Tag Archive: suspense

The Mayan Secrets (A Fargo Adventure, Book 5)book-review-mayan-secrets-3b0bf93fd1a56806
By: Clive Cussler, Thomas Perry
Series: Fargo Adventures, Book 5
Narrated by: Scott Brick
Length: 10 hrs and 9 mins
Release date: 09-03-13
Publisher: Penguin Audio

Clive Cussler can pump out the action stories. Whether it’s the Corporation, The Oregon or Sam and Remi Fargo novels, you are guaranteed an adventure. The nice thing about all of these adventures is that Cussler does his research, and all descriptions of locations are accurate. With a little mystery to solve and a whole lot of danger, this book is no exception to the suspense experienced with Clive Cussler’s stories.

The summary of the book from the audible.com description follows:

“Husband-and-wife team Sam and Remi Fargo are in Mexico, when they come upon a remarkable discovery—the skeleton of a man clutching an ancient sealed pot, and within the pot, a Mayan book, larger than anyone has ever seen. The book contains astonishing information about the Mayans, about their cities, and about mankind itself. The secrets are so powerful that some people would do anything to possess them—as the Fargos are about to find out.

Before their adventure is done, many men and women will die for that book—and Sam and Remi may just be among them.”

You will not want to put the book down or stop listening if you prefer the audiobook. Speaking of the audiobook, the narrator is one of my all time favorite audiobook voices, Scott Brick. Scott has a delivery in all his readings that make the books just as exciting as the actual story. I will never turn down an audiobook read by Scott Brick.

This book was just over 10 hours time for the audiobook, but it was so fast paced it was over way too soon. The good thing is, that Clive Cussler has lots more stories to choose from, so, on to the next.


“Little Brother”
by Cory Doctorow
Read by Kirby Heyborne
Produced by Listening Library
11 hours 53 minutes

I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I started this audiobook but It turned out to be a fun ride. This book was offered as a free summer read from AudiobookSync Young adult summer audiobook program. This program always has great weekly free audiobooks and they pair up a modern YA literature with a classic piece of literature. When this book came out it was teamed up with George Orwell’s “1984.” The books are always teamed up with a theme and knowing that I loved “1984,” I thought I’d give this book a try.

The target audience would probably be a freshman in high school or older, but I started listening with my son who was in 5th grade at the time in the car with me on a trip. He got so engrossed in the story that he insisted that I only listened while he was also listening and only on long trips. So here I am a year or so later and finally finished this book. I had to actually finish it up on my own, because I was eager to find out what happened to, Marcus a.k.a. W1n5ton a.k.a. M1k3y.

The subject matter of this story, at the time of its release, was very topical. After terrorists strike, the question arises, “How much of our freedom are we willing to give up to be safe?” All the time I was listening to this book the Benjamin Franklin quote, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety,” kept coming to mind. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 here in the U.S. many of our liberties were taken away under the name of freedom and that controversial P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act. So the events in this book parallel the real world events of the early 21st century, and while you never know what is going to happen, you will keep saying, “hmmm…that could happen.” The big question is, “Did it already happen?”

Okay, before I go and try to demystify this book I do have to say that the reader, Kirby Heyborne was the perfect voice for this audiobook. His voice captured the emotions and spirit of the main character Marcus perfectly. He was also able to perfectly alter his voice just enough to signify changes of characters’ dialogues and keep it consistent through the book.

The beginning of this book introduces to the tech savvy high-schooler Marcus who already has experience “fighting the man” in his high school, by being able to deceive the gait recognition software on the school’s surveillance system and able to do all sorts of tricks with his public issued phone. This story takes place in the near future and cell phones are a must and in order to make sure everyone has one they are sponsored by corporations. Marcus hacks his phone and does things that the average user cannot do. One of the things he does is search for wi-fi networks to play the game Harajuku Fun. Harajuku Fun is a type of role-playing game where while skipping school the kids can get clues through various wi-fi hotspots.

One day while skipping school and playing this game with his friends in downtown San Francisco, the Oakland Bay Bridge is bombed. At the time the kids don’t know what is going on and the same goes with the rest of the population. While fear grows everyone makes their way to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit subway system) to try to head home they are jostled by the crowd. Knowing the overcrowding of the subway stops is not going to be the safe way to go Marcus and his friends head the opposite direction. In going against the grain they look suspicious. Homeland security finds them and sweeps them up and into the unmarked van.

