A House Divided by Mike Lawson read by Joe Barrett

Again, we have Washington with its burials and its laudations betrayals become elegy — where the ones praising the dead are also their executioners.

A Roman tradition carried brightly on by moral gamesmen, whose empires are supported by three rhetorical questions:

  • Is it ethical for men in power, men entrusted by their countrymen with that power, to go outside the law if the situation demands it?
  • Is it reasonable to expect the average citizen to understand what needs to be done?
  • Is it logical to expect self-serving politicians to act on what needs to be done?

Moreover, there was no way that 16 divergent and competing intelligence agencies, “agencies staffed by bureaucrats who protected their rice-bowls more fiercely than any tigress ever protected a cub, would give up their authority, their autonomy, or their budgets for the sake of ‘cooperation'”. The spineless reports of fat blue ribbon commissions are produced for citizens only.

For gentlemen spies, political heirs of the original gentleman spy, Bill Donovan, positioned in between bureaucrats assigned to defend an agency’s dwindling budget, and ‘managers’ who, in line with current American management practices, did not really understand what they managed and hence had no idea what their technical or human instruments were overseeing, security overrides legality.

Robert Tanenbaum Malice read by Mel Foster

A girl detective who can speak a thousand languages, with her own personal Saint,  New York City’s District Attorney as her father, and an ex Viet-Cong guerrilla as a nanny — only Robert Tanenbaum (and the City itself) could conjure up the sad, inscrutable Lucy Karp. As always when we step into Karpland we are stepping into the heart of  Law,  which is not only the territory of language, but the inherited traditions of men and the relationships these traditions imply.

Where men talk privately, they sit; where they sit, they eat and drink and cross identities. Over Marlene Chiampi’s kitchen table, we find lawyers, detectives, Indians and journalists…A student of Karp’s comes to him for help in defending a coach who has been debunked by his Association, robbed of the liberty to ply his trade. And as always in a Christian kitchen,  food and tragedy mix. At the end of the second bottle of Chianti, the phone rings with news that Ariadne Stupenegel is injured in the bombing of a restaurant — where she was mixing food and words, food and information, food and secrets.

The Bone House by Brian Freeman read by Joe Barrett

There is something annoying, something unsettling, something demoralizing about a story in which  all the women are either murder victims,  embittered but useless mothers, faithful, ineffectual wives, or sexually charged students with dancers’ bodies. Annoying, too, is witnessing an entire small town turn against an innocent man and his brainy wife, both outsiders, neither one well-liked.  Into this remote and stupid Wisconsin town drives a detective from Naples, with one earring, spiky hair, a trust fund, (but no lap top), whose  actress mother taught him that “if someone was moving their lips in Los Angeles, they were probably lying.”  This assemblage of unpleasantness doesn’t stop one from wanting to find out who done it.

A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block read by Tom Stechschulte

“Don’t make any major changes in the first year” … they say at AA. Matt Scudder has five or six weeks not to decide what he’s going to do about Jan, a girl he sees Saturday night and Sunday morning …

“Some people say not to make any major changes for the first five years… or even ten,” Jim, a fellow AA member, tells him.

After a meeting at St. Claire’s Hospital they walk home and Jim says:

“Something Buddha said as it happens: it is your dissatisfaction with what is that is the source of all your unhappiness..”

I said: “Buddha said that?”

“So I’m told, though I have to admit I wasn’t there to hear him. You seem surprised.”

“Well,” I said, “I never thought he had that much depth to him.”

“Buddha.”

“That’s what everybody calls him, and what he calls himself as far as that goes. Big guy. Must stand 6′ 6 . Shaves his head. Belly out to here. He’s a regular at the midnight meeting at the Moravian Church but he turns up other places as well. I think he’s a former outlaw biker and my guess is he’s done time but…”

The look on his face stopped me.

He said: “the Buddha. Sitting under the Bodhi tree, waiting for enlightenment.”

“Listen, it was a natural mistake. The only Buddha I know works at the Moravian Church.”

Making amends is step 8 of the 12 step program, and Jack Ellery is making amends when he ends up dead. His gay, persnickety, over-responsible sponsor has Jack’s list of amendees. He tells Matt Scudder that maybe he should “look into” whether somebody on the list is a killer. Matt Scudder does.

