Suspect by Scott Turow (legal thriller / audio book)

Great audio book! Action both in and behind the courtroom. It’s no secret who the bad guy is but figuring out the game and finding the evidence is a whole other story (the story of this book in fact!). I was also very impressed with the fully integrated roles for women, different ethnic groups, and those with varied sexual preferences without making that the point of the book (I’m getting very tired of the heavy handed agendas of current literature!). Each character is a character with his/her own personality, flaws, interests, etc. in addition to his/her various hashtag-identifiers.

Lucia Gomez is the police chief of Highland Isle and has managed a good balancing act between authority and camaraderie until she is accused of exchanging promotions for sexual favors. Talk about a gender bender! The accusations are false, of course, but there is enough “activity” to make the accusations at least plausible. It’s fun to imagine the story where the genders were switched. Hired by her lawyer to uncover the truth is PI Pinky Granum — she of the misspent youth. As an aside, Pinky is somewhat obsessed with her new and mysterious neighbor whom she suspects of being up to something. Or is it an aside? Maybe there is more to the situation than meets the eye.

Excellent reader, twisted plot, and really interesting characters. Turow writes really good female characters. He writes good male characters, too (obviously) but it’s honestly rare for me to like female characters written by most men. So Bravo! At any rate, this book kept me entertained and thinking for a good 12 hours of driving. Much obliged!

Thank you to Hachette Audio and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on September 27th, 2022.

Memphis by Tara Stringfellow (Fiction / Multi-cultural interest)

Writing: 4/5 Plot: 3/5 Characters: 4.5/5

The story covers 70 years in the lives of a family in Memphis ranging from 1937 through 2001. Sisters August and Miriam, their mother Hazel, and Miriam’s daughter Joan are the voices that tell the story with date labeled chapters that jump back and forth across time (which can be confusing — I had to take careful notes). The book is written in a highly emotional style, guaranteed to make you angry at the injustice and hardships these women must suffer through.

I believe this is intended to be a positive novel about the tight knit Black community of women who pull together and give each other strength when needed — and I loved these women characters and would have loved to be a part of the community. But the other side of the coin is that the book is strongly anti-man and pretty anti-white as well. The big sign in August’s hair shop is “NO CHILDREN, NO MEN, & WE EAT WHITE FOLK HERE.” It’s not really a joke.

Through the generations, everything bad possible happens to this family including a child rape, multiple instances of domestic abuse, and lynching. It reinforces negative stereotypes of current Black culture — single mothers and abusive, violent men. The one decent man in the history was lynched, with the strong implication being that he was lynched by his white colleagues (he had made homicide detective — the first Black man in the area to do so). The author took every opportunity to blame whites or men for everything that went wrong, without considering any errors of judgement made by the women. And while she gave each of the violent black men a backstory that might explain their violence, she gave them no path to rehabilitation and completely exonerated the women who may have contributed to their “badness,” whether intentionally or not.

In summary, the story was gripping but I found the writing overly dramatic, manipulative, and full of good messages (be strong, be independent) based on the wrong (IMHO) reasoning. I’m all in favor of women being independent because everyone should be able to take care of themselves — this is not a safe or uniformly just world — but they shouldn’t need to be independent because men are uniformly violent, bad, and untrustworthy.

I know a lot of people love these emotionally heavy-handed books. For me, however, it is too easy to absorb strong, negative, messages without a more nuanced treatment. No, there is no amount of nuance that makes lynching or domestic violence OK, but there are a lot of good men (black and white) out there and lots of good white people, too. Do we really need to fan the flames of racism and sexism (in reverse) by ascribing horrible behavior to every person who appears to be male and / or white? I found the book disturbing — not just for the content (which was disturbing enough!) but for the incendiary way that Black men and all white people (except one nice Jewish store owner!) were painted as irreedemably and unquestionably bad.

Thank you to Random House Publishing and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book was published on March 1st, 2022.