It’s almost frightening how good novelist Laura Lippman is at churning out top shelf books that take a twisted view of suburbia. Her latest, And When She Was Good, her 11th, showcases Lippman at her best. It’s not technically a mystery or even a thriller – though there are certainly some white knuckle passages toward the end – but the story is impossible to resist nonetheless.
Helen, the protagonist, is an upscale madam in the Maryland suburbs, raising her son alone and working carefully to cultivate an image as a successful lobbyist for women’s issues. Her dark past is pretty much hidden from all around her with the exception of her old pimp, currently locked up in prison, and the cop who put him there with her help. Another madam ends up dead, which starts to bring back people from Helen’s past (now going by Heloise).
The story alternates between the present and past before coming together two-thirds of the way through. Along with concocting compelling characters, Lippman’s knack for never allowing the plot to drag (quite likely an attribute she picked up as a reporter with the Baltimore Sun) is beyond admirable. And When She Was Good is one of Lippman’s best in an already impressive catalogue.
And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman/Hardcover/320 pages/William Morrow/2012