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Book Review: Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

I’d been recommended this one from all over the place, so I thought I should give it a go. See my thoughts below!

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

BUG Rating: 3.5/5

Overall: A slow burn mixed genre (historical/women’s/mystery) set in 1960s America, there’s more to it than ‘just’ the unsolved murders. At its core this book brings to light the prominent issues faced by society during this time; racial/class/religious tension and feminist movement. It was a compelling, intriguing read but with too many different POVs. I didn’t love the main character, Maddie, but I did love the book’s premise and what it stood for. More of my thoughts on this one below, but I will for sure be picking up more of Lippman’s books! Also – I listened to Fully Booked interview with Lippman, and it was super interesting to find out why so many POVs. In fact, it was to show Maddie, who was only focused on chasing that one story of missing African American, Cleo, that she was missing many great stories all around her. I really liked this – but it’s a shame it wasn’t clear enough for me whilst reading it. Details on podcast below!

Again, I have to ask: are you really missing if nobody misses you?


Cleo Sherwood disappeared eight months ago. Aside from her parents and the two sons she left behind, no one seems to have noticed. It isn’t hard to understand why: it’s 1964 and neither the police, the public nor the papers care much when Negro women go missing. 

Maddie Schwartz – recently separated from her husband, working her first job as an assistant at the Baltimore Sun- wants one thing: a byline. When she hears about an unidentified body that’s been pulled out of the fountain in Druid Hill Park, Maddie thinks she is about to uncover a story that will finally get her name in print. What she can’t imagine is how much trouble she will cause by chasing a story that no-one wants her to tell.

Detailed thoughts:

Firstly, it wasn’t what I expected, given the synopsis, I had though this was going to be a fast pace gritty thriller – it was not. It was more of mix genre, between historical/women’s fiction and mystery.

I really enjoyed the historical element and finding myself more and more attracted to this genre – I know, what’s happened to my die hard ‘crime fiction only’ motto! I just love being swept away by another time ….

It was a real slow burner, but actually once I realised it wasn’t quite the genre I thought it was, that was ok, and I enjoyed it and allowed myself to really get lost and enjoy the slowness/build-up of the story.

Given it’s set in the 1960s in America, there’s more to it than ‘just’ the story of a missing person. At it’s core this book brings to light the prominent issues faced by society during this time; racial/class/religious tension and feminist movement.

After 20 years of being a ‘good’ Jewish housewife, Maddie (main character) needs something more in her life. She separates from her husband and goes on a journey of self-discovery, which leads her ultimately (though chance discovery of a little girl’s body) to the world of journalism. Maddie is driven and wants to make her mark – have her story published in the papers with her name by the article. Did I like Maddie’s character? Not overly. And I think that is one of the reasons I didn’t love this book. Despite being a brave, feisty and determined woman in the 1960s, there was something about the character that was lacking – she didn’t have enough depth to her.

I also felt there were too many POVs (maybe 20), each chapter alternated between someone else, but I felt I had to be a page into each chapter to workout who’s POV it was, and during this time, I felt I didn’t get to really know any of them. That said, I did love the chapters from POV of the missing Cleo, and wish there had been more of them, Cleo’s ‘ghost’ chapters were extremely short (a page at most). These parts gave me serious The Lovely Bones/Everything I never told you vibes!

Other than the ‘too many point of views’ the writing was fantastic – the scenes so descriptive I felt I was there. There was a clever twist at the end which I did love too. This was my first read by Laura Lippman, and definitely wont be my last!

Good podcast to hear about Laura’s inspiration, writing style: Fully Booked – July 23 Episode

1 Comment

  • Davida Chazan
    September 29, 2019 at 7:29 am

    I tried reading Lipman many years ago and was also somewhat confused by the book (I forget the title), and never finished reading it. So I never looked her up again. Doesn’t sound like this would change my mind. Thanks for the insightful review.


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