What do you get when you mix the feel of a black and white noir detective, sharp dialogue, an amazing voice performance, and a world deeply rooted in modern day superheroes? Baron Steele.
This forty-seven minute short evokes a sense of noir while bringing something new to the table. Baron Steele is a former super, or at least a superhuman, with no license to practice acts of heroism. He runs a management company giving D-List heroes a chance to run in the big leagues. But when a villain threatens to do villainous things to his office staff, Steele jumps into action. Or, he meanders with a mild annoyance that somebody is disrupting his day.
The year is unknown in Bruno and Castle’s world, but it is clear that there is a strong influence from the detective stories of old. It’s not enough that we see the classic trope, a retired hero, profiting off his former glory. No, it goes deeper. The very language used by Bruno and Castle is stunning, and at points, I wondered why there wasn’t stark lighting with violins playing in the background. There are few times when I gush over the use of dialogue as a tool in a story. As a story (beyond it being an audiobook) it is extremely dialogue heavy, taking the inner dialogue and utilizing it partially as whimsical musing to himself, and peaking over the fourth wall to engage any who might listen to his story.
If this were a novel, I would probably lower the rating because of the lack of description. But as an audiobook, this is where this story shines. Bruno and Castle clearly understand the medium in which they intended to publish this story. In fact, I am quite certain the story would suffer from me attempting to interject my own inner monologue as the voice of Steele. R.C. Bray does such an outstanding job owning the character of Baron Steele that it’s hard to imagine another narrator bringing the words to life. If this story was narrated without Bray wearing a fedora and a skinny tie, I’d be saddened.
For all the praises I can sing, and there are many, there are a couple of minor (and I mean minor) issues with the piece. It’s billed as being “hilarious” and while it is humorous in a slight chuckle kind of way, I expected the humor to be at the forefront. The humor is there, but it is dry, so dry it is almost humorous based on the mechanics of the joke more than the joke itself. The other issue was the direction of the story. Being a short, there aren’t words to spare, and while the story is tight, the third act felt a bit detached from the story (though it knits itself together nicely in the end.)
Overall, if you’re a fan of audiobooks, gruff heroes out of their prime, and witty, well acted dialogue, this book is for you. I can only hope that Bruno and Castle come together with Bray again, for another adventure featuring Baron Steele.