The Audio Book Challenge of 2019, originated by “Hot Listens” and “Caffeinated Reviewer”, which was pointed out to me by my blogging friend, Carla at “Carla Loves to Read” was a perfect “fit” for me. I rarely listen to audio books because I am primarily a visual reader. However, taking on this challenge (I have agreed to listen to 30 books; Carla is aiming at 50.) has been a growth experience in many ways.
The third book I have heard since I began the challenge in January is Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes. Like all of King’s books, it is wonderful and terrible at the same time. King’s main character, Bill Hodges, a “ret-det” (“retired detective” to us civilians), of the police force in a distressed American city is haunted by “the perp who got away, ” “Mr. Mercedes” (so dubbed by the media), plowed a stolen, classic Merdcedes into a pre-dawn gathering of desperate people lined up to apply for a few scarce jobs, killing eight and wounding fifteen others. Hodges blames himself for Mr. Mercedes’ escape, and his crime and case will ever remain “open” to Hodges.
Assisted by an African American computer whiz, still in high school, and a seriously neurotic relative of the woman Hodges loved, Hodges tracks down an email which pulls him out of his depression and into a full-fledged investigation of the psychotic killer.
Brady Hartsfield, the sender of the email and, indeed, the true Mr. Mercedes taunts the tormented detective and decides to kill not only Hodges, but as many people as possible in a terrorist act of violence. Will Hodges figure out who Mr. Mercedes is, and more importantly, stop his devious plan? With King, the reader can be fairly sure he will, but the fingernail-chewing route to King’s conclusion keeps the reader on the edge of his seat! The characterization of this insane killer is one of King’s best as he returns to his frequent theme of Good vs. Evil.
Kiss Her Goodbye by Wendy Corsi Staub, the book I read for “K” in my Alphabet Challenge, has something for everyone: a thriller, crime, mystery, family and marriage relationships, family secrets–you name it, it’s in there. This was a paperback written in 2004 that was turned in to my Little Free Library after a neighbor read it. There is both a prologue and an epilogue, features I always appreciate.
It opens with the approaching birthday of Jen Carmody, the fourteen year old who becomes the focus of mysterious speculations, stalkings, and secrets. Stella, for whom Jen babysits and her husband, Kurt (who is a possible suspect at one point) are having marital difficulties. The family secrets mentioned are revealed and explored which involve Jen’s father, Matt, her mother, Kathleen, and Kathleen’s father who is “confused” and in a nursing home. Her best friend, Erin’s mother, Maeve, is a single mom who is interested in each of the aforementioned men. The story begins in August with the disappearance of a young girl in town, and the story runs October through May. Several murders occur, and I challenge you to follow the clues and determine “who dun it.”
The Baker’s Secret, a 2017 novel by Stephen P. Kierman is set in occupied France in the small village of Vergers. The book hooked me from the very first line: “All through those years of war, the bread tasted of humiliation.” It is spoken by the apprentice baker, a young woman named Emmanuelle, known in the village as Emma, who has secretly been adding straw to the flour for the mandatory loaves she bakes for the German Kommandant daily, so she can give the extra loaves to starving villagers. The story covers the period prior to and during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. The description of what Emma sees on Omaha Beach is vivid and heart wrenching. Her horrendous close calls and brutal beatings are told in a way that makes the reader hold his breath or ache all over his body as he reads.
The story appeals to young adults (junior high and up) and adults as well. At the end, the publisher includes an interesting interview with the author and study questions for discussions. It is the perfect selection for a book club.