by Sukey HowardJuly, 2002
Summer listening is easy on the ears
LAPD detective Harry Bosch is a good cop and a good guy. He's tough, serious and wants to make a difference in this indifferent world. If you haven't met him before, you've missed out, and if you have, you know you're tuning in to prime time crime. City of Bones, the latest in Michael Connelly's Bosch series, gets high marks from me. A dog finds a bone; the dog's owner, an elderly doctor, recognizes it as human and calls the police. Harry gets the case and gets involved in a homicide that happened more than 20 years ago. The recovered bones belong to a 12-year-old boy who had been brutally abused for years and then murdered. Harry, saddened and maddened by such cruelty, vows to get the killer despite the long cold trail. And get him he does, but unearthing the past can hold dangers for the diggers, too. Well-crafted and well read by Peter Jay Fernandez.
By far the best noir Philip Marlowe, hardboiled private eye, student of the seamy underside of L.A., cracking wise and rooting out lies, was jaded and cynical when he came on the scene in 1939. Now the Raymond Chandler novels and short stories that made this iconic detective and his masterful creator an important part of our culture have been reissued by New Millennium Audio on cassette and CD. The 12 volumes (some abridged, some not) are all read by Elliott Gould who played Marlowe in the movie version of The Long Goodbye, and who keeps on playing him perfectly in these audio performances. From Chandler's first novel, The Big Sleep to his last, Playback, there are beautiful blondes and well-endowed redheads, along with blackmail, murder, fraud and the distinctive dialogue and hard-edged humor that became the genre's mantra and model.
Mr. Leader If ever there was a politician who understood power, knew where to look for it and how to use it, it was Lyndon Baines Johnson. If ever there was a biographer who knew how to chronicle such a politician, it is Robert A. Caro. Master of the Senate, the third volume in his monumental biography of LBJ, is as exciting and fascinating as a superb novel. More than just biography, it's a study of the Senate itself and the particular kind of power that Johnson wielded there from 1949 to 1960. The lean, cocky, vibrant junior senator from Texas wanted power, and he would do anything to get it. He could cajole and charm, be humble and obsequious and, when confident of his position, bully, threaten and domineer. The LBJ portrayed here is ruthless, deceitful and proud of it, but he's also the man who mastered an institution that stood staunchly against social justice and, as its leader, made the Senate not only work, but work toward a noble end. Stephen Lang's reading, punctuated with wonderfully accurate accents, adds to the unsparing brilliance of Caro's text.
Sukey's favorite I'm an unabashed fan of James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux series and Will Patton's perfect-pitch audio performances, and I can say without hesitation that Jolie Blon's Bounce is their best work yet. Burke has had a long love affair with Louisiana and he continues many of the themes that marked previous books the ever-present ghost of the Confederacy, the loss of Cajun culture, the old horrors and violations heaped on the descendants of slaves. But here he deals with evil head-on. As Dave investigates a brutal rape and murder, he comes across a man who embodies evil, whose savage wrongs go back decades. Desperate to redress these wrongs, Dave is rolled tight, exploding with an anger that brings back his worst nightmares. Burke's lush, evocative language surrounds an edgy, intriguing plot that never disappoints.