To enjoy the Patrick Scott Smokin’ Mysteries, set the right expectations. These are not typical half-hour or hour-long mysteries. Rather, they’re about 4-6 minutes in length and meant to be enjoyed in short bursts, preferably with family. They are more about puzzles, brain teasers, and trivia than whodunits. Think more Encyclopedia Brown than Hercule Poirot.
In one episode, a series of clues were used as two police officers were engaged in trying to find where a suspect was heading and the police officer would intercept with the key being the listener’s ability to guess which street they were heading to. Of course, real police officers have a knowledge of a city’s street set up, so there’s no mystery in real life. The set up reminds me of detective-themed riddle books.
However, once you understand the set up, these are enjoyable diversions. Each episode follows Lieutenant Patrick Scott, Jr. (Scott Brick), his father, retired Captain Patrick Scott, Sr. (Patrick Fraley), or another family member or police officer as they try to solve a puzzle generally involving a crime. The set up will generally be a single scene (or two) where clues are gathered and then the listener is given about a minute of “mystery-solving music” to think about it and/or discuss the case with others who are listening before the solution is revealed.
The mysteries are decent brain teasers. There’s some humor that’s amusing, if not laugh out loud hilarious. The stories are all fairly clean at a G or PG rating level. The mystery-solving music is pleasant, usually a bit of soft jazz, though they do mix it up a bit, particularly in three episodes that feature an Irish informant who makes the police solve his riddle in order to get clues.
Scott and Fraley are both old pros at the voice acting game and have recorded hundreds of audiobooks. Fraley (who also wrote the production) did a lot of voices for animation, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. From my childhood, he was the voice of Wildcat on Talespin and many characters on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon including Krang the Conquerer and Baxter Stockman. Fraley was a regular fixture as an animation character actor as so many of his credits are for “additional voices.” All that to say, both are top people in the voice acting profession and delivered the performances you’d expect. Brick’s Patrick Scott, Jr. sounds exactly like the ex-Private Eye he’s supposed to be and the narration is flawless. Meanwhile, Fraley’s Senior is endearingly irascible and fun to listen to.
Beyond the leads, this is very much an ensemble production with actors having to switch from one role to another frequently and without making your characters sound all the same and everyone did a good job of that. There was only one character that seemed off, but given the sheer number of mini-mysteries in this set, that’s a good average.
The last twenty minutes or so of the disk feature a Q&A session with Frank Muller, a pioneer in the audiobook world who’d recorded books for many authors including Stephen King. Muller had just recently passed away and this was offered as a tribute to him. To me, it was an interesting insight into how good audiobook narrators ply their trade. If that doesn’t excite you, then you may not get much out of that portion.
Overall, this is an interesting release. It’s well-acted with good sound, although minimalistic, and is good for short diversions. It’s best to listen to one or two mysteries at a time when travelling with kids and looking for something to do in the car. With that approach, the more than two and a half hours of puzzle mysteries will last a good while.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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