When it comes to explaining the inner workings of Wall Street, making its most complex, highly technical machinations understandable to a financial dummy like me, nobody does it better than Michael Lewis. In Flash Boys, read by Dylan Baker with perfect pitch and pace, Lewis dissects the world of high-frequency trading, while telling the incredibly compelling story of a bunch of young men who decided to take on these traders and their predatory activities (if you own any stock, you’re part of the prey). Brad Katsuyama, a nice guy working for the very nice Royal Bank of Canada, realized years ago that the stock market had become “a black box whose inner workings eluded ordinary human understanding.” We get to know him and his brilliant comrades who willingly give up huge salaries to understand that black box and right a system that’s been rigged for the benefit of insider high-frequency traders at the expense of ordinary investors. You’ll root for the good guys and pray that there aren’t more undiscovered plots hovering on the financial horizon.

Invisible City, Julia Dahl’s taut, suspenseful debut crime novel, excellently read by Andi Arndt, has it all: an appealing, smart new hero with a fascinating backstory; an oddly exotic setting right in the heart of Brooklyn; an inside look at tabloid journalism; and a cast of very well-drawn characters. When a woman’s naked body is found hanging from a crane in a Brooklyn scrap yard, Rebekah Roberts, a 23-year-old Floridian now a stringer for the New York Trib—a tabloid much like the New York Post, where Dahl worked—is sent to cover the story. “Crane Lady,” as the Trib calls her, turns out to be Hasidic and the wife of one of the community’s wealthiest men. Drawn to the story by her own background—her mother abandoned her Christian father and her at birth to return to her Brooklyn Hasidic family—and baffled by the NYPD’s reluctance to question the ultra-Orthodox, Rebekah digs into the brutal murder herself, trying to get answers and beginning to understand this tight-knit, insular community that has intrigued her from afar. I can’t wait for the next in this series.

Nancy Horan’s debut novel, Loving Frank, was such a striking success that many fans wondered if her second could live up to it. But it does, and does so in spades. Under the Wide and Starry Sky, wonderfully realized in this audio by Kirsten Potter, is an extraordinary portrait of a marriage and of the two unique people who lived it. In 1875, feisty, darkly pretty Fanny Van de Grift Osborne left her womanizing husband in California and took her three children to Europe to study art. Just after losing her youngest son, she met Robert Louis Stevenson, 10 years her junior, chronically ill and utterly determined to be a writer. They fell in love, and the rest is not history. It’s a deeply moving, little-known story that Horan recreates and reimagines with graceful authenticity and emotional nuance. In an unusual and adventurous life, they wandered across Europe, America and the South Seas for Stevenson’s health, Fanny gladly making a home wherever they went and standing by her charming, brilliant man as nurse and nurturer, passionate lover and staunch literary critic. You won’t want to leave them.

This article was originally published in the June 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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