Laura Lippman takes us back to the Sixties in her new stand alone novel Lady in the Lake. Its also set in the city she knows so well - Baltimore.
The prologue had me hooked - its the voice of a dead woman, cursing the woman who wouldn't let her lie in peace. Curioser and more curiouser....
Maddie is the perfect housewife, but she's growing bored with her life, wondering if this is all there is and seeing nothing but the same for years to come. So - she leaves her husband, gets an apartment and a lover and an unexpected job at a local newspaper. Determined to make her mark as a reporter, she latches on the story of a young woman found murdered.
Now, here's the neat thing about this book. While Maddie is the driving force, almost every person she comes into contact with is given the next chapter in the book. The reader gets an in depth look at many characters and their connection to both Maddie and the dead woman. (Cleo) This format provided a very different reading experience. It had the feel of a serialized news story. With so many points of view, I felt like I knew something about each player, but didn't really know them - and I wanted to know more about many of them. (This speaks volumes about Lippman's characterizations!) Maddie is the exception as her voice and chapters are updated as the book progresses. I felt one way about Maddie in the beginning and quite liked her. But as the book progresses, she grows harder, becoming quite conniving when it comes to getting a story and I found I was becoming disillusioned with her. But - you don't have to like a protagonist.
Lippman always brings the city of Baltimore to life for the reader. The racial tensions, mores of the time, gender and class divides, the newspaper industry (always well done as Lippman herself was a reporter) and more are woven into the story.
The ending provides a great twist - I like being surprised with unexpected turns. And it was only on finishing the book that I discovered that Lady in the Lake takes inspiration from an actual murder.
Lippman is an excellent wordsmith. I quite enjoyed this character driven, different style of narrative. Have a look for yourself - here's an excerpt of Lady in the Lake.