New fiction on CD for adult listeners includes big name authors like Dave Eggers and Tana French in addition to the titles below.
Written Out, by David Armstrong, read by Gordon Griffin. Tom Oliver is a published novelist who is pleased to be asked to help tutor aspiring authors at a writers’ center – but not everyone is happy to have his help. When he disappears after his week of workshops is up, his absence is noted with relief, but not concern. When he’s finally reported as a missing person, Detectives Kavanaugh and Salt first turn up his body and then are tasked with the duty of finding his killer. A jilted lover or her disgruntled husband? A writing rival? Oliver wasn’t a well-liked person and there are several possibilities, but only one guilty party, right? Lovingly read by Griffin, even the unlikeable Oliver comes off well.
Midnight, by Stephen Leather, read by Paul Thornley. This middle title in a trilogy combines police procedurals with demonic possession in a most pleasantly chilling way. Jack Nightingale is a private detective working a case when a dead woman tells him his sister’s soul is damned. Jack knows it’s possible – his own soul was exchanged for dark powers by his birth father – but as an adoptee, didn’t know he even had a sister. He becomes determined to save her soul – once he finds out who and where she is. But as he follows clues to her existence, he leaves behind a trail of bodies – someone or something is trying very hard to make sure they don’t meet. And as Jack gets to know more about his sister, he begins to think that perhaps not all souls are worth saving. Though it’s in the middle, this volume stands very well alone.
The Night Train, by Clyde Edgerton, read by T. Ryder Smith. Though Dwayne is white and Larry is black, the teenagers become friends as they work together in the furniture refinishing shop after school. It’s 1963 in the South and they are risking the town’s censure if they are seen together outside work, but it’s a risk they are willing to take for the sake of their music. Larry is hopeful that Thelonius Monk’s unpredictable jazz riffs will be the key to escaping the South, while Dwayne wants to be just like his hero, James Brown. Together, they work to build skills and musicality. The town’s racism is menacing, but never crosses into violence, though as Dwayne and his band bring soul music to the town’s local TV station, readers have to wonder about the consequences.
Adventures of Brigadier Gerard, by Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Rupert Degas. I was surprised to find out that Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries weren’t the writer’s favorite stories. That nod goes to the Napoleonic stories featuring cavalry officer Etienne Gerard, whose ego and self-regard were boundless and yet somehow endearing. While the stories are rooted in historical events (and a historic figure, the General Baron de Marbot), the action comes first here, with the effect of their hardly having aged at all in the 100+ years since Conan Doyle brought Gerard to life. Gerard himself is a brave soldier and a ladies’ man who believes in his power to inspire the soldiers under him and make the ladies swoon. As read by Degas, who never loses sight of Gerard’s devotion to honor and courage and manages to never fall into foppism, this is an excellent and amusing collection of short stories.
Next to Love, by Ellen Feldman, read by Abby Craden. This historical romance follows the lives of Babe, Grace, and Millie, whose dreams of marriage and family were twisted into new patterns with the advent of World War II. When all of their husbands enlist and are sent overseas, the three friends are introduced to a new reality. Feldman sets the scene admirably, showing how everything from recipes (wartime women’s magazines carried the first recipes designed to get dinner on the table with a minimum of after-work fuss) to clothing styles (during the war, trousers became acceptable as women took jobs formerly held by men) conspire to take Babe, Grace, and Millie out of their homes and bring them into the inner workings of society. As the three become comfortable in their new lives, they wonder what it will be like if and when their husbands return. Feldman shows the personal side of the many societal changes that took place with the return of the men, from civil and religious rights to home life. Beautifully written and lyrically read.
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