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Arts in Review

Audiobooks finally get it right with Alice Isn’t Dead



The first audiobook I experienced was Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. The book had (regrettably) come pre-loaded on an mp3 player I bought sometime in 2005. I don’t think I got through the first chapter before giving the entire format up as possibly the worst way of consuming stories. (This might have had something to do with the fact that The Da Vinci Code just wasn’t that great a book but, overall, audiobooks tend to lean away from quality, or so I’ve experienced.)

Alice Isn’t Dead is as much an audiobook as it is a fiction podcast (which means that it’s released episodically). Truck driver Keisha (voiced by Jasika Nicole) calls out to a woman named Alice through her dispatch radio while driving across the U.S. The story progresses as a confessional of sorts, and we realize that Keisha has been using her job as a truck driver to scour the country, looking for her wife after Alice’s disappearance some months back.

As she begins to piece together the information left behind by Alice after her disappearance, Keisha encounters a man at a station. His skin hangs loose from his bones in some parts, and stretches over them in others. He smells like damp earth, and his teeth are sharp. He wears a shirt with a word on the breast pocket: thistle.

At this point, I think it’s only fair to warn would-be listeners of Alice Isn’t Dead that, although the genre of the story (for the most part) follows mystery tropes, there are some very striking, distinct horror elements. Few and far between, these horror elements are nigh unforgettable. Such as a man having a chunk of his neck bitten off in a slow, cruel attempt on the part of an antagonist to make a point: stop looking for Alice.

The story itself unfolds slowly, and for the majority of the episodes we, along with Keisha, attempt to make sense of the increasingly nonsensical details regarding Alice’s disappearance, all while Keisha herself is subjected to a series of interactions that would be noir-detective tropes if it weren’t for the ever-present threat of the “Thistle Men,” which slowly pick away at the mystery-genre mask the podcast starts out with, revealing a story that’s more horror than anything.

The only gripe I have with the story is that at times it progresses too slowly, leaving listeners wondering when the next step forward will come. This might simply be because of its medium. Some scenes can’t convey information visually, and so instances of blindness on the part of the listener are sometimes quite apparent. Mostly though, these are acknowledged, and used to further ratchet up the tension in the story, which simmers throughout both seasons of Alice Isn’t Dead.

Without spoiling it, I’ll tell you that if conspiracy theories and small-town murder mysteries are your thing, buckle up, because Alice Isn’t Dead will probably have you at the edge of your seat.

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