I'd Know You Anywhere, Laura Lippman

Monday, December 10, 2012

One of my favorite popcorn authors is Laura Lippman.  Her thrillers are smart and action-packed and always have an interesting psychological component.  But I'd Know You Anywhere falls short of the emotional impact that I have grown to expect from her books.

Eliza Bennet is a happily married mother of two.  After living in London for about a decade, her family has moved back to the US, to a quiet suburb of Baltimore.  But her idyllic family life in the present has a horrific past at its core.  Twenty years ago, when she was only 15 and called herself Elizabeth, Eliza was kidnapped and held for six weeks by a serial killer named Walter Bowman.  Known by some as the "one who survived", and by others as a possible accomplice to Bowman's killing spree, Eliza has worked hard to put her past behind her, changing her name, moving away from her family, and keeping herself out of the public eye.  Only her parents, sister, and husband know her story.  At least until Bowman, on death row and scheduled for execution in a few short weeks, reaches out to her, asking for contact.  Eliza, seeing a chance to get him to confess to the other murders he committed and give some families long-awaited comfort and justice, agrees to talk with him.  What she doesn't know is that he plans to try and use her to get his sentence commuted.

The story is told in chapters that alternate between the past and present, with certain sections of the book being told from the point of view of Walter Bowman.  The chapters that detail Eliza's imprisonment were surprisingly non-threatening.  Bowman made her travel with him, and even kidnapped another girl while she was with him, but I never got that feeling in my gut that I get when I read a really good thriller.  The chapters that detail the present day are even less emotionally satisfying.  I understood her feelings of guilt, and how she could question her own perceptions of something that happened to her when she was young and traumatized, but at times it felt like so much navel-gazing.  And the ending was way anti-climactic.  Let's just say that all the angst boils down to a rear-view mirror.  There was no real sense of menace, and given that one of the most violent character is locked up on death row for the entire novel, there is no real action either.  I'll not give up on Lippman, but this was not her best.

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