MacMillan Audio Books regularly sends me their books on CDs for review. This summer they have flooded my mail box with much more than I could keep up with. I may eventually read them all, but meanwhile, here’s a quick look, in case you are going on a road trip and looking for an exciting book to keep you awake during the dull stretches on the road (like between Tucson and San Diego, or across the endless plains of Texas or the flat boring I-10 across southern New Mexico.)
The Patriot Threat by Steve Barry
I received The Patriot Threat: A Novel just before we left for our Southern Road Trip. The trip turned out to be full of interesting views and things to comment on, so we did not finish the book while on the road, but the story was intriguing enough that Ken listened to the rest of it as he drove back and forth to work when we got home.
In a nutshell, the story combines a thriller present-day adventure with a historical conspiracy theory, all wrapped around the question of the legality of the Internal Revenue System of the United States. It hooked me with “insider” meetings with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and financier Andrew Mellon and a plot based on the financing of the Revolutionary War for heavens’ sake! it hooked Ken with the derring-do of the hero Cotton Malone, a retired Justice Department Intelligence operative called back to foil North Korean bad guys who are out to bring 21st century America to its knee with an 18th century incident.
The production of this audio makes a bit of news itself, as it is an “author’s cut.” That means that Steve Berry pokes his voice in every now and again to give us some background on the research that went into the writing, or the way he names his characters. You’ll have to decide if you like this addition. I found it interesting at times, but more often annoying–like being forced to read footnotes whether I wanted to or not.
Badlands by C. J. Box
I’ve talked about C. J. Box novels before. Set in the wide open spaces of Wyoming and Montana, he wrote about a family adventure in Yellowstone Park, and most recently about a terrifying trucker gone bad. The new book, Badlands: A Novel, picks up some threads from the last one, but reads more like the first one I read.
In that last book, The Highway, his previous hero Cody Hoyt was joined by a woman police officer, Cassie. In Badlands, Cassie takes over the investigation, and we get a break from the terror of The Highway, even though it is clear that story line has not been exhausted, and we will see more about it in the future.
Ken listened to this one and gave me the information in the last paragraph. He actually liked it better than The Highway, because it was a relief not to have that totally evil bad guy around. I haven’t listened to this audio book of Badlands yet, but I am looking forward to it, because I like C. J. Box’s gritty presentation of life in the wild west of the 21st century. And this one is set in North Dakota, one of the TWO states I have not yet visited. I know he’s great at describing locations, plus he takes on the current oil boom in that state.
Run You Down by Julia Dahl
This one I have listened to with anticipation. I loved Julia Dahl’s debut novel about a murder among the Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, Invisible City. The heroine, Rebekah Roberts , a beginning reporter for a secondary newspaper in New York City, was raised by her Christian father, but knows that her mother, who she never met, was Jewish.
In addition to learning about her heritage of Judaism, and specifically about the lesser known Hasidic sect, Rebekah, continues to seek her mother. Alternating sections feature Rebekah’s current search–both reportorial and personal and her mother, Aviva Kagan’s, story of her own history.
I am not sure that this book is strong enough on location to qualify as a help to writers, but it certainly is a terrific primer in understanding “foreign” cultures. In the process of learning about the Hasidic way of life, Rebekah also is exposed to a Nazi and White Supremacy Culture–more variety than she signed up for in trying to determine if a young married Hasidic woman died by accident or suicide or murder. And is the murder only the tip of the iceburg of a cover up of a broader involvement by Jew-haters?
The Precipice by Paul Dorion
With The Precipice, we’re back in Paul Doiron’s state of Maine with Mike Bowditch, Maine game warden. I have enjoyed the previous books by Paul Doiron, not just for the ripping good stories they present, but even more for the great introduction to the state of Maine–particularly the wilder parts–or which there are plenty. (I actually liked The Bone Orchard more than Massacre Pond, and you can see why in the linked reviews)
I have not gotten to this one yet, but I’m looking forward to the Doiron look at lesser-known regions of what is in my opinion a seriously under-visited state. Most people don’t get beyond the fringes of the seacoast where the majority of the population are, but the real beauty of Maine is on the lakes and in the forests, away from civilization. Granted, once you’ve read about the monsters lurking in the woods in Doiron’s books, you may be a little reluctant to set off down a path–in Precipe, it’s a part of the Appalachian Trail–but at least you’ll know what it looks like and that the game wardens are your friends.
Pinnacle Event by Richard A. Clarke
If there were a contest for the most impressive resume for an author of an international thriller, Richard A Clarke would win hands down. He’s got the “write what you know” thing down pat, that is for sure. Before serving ten years in the White House as a Special Advisor to the President for Global Affairs and Cyberspace and the National Coordinator for Security and Counter terrorism, he served in various other diplomacy roles. All of that makes him well suited to write a book like Pinnacle Event, based on an International conspiracy involving atomic weapons and more typical murders.
I have to admit that this is not my kind of novel, but Ken enjoys the international spy thrillers, so he’s listening to this one. He tells me it is very technical and a bit to end-of-the-world-ish for his taste. As far as being a good book for A Traveler’s Library–I have my doubts. While it wanders the world, the action, not the locale, is clearly the focus.
The Cavendon Women by Barbara Taylor Bradford.
I am not sure why MacMillan even bothered to send me this book, since I made it pretty clear what I think of Taylor-Bradford in a former review, which you can see here. I did not listen to this one, and the breathless prose describing it on the back of the box did not persuade me. “From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a stunning and dramatic saga of love and loyalty.”Why she is such a stupendous hit is a mystery to me, but obviously, I’m in the minority.
Bradford didn’t get to be a best selling author if no one is reading her. So FYI, any fans out there–this is about the Ingham family who serve the Swann family and is set between 1926 and the crash of 1929.
And that’s it for my summer road trip audio book suggestions (and cautions). What does it mean that four of the six authors of the books that Macmillan Audio sent to me are people I have reviewed before? Guess I’ve been at this for a while. And these authors seem to write faster than I read.
Note: There are links here to Amazon, in case you’d like to add these books to your car trip luggage. I do that because I’m an affiliate of Amazon and make a few pennies when you order through those links, however, as I explained in a prior audio book review, Amazon is making a concerted effort to bury audio books by companies other than their own digital audiobooks. If you do a search and come up with the title as a Kindle book, be sure to click on the button for “other formats” if it does not show audio books on CD–if that is what you are looking for.