August 30, 2021 · 4:59 pm
I was probably one of the few who didn’t love Laura Lippman’s last book Lady in the Lake last year. It wasn’t that it was an unpleasant reading experience, but it just wasn’t up to my usual lofty expectations for Laura Lippman.
So, when I heard there was a lot of buzz surrounding her new book Dream Girl, I have to admit I was wary. Could it live up to the hype?
I knew the answer within reading the first ten or so pages of this one — I was hooked. In fact, I will (spoiler alert) go so far as to say this is one of Ms. Lippman’s best books. It’s something different for her — a thriller that isn’t necessarily plot-driven but is instead a character exploration. In her afterward, Lippman says that she wrote this response to Stephen King’s Misery and that connection is easy to see.
Gerry is a best-selling writer whose seemingly done it all. His first novel won critical and popular acclaim and while he’s published several books since none has burned quite as brightly. Along the way, Gerry has left quite a wake behind him in his personal life, including multiple ex-wives, various affairs, and an ex-girlfriend who has been squatting at the apartment he sold in New York when he moved to Baltimore to care for his dying mother. Gerry is opinionated, arrogant, and deeply flawed. In other words, he’s a human being who happens to be a best-selling author. Continue reading →
September 24, 2020 · 11:03 am
There’s something intimate about getting to hear an author read their work. In the case of Laura Lippman’s collection of essays My Life as a Villainess, it feels just a bit more intimate — almost as if you’ve been invited to coffee with Lippman and are getting the chance to hear bits and pieces of her story.
Fifteen essays covering a wide range of topics from our obsession with celebrities to her early days as a newspaper reporter in Waco to her thoughts on her unconventional approach to motherhood. (One particular sentence that haunted me is about seeing your child go through the same types of things you once faced and being powerless to stop them from hurting someone you love so much). As with her fictional writing, Lippman hits home time and again with observations and a self-deprecating sense of humor. Lippman turns the searchlight on herself time and again, detailing not only successes but also shortcomings in her life. At times as I listened to this audiobook, I felt myself thinking, “You know I could be friends with Laura Lippman.” That is, of course, assuming we lived anywhere near each other and I didn’t try to man-splain The Wire to her (I must apologize because as of this stage in my life I haven’t found the time to watch all of The Wire yet. It’s not for lack of desire, it’s just that I’m a slacker when it comes to catching up on my quality tv shows).
Of course, as with all sets of non-fiction essays, there are times I found myself nodding in agreement with what Lippman was saying and times when I felt myself disagreeing and wanting to discuss our differences with her (again, without mansplaining. At least I hope I wouldn’t.). Reading these essays, we get to see inside the world and mind of one of the best writers working today. If you’re a Lippman fan, this is a must read.
April 8, 2015 · 12:48 pm
In the day of social media, it’s hard to a book by one of my favorite authors to slip under my radar. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I wandered into my local library one day to find that not only had Laura Lippman published a new book but that it was reading and waiting for me on the new books shelf. And not only that but it was a chance to check in again with journalist turned private eye Tess Monaghan.
Years ago, Melisandre Harris Dawes left her daughter unattended in her car on a hot August afternoon. The child died but Melisandre was able to avoid jail time by pleading temporary insanity. After traveling the globe for years to get away from the stigma, Melisandre has returned home to Baltimore to tell her side of the story in a new, self-funded documentary. And she hopes to reconnect with the two daughters she left behind as part of the divorce agreement with her husband.
Tess’s uncle Tyner Grey has a past with Melisandre — they dated before he settled down with Tess’s Aunt Kitty. He’s also her lawyer and he brings Tess and her new partner in to provide security and investigative services for Melisandre. As Tess juggles her life as a p.i. with motherhood to her three-year-old daughter Carla Scout, the case quickly becomes more than just a nice paycheck for Tess. Melisandre is demanding, manipulative and difficult to work for and it appears she has a different agenda than just restoring her name to the Baltimore community and world. Continue reading →
November 25, 2014 · 6:42 pm
I love a good short story and Laura Lippman’s Five Fires is not only a good short story, it’s a great one.
It’s summer time in the small town of Bellville and Beth is holding down a job at the local sandwich shop while dreaming of escaping to college and a major in Criminal Justice. But when a series of fires breaks out across town, Beth puts her deductive skills to the test and thinks she’s got the tip that will break the case wide open for the police.
