November 2020
Adult Reviews
Fiction
*Cara Black. Three Hours in Paris.
Narrated by Elisabeth Rodgers.
10 CDs. 10.25 hours.
Recorded Books, 2020.


Cara Black is primarily a writer of mysteries (eighteen since 1998) and Three Hours in Paris could be considered a mystery as well but it is more a work of historical fiction. Kate Rees is an Oregon farm girl and markswomen when she wins a scholarship to study French in Paris. There she meets the man she marries, a Welshman. A few years later she is living in Orkney, Scotland stationed there with her military husband and baby daughter at the beginning of WWII. Bereft – and angry at the Germans- when both of these people are killed by a bomb, she takes an assignment as a markswoman/spy to go and assassinate Hitler. She fails at this and is on the run and on the run and on the run in Paris trying to survive and return to England. The story is tense and exciting.

Elisabeth Rodgers is an actress in addition to narrating audiobooks. She has narrated over 150 at this time so she is a professional and gifted at this chosen profession – which she clearly demonstrates here.

Reviewed by Katrina Yurenka
Marc Cameron. Stone Cross: An Arliss Cutter Novel, Book 2.
Read by David Chandler
12 hrs. 20 mins.
Recorded Books. 2020


Although this is the second novel in the Arliss Cutter series, Cameron provides enough backstory that readers will be able to jump in without being lost. US Deputy Marshall Arliss Cutter has had his share of struggles. His most recent assignment is to provide protection to a judge who is traveling to the remote Alaskan Town of Stone Cross. The Judge has been receiving death threats on his impending arrival to the small town. Cutter and his teammate Lola Teariki are charged with protecting the judge.

Upon their arrival to the town, matters take a dark turn. It turns out that guarding the Judge's safety isn't the only issue they're going to run into. A killer is loose in Stone Cross. Several people are missing or dead and Cutter and Teariki are brought into the fray.

Cameron's novel is not one that travels at breakneck speed, letting readers savor the journey. He vividly creates detailed characters with backgrounds and fascinating stories such as Cutter and Teariki but also a woman named Birdie, principal of the school in Stone Cross. Cameron's characters are filled with depth and leap off the page. Cameron's creation of a sense of place is also extremely well done. He has drawn up a remote Alaskan town into a place readers can easily picture. David Chandler's narration captures the story well, but could have served with more enthusiasm and a faster pace in order to offset the slow(er) storyline, but that shouldn't detract listeners from following this interesting mystery.

Stone Cross is one of a new trend of novels set in remote places and it does not disappoint. This novel is recommended for anyone who enjoys great character development as well as strong characters. It will also appeal to fans of the Alaskan Wilderness and those who are curious of what life is like is "bush" Alaska.

Reviewed by Lynn Blair
*Linda Castillo. Outsider.
Read by Kathleen McInerny.
8 CDs. 9.5 hours. Macmillan Audio. 2020.


Kate Burkholder is the Chief of Police in a small town in Ohio when an old best friend, Gina Colorosa, shows up at an Amish house of another old friend of Kate's. Gina is also a cop; she is running from a network of dirty cops in the precinct where she has worked. A blizzard is saving everyone from any more confrontations for the time being. Kate is unsure as to the truth of Gina's story but feels she must help her old friend. This is Linda Costillo's 17th Kate Burkholder story so Kate has become like a family friend by this time. All of the Kate Burkholder stories happen in Amish country.

Kathleen McInerny is a film and television actress who has narrated a number of children's and young adult titles; and the Kate Burkholder series for which listeners have come to expect her voice.

Reviewed by Katrina Yurenka

*Emma Donoghue. The Pull of The Stars.
Read by Emma Lowe.
8 CDs. 9 hrs.
Hachette Audio. 2020.


Julia Power is a maternity ward nurse during the 1918 pandemic in Dublin, Ireland. Between the war and the ravages of the flu, she is faced daily with the challenges of life and death.

One couldn't review this novel without mentioning the parallels to today's world and the pandemic we currently face. In 1918, Power describes posters that are put up warning individuals to cover when they cough, how to stay healthy, etc. People are dying at an alarming rate, fear runs rampant. The pandemic we are currently facing adds a sense of reality to Donoghue's novel, even though the story takes place over 100 years ago. In fact, these parallels make the story so much more haunting because we can see how history repeats itself.

