Lady in the Lake

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This book, obtained from the Portsmouth Public Library, was on Tom Nolan's WSJ list of the Best Mystery Books of 2019. Four down, six to go. It's by veteran author Laura Lippman.

And, caveat lector, it's kind of a Chick book. It might even be a Jewish Chick book. It might even be a Feminist Jewish Chick book. I am none of those things, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

And, as a mystery, it's pretty unconventional. It's set mostly in mid-1960s Baltimore. The protagonist, Madeline Schwartz, is kind of unlikeable: she's self-obsessed, shallow, dishonest, and, near the book's beginning, abandons her husband and teenage son for a lifestyle more … what? Fulfilling, maybe?

Doesn't matter. She volunteers for a search party for a missing white girl, finds her corpse, corresponds with the suspected killer, wangles the response into a marginal gig with a local paper. She acquires a black cop boyfriend. And then gets involved in a second crime, the titular Lady, a black barmaid with vague ties to a local crime boss.

So the mystery bit is kind of a sideshow to Madeline's Quest for … whatever she's questing for. (A postscript lets us know how it worked out for her.)

Ms. Lippman's trick here is to break up Madeline's narrative with brief chapters narrated by (mostly) people she encounters along the way. This works very well. One of the narrators appears to be … ooh, spooky, the ghost of the murdered Lady, who very much wants Maddy to knock off her pesky investigation.

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:06 PM EDT