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.

 

Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah read by Laural Merlington

Think about a perfect sandwich. A happy assemblage of fresh food: bacon, lettuce, tomato. Good and familiar characters, pretty or restful setting, easy, recognizable relationships. Funny dialogue. Simple white or brown bread. A little bit of mayo.  There’s a singular and single female divorce lawyer with a very hungry sex and a very low opinion of men in general and husbands in particular. There’s a weekly meeting with Aunty Shrink. Then there’s her sister. The country mouse: the good friend-good neighbor-good daughter-good mother type with no money but lots of sisterhood. The horny female lawyer who is   or should be a redhead,  organizes sis’s country wedding, meets a sad ex-ile (ex-husband, ex-doctor, ex-person)  and well ……

Why would a novelist want to turn the lawyer into another Doris Day? Like starting out  chumping on a BLT and ending up with the taste of a chocolate covered marshmallow.

The Ex-Debutante by Linda Frances Lee read by Susan Bennett

The smart daughter of a beautiful mother comes back to her “godforsaken sheep-happy hillbilly town” to handle her mother’s fourth or fifth divorce, and finds herself staging the annual Debutante Ball. “Don’t the pilgrims make skin cream?,” her mother asks her before mentioning how hard she has worked on maintaining her own natural beauty.
Miss Carlyle Ridgely, daughter of the Daughters of Texas, assembles 7 indelicate but moneyed 17 year olds, definitely not Ridgely Wainwright Cushing Jamison Ladley Ogden Harper-approved material.

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.

Sister Mine by Tawni O’Dell read by Renee Raudman

Hitachi’s beautifully directed High Definition video series called True Stories features a segment on “Coal’s Comeback”. A bunch of old em·phy·se·mic grandpas are fishing, muttering into the wind, when the voice of Bruce No of Hitachi America announces that Supercritical Technology is the new generation of Coal, the clean generation of Coal.

Then back to the toothless grandpas, “I want to make sure that when my grandkids go fishing … that they’ve got something to fish for”.

The whole thing, with the baseball caps and the feckless red neck river kid talking about his favorite fish and the plain unchanging faces of Cowdunk, America, is so heartfelt and hokey that it could be the opening show at the Democratic primary.

But instead it is the green, whitewashed version of an industry which corrupts every aspect of life in small Pennsylvania coal mining towns, where abused daughters grow up and sisters disappear and little girls dress like porn stars and don’t know why its wrong to try to sell their brothers in exchange for rides to the Mall.