Nurse Power is charged with running the maternity ward, helping pregnant women who are often battling the flu as well. While this novel only takes place over a few days, Donoghue packs a powerful story within these pages. From her descriptions of the flu to the descriptions of childbirth, this story is not for the faint of heart. However, it is apparent how much research Donoghue put into her story. The setting and characters feel authentic.

The haunting story is only made better by Emma Lowe's strong narration. Lowe captures the story and the characters and their struggles so well. Her Irish accent is beautiful to listen to and adds authenticity. She adeptly switches between characters.

The Pull of the Stars is a great selection for anyone interested in WWI history and the history of medicine, as well as any curious reader who wants to draw connections between 1918 and now.

Reviewed by Lynn Blair
*Curdella Forbes. A Tall History of Sugar. A Novel.
Read by Robin Miles.
12 CDs. 14.5 hrs.
HighBridge Audio. 2019.


Robin Miles's performance of Curdella Forbes's novel, A Tall History of Sugar is phenomenal. A seamless consistency is maintained in narration and character depiction with wonderful fidelity to the tone, rhythm, and inflection of Jamaican patois. The characters sound as they would in real-life, accurate and true. This lends the performance a pleasing authenticity, almost an insularity specific to the Caribbean geography, even as the main character travels elsewhere. Miles's performance of this audiobook makes for a very immersive experience for the listener, because everything is so consistent. There is none of that incongruous switching between the narrative and the speech of the characters. Her reading is seamless. She is especially good at character depiction, rendering each in such a way that they remain distinct, and making the necessary shifts from childhood to adulthood as the characters grow. This is a great reading of a well-written novel by Jamaican writer Curdella Forbes.

A Tall History of Sugar is a love story, a good one, where love is not rewarded so much as experienced. It is a fairytale without a happy ending as such. The lovers do not get their happily ever afters. Bad things happen, surprisingly awful things. The chaste love story is long between the two principals, Moshe Fisher and Arrienne Christie. They meet as children in their rural Jamaican village. The connection is immediate. He is an albino orphan discovered by his adopted mother in a basket near a river. She is the child of a well-to-do Jamaican family. She is his protector from school teasing, insults, and physical arms. Their story is "tall," spreading over fifty years of stubborn love through all kinds of obstacles, personal and political.

Curdella Forbes' novel is quite exciting; the main characters are very interesting; you come to care about them, and there is the added suspense of whether they will get back together after a separation that lasts decades. The novel is told in lyrical prose with very keen attention to the local patios of Jamaica, the rhythm, tone, and timbre of common speech. The description of the island is beautiful and realistic, as are the characters.

Robin Miles is very attentive to Forbes' details in her performance. This is a Caribbean novel with native characters, and it stays this way in Miles's reading. She does not use an American accent to tell a Caribbean story. She tells it as a Caribbean storyteller tells it, with fidelity to Caribbean speech pattern and attention to the fine details of authentic usage. It is believable and bright with nary a misstep through the whole thing. This audiobook was pure pleasure to listen to.

Reviewed by Berkley W. Semple
*C.M. Gleason. Murder At the Capitol. A Lincoln's White House Mystery.
Read by James Anderson Foster.
8 CDs. 9.5 hrs.
HighBridge. 2020.


July 4, 1861 and Washington D.C. is full of cheering crowds, marching troops, and fireworks. Congress will be back in session on July 5. Spectators gather to enter the galley in the Capitol to watch the Senate convene. The Capitol is under construction and the crowd is appalled to see a dead body hanging under the dome. The hanging man is Piney Tufts, who worked in the patent office. Most think the hanging must be a suicide, but would-be journalist Sophie Gates suspects murder and stops the body's removal and sends to the White House for Adam Quinn, Lincoln's confidant, former scout, and investigator. Sophie and Adam have worked together before (This is Book 3 in the series). Adam can use some help since losing an arm earlier. A Capitol guard says Tufts was inside the Capitol to pick up a package. The guard brags about seeing the killer and has his head bashed in. 2 killings in 24 hours. They will be assisted by a free Black man and Adam's friend, Dr. George Hilton, who will perform the autopsy.

