Laura Lippman is one of my favourite writers. I discovered her when EVERY SECRET THING first came out and promptly devoured the Tess Monaghan series and have been hanging on every new release since. While I love the Tess Monaghan series I prefer Laura’s stand alone novels. I was amazed by EVERY SECRET THING, even more impressed by THE POWER OF THREE (called To The Power of Three in the US) and completely blown away by WHAT THE DEAD KNOW (my favourite Lippman novel so far).
I want to say that her new novel is a return to form but I don’t think she ever lost form. I thoroughly enjoyed her last novel LIFE SENTENCES but it was one of those books where it was very hard to connect with the main character. She was deliberately written as a selfish, self-absorbed person but she served the plot perfectly.
I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE is the perfect example of why Laura Lippman is one of the best mystery/suspense writers on the planet at the moment. What I love about her novels is that she approaches her stories from very different angles. In this book she does exactly that but also continues to change the angle on the reader as you get further into the story.
The book centers on a Eliza Benedecit, who as a teenager survived being kidnapped by a rapist/murderer. The rapist/murder was convicted of two murders but suspected of more and has been on Death Row for 22 years. The title of the novel comes from a letter the killer sends Eliza after he sees her picture in a newspaper, “I’d know you anywhere.”
On the surface it sounds like this is going to be quite a confronting mystery but Laura Lippman handles the story very delicately. The first part of the novel is an exploration of the relationship between kidnapper and hostage and she takes you inside the head of both. Again in the hands of another writer this could seem quite disturbing but Lippman makes you feel just the right amount of empathy and sympathy for each character.
The novel also explores survivor’s guilt and the seemingly unanswerable question which is always asked after human and natural disaster alike “why did one girl survive when others did not?” Eliza must constantly face this question from the other victims’ families who wonder if she was really a hostage and not an accomplice. The death penalty is also brought into the moral equation and really gets you thinking about the story from a different angle.
At times the story is like a wheel that is slowly turning and the more you read the more the angle at which you started the story has changed. The heart of the story is a question of identity and how well can we really know some people. We all try to change different parts of ourselves all the time through clothes, hair, our name or our life story. Sometimes these changes reveal more about ourselves and sometimes they keep parts of ourselves hidden. Lippman has taken this and weaved it into a mystery that will keep you completely absorbed until the final pages. It is a truly exceptional novel.
Laura Lippman discusses her novel here
You can find my video review here