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by Laura Lippman
William Morrow, July 2019
327 pages
ISBN: 0062390015

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Set in 1966 in Baltimore, LADY IN THE LAKE is a blockbuster of a mystery. It is pretty much guaranteed that readers won't like Maddie Schwartz but they will certainly give her credit for the ambition necessary to make it in the all-male world of crime reporting. After leaving her husband and child for a more interesting life, Maddie manages to locate the body of a missing young girl, parlaying that into a job starting at the bottom at the Star newspaper.

She sets her sights on cracking the case of an African-American woman whose body is found frozen in a local lake. The Star does not regard this as a story worth investigating, but Maddie sticks to her guns. She believes if she cracks this case, she will get the desired reporter job and she will MATTER.

Maddie's is not he only voice we hear as the story develops. The dead woman speaks, begging Maddie to leave the case alone. We also hear from other reporters, possible perps, and innocent bystanders; the story becomes complicated and layered, allowing the reader to get the feel of this time and place and of course the way crime is investigated.

But Maddie's ruthless pursuit of the truth and the story that goes with it is central. She is prepared to do almost anything to make her way in the outside world where women have to struggle to find a place. She must also deal with the deep racism of Baltimore in the 60s. Maddie does not care about the racial divide, crossing it when it pleases her but hiding that fact from her white bosses and the rest of white society.

Maddie becomes very successful, although it is not clear to her whether she has solved the murder. But she has gotten what she wants and by the end we know that she will make it and that she will MATTER, at least to some of the people of Baltimore.

Laura Lippman has made an unusual choice with Maddie, an unsympathetic protagonist, but she succeeds in making LADY IN THE LAKE a compelling novel, full enough of the twists and turns mystery readers love, with characters that jump off the page and a totally unexpected conclusion. Huzzah!

Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, July 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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