Adam notices the lack of security around President Lincoln, as people are allowed to approach him. And Lincoln's two boys, Tad and Willie, run amok in the White House and even venture outside, only to come up missing. Also missing is a Black lady's maid who escapes, seeking her freedom. Dr. Hilton is attacked by whites, who find him with the body of Tufts, a white man. He's a "nigger" desecrating one of his betters. Dr. Hilton survives.

Also on hand are Southern sympathizers and spies, determined on ruining an upcoming campaign to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital. An attack on Manassas Junction near Bull Run Creek, some 25 miles from Washington, is imminent. Finally, Northerners from Washington gather on a hill to watch the critical battle at Bull Run, only to witness the victory of the Confederates. Washington is in chaos. Sounds like we'll get a Book 4 in this marvelous series.

Multi-award winning James Anderson Foster narrates. He is also the narrator of one of Audible's top 20 highest rated audiobooks in 2016. He is an expert in conversational delivery and his accents are convincing for the many characters in the novel--male and female, young and old, north and south.

Both the novel and its narration are highly recommended. I eagerly await Book 4 and a possible romance between Adam and Sophie, just hinted at here.

Reviewed by Janet Julian
Terry Goodkind. Into Darkness. A Novel. Children of D'Hara #5.
Read by John Skelley.
11 CDs. 13.25 hrs.
Recorded Books. 2020.


Into Darkness is the fifth and final episode in the Children of D'Hara series (with The Scribbly Man, Hateful Things, Wasteland, and Witch's Oath). After Kahlan is captured by the witch Shota, Kahlan must depend on her wits to save herself since it takes the Mord Sith several days to dig Richard out from under tons of rubble from the collapse of Shota's castle. However once Richard and Kahlan successfully make it to safety in the Wizard's Keep, Richard must go to the world of the Golden Goddess to put an end to the threat to D'Hara from the Goddess and her army of Glee warriors. After Richard confronts and kills the Golden Goddess, he must either destroy the magical inter-world travel device that she had been using to invade D'Hara and thereby be trapped on her world or find a way to use it to return to D'Hara and render the device useless to the world of the Glee. Using his Additive and Subtractive Magic, Richard is able to reprogram the device to send him back to D'Hara along with the device itself. This series ends with Richard arriving back in D'Hara just after the birth of his twin children, Cara and Zeb.

Narrator John Skelley's semi-voiced reading is very well-paced. He effectively captures the emotions of Goodkind's diverse characters as well as the tension of the numerous dangerous events. He has a wide range of voices and accents that he uses in his fine reading, throughout this series.

Reviewed by Hugh M. Flick, Jr.
Kristan Higgins. Always the Last to Know.
Read by Laural Merlington, Amy Ribinate, Xe Sands, Graham Winton.
11 CDs. 13 hrs.
Recorded Books. 2020


This is the story of a family that goes back and forth in time and focuses on each family member individually. There are John and Barb, the parents; Juliet and Sadie the daughters, eleven years apart in age. Other characters include friends, boyfriends and added family members (Juliet's husband and daughters). Listening to the story from different viewpoints is always interesting and that is what occurs here, each character having a distinct narrator. Each narrator becomes each character making this a distinctive listen from single-voice reading.

The main character is the mother Barb who relates her childhood in Minnesota, meeting her husband and longing to be a mother. When her husband has a stroke in his 70s, she also learns that he has been having an affair. This is shocking but she was already planning a divorce so things get complicated. Juliet is her favorite, most loved child while Sadie belongs to Dad. The same detail is given to the lives of Juliet and Sadie.

Kristan Higgins is the author of nineteen novels for which she has won numerous accolades. She lives in Connecticut where she is also the cohost of the podcast: Crappy Friends.

Reviewed by Katrina Yurenka
Dean Koontz. Devoted.
Read by Edoardo Ballerini.
11 hrs. 24 mins.
Brilliance. 2020.


