A City Driven and Defined by its Secrets? | Review: Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

4:14 PM

It's official! I've read my first Laura Lippman novel. At last! And, honestly, you can't really go wrong with a book titled Lady in the Lake, can you? Give me all the noir.


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.

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman 
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5) 

As always, a copy of this book was provided by the publisher or author in exchange for my honest review. This does not effect my opinion in any way. (3.5, may be lifted to a 4 star rating. I can't decide.) 

Lady in the Lake had me hooked after merely reading the synopsis. Very psychological? Noir? Set in the 1960s? A city driven, and defined, by its mysteries and secrets? Incredibly complex women at the center of it all? Sign me up, please and thank you. And, in so many ways, this novel was truly an enthralling journey that compelled me to read further and further until its final moments.

This was my first experience with Laura Lippman, because I'm nothing if not perpetually late to the party when it comes to a lot of brilliant minds. Lady in the Lake certainly won't be my last exploration of her work. There was something about the tone of her writing that left me feeling an array of things. Namely, I was unsettled. I had this distinct feeling of unease, like Lippman's very prose is what warned me of what was yet to come and that is one of the best feelings a reader can get when reading a thriller.

Before reading Lady in the Lake one of the most common descriptive phrase I'd heard for the novel was slow-burn and, reading it, I can certainly understand why. Lippman is masterful at creating the slow-burn and leads us down an intriguing path because of it. It makes Lady in the Lake so mysterious and drifts us into the above mentioned uneasiness.

The plotline is amplified and benefits from its multiple POV. I felt like this really took the reader into the thick of it all and left us questioning so much. Each page left me feeling the burn and captivated me further. It added layers to the central story-lines and really, really worked for me. Everything about Lady in the Lake kicked my mind into gear and made my heartbeat like made--it was most definitely what a mystery novel should be: determined, teasing, dark and character-driven.

Overall, I felt like there were some pacing issues from time to time and a few things that could have been cut from the novel. Yet, even in those moments, I found Lady in the Lake to be detailed and packed with so many good qualities. It's easy to picture the setting, the characters, and so on. In short? If you're looking for a highly engrossing mystery, set in a different time, you'd be wise to check out Lady in the Lake.

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