Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

Secrets of EdenI had been hitting the reject button for the last three audio books I picked up at the library lately, so when I say this one, from an author I have always liked, I went for it.

Stats: Published in 2010, Audio book is 11.5 hours/9 discs, narrated by Mark Bramhall, Susan Denaker, Rebecca Lowman and Kathe Mazur. Print is 370 pages.

Blurb: (Goodreads) “There,” says Alice Hayward to Reverend Stephen Drew, just after her baptism, and just before going home to the husband who will kill her that evening and then shoot himself. Drew, tortured by the cryptic finality of that short utterance, feels his faith in God slipping away and is saved from despair only by a meeting with Heather Laurent, the author of wildly successful, inspirational books about . . . angels.

Heather survived a childhood that culminated in her own parents’ murder-suicide, so she identifies deeply with Alice’s daughter, Katie, offering herself as a mentor to the girl and a shoulder for Stephen – who flees the pulpit to be with Heather and see if there is anything to be salvaged from the spiritual wreckage around him.
But then the State’s Attorney begins to suspect that Alice’s husband may not have killed himself. . .and finds out that Alice had secrets only her minister knew.

What I liked: Every book of Bohjalian’s that I’ve read, I’ve enjoyed, even though not all of them have been great. Mostly this is because of Bohjalian’s skill at writing. There was a section or tow of this that was a bit slow and I’m not sure why they were included, but it didn’t make me want to stop, just because I enjoyed the writing. I also did enjoy this story, however. It wasn’t hard to figure out, who did it, so to speak, and I’m sure Bohjalian knew this, but there was a slight twist at the end, so I’m sure that’s why he wrote it as he did. Along with that good writing is the author’s skill at character development – most notably the Reverend, who starts out this book. And having Mark Bramhall narrate his voice (I always enjoy listening to Mr. Bramhall) really made it that much more entertaining and believable. The other narrators did fine as well, by the way.

What I didn’t enjoy: As mentioned, there was a section or two that was too long, but not enough to make me want to stop. It was a bit unbelievable the way the daughter – Katie’s – reacted to her parent’s deaths, but again, not so much that it ruined the story. It was a bit more unbelievable the State’s Attorney’s reaction. I won’t say more as not to give anything away.

Rating: 4/5


Speakers of the Dead by J. Aaron Sanders

Speakers of the Dead (Walt Whitman Mystery #1)

This was a new audio book in my library and since I writing a mystery (Book II in my Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure Series), I am “reading” mysteries to keep my head in the game, so to speak.

Stats: Published March, 2016, Audio book is 7 discs, approx. 9 hours, print 307 pages

Blurb: (Goodreads) Speakers of the Dead is a mystery novel centering around the investigative exploits of a young Walt Whitman, in which the reporter-cum-poet navigates the seedy underbelly of New York City’s body-snatching industry in an attempt to exonerate his friend of a wrongful murder charge.

The year is 1843; the place: New York City. Aurora reporter Walt Whitman arrives at the Tombs prison yard where his friend Lena Stowe is scheduled to hang for the murder of her husband, Abraham. Walt intends to present evidence on Lena’s behalf, but Sheriff Harris turns him away. Lena drops to her death, and Walt vows to posthumously exonerate her.

Walt’s estranged boyfriend, Henry Saunders, returns to New York, and the two men uncover a link between body-snatching and Abraham’s murder: a man named Samuel Clement. To get to Clement, Walt and Henry descend into a dangerous underworld where resurrection men steal the bodies of the recently deceased and sell them to medical colleges. With no legal means to acquire cadavers, medical students rely on these criminals, and Abraham’s involvement with the Bone Bill—legislation that would put the resurrection men out of business—seems to have led to his and Lena’s deaths.

What I liked: I could tell Sanders did his homework when researching this book, and he even tells some more about his research and what he “played” with as far as historical facts as an author. I always appreciate this since I like history and historical fiction. I don’t know enough about Walt Whitman to have any preconceived notions about his life so having him working on a mystery wasn’t too hard to wrap my head around. Sanders does make you believe most of his characters are real, putting them in real situations for the time, 1843 New York. The story flows and has good dialogue other than what I mention below. Sanders artfully addresses Whitman’s sexual preferences so as not to offend or ignore what is know, which I appreciate as a writer.

What I didn’t like: It really wasn’t much of a mystery. The Whitman character is trying to find out who killed and framed his friends but the answer seems to obvious early on (once you learn about all the characters involved). It was also irritating how many times Sanders – through his characters – talks about the how the use of dead bodies is needed to advance medicine. Since we live in a time when we know this is true, beating this idea into the readers heads is not needed. I understand the characters of the time would be thinking otherwise, but there are other ways to get that point across than say the same thing over and over. No complaints with Mark Bramhall’s performance. He does a wonderful job portraying the male and female characters alike.

Rating: -3/5

Zane Grey’s – Riders of the Purple Sage

riders of the purple sage My Father is smiling as me from the great beyond. I am listeding to my first western novel. My parents basement is full of paperback westerns that he had read.  Even someone like me, who’s never read a western before has heard of Zane Grey, so when I saw this on the library shelf, I thought I’d give it a try. I was particularly draw to this book because the back cover explains how in the early 1900s, when Zane took the manuscript of this story to publishers, they wouldn’t print it for fear of offending reader with it’s talk of Mormon polygamy. When someone did end up printing it, they changed the story to make it more palatable.

The audio book I’m listening to is from the original manuscript. It is narratered by the talented Mark Bramhall. I especially like Mark’s portrial of Lassiter – the main gunman in the story, who, of course, wears all black leather and practically sleeps with his guns. This rough and tumble loner comes to protect a Mormon woman by the name of Jane, who is persecuted by the men of power in her community because she refuses to bend to their will, as the other Morman woman do. Quite unusual for the time and place, but still it’s a good story of beautiful scenary, tough country living, and good vs evil.

Here is a passage I partiularly liked. It is Lassiter talking to Jane after the Bishop in her community has come to help Jane mend her ways. Lassiter comes upon them and doesn’t like the tone of the man’s speech. When the Bishop sees Lassiter – a known gunman – he foolishly tries to draw his gun on him. Here is some of what he tells Jane happened, after she fainted. “I’ve seen runnin’ molasses that was quicker than him… I seen he was a Mormon all over, and I couldn’t get serious about shootin’, so I winged ’em… I told ’em, ‘he’d introduced himself sufficient and to please move out of my vicinity, and he went.”

I’m most of the way through the story, and I’m still not sure how it will end. It think that’s a testament to the writing skill of Mr. Grey. Riders of the Purple Sage is an entertaining read and I’d recommend it to anyone.