The friends are kept separate in a prison area and question about their motives and reasons for being in the area. When Marcus refuses to give the officials his password to get into his phone they see him as a terrorist or at least working with the terrorists, and you may remember the great quote from the U.S. president at the time of 9/11, “You’re either with us or against us.” This puts Marcus on the “against us side.” After weeks of torture with no contact with the outside world Marcus breaks and gives his password. Eventually he and his friends (except for one) are taken home. The problem is where’s Daryl? the one left behind. Marcus and his friends are warned to never speak of their imprisonment or they will be brought back in with no hope for release.

Soon Homeland Security begins taking away the populations few liberties by monitoring where everyone is at all times and when something seems strange average citizens are arrested. The department uses the toll passes that people use in their cars to travel the many toll areas in the Bay area, monitoring BART passes and all public transportation passes. If someone looks like they stray from the norm the local police sweep in and incarcerate the suspects. The department even starts monitoring private citizen’s internet usage.

As a bit of rebellion, Marcus combines the gaming system of the X-Box with a linux operating system to create an anonymous web experience called the X-net. The X-netters soon organize under Marcus’ online identity of M1k3y and create RFID spoofers and change the data stored on toll passes, BART passes and create total anarchy with the average citizen having no idea of what is being done, thus keeping Homeland Security busy arresting nearly everyone, creating a bottleneck of investigations.

Homeland Security gets wise and is now out to catche M1k3y, unaware it is Marcus. Marcus soon has to become more paranoid than the government and try to find a way to find out what happened to his friend Daryl.

In an exciting cyber-adventure this story will keep you enthralled until the climactic ending. Great story and nice anarchist mixed with hippies attitude about keeping us in a free world.

“The Crucible”
by Arthur Miller
Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
Included in “The Arthur Miller Collection”
Starring: Irene Aranga, Rene Auberjonois, Ed Begley Jr, Georgia Brown, Jack Coleman, Bud Cort, Richard Dreyfuss, Judyann Elder, Hector Elizondo, Fionnula Flanagan, Ann Hearne, Carol Kane, Stacy Keach, Anna Sophie Loewenberg, Marian Mercer, Franklyn Seales, Madolyn Smith, Joe Spano and Michael York
118 minutes

Continuing on in this collection of 10 plays from L.A. Theatre Works’ “The Arthur Miller Collection,” I’ve just finished with a very cool play that has a bit of a double meaning. “The Crucible” was Arthur Miller’s answer to the Communism accusations from McCarthyism and the blacklisting of accused communists. During the days when Senator McCarthy was finding Communists hiding behind every doorway, Arthur Miller was questioned by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of “contempt of Congress” for refusing to identify others present at meetings he had attended. So what seemed like a witch hunt Arthur was spurred to write “The Crucible.” While “The Crucible” may not be entirely historically accurate it does represent the scare tactics and deplorable actions during the Salem Witch trials and the Committee on Un-American Activities.

L. A. Theatre works has produced a great version of this play with some of the greatest actors ever. Each one brings to audio life this play that portrays a dark time in history and serves as an allegory for another dark time centuries later. The cast alone is enough to move the play along in this production, but there is one other “actor” that is not credited that really allowed me as a listener to feel the burdens of the convicted Satanists, that “actor” was the special effects, especially those of the chains used to hold the prisoners. The sound effects of the chains was so real and yet surreal in that their audio level was promoted to the point where I could feel the weight of the chains myself. This really made the experience more life-like.

When a girl of the village of Salem, Massachusetts is found unconscious, and is suspected because of dabbling in witchcraft accusations begin to fly. What soon happens is that one of the local farmers’ wife is accused by a girl who once had an affair with the farmer and wants the wife out of the way. Soon many of the women and even some men are bound in chains and thrown in jail. With the threat of unChristian activities set to destroy the very fabric of the town and government, the accused are threatened to either confess their dealings with Satan or be hanged. Even if they have nothing to confess if they don’t confess they get hanged.

