At 38, Mark Darrow has made it. Now a wealthy, highly successful Boston trial lawyer, he started from nothing in Wayne, Ohio, and would have stayed there in a dead-end job if Lionel Farr, a professor at Wayne’s Caldwell College, hadn’t picked up on his football prowess and then his intellectual potential. A hefty scholarship and four years of Farr’s intense, hands-on mentoring left Mark deeply in his debt. So when Farr asks Mark to take over Caldwell and lead the school past a nasty embezzlement scandal, it’s an offer he can’t in good conscience refuse. That’s for openers in The Spire, Richard North Patterson’s latest, a cold case whodunit that will keep you wrapped up, guessing and reassessing. When Mark was a senior, he found the strangled body of Angela Hall, a beautiful, smart, African-American coed; his best friend Steve was charged and convicted. Back at Caldwell, still unconvinced of Steve’s guilt, Mark can’t keep himself from re-examining the case. Totally engrossed, I was determined to find the perp before he was revealed—I did, but was still intrigued by how Patterson wound it all up. Performed by Holter Graham, it’s edge of your seat all the way.

Ancient artifacts, modern mania
In a Dan Brown-dominated season, it’s not surprising to find symbol-laden thriller-dillers hoping to ride that big bestseller wave. The forces of destruction and denial face off with the forces of preservation and knowledge in Daniel Levin’s The Last Ember, read by Jeff Woodman, a refresher course in Jewish, early Christian and Roman history wrapped in the derring-do of Raiders of the Lost Ark. When Jonathan Marcus, once a brilliant doctoral student in classics at the American Academy in Rome, now a hotshot lawyer specializing in antiquities (quite like the author’s own C.V.), returns to the Eternal City, he and his former lover, a dedicated U.N. preservationist (and gorgeous blonde), are drawn into a wild hunt for a sacred golden icon, lost for 2,000 years. Using clues hidden in Josephus’ famed first-century History of the Jewish War, they must outsmart the ruthless grandson of Amin al-Husseini, aka Hitler’s Mufti, who, armed with cutting-edge technology, is feverishly, fervently determined to acquire the icon’s power by destroying it—and all the archaeology supporting the Judeo-Christian history of the Temple Mount. Hang on, take notes, root for the good guys!

Audio of the month
Move over Dewey, there’s a new cat on the block, and a new audio that will make you smile and sob while it thrums your heartstrings. Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat, read by Renée Raudman with, dare I say it, purrrrfect pitch, is Gwen Cooper’s love letter to her small furry friend who’s spent the last 12 years making every one of her days more fun and more gratifying. Homer, a scraggly, starving, black fuzzball foundling with seriously infected eyes, started his odyssey when an idealistic young vet saved his life but not his eyes. After much searching, Homer found a new home with an equally young and idealistic woman who had the requisite mix of eccentricity and empathy to sense that this little kitten was curious, courageous, affectionate and truly worth saving. In a way, they came of age together; Gwen’s life—and love life—were not at their best, but her recognition of Homer’s willingness to love and be loved, and her willingness to see that in him, was her “first truly adult decision” about a relationship. They’ve grown older together—Gwen’s happily married, and Homer doesn’t leap around as much—but their story holds timeless wonders.

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