“No Justice: One White Police Officer, One Black Family, and How One Bullet Ripped Us Apart,” By Robbie Tolan and Lawrence Ross. (Hachette Audio. Unabridged, 6 hours.)
On the night of Dec. 31, 2008, Robbie Tolan, a baseball player and son of former major league outfielder Bobby Tolan, drove up to his parents’ house in Bellaire, a chiefly white, middle-class suburb of Houston. He was confronted by a white policeman accusing him of having stolen what was, in fact, his own car. His mother, coming out to see what was going on, was roughed up. When Tolan protested, a second policeman fired four shots at his chest.
Though one bullet “liquefied” his liver, Tolan survived, a miracle bought at the cost of terrible physical pain, the end of his baseball career and over $1 million in medical and legal bills. Tolan’s cousin, Hall-of-Famer Ken Griffey Jr., reads his moving foreword to this blood-boiling account of racial injustice. And Tolan narrates his own story in a strong, clear voice that expresses passion, dignity and intermittent sparks of wry humor. After years of fighting for compensation and acknowledgment of the crime, Tolan had to settle for a token payment and no apology. Meanwhile, his attacker, Jeff Cotton, was promoted. This is an important and deeply shocking book.
“The Maze at Windermere,” by Gregory Blake Smith. (Penguin Audio. Unabridged, 13 hours.)
Five superb narrators — Richard Topol, Edoardo Ballerini, Raphael Corkhill, Michael Crouch and Caitlin Davies — deliver the interleaved episodes of “The Maze at Windermere,” by Minnesota writer Gregory Blake Smith, a novel that spans more than 300 years in Newport, R.I. In 1692, we find 15-year-old Prudence left to care for her little sister. The girls’ only salable “property” is an enslaved woman, a situation that becomes more and more vexing to Prudence’s Quaker conscience.
In 1778, a British spymaster plots to seduce the daughter of a Jewish merchant. A century later, a superbly realized Henry James wrestles with the essential chilliness of his vocation as a writer and his absence of sexual desire for the woman who is his soul mate. In 1896, a closeted gay man shows himself to be a complete cad in his designs upon a wealthy widow. And in 2011, a washed-up tennis champion finds himself ensnared in a sexual tangle. This is a very fine novel wonderfully served by narrators whose voices convey the mystery of time and place, the transitory nature of individual life and the urgency of desire.
“Munich,” by Robert Harris. (Random House Audio. Unabridged, 9½ hours.)
Robert Harris’ new novel restores context to an event that hindsight has represented as the height of unforgivable appeasement: The Munich Agreement of September 1938 in which a reluctant Neville Chamberlain and an unreluctant Benito Mussolini signed off on Hitler’s demand that Czechoslovakia surrender the Sudetenland to Germany.
While Harris unpacks the reasoning behind this, he also sets two fictional characters at work behind the scenes. They are Hugh Legat, a secretary to Chamberlain, and Paul von Hartmann, a translator attached to the German Foreign Office who is involved in an anti-Hitler conspiracy.
Narrator David Rintoul begins the book in a deep, resonant, big-history voice, but he moves on to a limber and versatile execution of the airiness of an adulterous wife; the cultured, sometimes peevish, tone of diplomats; and the barking rage of Adolf Hitler — in Chamberlain’s words, “the commonest little dog you ever saw.”
Minnesota native Katherine A. Powers reviews books for Newsday, Barnes & Noble, the Star Tribune and elsewhere. She wrote this column for the Washington Post.