Mystery Review: Lady in the Lake, Laura Lippman (2019)


Set in 1964 Baltimore, Lady in the Lake is one of the best mystery novels I've read this year. As a native Marylander, I feel like I should be deeply steeped in Laura Lippman's work by now, but this is the first of her books I've dug into, and I'm glad I started.


Lady in the Lake primarily follows the character of Maddie Schwartz, the prototypical 1960s housewife - until she decides to leave her husband and pursue a career in journalism. In her quest to get her first byline, she becomes entangled in two separate murder investigations. It's the second of these, the disappearance of a young African-American woman, Cleo Sherwood, that runs through the entire book.


Cleo had disappeared eight months before when Maddie becomes involved in the investigation, but the police and the papers didn't dig deeply into the disappearance of an African-American woman (sadly still far too true today), and so Maddie is the only person really digging into the case. And, as she starts digging, she starts to realize how much trouble she might cause by telling the story that no one wants to cover.


Lippman tells the story of Maddie and Cleo through a multitude of voices, switching perspective and point of view with nearly every chapter. This could have been a dangerous decision in the hands of a lesser writer, but she manages to pull it off brilliantly, steeping the reader in the milieu of Baltimore in the 1960s.


Overall: 4.5 Sherlocks. Enjoy with Berger cookies, Old Bay Utz, and lemonade. Pairs well with Raymond Chandler's The Lady in the Lake.

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