Dry, sidewalk humor full of alcohol and hotel rooms and pre-digital middle aged uncoupled city men. But also, that wry twist of fate that takes Order and Organization and runs over it.

This time, the Order is the Big Book and its steps: specifically step 8. How rules make themselves flesh, and how that flesh moves it’s rules around life and institutes life in their image.

Mary Higgins Clark…

Here’s the recipe: a youngish, pretty-ish, orphaned wife in or near Manhattan; a deceptive, felonious, or sleepwalking husband; a repressed or forgotten family scene, and wealth. Large, plush estates in tony suburbs, classic co-ops on exclusive avenues, perfectly cut clothes and lawns, professionally designed apartments, luxurious offices, always seen as if by a dazzled outsider, a maid, a secretary, a clerk, a tradesman to a privileged class.

Somewhere, somehow, somebody is murdered, kidnapped, arrested, accused.

A crime develops by pulling at and pulling out the pins of identity: what happens if a person forgets what she has done? What happens when a person has no memories of a mother, a father? What happens when a person believes that she is married to a man who is not who he pretends to be? What happens when a person does not tell her husband about her past? What happens when a friend, a neighbor, a son, a sister, a priest, a doctor, a lawyer is untrustworthy? What happens when a child is removed from a mother, and a mother is removed from her child? What happens to a classy woman when she is removed from her class?

All Mortal Flesh by Julia Spencer-Fleming read by Suzanne Toren

At St. Alban’s Church there is a stained glass window picturing a Roman soldier with a halo dressed as a Priest. The Roman soldier was Alban. When the Priest who converted him was sentenced to death, Alban switched clothes with him and died in his place.

A soldier disguised as a priest describes in some sense the Rector herself, an ex-army helicopter pilot, who turns up at crime scenes, and helps the Chief of Police solves crimes in a small snowy parish about 2 hours drive from Albany.

Deadly Descent by Charlotte Hinger read by Karen White

Lottie, Director of the local Historical Society, is assembling the memories and diaries of the townsfolk into a local history.  She is also stirring up the dust of very old emotions, old enmities, old wrongs.

The old families get hysterical and the hysteria turns to one murder, then another. Things get frayed and violent and personal. Lottie becomes the sheriff’s deputy, and begins to investigates the murders as both cop and historian.

Twelve Rooms With A View by Theresa Rebeck read by Marguerite Gavin

What begins as a story about a girly James Dean with two wicked sisters and a  drunk mother becomes a story about a CPW apartment building and its history, its doorman, its neighbors.

Tina Finn is outrageous and outraged, at everyone with a bank account  or a stable identity, at her sister with the crackberry, at her other sister with the perfect husband, at grown ups. But in a Jacuzzi surrounded by gay men she becomes another Doris Day …. relaxed, bubbly, verbal.    The twelve room apartment gathers around itself a seraglio of children, thieves and lovers, and delivers an ending both righteous and happy.

Neighborhood Watch by Cammie McGovern read by Coleen Marlo

It could be any neighborhood in the 1970s or 1980s or any conventional middle class development with young childless couples on the verge of divorce or adultery. The neighborhood librarian becomes a felonious sleepwalker before becoming the librarian at a Women’s Correctional Institute, teaching other felons to read, doing sit ups in her cell, falling in love with a white collar criminal in the medium security men’s prison across the way.

After 12 years she is reprieved by DNA evidence and returns to the neighborhood to re-examine a life she inhabited uncomfortably. Once she was a woman in between miscarriages, who locked her doors at night so that no one would steal the mattress stained by her third dead fetus. Now she is a woman in between innocence and  guilt, trying to remember the truth.

Too Close To Home by Linwood Barclay read by Christopher Lane

It could be any small college town and any next door neighbor. But the town is Promise Falls and the neighbors next door are The Langleys. The story begins when they are murdered. Bert the policeman investigates the neighborhood, starting with Jim Cutter’s house.
Jim has been many things: a painter, a salesman, a chauffeur. Now he is the guy who mows the lawn. The story moves quickly, in and out of the private indiscretions of a mayor, a driver, an ex-con, a hooker, husbands, wives, cuckolds.

The pace of discovery is faster than the pace of ordinary life: the difference is what we call “a thrill”.