Thirteen hours each way from Virginia to Maine and back. Thirteen hours from Virginia to Little Rock, thirteen more to Santa Fe. Phew. I’m back in New Mexico!
Trip one: I listened to Karin Slaughter’s Criminal, and Mary Higgins Clark’s I’ll Walk Alone. The first is tight and tense, featuring one of the most disturbed and disturbing perpetrators in any book ever written. Slaughter moves back and forth in time smoothly, and between points of view. Her insights into the personal and professional lives of her detectives as well as the mystery itself made a compelling story. Clark let me down, though not completely. Though the plot kept my attention, I figured it out well before the end. The device of having the POV of some unnamed “he” is annoying, although many successful writers have done it. This name-withheld character so pointedly seemed to be one person, the red herring-ness of it was too obvious. Other things bothered me, too: Peppy older women, amateurs, solve the crime when the police are on the wrong track; a very predictable romance emerges; a kidnapped child recovers a little too smoothly; and the backstory is disclosed in a series of expository inner monologues by so many characters I found myself listening and laughing—here we go again, someone is about to tell himself or herself what the reader needs to know. The book wasn’t dull, but it wasn’t great either.
Next trip: I never tire of certain authors, so I listened to a few of M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth stories. There’s an unlikely a number of murders in small highland towns, but I get past that. Macbeth is irresistible. He’s flawed but charming, and the plots are tangled enough that I seldom know whodunit. I never tire of Hillerman either. I’m re-reading Sacred Clowns, and listened to The Blessing Way—a re-read of sorts. The characters and setting and Hillerman’s way with words make the whole series worth a second visit. Hearing this book, hearing the actor speak the Navajo words which I can’t pronounce, added a new depth to the experience. A third favorite author I took on this trip is Carl Hiaasen. I listened to Bad Monkey. Hiaasen’s humor makes me laugh out loud. He’s said that living in south Florida is inspiration enough, but I’m still amazed at the characters, plots and situations he comes up with. They are so weird, yet regionally plausible. What these three authors have in common is the way their settings influences everything about their books. The place is a character, in a way. The Scottish highlands, the high desert of the Four Corners region, and South Florida. None of these books could be transplanted to any other place.
On such an audiobook binge I can’t give a full review of anything, and with listening I don’t somehow feel that I can claim to have read the book, but it’s great way to travel. Some people marvel that I’ll drive these distances, but it’s a treat if you like books.