Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know (2007)

This week I needed something I was certain I would enjoy, so I picked this American standalone. I bought itself, and I could see the former owner needed a lot of chocolate to get through the last, nerve-wrecking chapters.

Some of you guessed what I was reading, and after the first page I was completely absorbed in this mystery. A woman is involved in a car accident, and during the confusion afterwards, she tells the police that she is ´one of the Bethany girls´. The children Heather and Sunny Bethany disappeared without a trace thirty years earlier, but if this is really Heather, where has she spent all those years, and why is she still so scared to tell the police her story?

I could write pages about all the aspects of this story that I liked (if only I had written a few notes), but I have been too busy to read in the daytime.

So just a few quotations to give you an impression of Lippman´s style if you don´t know her already:

“Infante had once told Nancy that she didn´t know what bad was if she thought it was something found in a doughnut.”

“He had never broken the habit of speaking to her over breakfast. In fact, he enjoyed it more since she´d left, for there were no contradictions, no teasing or doubt.”

As I was forced to read it over several days, I found it a bit difficult to follow the story occasionally as we move back and forth between the seventies, eighties and the present, but on the whole the various threads and points of view add to the suspense as we don´t know whose interpretations of the original events are to be trusted.

My conclusion: this is just my kind of mystery – intriguing characters, a strong sense of place and a plot that kept me turning page after page until the very end.

Strongly recommended!

About Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

I am a Danish teacher. In my spare time I read, write and review crime fiction.
This entry was posted in American, Laura Lippman, review, review 2011. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know (2007)

  1. Ha! Too funny about the chocolate. 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation, Dorte–sounds like a great book. I hope I’d be able to keep up with all the threads, considering how many times I have to pick up and put down a book…

  2. Beth F says:

    I love Lippman’s writing. I haven’t read this one . . . yet.

  3. Margot Kinberg says:

    Dorte – Oh, I liked this one very much, too! And now I feel idiotic for not having guessed what you were reading *blush*. It is a fine, fine read, isn’t it? I know what you mean about the use of the time element, but I managed to follow it too, and it really didn’t take away from the book for me. Folks, Dorte’s right – I recommend this.

  4. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve never read a Laura Lippman book, although she’s been on my mental list for years. This sounds like a good one to start with and thanks for the nudge!

  5. Elizabeth: a long life with library books has taught me chocolate is not the worst thing you can find in a book 😀

    Beth: I am sure you´ll love it.

    Margot: no need to excuse one slip; I am sure it must have been jet lag 🙂

    Cathryn: I have read three, and I know I´ll have to have more!

  6. Petty Witter says:

    On the plus side theres the intriguing characters, a strong sense of place and a plot that kept you turning page after page. On the minus theres the plot that moves back and forth over three decades.

  7. Kelly says:

    Sounds like this should be my first Lippman book.

  8. Ann says:

    Laura Lippman is always a good read and I often forget about her when looking for a new book – everything is better with chocolate.

  9. Cathy says:

    All of Lippman’s standalones are like this, so you have some very good reading ahead of you!

  10. I listened to this one on audio which means lots of stops and starts (I usually listen in the car), but for some reason the time changes didn’t bother me — maybe the narrator helped keep it clear — and I liked it, too. I recently listened to “I’d Know You Anywhere,” which a lot of people loved, but I liked this one better.

  11. Patti Abbott says:

    This is my favorite Lippman book.

  12. Tracy: it wasn´t that bad. It was just that sometimes when I began reading a new section I though, ´now who is this?´ but after a couple of paragraphs I knew exactly what was going in. So it was only because I had to put it down several times (work has a tendency to get in the way of one´s reading).

    Karen: Lippman is turning into one of my favourite American writers.

    Patti: I also like her Tess Monaghan stories, but I know your taste is a bit darker than mine 🙂

  13. kathy d. says:

    This is my favorite Lippman book, too. I liked it so much I bought it for holiday gifts, and couldn’t stop talking about it. Yes, and it isn’t fair that work and errands, laundry, food preparation, bill paying and other things get in the way of reading, not fair.

  14. Dorte H says:

    Kathy: no, not at all! Should we start some kind of grassroot movement? Oh no, that would also steal our reading time 😉

  15. kathy d. says:

    I strongly advocate for employees getting reading days off from work, definitely. It’s healthy. It helps to keep down stress and often makes one laugh, often healthy. It provides distractions from stressors in one’s life, all good.
    I’m reading The Boy in the Suitcase. I don’t think this will keep down my stress levels, as abuse of children has to be down on my lowest rung of issues to want to read about in mysteries. But it’s riveting. I may need a comedy after this, however.

  16. Good point, Kathy. My daughter borrowed What the Dead Know from me the other day – and she didn´t get any sleep until three in the night!

  17. Pingback: Laura Lippman, Charm City (1992) | djskrimiblog

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