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.

A Little Death in Dixie by Lisa Turner read by Jeffrey Kafer

Big sisters play dirty. So do cops, wives, mothers. So do cities… like Memphis. As always the best mysteries revolve around the murder of a city. And this is one of the best: gritty, angry, twisted…Mississippi Noir.

The giant A & W Root Beer mug shimmered over the rooftop of a roadside stand. The sign’s brown paint, chipped by the weather, left silver patches gleaming in the sun. Broken neon tubing dangled. The mug rocked against sagging guidewires. The sign was a lot like Memphis, seductive, old, with hints of grandeur and an aura of risk.

Mercy is a pastry chef with a  bad scar on  her left cheek, an alcoholic mother, a bitch-sister; she has come back to Memphis to re-visit with family.

Billy is a cool white cop  who grew up singing in black choirs:  poor but good. He protected women who scrubbed their old oak floors with lemon wax, kept their door transoms shiny, and got beaten: weekly, on schedule.

Billy understood what the house meant to a woman like her. She was the same as the women he’d known growing up on the back roads of Mississippi. Hard work, little money, poor education. Not a single step in their lives made easy. She wanted a few nice things in her life and some respect.

His partner, Lou, is an angry 61 year old superhero on the Memphis Homicide Squad. He lives in a hovel which is empty except for “a lawn chair, a TV and a lamp made from a bronzed figure of a nude woman with a clock in her belly.” His refrigerator contains “Wonder Bread, Velveeta, grape Jelly.” Jack Daniels is under  the sink. When Lou  ends up in the Mississippi River after a storm, Billy finds out that his partner wasn’t a very nice man. And that Memphis wasn’t a very nice city.

No, the South, this South is not a nice place, not a pretty place, nothing like sweet tea and charity balls. Its conversations are short and ugly. Its humor is nasty. Its favoritism is thick, and propped by greed, not family values. There is enough hurt to go around and everybody gets seconds…

Special heads up to Jeffrey Kafer who brings back Frank Muller with a vengeance. Thanks.