Dean Koontz is known for his books featuring dogs as a main character and this novel is no different. This novel focuses on the stories of several characters: Megan Bookman cares for her autistic son, Woody after the death of her husband. Woody is brilliant beyond his years, but will not speak. Megan tries her best to communicate with her son and the way Koontz portrays their relationship is nothing short of wonderful. Kipp is a golden retriever, a smart, intelligent dog who is part of a small group of dogs that possess a way to telepathically communicate through "The Wire." Kipp's loving owner has recently passed. Normally, he hears only dogs over "The Wire" but when he hears a small boy, Kipp knows he must investigate. Through a series of events, Kipp and Woody are brought together, despite outside forces intervening and putting the Bookman's lives in danger.

Hold on, you say, isn't that a little far fetched (pardon the dog pun)? Yes, it is and Koontz' novels often require a good deal of suspension of disbelief, "Devoted" being no different. "Devoted" is a novel with elements of science fiction, thriller, and mystery.

Edoardo Ballerini's narration is well done and helps carry the story along. Although the novel requires a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief, Ballerini's enthusiastic and engaging read makes it easy to follow along with the story, even when it goes in a very strange direction. Recommended for those who enjoy "out there" elements in their fiction, and, of course, anyone who loves a good story about man's best friend!

Reviewed by Lynn Blair

Zara Lisbon. Fake Plastic World.
Narrated by Laura Knight Keating.
7 CDs. 7.5 hours.
Recorded Books. 2020.


16-year-old Justine Childs is accused of murdering her friend Eva-Kate Kelly. As the story unfolds we learn that Eva-Kate was not only a client of Justine's therapist mother for many years but that she had been obsessed with Justine. This is a world of wealthy, aimless, snobby kids in Southern California who definitely seem to have too much time on their hands that they fill with alcohol and drugs. They also have no supervision. So these events are not so really surprising. Reader Laura Knight Keating, a veteran audiobook narrator, is superb with her realization of the uppity, snobbish characters and also the desperate Justine and her out-of-control mother. Zara Lisbon grew up in Venice, California where this story takes place. It is her first novel.

Reviewed by Katrina Yurenka

*Francine Mathews. Death on Tuckernuck.
Narrated by Madeleine Maby.
6 CDs. 6.5 hrs.
Recorded Books. 2020.


Dionis Mather and her father are the caretakers for the tiny island of Tuckernuck off the coast of Nantucket. Few people live here year-round due to its lack of amenities. As a hurricane barrels down on Nantucket, the Mathers are trying to evacuate everyone from Tuckernuck. At the same time there is a murder and an attempted murder. In charge of investigating it, Meredith Folger finds herself trapped in a horse barn on Tuckernuck with a strange man who appears out of nowhere. She is desperate to care for the horses and return to Nantucket where her father is in the hospital after having a heart attack. This is a first-rate thriller with not only a murder and a life-threatening illness, but also a magnitude 3 hurricane. Madeleine Maby is up to the task of narrating the fierce determination of Meredith Folger, the clever malice of the murderer, and Dionis Mather trapped with him during a hurricane.

Madeleine Maby is a professional actor and narrator of more than 130 audiobooks. Her skill is more than evident here.

In addition to writing mysteries as Francine Mathews, she also does so under the name of Stephanie Barron where she writes the Jane Austen series.

Reviewed by
Katrina Yurenka

*Alex North. The Shadows.
Read by Hannah Arterton and John Heffernan.
8 CDs. 9 hours.
Macmillan Audio. 2020.


Alex North is the pen name of a British crime/horror writer. The Shadows is a rather strange story about "lucid dreaming." Once the characters, in this case boys, become aware during a dream that they are dreaming, they can then decide its course: "You can do anything you want, live any experience you want, make your dream world exactly how you want it to be. Anything you can think of can be real."

