I recently viewed an exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring the works of the American painter Winslow Homer (1836-1910), who famously painted scenes from the Civil War. This was, of course, before our modern-day constant feed of dramatic, painful, and emotional war footage. Homer’s paintings captured it all.
Seeing this exhibit drew me to the Earphones Award-winner ONE MUST TELL THE BEES: Abraham Lincoln and the Final Education of Sherlock Holmes, written by J. Lawrence Matthews and narrated by Thomas Judd. What an intriguing premise: A young Sherlock Holmes finds himself in America in the last year of the Civil War and involved in hunting down John Wilkes Booth. The historically detailed and well-written text provides a rich backstory for what contributed to Holmes becoming such a brilliant consulting detective. Narrator Thomas Judd moves flawlessly from Watson, who is telling the story, to Holmes and the other significant characters as the story moves back and forth in place and time. Going back to a period of American history when we were a country divided against itself brings some chilling lessons. Heads up, listeners: This is a long one—more than 19 hours.
Jumping ahead to WWI, we have Luke McCallin’s FROM A DARK HORIZON, featuring Gregor Reinhardt, a German Intelligence officer in the 1940s. In this prequel, we meet the protagonist as a young Lieutenant during the closing days of WWI, where he is investigating a bombing which took the lives of some of the top leaders. Golden Voice John Lee brings to life this atmospheric audiobook, which portrays the horrors of the trenches and the POW camps. This provides a view into the realities of the Great War and how it mentally impacted soldiers.
The setting of World War II has generated many mystery/thriller audiobooks. A recent standout is Earphones Award-winner DEATH AT GREENWAY, by Lori Rader-Day, read by Moira Quirk. With Agatha Christie’s country house as a setting and providing the atmosphere, we are introduced to disgraced nurse Bridey Kelly, who has been assigned to care for 10 children escaping the London blitz. Quirk masterfully differentiates the many characters as they express the personal toll of war.
Although it is not a war in the traditional sense, the Cold War also provides a setting for mystery/thriller audiobooks. When it comes to remembrance, it is worth considering that the Cold War had a deep and long-lasting impact on many. THE BERLIN EXCHANGE, by Joseph Kanon, is read by Jonathan Davis. The story, which takes place at the height of the Cold War in 1963, involves the exchange of two American students captured helping people escape over the Berlin Wall, plus an aging M16 operative, for a Communist physicist caught in England. This is an atmospheric, detailed, and tense action-filled espionage thriller, typical of Kanon. To hear a discussion of the audiobook, tune into the AudioFile Behind the Mic Podcast.
Memorial Day now has different meanings, including the beginning of summer—a happy, carefree time.
Hoping we all take the time to also reflect on its true meaning.