Big Finish: Iris Wildthyme and Friends 666 CHARING CROSS ROAD Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Iris Wildthyme and Friends 666 CHARING CROSS ROAD Review

Hannah dives into another audiobook adventure…
Set initially in Manhattan, 666 Charing Cross Road is a delightfully macabre transatlantic tale. With subtle nods to 84, Charing Cross Road: the story of a blood-soaked Grimoire, an eerily human effigy and missing New Yorkers is a literary masterpiece. Much more supernaturally inclined than my last foray into the world of Iris Wildthyme and Friends audiobooks, it’s fascinating to see how adaptive Paul Magrs' writing style can be. Out of the gothic confines of 1930’s Darkholmes and into the 21st Century, the bustling streets of both Manhattan and London come to life with his words.

Talking about coming to life, Louise Jameson is at the narration helm once again and her characterizations are, as usual, sublime. From the wizened New York croak of Aunt Liza to the sultry tones of the charming Daniel, she brings a nuanced performance to every character in a way my internal voice could not. It’s one thing I’ve noticed most since starting my audiobook adventure, whilst my imagination is still able to run wild, I feel a sense of nostalgia while listening, like I’m tucked up in bed again as my parents act out my childhood stories.

More notable in this addition to the series than the last, is how dedicated Paul Magrs is to writing strong, believable female leads. It is a testament to his command over the written word that whilst his work is positively brimming with the female perspective, they all have different voices and mannerisms. It is all too easy these days to read a book in which every female character is a Mrs. Dalloway type, their brains filled with shopping lists and menus. It is quite refreshing, therefore, to see Magrs matriarchal lead Liza battling dark forces without so much as a whimper. Even Shelley, though a little bit wetter than her aunt, has her moments of power and triumph.

Which leads me on quite nicely to the crux of the story, the battle of old and new. From Aunt Liza’s delight at being able to order musty tomes from the antiquarian titular bookstore rather than the new Barnes-and-Noble-type Fangtasm, to the ancient effigial centerpiece of the New York Museum of Outsider Arts and its links to the new threat that lingers over Manhattan. It is hard to escape the obvious subtext. Not that I would want to, it’s an engaging study into why new does not necessarily mean better; something I wholeheartedly agree with.

Overall, it’s clear to me that we are dealing with two masters of their craft, teaming up to create another beautiful addition to the Iris Wildthyme series. With three more audiobooks in this series releasing throughout this year, I am excited to delve deeper into Paul Magrs' imaginative prose and I believe this series may easily top my list of favourite releases for 2021. I certainly recommend picking them up now before the final three releases, they are well-worth a listen and cheaper to preorder in a bundle. While you’re at it, you should probably track down Paul Magrs ‘Brenda and Effie Mysteries’ series to fully immerse yourself in the world he creates.

If I hadn’t already been convinced by Fellowship of Ink, I certainly am now. I believe these adventures are the only example that I can think of where new is definitively better than old. I’m not about to go throwing my musty old books into a skip, but I am certainly going to have to purchase a bigger hard drive to store my new digital obsession along with a new bookcase to store Paul Magrs entire back catalogue. Obsessed? Me? No!

Iris Wildthyme and Friends: 666 Charing Cross Road is available to purchase from the Big Finish website.

Preferring the company of fictional characters to living, breathing people; it should come as no surprise that Hannah is a connoisseur of all things geek. Whilst their body resides in the capital of Wales, their heart resides in Middle-Earth and their mind remains firmly lodged in the memory of that embarrassing thing they did when they were eight.

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