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What the Dead Know

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  21,274 ratings  ·  2,377 reviews
Thirty years ago two sisters disappeared from a shopping mall. Their bodies were never found and those familiar with the case have always been tortured by these questions: How do you kidnap two girls? Who—or what—could have lured the two sisters away from a busy mall on a Saturday afternoon without leaving behind a single clue or witness?

Now a clearly disoriented woman in
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 13th 2007 by William Morrow
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Martha Johnson It is the common vernacular used in Baltimore to refer to being a police officer. It was used quite a bit in the HBO show The Wire, which was also set…moreIt is the common vernacular used in Baltimore to refer to being a police officer. It was used quite a bit in the HBO show The Wire, which was also set in Baltimore.(less)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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A middle-aged woman is involved in a hit-and-run accident. Two teenage girls are abducted from a shopping mall, never to be heard from again. These are the two major events that propel Laura Lippman's What the Dead Know, a disturbing novel of buried secrets and life's tragic surprises.

After fleeing a car accident, a middle-aged woman with no ID is questioned by both the police and hospital administration. Refusing to reveal her identity (and proof of health insurance), she instead hints that she
Mar 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
I got a copy of this book at the airport in Chicago when my flight was delayed due to a snowstorm. I thought it looked interesting and would be an easy read. It wasn't interesting, it was tiresome and tedious, with a plot that was about as deep as a puddle and as hard hitting as a cocoa puff. To say the characters were one dimensional, is to give them at least three forths of a dimension. To say the dialog was flat and juvenile insults juveniles everywhere. And the ending of this little mystery ...more
Will Byrnes
Oct 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Laura Lippman - image from AP

Penelope Jackson is the name on her ID, but when a woman has a traffic accident in Baltimore and is taken to the hospital, she is revealed to be someone else entirely. She claims to be Heather Bethany, the younger of two sisters abducted in 1975. With parallel time lines we see both the efforts of contemporary investigators to figure out whether she is who she claims to be and the events of this person’s childhood and trauma. It is an interesting tale, well done, eng
Always Pouting
This felt weaker than the other Lippman books I've read. I think this is written earlier than the other ones and I felt like it was kind of obvious. The writing wasn't as good as the other ones, but it wasn't bad either. I just think the characterization was a bit much, like the way the woman is described as a master manipulator felt pretty unrealistic and over the top. I also feel like it was kind of obvious that (view spoiler) but the rest of th ...more
Michael Robotham
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Laura Lippman is just a wonderful writer. This isn't about thrills and spills, but creeping dread and wonderful prose, with a turn of phrase that will makes this fellow writer bow in admiration. ...more
Jan 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-deals
I hated Heather Bethany. And not just a little bit either. Even though she had her reasons for her half-truths and lies, reasons that become apparent later, I still found it hard to forgive her. Since much of WHAT THE DEAD KNOW revolves around her, this proved a slightly difficult obstacle for me to overcome. Yet, Laura Lippman proved up to the challenge with an engrossing story that spanned decades and bounced back and forth in time like a shooting star set on repeat.

Despite the back and forth,
This was a quick and entertaining mystery for me. Lippman is always guaranteed to tell a story with a few twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. This one involved a cold case of two missing girls which suddenly comes to light years later when a young woman claims to be one of them. Thus the story unfolds. A bit slow going at first, dragging even, but picked up about half way in and I was anxious to get to the end....the who done it so to speak. Was this woman one of the missing girls, or ...more
Oct 08, 2007 rated it it was ok
Basically two sisters disappear after a trip to the mall. Their bodies were never found and all leads come to a dead end. After 30 years a lady shows up claiming to be one of the sisters. We are taken through a series of memories from different characters’ perspectives. At the end we are suppose to be surprise by the truth, unfortunately for me, I guessed early on. Although the story had an intriguing level to it I wasn't completely captivated. I can’t put my fingered on it, but something was am ...more
Ova - Excuse My Reading
This book had a very unfortunate title translation to Turkish, it is called 'Hysteria'. Maybe it was the translation but I didn't remember enjoying it. The reveal took too long to arrive, could have been shorter. ...more
Jammin Jenny
I really liked this psychological thriller written by Laura Lippman. This book is set primarily in Maryland, in the city of Baltimore. Having lived in Maryland most of my life, I really like the references to places I know. I also really liked the characters in the story, and the ordeals the girls went through in this book.
j e w e l s
Aug 08, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio

Lately, I've gone through a very fast run of mediocre audio books. I'm sure these books are perfectly fine to read in print, but they absolutely did not work for me to listen to and in most cases, I did not listen very long. Either the narrators are no bueno or the format of the book does not lend itself well to audio.

