So I’m now in the habit of almost always having a book to listen to in the car. I find this makes car trips less tedious and distracts me from gas prices, but it’s also a great way to “read” some books that I normally wouldn’t sit down with – such as mysteries or crime thrillers. I do enjoy those genres of books, but I prefer to read things where the language is brilliant or the joy of reading in bed goes with the book (i.e. Stephenie Meyers’ stuff).

Recently, I finished listening to The Wrong Hostage by Elizabeth Lowell. It was a great car book precisely because the plot was engrossing and the writing wasn’t great. In basic, a federal judge’s son is held hostage because of a bone-headed move that her ex-husband made . . . the book is the story of how she and her old friend Joe undertake the son’s rescue.

There’s some great characterization here, especially of Joe Faroe, the old friend turned covert operative who goes about saving the kid. . . he reminded me of a character in one of those old spy movies, tough and willing to do “whatever it takes,” no moral questions to resolve or laws to consider. There are some things that simply must be done, according to Faroe.

And like I said, the plot holds up well, paced out nicely over the 48-hours in which the story takes place. There’s action and a bit of romance and some really nice dialogue that drives the plot forward, keeping me attached to the story.

If I was reading the book, however, I fear it would fall apart a bit. . . because when I read I have more time to consider the writerly choices, to reread and glance back over parts (something I don’t do in the car because rewinding – I only have a tapedeck – is such a pain). . . There’s a lot of cliche in the book, and the language is repetitive and a bit hackneyed, more plot than craft.

But for a car book, Lowell’s work seems great. What do you guys think? Have you read Lowell (if you have a review of The Wrong Hostage let me know, and I”ll link to it.); if so, what do you think of her?

Or what do you listen to in the car? Is it the same as you would read on paper? What influences your choices there?

Cover of The Wrong Hostage by Elizabeth LowellThe Wrong Hostage by Elizabeth Lowell