26 July 2016

Review #494: Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”

----Anaïs Nin

Laura Lippman, an American bestselling author, pens an intriguing thriller in her new book, Wilde Lake that unfolds the story of the first female attorney of her county, who earns her first murder case, that looks like an easy win to her, but underneath the simple mystery lies a mind-blowing truth that will take this woman back to her childhood days when her only friend was her elder brother, who was once convicted of a murder but later cleared by the jury, that draws a close similarity to her recent case.


The bestselling author of the acclaimed standalones After I’m Gone, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know, challenges our notions of memory, loyalty, responsibility, and justice in this evocative and psychologically complex story about a long-ago death that still haunts a family.

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.

Luisa Brant has forever lived in Wilde Lake in Howard county of Maryland with her father, Andrew Jackson Brant, who was a state attorney, her loving elder brother, AJ, who has a lot of friends from diverse backgrounds when he was in high school, Wilde lake High and their housekeeper, Teensy, who is a person of color. And now Luisa is 45 years old, who has smartly managed to succeed her predecessor Fred Hollister's position by becoming the state's first female attorney and also she shares a complicated relationship with her father. And Luisa has bagged her very first case of a homeless man breaking into a lady's house and murdering her, that looks like a clear win for her. But the prosecution takes her down in the memory lane back to her childhood days when she was a little girl and her brother has been convicted of taking a man's life in order to save another's, whereas the jury cleared him with full marks. And somewhere it gives Luisa a feeling that maybe there is a connection between the homeless man and the incident that occurred several years ago with her brother.

The author's writing is really well polished, and is laced with enough tension that will grip the readers right from the beginning. The narrative is emotive and articulate and is secured with deep feelings and also evoke a sense of respect and love towards one's own family. Right from the very start, the story has an addictive feel to it with a cleverly induced suspense that will keep the readers hooked to the story line till the very end. The pacing of the story line is moderate, yet it picks up sped near the climax thereby not letting the readers lose their interest from the story line.

The mystery is concocted very smartly with lots of unexpected twists and turns that only make this story even more intriguing. The author unravels this mystery layer by layer as in the background there are two stories running, one in the past and another in the present, and the author has strikingly bound those two parallel story lines in a way that will blow the anticipating readers' minds. Also the story has lots of poignant moments, that are deep and will move the readers.

The characters in this book are quite well developed, complete with their realistic demeanor that is flawed yet smart. The interesting mix of diverse characters who are someway related to one another will leave an impression in the minds of the readers. The main character, Luisa, has gone through so much grief and loss in her life, yet her mind is sharp and despite of the emotional attachments, she is projected as someone clear headed and determined to get to the bottom of this mind-twisting mystery. The author has captured her voice both in her childhood days and in her mid age days quite strikingly. Her fearless yet defective behavior will make the readers relate to her and keep rooting for her till the very end.

The backdrop of this story set in the modern and an uprising suburb of Howard Country in Wilde Lake, where the author herself grew up, is vividly captured, through its landscapes to its people to its streets to its culture to its society, reading which, the readers will be instantly transferred to this evocative destination, that the author has descriptively and strikingly arrested through her story line.

In a nutshell, this is a riveting yet poignant mystery that revolves in Wilde Lake as well as in a simple family, where secrets and lies come sprawling out of the twisted maze of the mystery.

Verdict: A fresh take of the crime fiction genre with this captivating thriller.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Laura Lippman's publishers for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book.

Author Info:
Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor’s Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association.
Ms. Lippman grew up in Baltimore and attended city schools through ninth grade. After graduating from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md., Ms. Lippman attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Her other newspaper jobs included the Waco Tribune-Herald and the San Antonio Light.
Ms. Lippman returned to Baltimore in 1989 and has lived there since. She is the daughter of Theo Lippman Jr., a Sun editorial writer who retired in 1995 but continues to freelance for several newspapers, and Madeline Mabry Lippman, a former Baltimore City school librarian. Her sister, Susan, is a local bookseller.
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