I want to keep a list, so I won't try them again on audio.
Clif Hostetler
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
I was into this book a little ways before I remembered that I had heard this interview with the author on NPR radio. The idea for this book is based on [inspired by] an actual event that occurred in a Washington, D.C. suburb in 1975 when two teenaged sisters disappeared from a mall without leaving a trace or clue of what happened to them. The mystery of what happened to those two girls has never been solved.

In this novel the author provides a scenario of what might happen if one of those missin
Jane Stewart
Feb 08, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
3 ½ stars. Good story telling. Kept my interest. Absorbing mystery.

It’s a very unusual story - when you learn everything at the end.

BUT, when it was over I felt like I had just been told a sad story. Good people are hurt. Bad people get away with things. It’s semi happy for a few at the end, but not really. Overall I felt depressed and sad. Here it is the next day, and I’m still grieving for someone. So, since I read for entertainment, and this leaves me down, I’m rounding down to 3 stars.

I was
May 10, 2007 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenny Baker
May 02, 2019 marked it as did-not-finish
I wanted to try a Laura Lippman novel, because she's from my home state of Maryland. I listened to about 25% of the audiobook before I finally gave up. The narration was so boring, but if I had read the book, I think I would have thought the same thing about the writing style. There's way too much telling and not nearly enough tension. After listening to this for about two hours, I'm ready for a nap. It really sucked the energy right out of me. Sorry, it just didn't work for me. ...more
Jun 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Laura Lippman writes a mystery series described as "chick lit with guns," and that is about as far from my genre of choice as you can get. But facing a long drive and a paucity of choices, I picked up this audiobook - a standalone, not part of the series - and I really enjoyed it. So shame on snobby me.

The heart of the story is a question of identity. At the start of the novel, a woman has a traffic accident and tells the police that she is one of the Bethany Girls, two sisters who disappeared f
Jul 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: mystery fans
This was a really good book that totally taps into the fears in the early 70s of kids being kidnapped. When a women is caught after leaving the scene of an accident, she claims to be one of two sisters who were kidnapped from a local mall 20+ years earlier. The book bounces around those 20+ years from several different perspectives while describing what happened to the girls and those that were left behind. Throughly enjoyable, and while I figured part of the ending out before I got there, it wa ...more
Apr 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kirsti by: Janet
I tried an earlier Laura Lippman and didn't care for it, but the plot of this one sounded terrific. Two girls vanish from a shopping mall; years later, a woman in a hit-and-run accident blurts out that she is one of the girls. Parts of what she says are lies, but which parts? I'm glad I gave it a shot--I enjoyed the different points of view as the book followed different characters. ...more
Feb 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Story line had potential but the writers style was choppy (and not in the Hemmingway manner). Transitioning between characters and time periods weren't handled well and made it hard to stay focused on the book. ...more
Book #25 for 2013

Laura Lippman never fails to impress me. Here she demonstrates mastery of the multiple-POV narrative as she weaves themes of self-identity, survival mechanisms, and forgiveness and redemption into a complex story of a prodigal daughter. This is the sort of book I feel I should read again just to see how she pulls off such a feat of legerdemain.

