Laura Lippman’s AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD
I don’t know where to start with this brilliant novel. Laura Lippman keeps managing to surprise and treat her readers to something truly special with every new book. This book will inevitably be shelved in the crime section of the bookshop, mainly because that’s where her fans will be looking for her next book, but this novel is one of those great examples of why crime fiction shouldn’t be pigeonholed.
I recently referred to a book as a possible next Fifty Shades of Grey only to be educated about the subtleties and fundamental differences within the erotica and romance genres. And I should have known better because the crime genre is also multi-faceted. And while there are many labels within the crime genre: procedural, noir, psychological, etc. there are also many ‘crime’ novels that don’t fit any label.
Laura Lippman started out writing a private detective series starring Tess Monaghan which are great but it was when she began writing stand-alone novels that her books and writing went to a new level. And with this new novel she goes up another notch.
There are crime elements to this story: a lawyer, cops, a murder – but primarily it is about Heloise Lewis, a single-mother who has built a successful and complex business from nothing. She has a big house in a nice neighbourhood. Her son, Scott, never goes wanting for anything except a father. Because Heloise has led two lives. One as Heloise and the other as Helen and Helen had to get away from her old life to save her son but she may not have run far enough.
Lippman alternates the story between present day Heloise, who on the surface is a successful lobbyist, which is in fact a front for her lucrative escort business, and Helen from 20 years ago, who went from straight A student to prostitute. Lippman explores the world of prostitution with care, consideration and empathy. From Helen’s slow spiral down to Heloise’s determined rise to take control her own life. Lippman doesn’t sugar-coat the subject or glamorize it nor does she put it down or denigrate it. Instead we are presented with a complex character in a complicated world who is just trying to build a life for her son that is better than hers was. And she will do anything to protect it.
If you loved the thought-provoking elements of Gone Girl, read Laura Lippman.