In a play that presents the choice of lying to live and destroy your reputation or tell the truth and be killed and thus destroying the reputation of your family, the drama and suspense abounds. The language written in the play pulls from the sound of the language of the Bible and each actor makes the words sound so natural that it adds more depth to the play. Top it off with this excellent cast and production and this is one version of “The Crucible” you won’t want to miss.


“Red Mist” by Patricia Cornwell

“Red Mist”
by Patricia Cornwell
Read by Kate Burton
Produced by Penguin Audio

Dr. Kay Scarpetta has been a staple in Patricia Cornwell’s novels since 1990 and this latest novel brings Kay to Georgia.  Dr. Scarpetta is a Forensic Examiner/Expert and in this 19th novel featuring her as the protagonist, she has agreed to meet with an inmate at the Georgia Prison for women.  The inmate is a convicted sex offender and mother of a vicious killer.  The woman is convicted of molesting then 12 year old Jack Fielding Scarpetta’s former deputy chief.  The daughter is the result of that relationship and is also the murderer of Jack Fielding.  Scarpetta’s quest is personal, but soon she finds herself roped into an investigation that could clear a woman, now on death row at the same prison, of murder.

The author, Patricia Cornwell is a founder of the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine, a founding member of the National Forensic Academy, a member of the Advisory Board for the Forensic Science Training Program at the office of Chief Medical Examiner, New York City, and a member of the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital’s National Council where she is an advocate for psychiatric research.   With these credentials you know you are getting an author that knows what she is writing about.  The science and techniques used in this book not only have that real feel, but Patricia Cornwell has not forgotten the general public and writes so that any person will understand even what could be the most technical jargon.  She keeps the science real but easily understood.  Not only that but Cornwell’s writing involves some unique techniques that capture the surroundings so all clues can be observed in this mystery.

And example of this is when the people investigating the facts of a case over a dinner all are talking about the case throughout, but at times the listener/reader only hears thoughts in Kay Scarpetta’s head, while at the same time, we hear parts of the conversation and at other times we hear off-hand comments from her friend and detective Marino.  Marino comments on how he hates artificial sweeteners, which have nothing to do with the case but puts you in a very realistic scene. Very well done to make the story real.

The reader of this audiobook, Kate Burton, does a superb job of vocalizing all the different voices and attitudes of each character, from Boston accents, Southern, New York and even an Australian, all performed clearly and effectively.

“Red Mist” will engross you in a full investigation that may clear the woman on death row, but the possibilities of what may have actually happened may solve a spree of murders across the country, alert Homeland Security to possible terrorist activities and solve some burning questions from tragedies in Kay Scarpetta’s past.  I don’t usually start a series late but this time around I was curious and jumped right in.  Patricia Cornwell did an excellent job explaining the past histories of all the personnel involved and this novel serves well as a stand-alone piece in the Kay Scarpetta series.


“Them or Us” (book 3 of the Hater Trilogy)
by David Moody
published by Thomas Dunne Books
354 pages

David Moody has a way of creating books about zombies without having zombies.  In his series “Autumn” the “Z” word is never mentioned but there are reanimated corpses.  In the Hater Trilogy he has created a bunch of mindless fighters who never eat the flesh of their victims but go into uncontrollable rages until the victim is dead.  So while they may not be be zombie books, they still create the same horror of a zombie book, but without the gore.

In the Hater trilogy, it turns out that some switch is thrown in the human brain where about half of the poulation become Haters.  The Haters see an Unchanged and that flipped switch causes the Hater to attack fight and not stop until the Unchanged is destroyed.  Even when a Hater has all his limbs incapacitated they will still fight until one of them is dead.  With this aspect Moody is able to explore the darker side of a zombie apocalypse.  The darker side being how do you survive when all is gone, every aspect of civilization breaks down and no longer is there a means for food to be obtained by just going to the corner market.

In the first book, “Hater” the switch was flipped and all the population began a war that would leave the world scarred forever.  In this book we were introduced to Danny McCoyne who became a Hater but first watched the world collapse, losing is family.  In the Second book, “Dog Blood,” the world was at war Haters vs. the Unchanged.  Danny sought to find his daughter who he knew was like himself, a Hater.  The problem was, though, his wife and two sons were Unchanged.  Danny had to fight the Hate inside to sneak into Unchanged refugee camps to find his daughter without being discovered.  All this while a major world war was going on between the Haters and Unchanged.  When he found his daughter one side, whether it was Hater or Unchanged or both is never really known, launched nuclear weapons destroying all of the major cities.  Danny lost his daughter as they were trying to escape one of the blasts, when she went running back into the explosion.