When DI Amanda Beck begins probing the murder of a teenager, she discovers possible connections to another murder of a teenager that happened twenty years before in the dismal town of Featherbank. The protagonist, Paul Adams, is returning to Featherbank, his hometown, after some twenty years because his mother is dying. When he left, he put the past behind him, the past that contained a murder by the boys he was involved with – one boy was found guilty and went to prison, the other, the ringleader, disappeared. The story slowly reveals the past while returning to the present. The narrators, Hannah Arterton (a television and movie actress) becomes DI Amanda Beck as she investigates this copycat killing by exploring the past. John Heffernan (theatre and screen actor) becomes the confused, guilt-ridden Paul Adams. Together the two make this intriguing mystery come alive.

Reviewed by Katrina Yurenka
*Louise Penny. All The Devils Are Here.
Read by Robert Bathhurst.
11 CDs. 14 hrs.
Macmillan Audio. 2020.

The latest in Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec series takes an entirely new turn in terms of setting, characters, and crime. Now both of the Gamaches' children, their spouses, and children have settled in Paris. Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's former second in command and son-in-law has taken a new job and his wife is expecting a new baby any day and the entire family gathers together to await its arrival. Almost immediately upon arriving, Gamache's godfather, who lives part-time in Paris, is struck down by a van right in front of them Hit and run or, as Gamache believes, no accident. And so the twists and turns of the plot begin involving the entire family and filling in the Gamache family history. Robert Bathurst's narration is impeccable and the new characters' voices are not surprisingly outstanding. Add a completely surprise ending and you have possibly the best book in Penny's series. Her already wide audience of fans will grow with this latest thriller.

Reviewed by Susan Rosenzweig
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. Crooked River. A Pendergast Novel.
Read by Jefferson Mays
11 CDs. 13 hrs.
Hachette Audio. 2020


When the peaceful shores of Sanibel Island, Florida, are flooded with human feet in matching shoes, local and national law enforcement professionals are called to the scene with hopes of solving the grisly mystery. Creative sleuthing ensues as unexpected clues surface. It will take multiple minds from as many walks of life to uncover who is behind the horrors.

Narrator Jefferson Mays excelled in his portrayal of the myriad of characters in Preston and Child's mystery thriller Crooked River. Mays is a master at pacing—using cadence, intonation, and vocal subtleties to draw readers into the story. Regardless of the character, he seamlessly brings each to life, including a dapper FBI agent, an undercover ruffian, a buxom scientist, and an easy going local sheriff. Accents don't slow Mays down, either. Listeners will admire his ability to accurately execute a Southern drawl, a British aristocrat, a Latino family, and an Asian sleuth wannabe.

Mays has brought countless books to life, including titles by Jeffery Deaver, James S. A. Corey, Laurie R. King, Ursula K. LeGuin. He is also an accomplished actor who has won several prestigious awards for his stage, small screen, and big screen characterizations.


Reviewed by Lisa Arnold
*David Rosenfelt. Silent Bite (Andy Carpenter series, Book 22)
Narrated by Grover Gardner
Digital Download. 6 hours, 30 minutes.
Macmillan Audio. 2020.


Andy Carpenter, semi-retired defense lawyer, has just returned from a cruise with his wife and son when he receives word from his friend Willie Miller about a potential new client: Willie's former cellmate. Tony Birch is accused of first one, then two murders, of people from his past. Though Tony has made great strides in leaving his gang history behind him, someone appears to be framing him for the killings. Andy reluctantly takes the case and finds himself embroiled in a mystery without any obvious answers. As usual, Andy's brilliance as a criminal defense attorney is on display in the courtroom, much to the chagrin of the judge and prosecution. The reappearance of favorite characters, such as Pete, Marcus, and Sam, plus Andy's beloved dogs, will please series fans, and likely attract new ones. This book can easily be read as a stand-alone.

Narrator Grover Gardner has performed well over 1000 audiobooks in a wide range of genres. His versatility is amazing. For this series, Gardner IS Andy Carpenter. He employs the perfect tone to match Andy's sarcasm and self-deprecating humor, which is likely to make listeners laugh out loud. An enjoyable addition to an already excellent series.

Reviewed by Olivia Durant
*Hannah Rothschild. House of Trelawney. Old Money. New Money. No Money.
Read by Corrie James.
12 CDs. 14 hrs.
HighBridge. 2020.

