The two main characters in Susan Wilson’s One Good Dog are males with deep, expressive brown eyes; one wears shoes and shaves, the other barks and wags his tail. Adam March was the personification of ambition, a 40-something corporate wunderkind with a whippet-thin, super-materialistic wife. Then, in one terrible moment, Adam slapped his assistant—and his career, wife, daughter, money and hope vanished. Chance, a tough, proud part-pit bull, part-who-knows-what, raised in an inner-city cellar to fight, was taken to the pound after a raid. Down and out, Adam didn’t want a dog; Chance didn’t want to be a pet. In alternating chapters, man, performed by Fred Berman, and dog, performed by Rick Adamson, tell the story of how they became a “pack of two.” Don’t worry, Chance isn’t a cutesy talking animal; he’s a real dog, who sees the world through canine eyes. And Adam doesn’t become a saint; he’s a real man who has to figure out what’s truly important. This pull-at-your-heartstrings tale is charming and fun.

Celebrate the woman who brought you forth with something a little different this year. Motherhood: A Radio Collection, with 19 stories and songs gathered from live “Prairie Home Companion” broadcasts, lasts longer than flowers, has far fewer calories than chocolates and is definitely more entertaining than either. But do remember that an ode to Mom from Garrison Keillor and the “Prairie Home Companion” gang is not a sweet Hallmark card. Their take is more like the flip side of sentimentality—a humorous, well-meant reality check. The mothers here are not all paragons of virtue; they can nag, and they have guilt trips and mama-drama down to a fine art, but they also care and comfort, and their roles as protector, teacher, advisor, confidante and dedicated publicist are given a fair shake. Joining in for guest appearances are Robin and Linda Williams, Inga Swearingen, the Rankin Family and more.

In an earlier novel, Swedish crime fiction star Henning Mankell asked, “Why does barbarism always wear a human face?” He doesn’t offer a definitive answer in The Man From Beijing, a thriller that crisscrosses time and place, from the present in bleak northern Sweden to the past in China and Nevada, affectingly read by Rosalyn Landors. But Mankell does show us the face of the man who systematically slaughtered 19 people in a tiny Swedish hamlet and, ultimately, the face of the Beijing oligarch behind it all. The story unfolds as Birgitta Roslin, a Swedish judge distantly related to two of the victims, makes connections between the horrific treatment of Chinese workers on the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s, the recent killing of a Reno family and this brutal mass murder. A grand tour-de-force that even includes insights into China’s current foreign policy. (Read our interview with Mankell about The Man From Beijing.)

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