Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman, 4 Stars

I come to you today with a noire review. Because that’s really what Lady in the Lake is, even if it misses the technical definitely–having taken place in the 40’s and late 50’s. But it has all the feels of noire–dark alleys, someone who is prying into a mystery that no one else will touch. Secret lives, secret desires and crime.

It’s a newsroom novel that takes place in the 60’s. Maddie, a recently separated white 37-year-old woman takes a job at a newspaper desperate to prove she has worth after a failed marriage. Nostalgic noire has resurfaced in film and television lately. I recently got into the story of Fauna Hodel, the grand-daughter of the man, George Hodel who is now believed to have been the Black Dahlia murderer.

In January, TNT released the limited series, I Am the Night, which follows Fauna through her strange journey to find her birth mom. Raised to believe she was half black in a turbulent time for a young person who couldn’t completely identify with any race, the series is a fantastic tale that weaves together civil rights, racism, murder and extreme familial dysfunction. It’s based on a true story and it’s bizarre. The best news of all? It’s now streaming on Netflix.

Of course, I love to really immerse myself in a true-crime story. So, if you are similar and want even more inside info, the Hodel family released a podcast to coincide with TNT’s series, entitled Root of Evil. Check it out!

And now on to the review that brought this all to mind for me!

From the Publisher:

A stunning, multi-voiced, period piece – tackling race, gender politics, and the volatility of mid ’60s America – from the author of SUNBURN

Cleo Sherwood disappeared eight months ago. Aside from her parents and the two sons she left behind, no one seems to have noticed. It isn’t hard to understand why: it’s 1964 and neither the police, the public nor the papers care much when Negro women go missing.

Maddie Schwartz – recently separated from her husband, working her first job as an assistant at the Baltimore Sun– wants one thing: a byline. When she hears about an unidentified body that’s been pulled out of the fountain in Druid Hill Park, Maddie thinks she is about to uncover a story that will finally get her name in print. What she can’t imagine is how much trouble she will cause by chasing a story that no-one wants her to tell.

My Review:

Maddie, who comes from a life of privilege has recently seen her circumstances upended as she left her well-to-do husband and their son. Now living in an apartment in a sketchy area of Baltimore, she has landed a job at the city newspaper and is desperate to prove she is more than just a pampered ex housewife.

Maddie quickly finds herself intrigued by the murder of the “lady in the lake,” a black woman who was the same age as her. Although they were two different races, with very different backgrounds, they had a lot in common and Maddie wonders had she not been privy to white privilege, would her life have turned out differently?

It took me a bit to get into this one. There are a lot of characters and a lot of details to absorb. But the premise kept me going and this one paid off. Lippman really seems to effortlessly write in this genre that is not commonplace these days. The writing feels dark, the characters dapple in the forbidden, and the result is a deeply satisfying mystery.

Maddie is a great character. She is multi-dimensional, full of insecurities and dreams and yet also jaded and cynical by what she has already lived through halfway through her life. I completely believed she was a real person with real motivations. I also appreciated that her background was complicated. She hadn’t had it tough in the way we normally think, but sometimes, when it appears you have everything from the outside, the truth of what you really have can be stark and lonely.

Special thanks to Netgalley along with William Morrow for an advanced egalley of the book in exchange for my honest review. This one is out July 25 and is also a LibraryReads selection for July. Get your copy!


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