Sukey Howard

Don’t confuse Tana French’s skillful debut In the Woods with Harlan Coben’s latest, The Woods, though there are a few grisly similarities. French serves up an intriguing, genre-bending psychological thriller in the form of a solid police procedural. Dublin murder squad detective Rob Ryan narrates as he and his bright, buoyant partner, and closest friend, Cassie Maddox, investigate the murder and rape of a 12-year-old girl, whose body was left on a Bronze Age altar at an archeological site in the woods near Knocknaree. Twenty years before, detective Ryan had played in these very woods until the ghastly day when his two best mates disappeared and he was found in blood-soaked sneakers, mute, never able to remember what happened. Keeping his childhood trauma a secret from everyone but Cassie, he works this increasingly complex case, looking for links to the past, hoping that lost memories might surface.

Reader Steven Crossley gets the voices right, gives the characters depth and keeps you involved.

Don’t confuse Tana French’s skillful debut In the Woods with Harlan Coben’s latest, The Woods, though there are a few grisly similarities. French serves up an intriguing, genre-bending psychological thriller in the form of a solid police procedural. Dublin murder squad detective Rob Ryan narrates as he and his bright, buoyant partner, and closest friend, Cassie Maddox, […]

Belong to Me, Marisa de los Santos’ latest, is unabashedly and wholeheartedly a woman’s book, and in this audio incarnation, read with warmth and understanding by Julia Gibson, it’s the perfect summer listen. It’s the kind of guilty pleasure that ranks with a pint of Haagen Dazs chocolate chocolate chip, a not-too-dainty spoon and no one to share it with. The characters, save the few irredeemably unlikable, are all people that grow on you in the best way. Front and center is Cornelia, a petite, plucky, thirtysomething with enormous generosity of heart, and a husband to die for, who leaves the urban hubbub of Manhattan for the kinder, gentler suburbs. Sidelined by her perfectly coiffed, perfectly dressed, scathingly judgmental new neighbor, Cornelia befriends an elusive single mom with a brilliant, lovable teenage son I’d be more than happy to adopt. There seem to be subplots galore, but as loves and losses, yearnings and secrets surface, the threads of the subplots begin to mesh, weaving into a wonderfully patterned tale, one I wished would go on for many more hours.

Belong to Me, Marisa de los Santos’ latest, is unabashedly and wholeheartedly a woman’s book, and in this audio incarnation, read with warmth and understanding by Julia Gibson, it’s the perfect summer listen. It’s the kind of guilty pleasure that ranks with a pint of Haagen Dazs chocolate chocolate chip, a not-too-dainty spoon and no […]

The title of Michelle Obama’s blockbuster bestseller, Becoming, lets you know that you’ll get the answers to many of the questions you’ve had about this extraordinary woman. You’ll find out how a kid who grew up in a cramped apartment on Chicago’s South Side graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law to ultimately become our first African-American first lady and one of the most admired women in the galaxy. More importantly, you’ll understand how she kept her authenticity, grace and sense of self while in the glare of an unrelenting media spotlight, where everything you say and do and wear is scrutinized. Obama is candid and frank, talking about the problems in the early years of her marriage, about being a mother, her dislike of politics and her distress with the current administration. She reads in her warm, familiar voice, and you’ll be swept up in her story, her triumphs and her trials. She’s lived a version of the American dream, but one shadowed by the very American nightmare of racism and prejudice.

It’s been much too long since I spent time with Precious Ramotswe and her colleagues at the Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and it’s always a quiet joy to return. Colors of All the Cattle, Alexander McCall Smith’s 19th installment in his bestselling series, wonderfully narrated again by the liltingly voiced Lisette Lecat, transports us to the sunny charms of Botswana and Mma Ramotswe’s unshakable belief in “old-fashioned” Botswana kindness. Though she’s taken on a difficult case for a victim of a hit-and-run accident, Mma Ramotswe has been pushed into reluctantly running for city council by her friend, the formidable matron of the local “orphan farm.” Smith and Mma Ramotswe never let us down—modesty and honesty trump bravura, and keen but gentle detecting skills solve the case.

A private investigator went missing in 2006, his body never found, the case marred by mistakes and innuendos of corruption. That cold case heats up when some kids come across a red VW in a remote, wooded park, with a handcuffed skeleton in the trunk. That’s for openers in Ian Rankin’s 24th Rebus novel, In a House of Lies, performed by James Macpherson in an authentic Scottish burr that’s still soft enough to be easily understood. Though John Rebus is officially retired from Police Scotland’s Major Crime Division, he was on the case 12 years ago and is as eager as ever to get involved again. And with his former protégé, Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, assigned to the investigating team, that’s not hard to accomplish. Pay close attention—Rankin’s in great form, and there’s a lot going on in this intricately plotted police procedural.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

