystery series and I own the print, eBook and audio version of all of them. I remember listening to the end of one of the books in the parking lot of the library where I work and sobbing at the ending.
Ralph Cosham is the voice I hear in my head when I read the books. He will be very hard to replace. It has happened before. I am a long time fan of Susan Elizabeth Phillips (SEP) and she had a reader, Anna Fields, who read the majority of her books. Ms. Fields was killed in her home by a mudslide and all of the Seppies( fans of SEP) were devastated because she made the already wonderful books that much more enjoyable. It was hard to listen to the next few books but we persevered.
Another long time reader is Susan Erickson who does the J.D. Robb series of futuristic mysteries. Again, when I read the books, I hear her voicing of the characters in my head. They have come to life for me through her. There are lots of great readers out there who take a favored book and really make it special.
On the other hand, there are times when the reader absolutely ruins a book by their narration. I started to listen to a favorite book in my car the other day and I had to turn it off after 10 minutes. The story takes place in France and the hero is an alpha male in a food profession. The reader had a very annoying habit of ending each sentence on an upnote so it felt like I was listening to a comedy. The worst part was her voicing of the hero was in a high pitched horrible French accent that kept making me picture a cartoon character. I had to stop listening before the book was forever ruined for me. Other books in the series were narrated by other readers and I loved those versions. I learned a lesson- LISTEN to the sample before you buy.
It will be very hard to listen to the next Louise Penny book and not hear Ralph because he is the voice of Armand Gamache to me. He will be greatly missed by all of his fans.