Published July 2019 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review
In 1966, Baltimore is a city of secrets that everyone seems to know—everyone, that is, except Madeline “Maddie” Schwartz. Last year, she was a happy, even pampered housewife. This year, she’s bolted from her marriage of almost twenty years, determined to make good on her youthful ambitions to live a passionate, meaningful life.
Maddie wants to matter, to leave her mark on a swiftly changing world. Drawing on her own secrets, she helps Baltimore police find a murdered girl—assistance that leads to a job at the city’s afternoon newspaper, the Star. Working at the newspaper offers Maddie the opportunity to make her name, and she has found just the story to do it: a missing woman whose body was discovered in the fountain of a city park lake.
Cleo Sherwood was a young African-American woman who liked to have a good time. No one seems to know or care why she was killed except Maddie—and the dead woman herself. Maddie’s going to find the truth about Cleo’s life and death. Cleo’s ghost, privy to Maddie’s poking and prying, wants to be left alone.
Maddie’s investigation brings her into contact with people that used to be on the periphery of her life—a jewelry store clerk, a waitress, a rising star on the Baltimore Orioles, a patrol cop, a hardened female reporter, a lonely man in a movie theater. But for all her ambition and drive, Maddie often fails to see the people right in front of her. Her inability to look beyond her own needs will lead to tragedy and turmoil for all sorts of people—including the man who shares her bed, a black police officer who cares for Maddie more than she knows.
Lippman pulled me in from the very first. Who was this woman who was talking in her head to another woman, talking about the kind of women they are? And then this:
"Alive, I was Cleo Sherwood. Dead, I became the Lady in the Lake, a nasty broken thing, dragged from the fountain after steeping there for months, through the cold winter, then that fitful, bratty spring, almost into summer proper."And I was hooked.
And Lippman kept me hooked with a constant change of point of view, quick chapters, and a point in time and place that worked perfectly for the story. Lippman pulled in minor characters for some chapters which threw me at first but I soon appreciated the way those chapters not only moved the story forward but built up the story of Baltimore in the late 1960's.
Maddie is not a particularly likable character. She manipulates people (well, men, she manipulates men) and she's one cold...you know what. And yet. She's a woman with a history that warrants sympathy. She's a woman who married because it was the 1950's and that's what women did. But it wasn't what Maddie wanted. I wanted to feel sorry for a woman who felt trapped in a marriage she felt she'd been forced into. And I did...sort of. But a more likable character would not have given the story the friction it needed.
Cleo Sherwood was even less likable. So why should we care about who killed her and why. But I did. And Lippman gave me a terrific twisty story as Maddie works to solve the mystery of Cleo's death, a murder the police don't seem to have much interest in solving.
So, as I said, I was hooked. I was racing through the book. Lippman hit me with a couple of unexpected punches. I was into it so much I was checking what Lippman books were available from my library so I could quick read another of her books. And then...it felt like the story just dropped off. I was disappointed in how flat the ending of the book felt. Still, Lippman gave me more than enough to consider this a book well worth the reading.
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About Laura Lippman
Since Laura Lippman’s debut in 1997, she has been recognized as a distinctive voice in mystery fiction and named one of the “essential” crime writers of the last 100 years. Her books have won most of the major awards in her field and been translated into more than twenty languages. She lives in Baltimore and New Orleans with her family.
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