by Sukey HowardOctober 2011
Crime in Chiaroscuro
Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Quebec, returns in A Trick of the Light, the latest addition to Louise Penny’s brilliantly conceived series. Penny writes the kind of crime fiction that bends the boundaries of the genre; there is a murder, and the whodunit and the whydunit are central, but the characters and their worlds, so eloquently conjured here, are just as important. Lillian Dyson, a former art critic renowned and reviled for her clever cruelty, has been murdered, her body found in Clara Morrow’s idyllic garden the morning after Clara’s triumphant opening at Montreal’s Musée d’Art Contemporain. As Gamache and his team gather more information about Lillian, the fear, greed and ego that drives the Québécois art scene surfaces, and its artists, dealers and gallery owners begin to reveal their true colors in a play of light and dark, in contrasts between appearance and reality, false hope and real change. Ralph Cosham’s expert, empathetic performance perfectly underscores Ms. Penny’s detail and nuance. Can’t wait for Inspector Gamache to return.
THE SECRET SHARER
If Kamala Nair’s debut novel, The Girl in the Garden, were a confection, I’d describe it as a small, delicious cake with a fable-like center, iced with sweet swirls of redemption. The summer she turned 11, Rakhee went with her mother from her home in Minnesota to visit family in a rural south Indian village. The rambling homestead on the edge of a lush, exotic jungle is filled with aunts, uncles, cousins and menacing secrets. Precocious, curious, undeterred by local tales of malevolent spirits, Rakhee finds a “secret garden” hidden away, along with the secret person it holds, and gradually untangles the intricate web of sadness, thwarted love, true identity and blackmail that has held her mother’s family in its thrall for many years. While spinning this winning tale, Nair offers us a window into domestic life in India, especially the restricted, often harrowing, role women are forced to accept. Narrator Anitha Gandhi gives Rakhee a believable voice that makes this bittersweet coming-of-age saga ring true and the keep-the-kleenex-close finale all the more poignant.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO
If Jaycee Dugard’s story was told in a novel, it would be dismissed as unbelievable horror, too sordid, too awful to be endured. But it’s all too true. Abducted at 11, she was held captive for 18 years by a convicted rapist and his incomprehensible wife, sexually abused, mentally harassed, made to live in utter squalor. A Stolen Life is Jaycee’s story, exactly as she remembers it. It’s a testament to the indomitable will of a little girl who, against all odds, kept her sanity and her sense of self as she grew up. Jaycee learned to bury her treasured memories, to appease and please her captors—to survive. She had her first daughter at 14, her second three years later, becoming a determined mother who held on to every glint of light in her bleak world. In this extraordinary audio, Jaycee reads her own words, sharing her experience with intense honesty, revealing an amazing spirit that couldn’t be snuffed out. She never gave up hope, never gave herself over to hate, and now has set up a foundation to help others recover from the trauma of abduction.