Story Rating: 5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Joel Leslie
Length: 19 hours, 22 minutes
In order to summarize this novel, Hush, I would have to write not one, but two reviews and even then I think I’d miss so much that you should know. I must say that Tal Bauer is one of the few authors who makes a lengthy story seem to go so quickly. His writing is extraordinary—his characters compelling and realistic and so well written that you swear you have known them in real life. Mike and Tom are no exception. Mike, a federal marshal whose job is to guard federal judges, has had little to no success with relationships. His latest ex, who he caught bent over his kitchen counters being nailed by another man, is a prime example of the fact that Mike pretty much dates losers who are way too young and much too self centered. Still, Mike hates being alone and likes sex too much to stay single for long. But this time he’s determined to choose more wisely and that’s when Judge Tom Brewer catches his eye. Older than Tom and deeply closeted, Tom lives a half-life—one marked by loneliness and caution.
Having lost a lover early on while in college, one that simply disappeared from his life, and then being confronted by a bigoted man who controlled his destiny and desire to become a judge one day, Tom shoved his life and his sexuality into a deep abyss, going off the grid in order to rebuild his career. He painstakingly hid his sexuality and focused on becoming the best judge he could be and succeeded. But the federal marshal assigned to his court makes him feel things he’s kept buried for so long. When a terrorist attack brings the suspect right into Tom’s courtroom, all hell breaks loose and he finds himself in real danger, both physically and emotionally. Tom is just so tired of hiding who he really is and he wouldn’t be the first gay federal judge anyway, but still to be so exposed after hiding so long makes him worried and unsure. But Mike is out and proud to be so and if the two men are ever going to be together both must make some changes unless an assassin’s bullet finds them first.
Joel Leslie narrates with a particular style that I think you will either love or hate. His delivery can often seem stilted and weighty—full of pauses that can seem misplaced and uttered in a style that could be considered choppy and uneven. I am familiar with some of his work and have loved some of it. In this case, his presentation is a bit uneven at times and yet seems to work for the most part. This is a monster of a story, clocking in at over 19 hours, and the voice narrator given the task of bringing this novel to life must have both stamina and an impressive vocal range. Mr. Leslie has both and carries off what most assuredly could have been a dry and boring tome in a less sophisticated or untalented narrator’s hands.
I particularly liked the voicing he did for Tom and Mike. While their voices could sound a bit similar occasionally, the subtle nuances in both tones and the deeper voicing for Mike brought their different characterizations off fairly well. I could feel the gentle joking Mike did with Tom and hear Tom’s reluctance to let down his guard in front of the man he quietly lusted after. With so many hours of narration, never once did I feel Leslie’s energy flag or his pacing fall off—he steadily dissected the story for us, giving emphasis where needed and never losing my interest. This was a huge undertaking and the narrator handled it with care, giving the story life even in the nineteenth hour.