If listening to mystery/thriller audios by some of the super-selling perpetrators of the genre is your cup of tea, that cup runneth over.
The body of a young woman with a severed right hand, who turns out to have been a piano tutor to a super-wealthy prodigy and who may have had a slightly kinky side, is found in L.A.’s Bird Marsh preserve. More victims, all women, all prostitutes, all minus their right hands, surface in the marsh and the L.A.P.D. has another high-profile serial killer hitting the headlines. With that for openers, Jonathan Kellerman, who never disappoints, brings back his signature crime-busting odd couple, Alex Delaware, psychologist and consultant to the L.A.P.D., and Milo Sturgis, his best buddy and a gifted, gay, gormandizing homicide detective, in Bones, his 23rd foray into the darker side of murder. John Rubinstein, narrator extraordinaire of Kellerman’s many audiobooks, plies his craft again, giving Alex and Milo such distinct voices that I feel as if I’ve known them for years. Kellerman’s forte is combining police procedural details and an insider’s take on Los Angeles and weird Angelinos with the dynamics of disturbed psyches. You’ll get a good dose of that here, plus a suspenseful, zigzagging plot to keep you tuned-in and riveted.
The gang’s all here in Patricia Cornwell’s latest, Scarpetta, read by the estimable Kate Reading. Cornwell’s leading lady, the eponymous forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta, is a bigger deal than ever. Finally married to her longtime forensic psychologist lover, she’s a TV celebrity, has a big job near Boston and is a consultant to the N.Y.P.D. Her rough-tough former colleague, who shattered their long friendship in an outburst of drunken, pent-up lust, is back too, as well as her beyond-brilliant, pistol-packing niece, Lucy, running a cutting-edge forensic computer company in New York (wow, lots of “forensics”!). Called to New York on New Year’s Eve at the request of a suspect, an elegantly turned-out dwarf with a touch of paranoia and an obsession with Kay, who will not talk to anyone else about his girlfriend’s murder, Scarpetta finds herself not only thrust into a bizarre murder case, but also at the center of a very nasty and personal attack by Gotham Gotcha, a cyber-gossip column that pulls a gazillion hits. Cornwell manages to pull lots of disparate threads together while ramping up the chills and thrills. Will they nab the perp? Take a guess.
Sashenka, skillfully performed by Josephine Bailey, is historian Simon Montefiore’s debut novel, a totally engaging saga that sweeps across 20th-century Russia. At its center is Sashenka, an intense, gray-eyed, 16-year-old student at the posh Smolny Institute in St. Petersburg and only daughter of a rich Jewish banker. Instead of dreaming about boys, she dreams of the coming Bolshevik revolution, of comrade Lenin and of doing her all for the Party. With an historian’s depth of knowledge and a novelist’s sense of place, plot and personality, Montefiore moves from the charged early days of the Revolution to 1939, when a mere slip of the tongue could mean a trip to the gulag or the dreaded “seven grams of lead.” A dedicated, disciplined Bolshevik to her fingertips, married to a Cheka commissar, mother of two adorable children, Sashenka took Stalin’s excesses and the reign of terror in stride, never imagining she could be the victim of betrayal and denunciation, that a wild reversal of fortune could destroy her and her family. Fast-forward to 1994 and we’re looking back, as a history student, hired by a present-day oligarch to find his mother’s real parents, ekes out the truth about Sashenka’s fate. Deeply affecting.