by Sukey HowardOctober 2009
The best laid plans
George Dawes Green, out of the bestseller limelight for many years, has surfaced again with Ravens, a suspenseful cautionary tale that makes the oft-quoted, rarely heeded biblical admonition that “the love of money is root of all evil” all too real. When Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko, two prospectless, bored guys from Ohio, on their way Key West to jump-start their lives, stop at a convenience store in Brunswick, Georgia, Shaw overhears a snippet of a cell phone call and sees a way to fortune and fame with a foolproof scam, backed by a chutzpah-laden dose of intimidation. The Boatwrights, an ordinary Brunswick family, have just won the $316 million lottery jackpot, but before the elation, let alone the reality, can set in, Shaw, the alpha male of this less-than-dynamic duo, is in their living room with an offer they can’t refuse—give me half your winnings or my blindly devoted, stop-at-nothing sidekick will start shooting your extended family. True or just a clever ruse? The Boatwrights don’t know, but as the days go by, a strange combo of fear, greed, desire and power, plus Shaw’s newfound Messianic aspirations, brings them all to a dangerous place and an unsettling denouement. Narrators Robert Petkoff and Maggi-Meg Reed capture the voices and the roller-coaster emotions perfectly.
That je ne sais quoi
What is it that French women have? What gives them that allure, that easy edge in the savvy, sexy, smart department that we, in the great American melting pot, can’t quite put our finger on? The answer to these conundrums are, at last, to be found in Debra Ollivier’s sassy, clever, clear-eyed, informed new demythifying manual, What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind, which she reads with her own brand of joie de vivre. Ollivier, an American married to a Frenchman who has lived in Paris for over a decade, has the advantage of being a consummate insider with an outsider’s cool candor. She knows how to look at the oo-la-la stereotypes and tease out the reality, how to look at French women in the context of French culture—and she makes you think about how you think about the essential matters of the heart and mind. Whether you want to go Gallic all the way, or just add a soupçon of French femininity, this is a good place to start. Have fun!
Audio of the month
Stieg Larsson’s first novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was an international blockbuster and his second in the series, The Girl Who Played with Fire, narrated by the very talented Simon Vance, is as good, if not better. The oddest of odd couples—and the most appealing in current thriller-dillerdom—who, somehow, made it through their debut appearance, are back. But Mikael Blomkvist, the middle-aged crusading journalist for Millennium magazine, and Lisbeth Salander, the fierce, fiercely self-reliant, fiercely private, fiercely antisocial, doll-sized, 20-something bundle of contradictions and complexities, and hacker extraordinaire, don’t see each other face to face until the last agonizing scene. Just before an explosive exposé, names and all, of sex trafficking in Sweden, is about to be published by Millennium, the investigative reporter and his research partner are brutally gunned down. The murder weapon has Salander’s fingerprints on it. Blomkvist, sure that she’s not the killer, leads his own investigation, as the police, sure she is the killer, mount a massive pursuit. Chief suspect, Salander must become chief sleuth, and as pieces of her harrowing, haunted childhood begin to surface and mesh with her new problems, the former victim must become active avenger. It’s a wild ride, totally engrossing—a must for smart fans of smart thrillers.