Author, filmmaker, and philanthropist Hannah Rothschild's novel House of Trelawney on the decline and fall of English nobility and its ancient castles is interesting, funny and a pleasure to listen to with Corrie James' excellent narration.

As appealing as it might seem, living in a castle, especially a very large one that is 900-years-old, in recession ridden Britain these days, is not easy. Jane, the wife of the current Earl is trying desperately to keep the household afloat, as extra relatives and visitors appear, including an old dowager (who is an expert scientist) living in a side cottage on the grounds; her children and then an unexpected guest, the daughter of an old friend. All of the characters are quirky stereotypes of English nobility, including Blaze, Jane's sister-in-law a famous investor who loses her money during the 2008 recession. Soon the castle, which sometimes seems like a trap, becomes a possible money maker when Blaze suggests it become a tourist attraction on the decline of the nobility as the Castle of Trelawney. Many characters show up long enough to stir the pot of confusion, loyalty and despair and occasionally bring money, to keep the family and the place going.

Narrator Corrie James easily portrays each character. While the house and some of the characters seem to be crumbling even as they speak, they are all interesting and the story has enough twists and turns to engage any listener fond of British eccentricities.

Reviewed by Nola Theiss
*Lisa Wingate. The Book of Lost Friends. A Novel.
Read by Sophie Amoss, Bahni Turpin, with Lisa Flanagan, Dominic Hoffman, Sullivan Jones, Robin Miles, and Lisa Wingate.
12 CDs. 15 hrs.
Random House Audio. 2020.


This outstanding audiobook juxtaposes two time periods in the ongoing story of the Gossett family, from their failing Augustine, Louisiana plantation during the Reconstruction period immediately after the Civil War to mid-1980's Augustine, a town committed to preserving boundaries and keeping its secrets.

In 1875, Hannie Gossett, a freed slave, sets out with her former owner's two daughters, Missy Lavinia, born of William Gossett's wife Maud, and Juneau Jane, born of his New Orleans Creole mistress, to find our what happened to her former master, to locate his lawyer who had his will, and to try retrieve the deed to Hannie's land holding promised to her with her freedom. The three young women set out with Hannie, dressed as a boy, driving their wagon, leading their perilous search. Associates of Gossett capture and terrorize the two white girls. Although they manage to escape, Missy Lavinia has been raped, becomes permanently mentally deranged. As the search continues, they take refuge in a small country church where they discover "The Book of Lost Friends," a newspaper that records messages from former slaves who now seek lost family members. This book especially touches Hannie, who was separated from her family mother and her many siblings early in her life. She takes the book and throughout the journey she, with Juneau Jane's help writing, records the names and messages of those they meet. The trio follow Gossett's trail into Texas with many harrowing adventures on the way. Hannie meets several helpmates along the way – Gus, another freed slave headed to Texas to become a cattle rancher and Elam, a US marshal, who saves them multiple times.

In the 1987 town of Augustine, Benedetta ("Benny") Silva comes to town to teach English to students with few skills and less ambition. She learns that the old Gossett mansion has a magnificent library that she wants to make available to her students. In order to do that, she cultivates the acquaintance of Nathan Gossett, current owner of the house, although he rejects participation in the Gossett family affairs. When teaching Animal Farm proves impossible, Benny, recruits "Granny T," a well-known, elderly town resident who tells the story of her slave ancestors to Benny's students -- thus beginning the "underground project." The students research the life histories of town residents in old newspapers at the town library and prepare individual presentations for a program to be held in the old town slave cemetery. Resistance from the town is immediate.

Will the presentation ever take place? How does the students' research relate to the adventures of Hannie and the other two women? What is the secret that prevents Benny from opening up to Nathan? This audiobook is fascinating in its interweaving of all the threads of past and present.

Lisa Wingate, who also authored Before We Were Yours, focuses in both books on family, the interrelationships between family members, and the ways in which families find each other and stay together. Although seven narrators relate the story, the listener doesn't know which characters are being represented by each. However, their voices blend and give credence to the wide cast of characters, social station, historical period, and individual personalities of the characters.