For starters, there is the central question of the story: Is this middle-aged accident victim really who she claims to be? Or is she spin
Aug 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to jo by: linda
this woman knows how to write. i'm exactly one chapter in, and i already feel relieved. thank god in heaven for good writers who know how to soothe our pain.


i finished it and am impressed by this novel, especially a) the consistently excellent writing, b) the representation of minor characters and c) the portrayal of the mind of an adult with a history of horrendous childhood trauma. what left me a little bit cold was the conclusion.


for one, it's pretty clearly announced befo
Jan 19, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
This is the second Laura Lippman book that I have read....and it will be the last. While I liked the outcome of the book, that was about all that I liked. I found myself so confused about what was going on, and the author went around and around in circles so much - saying the exact same thing over and over again, that i found myself skipping pages that really have zero effect on the outcome of the book! Who cares that the mother was learning Spanish! Who cares about the detectives sex life - whi ...more
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More on the twisty thriller kick. This one was AWESOME; I wish more of them were like this. Lippman has the same knack as Jennifer McMahon for all those little details from your childhood that you've forgotten (I wanted the nurse kit more than the doctor kit, just like Sunny, because it had a girl on it and the other had a boy, and this was taken as a troubling lack of ambition by my father). Lots of twists; I guessed close to the big one but didn't quite hit it. Big meaty book too. Definitely w ...more
Jun 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Compelling, literature, powerful. Lippman can get inside the skin of nearly any character. Really enjoyed this.

Here's the thing, though: I sensed the big reveal that was coming probably 50 pages before it came--but that did nothing to hurt my enjoyment of the book. By then, Lippman had me so wrapped up in the characters and their various motivations that I just wanted to keep reading.

That should be no surprise, really. When we go to see a Batman movie, we know Batman is going to prevail over the
Apr 29, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is not easy to review. Some of its tangents had depth and psychological clarity, some not at all.

Taking away an entire star was the fact, for me, of disjointed aspect or feel. Not just in parts, but in beginning, middle, end- I continually felt as if a new character being introduced, a vast skipping over a time period, or just changed identity or location had me doing a reread? Regardless there was always an issue, event, participant count or something I didn't have clear view for cont
Cori Shaw
What the Dead Know, by Laura Lippman, is a mystery/crime novel centered around the disappearance of the Bethany sisters from a shopping mall and the possibility that, 30 some years later, a woman indicted for a hit and run on the outskirts of the same town is one of those long lost sisters. The story is told through 3rd person omniscient point of view, and the plot switches back and forth between time periods: the present and the past leading up to the present. Seems like an enthralling and susp ...more
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Thirty years after two young sisters disappeared from Baltimore, a spaced-out woman is arrested near the city for having left the scene of an accident, and claims to be Heather Bethany, the younger of the pair; she tells of having been kidnapped by a cop, who murdered her elder sibling, Sunny, and kept Heather -- even though to start with she was just twelve -- as a sex slave before, a few years later, releasing her into the world with $5000 and a promise that they'll both keep quiet about this.
Larry H
It's 1975. Two sisters, 15-year-old Sunny and 11-year-old Heather head to the Baltimore-area Security Square Mall one Saturday. And they're never seen again. Apart from the usual crank calls and shakedowns, no information is ever found about what happened to the Bethany sisters, leaving their parents at a great loss.

Years later, a woman is involved in a car accident on a Baltimore highway. Disoriented, she flees the scene of the accident, only to be caught by a policeman. And then she claims to
May 27, 2007 rated it liked it
I'd picked this up from reading the jacket information. Sounded like a very intriguing work about missing children. The basic premise is, a woman in a car accident claims to be one of the Bethany sisters, two girls who were abducted 25 years earlier and presumed dead. But is she, or is she pulling a scam? And if she is, what happened?

Unfortunately, this turned into a detective novel. It had a plot easily followed (though the woman's character was oddly written, to say the least). But certain asp
Jun 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
I felt like I was drunk reading this book; every time I opened it to begin reading, it was like waking up from a black out. “Where am I, what is going on”? A flashback every 20 pages; I was confused who was the narrator this time and what time period we were in now while reading. I also did not like the main character/missing sister. I didn’t sympathize with her; she was pretentious, rude, and treated everyone with condescension as if they owed her the world. Even after she spilled the beans, I ...more
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Laura Lippman is a New York Times bestselling novelist who has won more than twenty awards for her fiction, including the Edgar Award—and been nominated for thirty more. Since her debut in 1997, she has published twenty-one novels, a novella, a children’s book, and a collection of short stories. Her books have been translated into over twenty languages. LitHub named her one of the “essential” fema ...more

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