Now we come to the third book, “Them or Us.”  The world is torn apart and there are very few Unchanged left, what few there are are hunted down and slaughtered.  A small community of Haters is gathered that is ruled by a man who gained his position by killing the man in charge and putting up all the toughest fighters up in a higher social class.  So the haters now rule by might.  Danny is discovered to be able to hold in the hate and Hinchcliffe, the leader of the community, uses him to inifiltrate nests of the Unchanged so the Haters can slaughter them.  Danny becomes a sort of confidant for Hinchcliffe and learns all his secrets.  The big problem is that once all the Unchanged are gone who is left to fight, each other?  That answer seems to be yes when another community is discovered and Danny is sent to infiltrate and find out any logistical info so Hinchcliffe can attack.

With the last of humanity struggling for survival Danny begins to question whether mankind should continue or just kill itself off.  The question of all time, do we really deserve to exist?  If so How? And what does war prove?

This book is full of philosophic wonderings and some interesting action thrown in to keep the brain pumped.  I’ll warn you once you start reading this book or any book in the trilogy you can’t stop until the last page, even then you’ll want more.


“Black Mask 1: Doors in the Dark -And Other Crime Fiction from the Legendary Magazine”
Edited by Otto Penzler
read by Eric Conger, Oliver Wyman, Alan Sklar, Pete Larkin, and Jeff Gurner
Produced by High Bridge Audio
Approx 7 hours

When I say the words “Pulp Fiction,” what comes to your mind?  Maybe the movie of the same name?  Keep that in mind because I’ve got a surprise for you.  For me the movie was the first thing that would come to mind, but recently I’ve been listening to audio books of stories from the days of the Pulp Fiction magazines.

This latest audio book is a real gem.  “Black Mask 1” is the first in the series of stories turned to audio books from the “Black Mask” pulp that was printed between 1921 -1950.  These stories all have that great film noir/gumshoe detective feel and make for some great short stories.  In its hey day, “Black Mask” printed stories from some prominent authors of the day, and this first edition starts out with a bang with some great and fun stories.   Before we talk about those, remember the movie “Pulp Fiction?”  The movie was, in its early days, actually titled “Black Mask,” because Quentin Tarantino drew his inspiration from the pulp magazine.

Each of the stories is read by a different narrator and each one does a superb job of reflecting the story’s emotion and the sound of the time.  If you close your eyes while listening to “Black Mask 1…” in your mind you can easily visualize a film noir gumshoe detective movie from the same era of these stories.

The introduction to the audio book is written  by Keith Alan Deutsch and read by Eric Conger.  It gives a very nice history of the age of the pulps and especially that of “Black Mask” magazine.

The stories included in this collection are:

“Come and Get It” by Erle Stanley Gardner; read by Oliver Wyman.
Erle Stanly Gardner was a self taught lawyer who took on the extra job of writing for the pulps to make up for the lack of money he earned as a lawyer, after a few years he turned his writing into full time and created the character, Perry Mason.  This story “Come and Get It” ran in the April, 1927 issue of “Black Mask” and features the character, Ed Jenkins.  Ed Jenkins is known to many as the Phantom Prowler, because he can never be caught.  This time around Jenkins is warned by a crook that a woman with a mole on her hand will try to kill him.  In trying to track down this woman, Jenkins discovers a plot by the local crime boss to steal the city’s best jewelry.  Jenkins sets out to foil the plot of the crime boss and the lady with a mole.

“Arson Plus” by Peter Collinson (Dashiell Hammett); read by Alan Sklar.
Peter Collinson (Dashiell Hammett) worked for the Pinkerton Detective agency and was one of the folks that brought down actor Fatty Arbuckle.  Published originally in the October, 1923 issue of “Black Mask,” and tells the story of a detective that comes in to investigate a shady arson which the local sheriff has considered the case closed.  The best part of this story is the reader in this case.  Alan Sklar’s voice fits the story perfectly and keeps you listening with what his cigar and gin soaked voice.

