Saturday, May 17, 2014

Laura Lippman: and when she was good

     Laura Lippman has been a fave for a while now and she delivers yet again in and when she was good (2012).  The novel focuses on a single suburban soccer mom, who’s an extremely accomplished madam.  It begins with a casual
discussion among strangers, while standing in line at a Starbucks, about the apparent suicide of a madam.  It seems innocuous, though Lippman scores feminist points immediately.  

      Lippman utilizes a narrative structure whereby she cuts between Heloise trying to stay on top of her business while figuring out a way to start over and her past as teenager Helen with a crummy home life, who fell into prostitution.  She builds suspense because it becomes more apparent the extent of the dangers facing Heloise in protecting herself and her son from her past.  The sentences are short, which keeps the action punchy, but also makes it easier for a reader to breeze along.  

      This simultaneous past/present structure has been employed very successfully by Gillian Flynn in Dark Places (2009) and by Ruth Rendell in A Dark Adapted Eye (1986).  Lippman’s novel isn’t quite at the level of those two classics, but it moves swiftly and Helen/Heloise fascinates as a semi-self-made woman having to rely on street smarts behind a smooth, bourgeois façade.

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