“My Sister, the Serial Killer,” by Oyinkan Braithwaite.
(Random House Audio, unabridged, 4 ½ hours)
Nigerian writer Oyinkan Braithwaite’s first novel is set in Lagos, and, as its startling title suggests, it revolves around two sisters — one good, one not so much. Korede is an efficient, highly responsible nurse. Ayoola is a freelance fashion designer and heartless seductress. Capricious, willful and without conscience, Ayoola has developed the unfortunate habit of killing her boyfriends — three as of the novel’s start.
Following each fatality, she has called upon her competent older sister Korede to help her dispose of the body. Refreshingly strange and ghoulishly funny at times, the story also has a tragic side, revealed in flashbacks depicting the brutality of the girls’ father. Back in the present, Korede is smitten with Tade, a doctor — but he has become enamored of Ayoola and establishes himself as her beau. Uh-oh. Narrator Adepero Oduye’s versatility with characters’ voices and her wonderful adeptness with various forms and manners of Nigerian speech add verisimilitude to this unusual story.
“The Year of the Pitcher: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball’s Golden Age,” by Sridhar Pappu.
(Tantor, unabridged, 13 hours)
Sridhar Pappu’s “Year of the Pitcher” goes well beyond the achievements in 1968 of star hurlers Bob Gibson and Denny McLain. It was a year of assassinations, riots, protests, presidential campaigns and a World Series the Detroit Tigers miraculously won after falling behind three games to one, while Gibson pitched three full games for the losing Cardinals.
Pappu also covers the lives of the men who influenced the two athletes, Johnny Sain and Jackie Robinson among them. He explores in-depth the racial intolerance Gibson faced and McLain’s ties to organized crime and looks, too, at the toll taken on both men’s arms in an era innocent of pitch counts, and at the rising demand for players’ rights. This is a great book that combines biography, social history and astute character study. Narrating in a warm, lucid voice, Leon Nixon delivers the thrilling baseball action with all the brio it warrants.
“Top Dog,” by Jens Lapidus.
(Random House Audio, unabridged, 18 1/3 hours)
Jens Lapidus’ “Top Dog” (translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies) is not for the faint of heart. Emelie Jannson, a young lawyer, takes on the case of the victim of a circle of wealthy sexual predators. She is assisted by Teddy Maksumic, recently out of prison and trying to cut his links to Stockholm’s Serbian criminal underworld. Teddy’s nephew Nikola attempts the same thing until his best friend is murdered by a crime boss’ hit men and Nikola devotes himself to revenge.
Meanwhile, Roksana, daughter of a refugee Iranian family, and her pal Z discover a stash of ketamine behind a false wall and soon find themselves terrorized by a drug lord’s goons. Increasingly, the three story lines merge. The suspense is terrific — and narrator Jon Lindstrom delivers the action clearly and calmly. He manages the welter of voices, keeping one separate from the other, and beautifully captures the irony that underpins much of the story.
Katherine A. Powers, a Minnesota native, reviews books for the Star Tribune, Barnes & Noble and elsewhere. She writes this monthly column for the Washington Post.