'The Big Book of the Dead'
Marion Winik’s reminiscences of dead family members, friends and occasional others is as much a memoir as it is a salute to those who have lived. There is sadness here but also humor and wit and an overall feeling of engagement with life. Set in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Orleans and finally Baltimore, the 125 pieces evoke changes in social milieu and way of life, from Bohemianism and drug use to motherhood, widowhood and purpose. Winik narrates the book herself in a bold, pleasantly low-pitched voice, her delivery exceptionally expressive of the emotions her fine, concise writing conjures. Each person — and, in some cases, animal — is captured in an eloquent vignette, at times high spirited or melancholy and moving. Among her subjects are her mother, the golf champ; her first, much-loved husband, who lost his battle with AIDS; her stillborn baby; a philandering hookup (who actually may not be dead); Rocco, a cat; Leslie, a personable goldfish; and the man whose life taught her that it’s “necessary and gorgeous to be who you are”— which could be the central message of these marvelous portraits. (Tantor, Unabridged, 5 hours)
'The Man That Got Away'
This is Lynne Truss’s second novel starring Constable Twitten. It is summer 1957 in the English seaside town of Brighton and young Twitten has become a devotee of Nancy Mitford’s “Noblesse Oblige,” in which the elements of “U” (upper-class) and “Non-U” (not upper-class) locutions were set before a class-obsessed English public. Twitten insists, unheeded, that the book could be a valuable forensic tool in identifying criminals — and so it turns out to be. But that vindication comes long after the madcap plot has wended its way through the town’s seedier holiday attractions and bumped up against a ragtag selection of miscreants, among the police-station charlady and “criminal mastermind,” Mrs Groynes. Matt Green narrates this deft caper with a fine selection of voices and infectious enthusiasm for its many about-turns. He sounds as baffled as we are by where this is all heading — and as pleased, too, when we find that a group of supposed musicians are, unknown to each other, operatives from Interpol, New Scotland Yard, MI5, Brighton Police and Mrs. Groynes’s gang. (Lamplight Audiobooks, Unabridged, 7½ hours)
Katherine A. Powers reviews audiobooks every month for The Washington Post.