If you get the chance to saunter through the swankier sections of Manhattan, you're bound to see the current take on the New York nuclear family not mommy and daddy and child, but nanny and doggy and child. Privileged parents with Park Avenue penthouses are rarely seen with or by their treasured tots. And if you've wondered what it's like for the nannies and their darling little charges to live in this posh world, wonder no more. Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus tell all in The Nanny Diaries, a novel based on their own real-life experiences as nannies for the moneyed minority, read by the fabulous Julia Roberts who gives it her Erin Brockovich best. Though it's fun and funny to get up close and personal with these silly, self-absorbed folk, a poignancy pervades as you watch them treat their kids as commodities and their smart, young aides-de-camp as indentured serfs. Already a surprise smash hit in hardcover, the nannies' revelations are a true reminder that money can't buy love.

Thou shalt not
Adultery whether at the moment, just yesterday, long ago, by a parent, a wife or a husband connects and affects almost all the characters in Richard Ford's elegantly written collection of short stories, A Multitude of Sins. None of the men and women here are particularly happy; they all seem to be looking for something, and their betrayals, incidental or monumental, don't seem to get them closer to what might ease their dissatisfaction. Ford, who reads here in an idiosyncratic voice and style that grows on you, does brilliantly what a short story writer must do he conjures up mood, place and time, even the rough shape of someone's entire life, quickly, with deft strokes. And while you're being drawn into these lives and these situations, you're subtly made to look anew at your own world, at lives around you, where there may, too, be a multitude of sins.

Hope for the future
Edward O. Wilson, pre-eminent environmentalist and one of our great evolutionary biologists, thinks that we still have a chance to save our species and our ecosystems. But, as he eloquently explains in his new book, The Future of Life, we in the affluent, ever-wasteful, ever-consuming West need to get serious about environmental stewardship. This is not listening-lite; this is a serious scientist discussing serious matters. After reading the reviews, I knew I should read the book; I also knew I might not get through it. So, I was delighted to have Ed Begley Jr. read it to me. It's fascinating stuff listen carefully, you can learn much about biodiversity, why it so truly matters and how it can be maintained. You might even catch some of Wilson's informed optimism.

The second time around
The Women's Murder Club is back in business and that means we have the second title in James Patterson's new series starring San Francisco police detective Lindsay Boxer and her three bright, well-placed pals on the case. And what a ghastly case unfolds in 2nd Chance, read by Melissa Leo and Jeremy Piven. When an 11-year-old girl is killed in a barrage of bullets aimed at an African-American church in Oakland, it looks like a hate crime gone really ugly. Then the killing is linked to the hanging death of an older black woman just a few days before and both victims turn out to be related to San Francisco cops, leading Lindsay to believe she's looking at an especially sinister, sharp-shooting serial killer. With the city up in arms and pressure from the top-brass building, the club has to come up with a way to snare this guy. This is a top-notch Patterson thriller, but skip his short, self-congratulatory intro it doesn't add anything to the action.

Crime and punishment
When a new patient hints that her adolescent son and his friend might be playing lethal games, clinical psychologist Alan Gregory is torn between professional ethics and fear that his wife, Lauren, an assistant DA, might be a target of those games. Add the brutal bludgeoning of the high-profile Boulder, Colorado, DA she worked for and a beautiful police detective whose fingerprints are found where they shouldn't be, and you have a few of the pieces of the tautly plotted tale of hurt and hate and revenge gone wild that make up Stephen White's Warning Signs. Read with nuanced intensity by the always-able Dick Hill, it's timely and terrifying, the kind of audio that keeps you in the car or on the treadmill long after you really have to be there.


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