As with her other works, Lippman is more than just about the mystery, she’s about the impact of the mystery on her characters and the community as a whole. In her typical fashion, there’s more going on here than meets the eye and having Beth as a first-person narrator helps set things up for the final few reveals and some well-earned surprises.
Lippman’s storytelling is sound. As I generally say with all Lippman works, if you haven’t read her yet, you should be. And if you’re looking for just a taste to find out what those of us who love her have been raving about, then this short story is a quick way to get hooked.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this story from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
October 6, 2012 · 3:40 pm
Along with Elizabeth George and Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman is mystery writer whose usual who-done-its transcend the genre. So it’s interesting that for her latest novel, Lippman steps outside the familiar ground of a straight-forward mystery novel and gives us a character study of a suburban madam.
Alternating between the past and the present, Lippman lays out the circumstances that led to Helen changing her name to Heloise and trying to escape her past. Fathered by a man cheating on his wife and stringing her mother along that maybe he’ll someday leave his wife and other family for them, Helen grows up desperate for her father’s attention and approval. Told at an early age that she has a “nothing face,” Helen hitches her wagon to the washed up, drug addicted son of her boss at a local Italian restaurant. He convinces her to drop out of high school, rob the restaurant and head out to the big city with him.
Before you know it, Helen is caught up in a life of prostitution as she tries to escape one bad situation and ends up in a worse one. Out of options, Helen’s one solace is sneaking to the library to lead the great classics of literature and trying to improve her mind while finding a way to improve her station in life.
Eventually her on-again, off-again pimp boyfriend is sent to jail for murder and Helen decides to try and leave her past behind. As a single mother, Helen sets up an escort service, full of rules and regulations for her girls to follow and adhere to. But the past is coming back to haunt Helen (now known as Heloise), just as she’s thinking of looking for a new lot in life for she and her son.
A stand-alone novel by Lippman, this one is less a mystery (though there are some elements of your typical mystery included here) and more a character study thriller. Lippman alternates between the present and the past, filling in details on what led Helen to her current situation and information how and why she’s made certain decisions in her life. On one level, the stakes are lower than your typical Tess Monagahan mystery, but on other levels, they’re much higher.
An atypical Lippman novel, this one works because of the crafting of Helen/Heloise as a character. A bit of an anti-hero, Lippman keeps up close enough to feel for what she’s going through and the events that led her to this point in her life, but at enough of a distance so her life isn’t being necessarily celebrated. It’s a fine line to walk and Lippman does it with ease. Don’t expect the happy hooker with a heart of gold here. Heloise is fiercely devoted to her son but also ruthless in keeping what she does in her business on the straight and narrow…well, as straight and narrow as an escort service can be.
This is a very different novel from one of the best writers on the market today.
March 23, 2008 · 8:01 pm
The tenth entry in Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series finds the Baltimore-native reporter-turned-private-eye rowing her way into the production of the television mini-series Mann of Steel. Tess is hired to provide security for young starlet Selene Waites (think Paris Hilton only with acting ability) due to a series of disturbing incidents plaguing the fledgling series.
At first Tess chalks Selene up to a ditzy Hollywood type, but events quickly show that Selene is cleverer than she lets on. When the series of incidents escalates into the death of one of the writing assistants, Tess’ natural curiosity is piqued and she begins to investigate what’s really happening with the Mann of Steel production.
As the story unfolds, a number of likely suspects enter into the picture with Lippman laying out a foundation and motive for each person to be part of the plot to disrupt the production of the show. As always with Lippman’s books, the pages turn easily and the narrative shifts between several characters while staying firmly grounded with Tess. The first half of the book lays out all the characters and their potential motivations and the second half puts the pieces into place, leading up to a satisfying denouncement to multiple mysteries taking place within the novel.
Yet despite having several threads running, the novel never loses focus or the reader.
Along with Elizabeth George, Lippman writes the most satisfying, character-driven mystery novels on the market today. As with George’s Lynley and Havers series, part of the pleasure in Lippman’s Monaghan novels is the chance to “catch up” with Tess. Of course, the mystery is compelling as well or else the novels wouldn’t be worth the time or effort. But the balance of character and mystery is well navigated here. And Lippman does the near impossible task of allowing new readers into the Tess universe while satisfying long-time readers of Tess’ adventures.