“Fall Guy” by George Harmon Coxe; read by Pete Larkin
George Harmon Coxe wrote in the sports, romance and sea stories but his best known works are his detective stories.    This story first appeared in the June, 1936 issue of “Black Mask,” and tells of newspaper photographer “Flashgun” Casey who gets called on to deliver ransom money for an old gal pal who had some photos taken when she was younger that she doesn’t want released.  You know the story, she was young, needed the money, so nude photos were taken.  Casey helps her out but finds out things are not all on the up and up.

“Doors in the Dark” by Frederick Nebel; read by Pete Larkin
Frederick Nebel created the stories featuring the tough detective Steve McBride and the wisecracking Newspaper reporter Kennedy.  Warner Brothers bought the McBride series and made nine films, in the movies Kennedy was turned into a woman by the name of Torchie Blaine and the object of her affections was McBride.  This story was originally published in the February, 1933 issue and tells the story of an apparant suicide of one of McBride’s friends.  But something doesn’t sit right with McBride so he investigates deeper even though every single clue only leads back to suicide.

“Luck” by Lester Dent; read by Jeff Gurner    Introduction by Keith Alan Deutsch; read by Eric Conger
Lester Dent created Doc Savage under the name of Kenneth Robison and was very successful with this series.  After Savage, Dent created the loner boatman Oscar Sail who is the subject of this story.  Originally published in the October, 1936 issue and is an earlier draft of one the Oscar Sail stories.    In this story Sail sets out to find some seedy characters, all the while setting up slot machines to pay off to some lucky gambler, never himself.

Each one of these stories has its twists and turns that keep you guessing as to what happens next, which is what makes them so fun to hear. I know I’m looking forward to the next edition.


“The Unexpected: Volume 1”
released by Radioarchives.com
Multi-cast Old time Radio Shows
Approx 5 hours

Being a 25+ year veteran of Radio Broadcasting I may be a little biased here, but I love old time radio, or as is commonly referred to as “otr.”  OTR has that classic theatre of the mind feel that is nearly forgotten.  Today’s radio is ruled by top 40 pop songs or talk radio and these lack the creativity that the early years of radio represented.  The stories were told on the air and the audience created the images in their mind.  Today I try to keep this up with every commercial I write or produce, when you feed off the audience’s imagination, you have an unlimited supply of material.

Radio great, Stan Freeburg, once drained Lake Michigan and filled with hot cocoa, whip cream and had U.S. Air Force jets top it all off with a giant cherry.  He then said, I’d like to see you do that on television.  Sure now with CGI we could do it, but it would take hours and I could do that in a radio studio in just a few minutes, so still a win for radio.   The old time radio shows used to be the main source of entertainment and had to keep the audience coming back each week.  This was usually done through simple great entertainment, and sometimes cliffhangers that the listener had to come back next week to find out what happens next.

Radioarchives.com has recently released a this series of “The Unexpected” radio programs
that were originally aired in 1947.  Each time the audience would keep coming back with some great stories that would not end with the expected.  With this release you don’t have to wait a week for the next mystery.  Volume one contains 20 of the 15 minute episodes that have been restored from the original transcriptions from what were probably acetate pressings.  Radioarchives.com have restored these recordings to perfection, the sound quality is superb and equal to any modern audio production.

Every episode begins with: “Who knows what drama may happen tomorrow…or an hour from now…or in just a moment? Who knows what destiny has in store for the lady down the street, the fellow at the next desk, or you yourself? Who knows?”  Each story is then presented  with superb acting from actors of radio/screen and stage of the time.  Some of the actors that rang familiar with me were; Barry Sullivan, Lyle Talbot, Marsha Hunt, & Jackie Cooper.  The story genres range from Mystery & Suspense, to Drama, and there’s even a bit of comedy thrown in.  And just when you get to the end of the story, a voice comes in and says, “You think the story is over, don’t you? But wait! Fate takes a hand. Wait…for the Unexpected!”  then the story continues with an ending that is unexpected.  Great title and great gimmick to be different in the golden age of radio.  For today’s listener this is a treat of nostalgia and original storytelling at it’s best.