Wingate's novel encourages listeners to reflect on the problems during Reconstruction of slaves trying to find their families and build new lives, while former slave owners either had to admit or bury the actions of their slave-owning lives, and search, themselves, for a different way of life. Needless to say, Reconstruction was a period rife with turmoil, resentment, violence, and prejudice.

This excellent audiobook will appeal to those teens and adults with an interest in historical novels, the Civil War and Reconstruction periods, family stories, adventures, and strong female characters. It may take some listeners a bit of time to get into the story because of the two time periods and many characters, but is well worth the effort.

Reviewed by Susan Allison

Nonfiction
*James Baldwin. The Fire Next Time.
Read by Jesse Martin. 2 CDs. 2.5 hrs.
1963. AUDIOGO, 2008.
Blackstone/Downpour.com.


This short audiobook consists of two essays "My Dungeon Shook: Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation" and "Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region of My Mind," originally published in 1963. In the first, Baldwin pens a letter to his nephew reflecting on the 100th anniversary of emancipation. The second focuses on his years growing up in Harlem, describing what life was like and how religion played a formative part of his life.

The Fire Next Time is a stark depiction of what life was (and in many ways still is) like for Blacks in America. It will be unsettling and at times horrific and will cause much soul-searching for listeners. This should be required Listening for everyone. Narrator Jesse Martin reads in a quiet and gentle voice, though much of the book is far from 'gentle.' Baldwin's poetic writing is beautifully rendered.

Reviewed by Susan Rosenzweig
Bruce Goldfarb. 18 Tiny Deaths. The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics.
Read by Nan McNamara.
7 CDs. 9 hrs. Recorded Books. 2020


This excellent biography by journalist Bruce Goldfarb of the little-known, non-college educated Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962). She was from a very wealthy Chicago family (her father was the founder of International Harvester), who married, had three children, divorced and then, with her inherited wealth, set out to pursue her passion for forensics. Listeners interested in science will find this fascinating as will those who are interested in the history of women's rights. Self-educated, Glessner Lee changed the way deaths were investigated, moving states from the traditional coroner position (which required no scientific knowledge and often involved corruption) to the appointment of medical examiners trained to investigate suspicious deaths.

Frances Glessner basically invented the field, working to persuade Harvard to set up a legal medicine department, and eventually teaching seminars at a university that would not accept her as a student because she was a woman. The book title comes from 18 of the remaining meticulous miniatures she created by hand, which in exquisite detail, depicted actual crime scenes. The Smithsonian had them on exhibit for 2017-2018. These 'tiny death' scenes were used as teaching tools.

Nan McNamara narrates in a pleasant conversational style, with a clear voice, and will keep listeners interested. However, given the great detail the author provides, her tempo might be a bit too fast, making it difficult for some listeners to absorb all the facts.

Reviewed by Susan Rosenzweig
*Wayetu Moore. The Dragons. The Giant. The Women. A Memoir.
Read by Tova Ott.
7 CDs. 7 hrs.
Brilliance Audio. 2020.


When Charles Taylor attempted to seize power in Liberia in 1990, the ensuing chaos resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in that country. For Wayétu (Tutu) Moore, who was only five years old, the urgent need to flee the sudden violence transformed into a fairy tale, with evil dragons and the mystical beating of drums replacing the invaders and the sound of machine guns. As the Moores – Tutu, her sisters, father, and grandmother – waited out the storm in the town of Lai, her mother was studying in New York, hearing only scraps of what was happening in Liberia, not knowing whether her family was safe or was one of the many victims of senseless violence. The Dragons, the Giant, the Women is a memoir combining the terror of escaping a civil war with the tedium of living every day in the aftermath of trauma. But Moore, whose debut novel was published in 2018, is also witty and poetic. She depicts the absurdity of tribalism in Liberia and in America, where her family immigrated after Moore's mother undertook a risky scheme to get her family out. Moore recalls being a teenager in Texas, facing down a racist convenience store clerk, and as a young woman in New York City, forced to listen to her white friends chastise her about race because "they don't see color." The story is pulled forward through Moore's interest in finding out about the female rebel whom her mother paid to ferry Moore's family across the border to Sierra Leone and out of danger. The tension here, even though the listener knows that Moore made it to safety, is a tribute to Moore's talent as a fiction writer and as a chronicler of her family's incredible story. Before the audiobook begins, Moore explains how she intended to read The Dragons, the Giant, the Women but that the coronavirus pandemic ended those plans. While she may regret not reading the audiobook, narrator Tovah Ott does Moore's story justice. In her fluid, emotive voice, Ott embodies Moore's father's fear, as they outrun the rebel soldiers, but also realistically portrays the angsty complaints of an American teenager.

