And When She Was Good
by Laura Lippman
Fiction — Crime Fiction
William Morrow; August 14, 2012
From the publisher:
When Hector Lewis told his daughter that she had a nothing face, it was just another bit of tossed-off cruelty from a man who specialized in harsh words and harsher deeds. But twenty years later, Heloise considers it a blessing to be a person who knows how to avoid attention. In the comfortable suburb where she lives, she’s just a mom, the youngish widow with a forgettable job who somehow never misses a soccer game or a school play. In the state capitol, she’s the redheaded lobbyist with a good cause and a mediocre track record.
But in discreet hotel rooms throughout the area, she’s the woman of your dreams—if you can afford her hourly fee.
For more than a decade, Heloise has believed she is safe. She has created a rigidly compartmentalized life, maintaining no real friendships, trusting few confidantes. Only now her secret life, a life she was forced to build after the legitimate world turned its back on her, is under siege. Her once oblivious accountant is asking loaded questions. Her longtime protector is hinting at new, mysterious dangers. Her employees can’t be trusted. One county over, another so-called suburban madam has been found dead in her car, a suicide. Or is it?
Nothing is as it seems as Heloise faces a midlife crisis with much higher stakes than most will ever know.
And then she learns that her son’s father might be released from prison, which is problematic because he doesn’t know he has a son. The killer and former pimp also doesn’t realize that he’s serving a life sentence because Heloise betrayed him. But he’s clearly beginning to suspect that Heloise has been holding something back all these years.
With no formal education, no real family, and no friends, Heloise has to remake her life—again. Disappearing will be the easy part. She’s done it before and she can do it again. A new name and a new place aren’t hard to come by if you know the right people. The trick will be living long enough to start a new life.
Laura Lippman has written something like twenty-two books (including this one), and although I own two of them (aside from this one), And When She Was Good is the first one I’ve read. I say all of this because I don’t have anything to compare this book to, and I was a little disappointed with it. Lippman has been on the NYT bestseller list (not always a good indicator of quality, I know), and she’s won a ton of awards for her writing, so I was expecting to read a pretty good book when I accepted this for review. And it was good fiction, but it wasn’t the great crime fiction that I was expecting.
I am really good at figuring things out in mysteries and crime fiction; it’s in my genetics. If an author wants to fool me or keep me hanging, s/he has to be very, very sneaky. Unfortunately, Lippman wasn’t sneaky enough. In fact, much of the foreshadowing in this book was like (Where’s) Waldo jumping up and down while screaming, “HERE I AM! I’M RIGHT HERE! CAN YOU SEE ME KNOW?!” The hints and clues were so obvious to me, and should have been obvious to the ever-so-careful-and-meticulous protagonist, but somehow Heloise missed all the signs. Which is my other major complaint: Heloise acted out of character when it was convenient for Lippman to have her do so, and that really bothered me. Everything that should have been subtle and sneaky in the storyline had a big huge spotlight shined on it instead. Much of the story (and a few of the characters) just felt really forced and predictable. Because of this, the suspense was totally reliant upon the way the story was formatted. Sigh.
With that out of the way, there were some things I really liked about And When She Was Good, and I gave it three stars (out of five) on Goodreads for dealing with a controversial subject. I am a big fan of Lippman’s defense of sex workers and making prostitution legal so that sex workers have a safer, regulated environment in which to work. The premise of the book is cool and believable; I had no problem imagining this storyline actually taking place. Although Heloise wasn’t a very likable character, she was relatively well-written and I understood why she made some choices even if I didn’t agree with them. I think this book had a lot of potential that Lippman just didn’t follow through on.
Even though I was pretty disappointed by this one, I will be reading the other two of Lippman’s books I own so I can compare the three. With all of the awards she has won, I’m hoping And When She Woke is the exception to the rule. Stay tuned for a couple of comparison reviews…
(To learn more about Laura Lippman, please visit her website.)
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I received a copy of this book from the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review.