Past and present merge in “The Current,” Iowa City’s Tim Johnston’s atmospheric, exquisitely suspenseful novel of two murders separated by 10 years. Audrey’s friend, Caroline, is driving her from their Southern college up to Minnesota where Audrey’s father, a former sheriff, is dying. On the way, the young women narrowly escape violent molestation by two louts in an Iowan gas station - only to have their car maliciously bumped onto fragile ice of the Black Root River, under which runs a powerful current. Tragedy ensues. Ten years earlier, up in Audrey’s hometown, a young woman was drowned in the same river. The two episodes develop into an increasingly interwoven mesh of victims, suspects, motives, revenge and grief. Audrey, a determined sleuth, is intent on getting to the bottom of both incidents. Sarah Mollo-Christensen delivers the general narration in a low, gentle voice, modulating her tones unobtrusively to capture the dialogue among the characters. This is a masterly performance of a first-rate thriller, one which completely dissolves the barrier between story and listener. (HighBridge, Unabridged, 14 1/2 hours)
Lawrence Osborne’s 2012 novel “The Forgiven” - a tale of clashing cultures, mutual misunderstanding and death set in Morocco - is finally available as an audiobook. David Henniger is an alcoholic London society doctor; his wife, Jo, is a blocked writer. Driving on a lonely road to a grotesquely extravagant three-day party, David, not quite sober and bickering with Jo, hits a young man, killing him instantly. When the couple show up at their hosts’ elaborately restored estate with a corpse, no one is pleased, especially the help, already repulsed by the party itself - a bacchanal of booze, drugs and sexual excess. The dead man’s father appears, insisting that David travel back with him to his remote village. For what - compensation, atonement, revenge? Narrator Ralph Lister gives marvelous renditions of the diverse characters in both accent and mood, from the many Moroccans to David, who alternates between a choleric Colonel Blimp and “a plump, sullen toad.” (Random House Audio, Unabridged, 10 3 /4 hours)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
David Treuer, an Ojibwe novelist and critic, here offers a counternarrative to “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” Dee Brown’s best-selling 1970 history of the obliteration of American Indian life and culture. Treuer’s book, “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee,” is a colorful, thoroughly engaging mix of history, memoir, reportage, interview, anecdote and observation. Although Treuer addresses the injustices and atrocities committed against America’s indigenous people, he focuses more closely on what has persisted in Indian life, showing the role of Native Americans in the nation’s history as a whole. Traveling throughout the country to reservations, rural areas, towns, and urban Indian enclaves, Treuer talks with Native American men and women engaged in a variety of pursuits, including cage-fighting, leech trapping, culinary arts and legal representation. Narrator Tanis Parenteau - a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta and is of Cree and Sioux descent - delivers this revelatory book with dispatch and confidence. (Penguin Audio, Unabridged, 17 3/4 hours)
Powers reviews audiobooks every month for The Washington Post.