Mark Billingham is hardly a new kid on the crime fiction block—his books have sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. But he and his main man, Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, are new to me and to audio, and I’m delighted to meet them both, if one is allowed to be “delighted” by intense police procedurals, serial killers and tautly twisted plots. Scaredy Cat, narrated by the always-spot-on Simon Prebble, is the second in a series that’s now in the double digits and is a great way to get to know the thorny, edgy, driven detective. When two women are strangled in the same way, on the same day, Thorne and his quirky London-based team assume they’re looking for a serial killer. As the body count rises, they realize they’re dealing with a deadly duo for whom murder is a grisly team sport. This is not a whodunit in the classic sense, and that makes it all the more intriguing. We get the killers’ adolescent backstory, but neither we nor Thorne can put an adult face on the warped teenager who started this murder spree years ago and is still its mastermind—until the jolting denouement. Luckily, more Tom Thorne audios are in the works and on their way.
A MIRACULOUS MARRIAGE
I don’t know how they do it. “They” are the quintessential Republican Mary Matalin, key campaign strategist for Poppy Bush in 1992, assistant to W and prime protégé of Dick Cheney, and James Carville, the quintessential Democrat and Clinton’s brilliant campaign manager in ’92 who’s gone on to become a sought-after international political consultant. “It” is a long marriage that’s weathered the political tsunamis of the last two decades. And Love & War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home, their joint power-couple memoir, told and read in their decidedly distinct voices, answers my question, for the most part. Early on, their marriage was called a sham, a publicity stunt, but it’s lasted. As the book’s subtitle reveals, the union has produced two beloved daughters and endured a life-changing move to New Orleans. Matalin and Carville’s thoughts on politics and marriage are truly entertaining and prove, once again, that love can conquer all.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO
Nickolas Butler’s debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, is an indie ode to male friendship with its complex mix of testosterone and tenderness, to the women who stand by their men or don’t, to small-town connectedness and to Midwestern grit, goodness and grace. Henry, Lee, Ronnie, Kip and Beth—who grew up together in Little Wing, Wisconsin—unfold their intertwined stories in their own very different voices, fully brought to life by five compelling readers. Lee has become a celebrity singer/songwriter with platinum records galore; Kip made a bundle as a commodities trader; Ronnie rode the rodeo until it broke him; and Henry stayed on the farm and married Beth. Going forward and back in time, punctuated by four weddings and one divorce, they let us see the ties that bind (and, sometimes, chafe), the pull of home and the pull to get away. Butler has a good ear and a lyric understanding of the heart and the heartland.