No Questions Asked by Ross Thomas

There weren’t any cabs of course. There weren’t any cabs  because it was 4:35 in the afternoon and the government workers were streaming out of the Library and the Capital and the Senate and the House office buildings and besides that, it was snowing. They haven’t yet decided what to do about snow in Washington…When it snows really hard the government shuts down, the schools close and everybody goes home and waits for it to melt. It was snowing hard now.

 

When its snowing at the beginning of a Ross Thomas chapter,  there’s a senator or a cop by the end.

Jodi Thomas Welcome to Harmony Narrated by Julia Gibson

“Look, Preacher, I don’t need saving; I’m not interested in dating, and I’d just as soon not be your friend. So why don’t you go peddle ‘let’s be friends’ somewhere else,” she tells Noah when he tries talking to her at lunchtime at school.

 

We have the perfect subject of the unconscious: a 15 year old orphan, a little tough, a little charming, a little liar with a heavy need for home. “Regan Truman” walks into old Jeremiah’s life as though she belongs there, makes a deal, and stays. Harmony is a town that happens when she makes the town her home.

 

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy read by Rosalyn Landor

A serious Swede, heir of a prestigious Accounting firm, talks to his tour bus driver who must, like him, return to an unwanted fate, a little farm waiting for him to take it over: “I’m no good at going out looking for sheep that have got stuck on their back with their legs in the air, and turning them the right way up…” .
And somehow the Swede finds himself in a nearby village, at a wonderful old Irish House, eating supper at the same hotel table as a displaced, twice-divorced Hollywood movie star, a bitter retired schoolmistress, an anchorless, childless Dr & Dr couple and a heartbroken librarian with an occasional feel for the future. There at that table he takes out his nickle harp and plays for his fellow guests, who like him, are homeless, and suddenly at home.
The remarkable Maeve Binchy throws these oddments of people together in a place that becomes their home for a time, and from the joyful encounters of strangers comes magic and hope and the exchange of fates.

Last Days of Summer by Margaret Maron read by Kate Forbes

For those who do not like the Judge Knott series, Maron has penned this sweet perfectly turned out book about an heiress, an illustrator, granddaughter of a legendary children’s book publisher. Meek, sensitive, submissive as both wife and publishing executive, Amy Steadman finds herself alone, driving to the family house in North Carolina, to sort through her thoughts, her past, her grandmother’s things. On her first night at the house she is awakened by a loud bossy woman hauling away the dining room furniture, who turns out to be one of many southern cousins who has benefitted from her grandmother’s death. While she cleans out the house, she reflects on her mother’s suicide, the uncomfortable past that attaches itself to her comfortable life. She reads letters, then diaries, then watches some old family movies, and realizes that she remembers is not what she has been told. The house is stage the stage of old and new betrayals, lies, half-truths, false confidences, passing on from one generation to another.

Retirement Plan by Martha Miller read by Bernadette Dunne

Miss Sophie Long is a Catholic School teacher who can’t parallel park, until she meets Lois, Vietnam Vet, trained sniper, mechanic, and lesbian. They live in the same neighborhood as Morgan, a size 16-18 police detective with a demented mother. At some point, to make ends meet, Sophie and Lois decide to begin killing for hire… bad guys only. And so the story zigzags between 60 year old lesbian couples, sex offenders, wife beaters, fat female cops, drug addicted daughters…. with some brilliant laughs along the way. Beautiful reading as always by Bernadette Dunne.

Broken Harbor by Tana French read by Stephen Hogan

It takes you by the throat and starts squeezing from line 1. The Irish voice muscles out a story about post-bank crash Ireland: an out of work family living in an Unfinished family development when the money and the economy run out.

And why the economic woes of the Irish always seem so much more desperate than any other English speaking people? And why the Irish family is always already broken, always already crap?

And why the detective assigned to the case is always already bitter, depressed, hateful ….even as he searches for clues on google? Think: one dry, blood-encrusted leather glove pulled off the typing hand…

A gorgeous, wealthy language spread against the background of a greed gutted Ireland and the entire internet community of gun-nut castratos.

Read with: michael Lewis, Maeve Binchy.

Bait by Kenneth Abel read by Frank Muller

When and if you have to describe beauty don’t do it from the front. Do it against the public eye, and against the visual. This is a book not a movie, so listen:

He felt her looking at him, her eyes amused behind those little round glasses like the hippies used to wear, blond hair pulled back into a thick braid… He watched her walk back into the file stacks… her legs taut beneath the faded jeans.”

A description is born from an interested perception, inside a relationship, between people or between a person and a thing. Even a measurement is born of a relationship. The blond hair is pulled back, touched, handled by particular hands. Part of what makes this woman a woman Jack meets behind a counter. She is a counter girl, and eventually that counter is bedded down along with the girl, her thighs, her glasses.

No need to use the brand of the jeans — the jeans are not the characters in this book. The characters are cops and the girls they love or fuck, all kinds of cops, old cops, ex-cops, bent cops, divorced cops, cops behind desks and cops in cars, listening in on smart guys-turned-businessmen they are trying to put away…cops in the small towns of Massachusetts.

A description can also be a back road to the mind.

He watched her as she watched back into Electrical… across to Aisle Four … He’d seen women with shorter hair in Harvard Square, maybe Jamaica Plain, even bald, in recent years… When he was in uniform they’d give him hostile looks, waiting for him to make a comment… He’d just shrugged. No stranger than being a cop, walking the streets in a uniform all summer, 15 pounds of gunbelt dragging at your hip. Harder, maybe. All the stares. Her hair was like the crewcuts they used to give kids, but soft, so you want to run your hand over it…

Not visual, not really: a haircut. Not in a book.

Blood in the Water by Jane Haddam read by David Collacci

A delightful, witty murder mystery about a small-town gated-community studded with the usual sociopathic suspects, albeit wealthy, and gorgeous social commentary. Waldorf Pines is an exclusive ex-1920’s ex-golf-course on which marbled kitchens and bathrooms have been built, bricked over with Tudorish frontage and populated by odd, classless, moneyed characters badly acting out their reality-tv-prototypes.

She’d once thought that all that mattered to them was money, but this wasn’t true. All that mattered to them was to be seen by other people to have money. They had not learned- if they were lucky they would never learn — that money is never enough if that is all you have.

And then there is Gregor Demarkian. A retired FBI officer hired by police departments to help them with their inquiries…..