Tag Archives: laura lippman

AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD by Laura Lippman

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman isn’t my typical fare. It’s crime drama – familiar Lippman territory – about a madam living in Baltimore who faces some threats to her neatly ordered, compartmentalized life. Heloise, a 37 year-old single mother in Baltimore, has spent the last ten years building a successful high-priced prostitution business, serving professional men like politicians and economists. She makes a good living, with a large suburban home, a live-in au pair, and an appreciation for good food, clothes and wine. And When She Was Good progresses on two tracks, the first being Heloise’s history and how she made her way to the world’s oldest profession, and the second taking place in the present day, as Heloise faces intrusion from people from her past and the danger of being found out and exposed or – even worse – harmed.

Lippman is a crisp, detailed writer. And When She Was Good proceeds at a quick pace, as Heloise’s tight grasp on her life becomes looser and menaces circle closer. Will Val, her former employer (pimp) and the father of her son get released from prison on a technicality, and what will that mean for her son, who believes his father died in a car accident? Who was the other suburban madam recently found dead in her house, and was she somehow connected to Heloise? And what to do about her estranged mother, who is dying and wants to re-establish ties with Heloise and her son? Heloise needs to get out of the business – can she?

And When She Was Good was a solid, entertaining book, but not a perfect one. I enjoyed hearing about Heloise’s business and how she structured it to protect herself, her employees, and her identity. Heloise is a creative, smart woman who was interesting to read about. But she was also frustrating and at times inconsistent. Why did she remain loyal and emotionally invested in Val – a bad guy in every sense of the word – over the years? There were a number of times when she seemed to act totally out of character, and those times stood out sorely. Also, Heloise was completely dispassionate about her job, and Lippman never explored anything about how Heloise felt personally about what she did and the men she worked with. I got that Heloise believes that prostitution is a victimless crime, but I wanted to know more about her feelings while she was “on the job”.

There’s also the classic violent climax at the end, which I didn’t enjoy. (I am never a fan of violence in books.)

I listened to And When She Was Good on audio, and it was a great audiobook. Linda Emond is a precise, even reader, who kept my attention throughout the audiobook. She also narrated the other Laura Lippman book I’ve read before (I’d Know You Anywhere, reviewed here) and she’s quite good.

Overall, this was a decent read and an engrossing audiobook, but not the type of book I will pick up often. Thank you to Harper Audio for the review copy and to William Morrow for the print copy.

I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE by Laura Lippman

One genre I never read? Mysteries/Thrillers. Until now, I never saw the appeal – all that killing and suspense and evilness.

Lippman But I was somehow drawn to Laura Lippman's I'd Know You Anywhere, which is really more of a psychological thriller than a murder mystery. It is about Eliza Benedict, a woman in her 40s living outside DC, who is suddenly contacted by Walter Bowman, a man who kidnapped her when she was 15 and took her on the run with him for 40 days. He was tried for murdering two other girls, found guilty, and sentenced to death. When the book opens, his execution date is four months away, and what Walter wants from Eliza isn't entirely clear.

I'd Know You Anywhere is told from a few perspectives – Eliza's and Walter's, but also two other characters' – Trudy Tackett, the mother of one of Walter's victims, and Barbara LaFortuni, an anti-death penalty activist. These four perspectives combine to create a richly detailed story of Walter's crimes and how the narrators' lives were affected by what he did. The story is mostly told by Eliza, whose strategy of surviving the years after her ordeal was basically to become invisible – physically, by changing her name and moving, but even more deeply, by being passive and unobtrusive and barely making a mark on the world (except through being a wife and mother).

I listened to this book on audio, and I couldn't wait to get back to the car every day just so I could resume listening to it. Lippman's writing style is rather simple and very easy to read. It is her storytelling – her pacing, and the small twists and turns – that got me hooked. Some parts of the book felt simplistic, like Eliza's entirely conflict-free relationship with her husband. And Eliza was a frustratingly passive character (which comes up in the book). But overall, I was taken in by the story and, as I noted in yesterday's post, was transported elsewhere while I was reading. Isn't that, at the end of the day, what we want from books?

I've read reviews of the book that complain about the ending, that it isn't dramatic enough. I disagree – I found it satisfying.

I'd Know You Anywhere got extra credit for being extremely current (mentions of Facebook and iPhones and the like abound) – and I loved all the suburban DC references.

Re: the audio version – the narrator did a nice job of assuming distinct and convincing accents/tones for each of the characters. I do wish she'd read faster – there was no reason for this book to have needed 10 CDs.

I'm not sure whether this book will open the door to a flood of mysteries/thrillers for me, but I can say that I am much more open-minded about the genre now. 

Does this book sound like something you'd like to read? I would like to pass along my audiobook version of I'd Know You Anywhere. If you'd like to win it, just leave a comment here.