The title of Michelle Obama’s blockbuster bestseller, Becoming, lets you know that you’ll get the answers to many of the questions you’ve had about this extraordinary woman. You’ll find out how a kid who grew up in a cramped apartment on Chicago’s South Side graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law to ultimately become our first […]

Six Four, Hideo Yokoyama’s U.S. debut, was a hit thriller. Seventeen, Yokoyama’s latest book, engagingly performed by Tom Lawrence, is not a thriller, but it is an extraordinarily gripping newsroom drama. It’s also an intensely personal look at a man who must deal with the ethical predicaments of journalism as well as his inner demons and perceived inadequacies. In 2003, as he’s attempting to climb a treacherous rock face, Kazumasa Yuuki, the protagonist and narrator, relives his days following the story of a catastrophic airline crash many years prior that killed almost all of the passengers. In 1985, Yuuki is a veteran reporter for the provincial newspaper in the prefecture where the plane went down, and he is made desk chief for the story. Determined to get as much information to the public and to the victims’ families as he can, he becomes embroiled in vicious office politics and power struggles that lead him to re-examine human nature. Yokoyama’s fast-paced procedural practically bristles with tension.

Lovely is not a word usually associated with Stephen King. But Elevation, his latest novella, which he narrates, is lovely. It is not a horror tale meant to provoke screaming—instead, it’s a beguiling parable with lessons our uncivil society would do well to learn. Scott Carey, a resident of Castle Rock, is losing large amounts of weight, yet his outward appearance doesn’t change, and he’s never felt better. His good friend, a retired doctor, doesn’t think there’s a medical explanation. That’s fine with Scott, who accepts his fate with grace. In the time left to him, he takes on the small-town bigotry aimed at his neighbors, a married lesbian couple. No details to spoil your fun—just know that when Scott goes into the dying of the light, he’s greeted with a rainbow of sparklers. 

Pardon the pun, but there’s a lot to reckon with in The Reckoning, John Grisham’s new thriller, including courtroom complications that of course won’t be set straight until the last few minutes of the audiobook. So settle in for a long, satisfying listen as you sift through the lives and lies, sins and secrets, grief and guilt of the proud Banning family of Clanton, Mississippi. On a fall morning in 1946, Pete Banning, husband, father, head of a prominent cotton-farming family and revered World War II hero who lived through hell, walked to town, murdered the Methodist pastor and would never say why, though his silence might mean dying in the electric chair. His reasons for the murder and its consequences for Pete’s two children unfold vividly as Michael Beck reads in a remarkable array of authentic accents.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Lovely is not a word usually associated with Stephen King. But Elevation, his latest novella, which he narrates, is lovely. It is not a horror tale meant to provoke screaming—instead, it’s a beguiling parable with lessons our uncivil society would do well to learn.

Top Pick in Audio, December 2018

In her new book, These Truths: A History of the United States, Jill Lepore writes, “The past is an inheritance, a gift, and a burden. . . . There’s nothing for it but to get to know it.” To make our past more knowable, Lepore has penned an astonishingly concise, exuberant and elegant one-volume American history that begins with Columbus and ends with Trump. Lepore questions, as Alexander Hamilton did, “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice.” Lepore tells us upfront that much historical detail is left out; this is a political history, an explanation of the origins of our democratic institutions, and it lets history’s vast array of characters speak in their own words when possible. It also makes clear that slavery is an intimate, inextricable part of the American story. This is the past we need to know. Listen closely as Lepore reads with unexpected pizazz.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 

In her new book, These Truths: A History of the United States, Jill Lepore writes, “The past is an inheritance, a gift, and a burden. . . . There’s nothing for it but to get to know it.”

Henry Worsley was 13 when he read Ernest Shackleton’s The Heart of the Antarctic, which detailed Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic in the early 20th century. Worsley fell under Shackleton’s spell, and the book shaped his own future as an explorer. The White Darkness, originally published in The New Yorker, is David Grann’s cogent, intensely drawn portrait of Worsley, his fascinating life, his lifelong obsession with the Antarctic and his relentless passion to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps and succeed where he didn’t: crossing Antarctica on foot, alone. Only two and a half hours long, The White Darkness is one of the most powerful audios of the year, made so by Grann’s deftly crafted prose and Will Patton’s unwavering performance, delivered with conviction and calm urgency. Worsley eventually made two successful Antarctic expeditions with teams in 2008 and 2011 and went back for a fateful third expedition alone in 2015. You’ll feel the icy cold, his exhaustion, courage and formidable will as he battles the “obliterating conditions” on his transcontinental quest. Perhaps you’ll come to understand what drove him and the brave few among us to challenge frontiers, regardless of risk.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 

Henry Worsley was 13 when he read Ernest Shackleton’s The Heart of the Antarctic, which detailed Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic in the early 20th century. Worsley fell under Shackleton’s spell, and the book shaped his own future as an explorer.

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