Reviewed by Joanna Theiss
*Martyn Whittock. Mayflower Lives. Pilgrims in A New World and The Early American Experience.
Read by James Cameron Stewart.
10 CDs. 12 hrs.
HighBridge Audio. 2019.


This is a captivating history of the Mayflower's arrival in the New World, told through the lives of some passengers and crew and native Americans.

The ship sailed from Plymouth, England on September 21, 1620, bound for Virginia. The Atlantic Ocean had other ideas. Blown off course by bad storms, the 102 passengers arrived in Cape Cod Bay about 66 days later. One passenger and one crew member died on the way over. The ship was a mess, full of vomit and ill people, with goats, pigs, and chickens and three pregnant women. The ship was broken up in 1624. About half the crew and passengers died that first winter anchored off Plymouth. And some of the Indians fared no better. About half of the Wampanoags died in a small pox epidemic before the Pilgrims arrived. The tribes in the area were often at war, although some helped the new arrivals.

One important local we now call Squanto ( Tisquantum) had been captured as a youth by an English explorer and sold off in Spain. He was brought by local monks to England where he learned the language. He lived with the Pilgrims for about 20 months as a translator, guide and advisor. He taught them how to grow local crops. Governor William Bradford had him pilot a ship for settlers on a trading expedition around Cape Cod. He finally died in 1622 in what is now Chatham, Ma.

William Bradford, the colony's second governor, was elected 30 times to the office and wrote the seminal "History of the Plymouth Plantation." He was one of the "saints." The passengers who were fleeing religious persecution called themselves "saints." The other passengers were dubbed "strangers," because they were economic migrants, not interested in establishing a New Jerusalem in the New World. They were in it for the money.

Another passenger was four-year-old Mary More, who was accompanied by her three brothers but not her parents, Catherine and Samuel. There had been a bitter divorce and Samuel called the children bastards, but because he had custody, he sent the children to North American to get even with Catherine. They became indentured servants and only Richard More survived. Little Mary was taken in by William Brewster, who cared for her tenderly.

William Brewster went to Cambridge when he was about 14; he could read Latin and Greek, and was instrumental in developing the Mayflower Compact, signed on board by 41 "saints" and "strangers." William Brewster is signature #4. He became a church elder and an advisor to William Bradford.

And there is some mythology. Mary Chilton is supposed to be the first woman to step ashore onto Plymouth Rock. No evidence supports this myth.

The first Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621 was a three-day harvest feast. No turkey, stuffing, or cranberry sauce. Squanto had taught the Pilgrims now to use fish as fertilizer to grow beans, squash, and corn. Massasoit with about 90 men joined in the feasting, for which they provided five deer.

The then there is a love story. Another poetic myth thanks to Longfellow. Miles Standish, busy killing natives, sent his friend John Alden to court the lovely Priscilla Mullins on his behalf. She said, "Speak for yourself, John." He did and they were married. Standish married someone else. None of it true but it makes a lovely poem. Standish was a violent soldier and not a folk hero.

In 1623 Standish invited some warriors to a meal and slaughtered them. He went back to Plymouth with a severed head. There are other engaging stories: Christopher Jones, the Mayflower's captain; John Howland, fur trapper;

Stephen Hopkins, whose son was born during the passage and who kept a rowdy tavern; Edward Winslow and Susanna White, the first Plymouth wedding. James Cameron Stewart narrates this long and detailed history with enthusiasm. He brings the stories to life. Stewart trained at Hull University and the Old Vic Theatre in Bristol. He has a 36-year career as an actor -

Stage, TV, radio, one-man show, and audiobook narration.

This book in highly recommended for its precision and thorough research.

Reviewed by Janet Julian
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