1934. Businesses went under by the hundreds, debt and foreclosures boomed, and breadlines grew in many American cities.
In the midst of this misery, some folks explored unscrupulous ways to make money. Angel-faced John Partlow and carnival huckster Ginger LaFrance are among the worst of this lot. Joining together they leave their small time confidence scams behind to attempt an elaborate kidnapping-for-ransom scheme in New Orleans.
In a different part of town, Curtis Mayhew, a young black man who works as a redcap for the Union Railroad Station, has a reputation for mending quarrels and misunderstandings among his friends. What those friends don't know is that Curtis has a special talent for listening... and he can sometimes hear things that aren't spoken aloud.
One day, Curtis Mayhew's special talent allows him to overhear a child's cry for help (THIS MAN IN THE CAR HE'S GOT A GUN), which draws him into the dangerous world of Partlow and LaFrance.
This gritty depression-era crime thriller is a complex tale enriched by powerfully observed social commentary and hints of the supernatural, and it represents Robert McCammon writing at the very top of his game.
A Note From Robert McCammon:
The Listener is about the kidnapping of two children and is set in New Orleans in 1934. This is a book I've been wanting to write for several years, since I discovered what an epidemic (a tragic epidemic, at that) kidnapping became during the desperation of the Great Depression. It got to be so bad that the New York Times began running a box at the top of the front page listing who had been kidnapped, and among those victims, which ones had been returned to their families. Desperate times, indeed. The Listener isn't exactly supernatural, though there is a "strange" element. I understand we all enjoy reading about vampires, werewolves, ghoulies, and other creatures of the night, but the most fearsome and deadly monster is the human being…and I believe I have created two of the most fearsome and horrific human beings in The Listener that you could ever fear to meet. And these people, I think, are likely the kind who would kidnap two children and not have much concern whether the kids lived or died. Grim stuff, but you can be sure there's someone in The Listener who embodies all the good qualities of the human kind who will move Heaven and Earth to find the children…though he's probably the last person anyone would think of as a "hero."
Race relations are one subject of this seductive slice of supernatural noir set in 1934 New Orleans. John "Pearly" Partner and Ginger LaFrance, a pair of homicidal grifters, cook up a scheme to kidnap a wealthy white businessman's son and daughter, hoping to score a ransom that will finance their escape to Mexico. Only one unforeseen snag in their plans: the daughter, Nilla, is a "listener" in psychic rapport with Curtis Mayhew, a young black man. Though the two have never met in person, Curtis feels compelled to come to Nilla's rescue when she and her brother are abducted, even though it means convincing the incredulous of his special talents and navigating difficult racial dynamics of '30s Louisiana. McCammon (Freedom of the Mask) conjures believable characters whose sympathetic plight pulls the reader headlong into the novel's volatile mix of crime and fantasy. Its tense finale, paced at breakneck speed, will have readers turning pages until its surprise-packed end.)\n
Why Am I Not Surprised
Gawd—when the hell will stupid authors quit including protagonists who are animal killers. Is it to paint a picture of how evil a character is? You don’t need to horrifically kill animals and puppies to get that message across. I want my money back dammit. McCammon, you bore the hell out of me.