Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

July 31, 2022
Paperback Summer Reads - A Rom Com That Speaks to Readers, and a Reporter on the Trail of a Killer Preying on Black Women
Thank You For Listening by Julia Whelan. Fresh off a flattering profile in The New York Times that recounts her prowess as a professional audiobook performer, Whelan seems destined for further success with the publication this week of her new novel. As has happened before (and will again), I discovered the book through one of my bookseller colleagues, Carolyn Hutton, who wrote this blurb: "What a wonderful debut this is, written by an award-winning audiobook narrator about an audiobook narrator! Sewanee has found success in the sound booth after an accident derailed her hopes for acting. Solidly against narrating romance novels, she's given an offer she can't refuse and cautiously agrees to co-narrate one last love story with Brock, one of the audiobook world's most famous voices. Full of romance book tropes, this wonderful story has some deeper themes of grief, recovery and creating oneself anew. Really fun and lovely."

While this is a love story first and foremost, Thank You For Listening has more going for it. For one - not surprisingly, given Whelan's knowledge - it provides an up close and personal tour of audiobooks and the people who bring them to life in front of a microphone. And all is not flirty fun and witty repartee - Sewanee's back story reflects a life impacted by aspirations lost and regrets accumulated. Fortunately, there are second chances and opportunities for self-discovery as well. Expect heartstrings to be pulled, chemistry to be tangible, and love to conquer all.
As the Wicked Watch by Tamron Hall. This debut mystery follows a reporter as she investigates the disturbing deaths of young Black women, the work of a serial killer terrorizing Chicago. As with Julia Whelan above, award-winning talk show host Tamron Hall brings some personal knowledge to her story. Fans of television's Today show may remember her as a contributor, and while at NBC, she received an Edward R. Murrow Award for her report on domestic abuse. Here's a brief plot description:

When crime reporter Jordan Manning leaves her hometown in Texas to take a job at a television station in Chicago, she’s one step closer to her dream of anchor chair on a national network. Jordan is smart and aggressive, and often the only woman of color in the newsroom. She has proved to be that rare breed of a journalist who can navigate a crime scene as well as she can a newsroom—often noticing what others tend to miss. But the job also takes its toll, as she is called to cover the murders of Black women, many of them sexually assaulted, most brutalized, and all of them quickly forgotten. All until Masey James — a 15-year-old girl whose body was found in an abandoned lot. It's a killing that Jordan just can’t shake, and she does everything she can to give the story the coverage it desperately requires, and that a missing Black child would so rarely get.

As the Wicked Watch - the first of a planned three-book series - is a fast-moving thriller about tracking a serial killer, but Hall also introduces readers to the machinations of a TV newsroom, as well as media and police response to crimes against Black women. NPR's review underscores the richness and complexity of this first installment: “Tamron Hall's debut novel is a singular thriller that brings the vulnerability and systemic neglect of Black girls as victims of violent crime into vivid relief...The cohesiveness and sheer scope of the narrative Hall has woven together is impressive...Readers interested in the gritty details of crime reporting and investigation will be intrigued...Ultimately, As the Wicked Watch is an impressive debut — a moving take on familiar but urgent problems and society's indifference.”