Monday, August 3, 2020

The Black Madonna of Derby, by Joanna Czechowska (author), Claire Nicholls (narrator)

Joanna Czechowska, April 2020

The Baran family of Derby, England, is caught between its Polish past and its English future.

Barbara and her daughter Helena both survived the war, but separately. On one awful day in Warsaw, Helena got caught in a retaliatory roundup that Barbara just escaped, and was taken to Germany. She became a slave laborer in a clothing factory that made German uniforms. Barbara, left behind, kept her head down and survived the war. After the war, Helena made her way to England, married a Polish man who also came to England after the war, and had three children, Wanda, Zosia, and Janek. Eventually, she found out her mother was alive, in Poland, and asked her to come to England.

We follow the lives of the family through the sixties and seventies.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Virtually Timeless (High-Tech Crime Solvers #5), by Casi McLean (author), Rich Miller (narrator)

Casi McLean Inc., June 2020

Doctor Noah Monaco, rare disease specialist, and his twin sister, Sydney, private detective, lost their parents years ago, but have recently inherited an estate in Connecticut, from an aunt they never knew existed. It's 800 miles from their Atlanta home, but Noah takes a few days to check the place out, including walking the perimeter of the property.

In the course of doing that, he finds a woman being attacked by a strange man. He manages to chase the man off, but while pursuing him, Noah stumbles and takes a bad fall.

When he doesn't check in as expected, Sydney turns current cases over to her assistant, and heads to Connecticut to find him.

When Noah regains consciousness, he recognizes that he has a concussion, and is relieved when the woman shows up. Help available! But the woman is very confused, has no memory of seeing him before, and it slowly becomes apparent she has no short-term memory at all. Even turning away for a few minutes wipes out her memory of what went before.

He gets some help from the woman, but soon loses her to her lack of short-term memory.

When Sydney shows up, tracking his cellphone to where he dropped it, and then following the scuffed trail, he discovers he was out longer than he though; it's the next day. The woman wanders back, and the twins manage, despite the woman's confusion, to coax her to help Sydney get Noah back to their aunt's house.

What they don't yet realize is that the spot where Sydney found Noah's phone, and an unusual amulet buried in the leaves, is the entrance to an underground chamber, and the site of a ten-year-old crime.

The confused woman has her own hidden history that she knows nothing about--not even her own name. Sydney and Noah manage to win her trust and get her to record reminders to substitute for real memory for the moment, but it soon seems that she has enemies who are pursuing her, not just a random attacker in the woods.

They need a crafty plan to get them all to Atlanta, and then Noah goes to work solving the mystery of the woman's condition, while Sydney goes to work solving the mystery of her background. It's fast-paced, exciting, and fun, even if the discussion of cutting-edge DNA testing and searching, to identify the woman, does get a little ridiculous. I seriously lost count of the number of times that what sounds like pretty normal use of DNA genealogy databases to identify relatives was described as "cutting edge." I mean, really, this is basically the business that Ancestry and 29andMe, and probably others I'm not aware of, are in. But except for that weakness, it's interesting and entertaining. I really liked Noah, Sydney, and their friends.

Recommended.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from the author, and am reviewing it voluntarily.