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Publisher's Summary

Lee is a math professor at a second-tier university in the Midwest. When a mail bomb goes off in the office of the star computer scientist next door, Lee is slow to realize that students and colleagues have begun to suspect that he's the Brain Bomber, an elusive terrorist whose primary targets appear to be academic hotshots.

In the midst of campus tumult over the bombing, a letter arrives from a figure in Lee's past, which forces him to revisit events and choices that shaped his failed marriage, his life as a father, and his work as a scholar of middling achievement. While Lee becomes further ensnared in the FBI's attempts to find the bomber, the churned-up regrets from his past bring him to an examination of extremes in his own life as he tries to exonerate himself, face his tormentor from his past, and atone for his failings.

©2008 Susan Choi; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Choi juggles suspense and psychological drama with an acrobatic dexterity." (Los Angeles Times)
"She has an eye for the telling details that reveal complicated, fully developed characters as well as an equally acute sensitivity for the times we live in." (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
"Pulitzer Prize finalist Susan Choi returns with a straight-up thriller....gripping, smart." (GQ)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.2 out of 5.0
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    29
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Performance

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Story

  • 3.2 out of 5.0
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  • Overall

Slow going...but worth it!

This book takes patience, but the results are worth the time and energy invested. The story line is original and the protagonist is interesting, but throughout most of the book the secondary characters seem vague and the chronology can appear muddy. This is not helped by Choi's style which tends towards complex sentences and sudden shifts in plot lines, even though her writing is rich in introspection and provocative sensitivity. All of this dreaminess can frustrate the reader, and I found myself rewinding frequently. It all clears up in the end, however, and I give this book four out of five stars, because there seem to be so many loose ends and blind alleys everywhere, because so many of the characters seem ill-defined, shadowy, and many of them not really likable, and because there is an undertow of political correctness, which doesn't seem integral to the story itself. However this read does rate high on my list, though, for psychological suspense, despite its meanderings. And, if you like following a narrative without really knowing what is really going on until the last minute then this one is for you!

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Eleanor Rigby in the time of terrorism

A marvelous book: on one level it's about a unibomber-type event and how a math professor becomes a person of interest in the investigation, on another it is how a man who defines himself as American is defined as "Asian" or "immigrant" or "suspicious" by casual colleagues and neighbors. Choi's deft exposure of subtle, unintentional racism lurking under the surface was shocking to me as an Anglo- and felt all too true. But that's just one of many threads, not a lecture to the reader- just one of many threads making up the life of a sad old man. Rather than a police procedural, it is a character study, it builds slowly and like the Sixth Sense, we too are mislead by Lee's spotty memories, with a great payoff at the end. The Village Voice compared the character to Eleanor Rigby, very apt.

I picked up the book as a computer science professor who had been in a math department, curious to see if this caught at all the rhythms of academia. It was a spot-on characterization of everything I saw in my old department.

Enjoy!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

a fine literary thriller

This is not a frantic, razzle-dazzle thriller. This is a character driven thriller. The unibomer killings are the obvious starting point for the author and the basic plot, but it's Dr. Lee and his personal issues which take center stage in the novel as a whole. Choi has adroitly woven a fine suspense around complex characters. I listened to this every second I could for about 2 days because I ws hooked. Dunne does a superb job in narrating.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Didn't hold my interest

I have to admit that I bailed on this one about half-way through. I usually hate giving up on a book, but I kept falling asleep and I just didn't care about the main character. I wish the main character had been more likeable, then I might have been able to stick it out.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A Novel with a Mystery

This book strikes me as better described as a novel than a mystery. There is, indeed, a violent death; the puzzle of who-dun-it is the backdrop for the book. However, the way Choi develops her main character's reaction to the murder and its subsequent events is more intriquing than the mystery itself. At first, I found this professor to be someone I would rather not take the time to get to know. I'm glad I continued to listen for his story is fascinating. Choi has reminded me that cultural and personality differences can enrich our lives.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

cultural differences & POI

a well narrated tale about an individual who is Asian American and comes from a culture very different from ours. Because of the way he reacts in certain situations he becomes a possible suspect in a bombing. You can feel his frustration and you're not sure who did it until the very end of this mystery. The book tugs at one's emotions and the main character is a sympathetic one. The narrator keeps you hooked until the end.
Good ending.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Robert
  • Washington, DC, USA
  • 03-22-08

Engrossing

This stunning novel blends current history with an almost 19th century sensibility of character motivation. The hero of the story is often maddening - you want to shake him, tell him to wake up. But the quality of the writing carries you along. If you enjoy precision in language - like that of great poetry - you will enjoy the author's ability to capture a huge range of emotions. In the end you end up caring for a character that many might find impossible to know. The narrator of the audio book is superb; she has several vocal styles, all of which serve the author well. Don't miss this if you enjoy great writing.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Absorbing and Well Written

I found my self fully engaged in this novel from its very beginning. The writing is levels above the usual bland story-telling common to this genre.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Listening to it a Second Time

So that I don't spend my credits half-way through my subscriptions, I'm listening to my favorites again. This is one of them. One of the reviewers indicated that she didn't like or care about Lee. I don't necessarily like or care about him either, but I think that's part of the novel--part of what makes him "a person of interest"--how do we respond to those people the authorities deem "a person of interest?" I'm fairly certain that Lee doesn't know or like himself either. Forgive the cliche, but Choi unpeels the onion. Choi takes her time revealing the characters. If you're fine with a slow revelation of motivation and a somewhat existential novel, you'll probably enjoy this. And, while I thought it odd that a female narrates a male focalizer, I nonetheless enjoyed listening to her. There's something about her voice that engaged me.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Annie
  • Chicago, IL, USA
  • 01-18-09

Slow and boring story

Couldn't finish it. Didn't like or care about Lee; could not understand or accept the motivations of the characters; and I think too I didn't like the female narrator's take on the male voices. In the end, annoying.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful