Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Book Description:

Published: July 23, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

The revered New York Times bestselling author returns with a novel set in 1960s Baltimore that combines modern psychological insights with elements of classic noir, about a middle-aged housewife turned aspiring reporter who pursues the murder of a forgotten young woman.

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 jewelery 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.

Review –

In this most recent book by Laura Lippman, she tells the story of Maddie Schwartz, an attractive thirty-seven year-old Jewish housewife who abruptly leaves her husband and son to pursue a long-held ambition to be a journalist, and Cleo Sherwood, an African-American cocktail waitress about whom little is known.

Sherwood’s body was found in a lake in a city park months after she disappeared, and while no one else seems to care enough to investigate, Maddie becomes obsessed—partly due to certain similarities she perceives between her life and Cleo’s, partly due to her faith in her own detective skills.

The story unfolds from Maddie’s point of view as well as that of Cleo’s ghost, who seems to be watching from behind the scenes, commenting  on Maddie’s nosing around like a bull in a china shop after getting a job at one of the city papers.

We also see her effect on some of the people she comes into contact with: a jewelry store clerk, an about-to-be-murdered schoolgirl, “Mr. Helpline,” a bartender, a political operative, a waitress, a Baltimore Oriole, the first African-American female policewoman (these last two are based on real people), and many more. Though allusive for one, make a single appearance  they greatly add to the enjoyment of the novel.

Maddie’s ambition propels her forward despite the cost to others, including the family of the deceased and her own secret lover, a black policeman.

To achieve realism for the newspaper part of the story the author interviewed associates of her father, Baltimore Sun journalist Theo Lippman Jr., and included  fascinating historical facts.

Mixing noir with hints of hard-boiled fiction, Lady in the Lake gives readers unlikeable but entertaining characters surrounding a mystery loosely based on actual events of the time period.

Five stars!

Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman

Book Description:

Published: May 3, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected—and first female—state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a job in which her widower father famously served. Fiercely intelligent and ambitious, she sees an opportunity to make her name by trying a mentally disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death in her home. It’s not the kind of case that makes headlines, but peaceful Howard county doesn’t see many homicides.

As Lu prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her small but tight-knit family of the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Now, Lu wonders if the events of 1980 happened as she remembers them. What details might have been withheld from her when she was a child?

The more she learns about the case, the more questions arise. What does it mean to be a man or woman of one’s times? Why do we ask our heroes of the past to conform to the present’s standards? Is that fair? Is it right? Propelled into the past, she discovers that the legal system, the bedrock of her entire life, does not have all the answers. Lu realizes that even if she could learn the whole truth, she probably wouldn’t want to.

Review –

“What begins as a tale of lost innocence in the summer of 1980 becomes, woven with alternating chapters set in the present, an unsettling study of the moral compromises people make to keep their lies hidden. As the events of her childhood insinuate themselves into her current life, Lu begins to question essential truths about her beginnings: Who is her father beneath his comforting words and mysterious behavior? Who was her mother before she died in childbirth? What really happened with her brother on that fateful graduation day? (Free to attend Yale, AJ got rich with the Lehman Brothers, left to take up with a yoga instructor, and now is an “Eat, Pray, Love”-type guru and MacArthur fellow.)

Lu, who moved into her father’s house with her two daughters following her husband’s death, is no angel herself. She regularly meets with one of AJ’s old friends for bruising motel room sex. As assertive and irreverent as she is (“Have you ever noticed only another competitive person will ever call you competitive?”), she didn’t get to become state’s attorney without making political — and personal — compromises.

Ultimately, “Wilde Lake” is not so much a crime novel that rises to the level of serious literature as serious literature that rises to the level of great crime fiction. ” taken from the Chicago Tribune.

This book was so much more than I had expected and I recommend it to anyone that likes a heart-breaking mystery.

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