Kerry's Reviews > And When She Was Good

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman
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Aug 19, 2012

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bookshelves: thriller, suspense, contemporary
Read in August, 2012

Laura Lippman is one of my favorite authors; I can always count on her to deliver a solid thriller with a special combination of ordinary setting (Baltimore and its surroundings), superficially ordinary characters with extraordinary pasts, challenging and interesting perspectives, great pacing, and terrific writing. I enjoyed this book for all of those ingredients, but not as much as I normally do.

I found Helen/Heloise a difficult character to warm up to - not because I didn't like her or understand her or sympathize with her (I did), but, I think, because the modern Heloise has deliberately made herself aloof and isolated, and that's the character we spend a lot of time with initially. I learned from the Afterword that Lippman introduced Heloise/Helen in a couple of earlier short stories; perhaps if I'd had those backstories in my head my response would have been different. She is still a very interesting character, and I'll be thinking about her and her relationships with her mother and her son for quite a while.

I also found the pacing to be a bit slow for a suspense novel. I enjoyed reading about Helen/Heloise's life, and was intrigued with her relationship with Val - definitely one of those challenging perspectives Lippman is so good at presenting. But I never felt that buildup of tension and fear that keeps me, as a reader, both frantically turning pages and wanting to close my eyes so as to not see the killer jump out from behind the door. I knew who the killer was going to be pretty immediately. I knew who was going to be behind the attempt, and more or less why. And rather than being surprised by the timing, I could see by the page count that it had to happen soon because I was getting to the end of the book.

All this is by way of saying it's not my favorite Lippman. But a not-favorite-Lippman is still a darned good book, and I enjoyed it a great deal, if not as a suspense thriller, then as a really interesting character study that gave me lots of food for thought.
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