Prom Mom

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This was on the WSJ's Best Mysteries of 2023 list. I've read and liked a couple of Laura Lippman's books in the past (By A Spider's Thread, Lady in the Lake). This one did not impress me that much. The back cover has laudatory blurbs from Emma Straub, Megan Abbot, and Alison Gaylin; this tells me that you might like it better than I did if you are a lady.

Back in 1997, Amber Glass inveigles Joe Simpson into taking her to their Baltimore-area high school prom. Little does anyone know that the night's events won't go as planned; Joe ditches Amber in a hotel room to take up once more with the girl that had dumped him. And in the morning—I am not making this up—Amber is found with a dead baby. She becomes tabloid fodder, see the title. And Joe gets tagged as "Cad Dad", but escapes any sort of serious critical publicity.

Fast forward to 2019; Amber returns to Baltimore, and opens an art gallery, concentrating on the oeuvre of the recently incarcerated. And Joe is also in the area, trying to make a successful career in commercial real estate, married to a successful plastic surgeon. Do they meet up? Of course.

Where's the mystery? Where is even the crime? Could be that dead baby, given that Amber's memory of what happened that night is hazy. But that's left unexplored for nearly the entire book. (Sorry, semi-spoiler there.) Instead there are hundreds of pages filled with, to my male eyes, boring and irrelevant detail. (Page 74: "In her shotgun rental house back in New Orleans, she had painted the front room coral, her bedroom navy blue, and the kitchen butter yellow." Zzzz.)

Arguably, suspense builds throughout, as we discover just how big a cad the Cad Dad is. But not much happens, or is revealed, until the last 20 or so pages.

Last Modified 2024-07-05 12:21 PM EDT