William Morrow, May 2016
From the publisher—
Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected—and first female—state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a job in which her widower father famously served. Fiercely intelligent and ambitious, she sees an opportunity to make her name by trying a mentally disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death in her home. It’s not the kind of case that makes headlines, but peaceful Howard county doesn’t see many homicides.
As Lu prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her small but tight-knit family of the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Now, Lu wonders if the events of 1980 happened as she remembers them. What details might have been withheld from her when she was a child?
The more she learns about the case, the more questions arise. What does it mean to be a man or woman of one’s times? Why do we ask our heroes of the past to conform to the present’s standards? Is that fair? Is it right? Propelled into the past, she discovers that the legal system, the bedrock of her entire life, does not have all the answers. Lu realizes that even if she could learn the whole truth, she probably wouldn’t want to.
If I had to name just one crime fiction writer who I think is the best out there, not only at creating stories that grip me from the beginning but who also has a sure hand with words, it would have to be Laura Lippman, hands down. I first met Ms. Lippman years ago when I had my bookstore and would run into her at book conventions but I fell in booklove with her very first novel, Baltimore Blues, a few years earlier and I admire her work today even more than I did back then. That comes as no surprise because each succeeding book has been exponentially better than those that have gone before. Wilde Lake is no exception.
There are secrets in the Brant family but, since the death of Lu’s mother shortly after her birth, Lu and her brother, AJ, and their dad have made a comfortable life for themselves and Lu practically worships their father, a virtual paragon. Over the years, though, these secrets have festered beneath the surface and the day finally comes when truths begin to come out, triggered by Lu’s first case as state’s attorney for Howard County. No one could possibly have guessed that this trial of a homeless man would become so crucial to the Brants and their past.
Lu is the character who really stands out and she’s a lesson in what a Type A personality is all about. Driven all her life to be perfect, to get nothing wrong, to be like her father, she’s more than a bit cold and ambitious but she still wants to do what’s right and she’s compassionate and likeable. Her controlling nature and her focus on the present have allowed those family secrets to remain hidden for years but when some things begin to come to light, the door is wide open and Lu goes through it. Much of what she learns is devastating but getting to the truth and questioning memories is going to change lives forever.
Ms. Lippman is the author of both series and standalones and Wilde Lake is one of the latter. In a way, I’m sorry about that because I’d like to see who Lu becomes now that there have been so many changes in her life but I’ll just have to look forward to whatever this wonderful author will be bringing us next. In the meantime, Wilde Lake will go on my list of favorite books read in 2016.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.
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“Ultimately, Wilde Lake is not so much a crime novel that
rises to the level of serious literature as serious
literature that rises to the level of great crime fiction.
“A heady brew of twisting tale and accelerating
introspection, Wilde Lake at once disturbs and delights, as
Lippman impels not only her characters but also her readers
to question the depth of their understanding of the past…”