A Literary Mystery

Lady in the LakeLady in the Lake by Laura Lippman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Synopsis: “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.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lippman’s latest novel. This was not my first novel by this author, nor will it be my last.

I think this would be considered a literary mystery. It is not a whodunnit really, although that is the crux of what keeps the novel moving forward.

This was a story that illuminates a time and place in history. There were discussions about race tensions, religious differences, laws, expectations and class differences. While I found the people in this book to be mostly superficial characters, the 1960s Baltimore setting was fully alive on every page. There were so many POVs including a ghost, a waitress, a nurse, and reporters. Each of these characters showed up for a very short period of time, offered their piece of the story and vanished. But I felt that was by design, people are temporary, the city and the culture last much longer.

The investigation into a murdered black woman was in the background throughout the book, but life continued and there were other things that needed doing. The life of a reporter at the time, especially an almost 40-year old cub reporter, could be difficult and degrading. The mystery had several twists and turns and intrigued me to the end.

The glimpse of a time I have never seen was more engaging then anything else. This may not be the perfect place for a new Lippman reader, but I enjoyed it enough to recommend it to others.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for providing me with an advanced e-copy of the book.

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