The Witness, by Sandra Brown

The CD audiobook version from Brilliance Audio (Abridged, not that the packaging tells you that), is terrible. Apparently produced in 2011 from the 1995 book, the audiobook on 5 CDs breaks the narration into 99 tracks on each CD, so you get 45 seconds of audio, then a 5-10 second pause while the track changes. There are no chapter markers or dates — and most importantly no cues to tell you that that setting has changed from real time to flashback. Worst audiobook experience ever. The Narrator, Joyce Bean, is barely adequate, with numerous glitches, misprounounced words, and indistinguishable voice characterizations. Avoid the CD audiobook.

The book itself (and granted that this was an abridged version), is a confusing and unbelievable mess with plastic, cartoonish characters and a plot that, while certainly twisty, gives the reader no opportunity to figure out the mystery and yo-yos between the present and flashbacks, making it very hard to follow. The gimmick of telling most of the story through the flashbacks in order to confuse the reader, who can’t really figure out what’s happening or what has happened until halfway through the book, can’t save the plot. (If she told the story linearly, you would quit reading after the set-up is so crazy unbelievable.) The evil male characters have no ambiguity and their nefarious conspiracy is never really explained or made to be even marginally believable.

The lead character is a lawyer, but even the law-related material here is often wrong. You spend more time shaking your head and muttering about how that could never happen than being concerned about the perils of the characters.

Perhaps Ms. Brown improved her craft in her later books, but the fact that the publisher is still marketing this one is just a money grab. This old book (set in 1994, so very dated as to technology) should be permanently retired.

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