A sure sign of the end of winter out here in the west is the itch to hit the road. Travel during the snow months is sketchy but often necessary. Putting the pedal down and heading out in warmer months can be much different: fun for it’s own sake.
Last week we took a road trip to the west coast to visit son, mother, sister, and friends. There was a short debate about the pros and cons of taking the Porsche. (Pros: driving fun factor and radar detector. Cons: possible snow on roads and although she could, wife does not drive it.) The SUV won. The other main argument for the much newer SUV is that it plays the ipod through the stereo system so you can control audiobooks on the fly. And what is a road trip without an audiobook?
Our first book was Tatiana by Martin Cruz Smith, featuring the redoubtable Arkady Renko, still slogging through Moscow after all these years. (His debut, Gorky Park, came out over 30 years ago.) In this story Renko is off his regular beat, poking around in a corrupt seaside town where amber is mined. (One of the joys of Smith is learning about interesting things like expensive bikes, amber, chess, and Chechen rappers.) Ripped from the headlines is the murder of a crusading journalist. What secrets were she killed for? A gravelly-voiced narrator did yeoman’s work. Not the greatest but fitting for the story.
After listening to Tatiana I decided to re-read my favorite MCSmith book, Rose. Years ago I headed a reading committee for the International Association of Crime Writers who picked it as our Hammett Award winner. Not a Russian book but about Victorian pit girls in the coal mines of England, great stuff.
The return trip featured something a little different. Mysteries and thrillers, always a good read in print or digital, are de rigueur for a road trip audiobook. Something to keep you wondering, guessing, and basically awake. I wasn’t sure if Laura Lippmann’s newest, After I’m Gone, was mysterious enough as it’s a stand alone novel and I didn’t have time to research the plot. But download away and I’m so glad I did. Rich with characters and secrets, it’s about a family who’s left behind when a father/husband/gambler runs from the law. There’s a murder in there, and a sly peek at Laura’s other characters in her Tess Monaghan mysteries, and it’s set in Baltimore that she knows so well. Fabulous narrator in Linda Emond.
The only issue with audiobooks is finishing them when the road trip is done. (I remember one road trip where the book ended just as I was pulling into the driveway: nirvana!) Books come in all sorts of lengths, just like highways. I’m still listening to After I’m Gone, rather obsessively actually. I’m going on a long walk today just so I can find out what’s happening with Bambi and Tubby and Michelle, who killed Julie and other juicy questions.
What are you listening to? Do you have a road trip planned for spring or summer?