Some examples of  the stories include; a man convinced that an old prospecter has struck silver in a ghost town, a woman who embezzles money from her company to buy a fur coat, a boxer who throws a fight to make some quick cash, a woman whose horoscope warns her she will kill a man and many more, but they never end as you’d expect.

At this point I feel I need to point out or re-emphasize that these are restored directly from the original transcriptions.  The shows were originally meant to be sent out to radio stations and the radio stations would insert commercials in the allowed sections.  This is a good and bad feature.   Good in that you don’t get the commercials, unless you are a fan of the old time commercials.   The bad is that you get a minute or two of dramatic organ music in the place where the commercials would have gone.  At first I loved the old dramatic organ that helped push the story, but after a while I found myself fast forwarding through the  commercial insert areas, glad to have had that luxury.

This collection is perfect for any fan of mystery, thrillers, suspense and old time radio.  If you are just plain curious, check them out they are a lot of fun, especially because the end of each story is Unexpected.

Just to help out here are the titles and the lead actors of each episode  in Volume 1:

#100 Mercy Killing
starring Barry Sullivan

#101 Birthday Present
starring Marsha Hunt

#102 Solid Citizen
starring Tom Neal

#103 Finale
starring Lurene Tuttle

#104 Cargo Unknown
starring Lyle Talbot

#105 Find the Man
starring Binnie Barnes

#106 Revenge
starring Barry Sullivan

#107 The Cripple
starring Marjorie Riordan

#108 Fool’s Silver
starring Barry Sullivan

#109 Horoscope
starring Marjorie Riordan

#110 Eavesdropper
starring Barry Sullivan

#111 Legacy
starring Lurene Tuttle

#112 Museum
starring Jackie Cooper

#113 Understudy
starring Lurene Tuttle

#114 King Champion
starring Jack Holt

#115 The Mink Coat
starring Lurene Tuttle

#116 Easy Money
starring Steve Cochran

#117 Free Passage
starring Lurene Tuttle

#118 Re-Match
starring Jackie Cooper

#119 Sweet Sixteen
starring Lurene Tuttle


“Blockade Billy”
By Stephen King
Published 2010
by Cemetery Dance Publications
144 pages

As many fans know, Stephen King is a baseball fan,  especially of the Boston Red Sox, having written the book “Faithful…” chronicling the Red Sox’ 2004 season.  This time around King has mixed his passion of baseball with his talent for writing chilling stories.  “Blockade Billy” takes a fictional baseball team that could have been contenders for the series if not for the dark tale of their strange catcher,  William “Blockade Billy” Blakely.

This story goes back to the golden age of baseball and tells the struggling tale of the New Jersey Titans.  The 1950s was a decade of real baseball heroes and Blockade Billy was on the road to become one of those heroes.  The Titans seemed to have problems with their catchers during spring training.  The star catcher was arrested for killing a woman due to drunk driving and another was severely injured while taking a collision to put a man out at home.  The Titans send out to their farm team to find someone to at least start their season, until a replacement can be found.

Turns out that replacement is sent to them from Iowa.  “Blockade Billy” gets his name during his short stint in the big leagues because the road to home was closed due to his blockade style.  Billy was also a great hitter so the package deal came in with this young farm boy.  During one exciting play at the plate a player gets cut and while nothing can be pinned on Billy the equipment manager has his concerns.

King mixes in some of the notable players at that time to make this story seem true and the constant reference to how the record of the team being erased from the books due the dark history behind Billy makes you want to look up the player roster for the New Jersey Titans.  In fact the early publications of the hardcover of this book came with a promotional baseball card depicting “Blockade Billy.”  The story is told in a way that seems as if King were sitting in a home interviewing the old equipment manager and he is reliving the memories.

This book also comes with a second story, “Morality.”  This second story is that of a struggling young couple, barely able to pay their bills get an indecent proposal of sorts.  The wife is a nurse that has taken on a job of taking care of a pastor after he as suffered a stroke.  The husband is trying to bring in money by taking on substitute teaching jobs while trying to write a book.

The pastor is about to die and says to the wife that if she were to help him commit one sin he would pay her over $200,000.  This money would allow them to move to a better home and allow the husband to finish the book.  Is the 2 hundred grand worth the cost?  I won’t tell you the sin, but I will tell you it changes the young couple forever.

Two great stories from a master of suspense.  Enjoy.

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