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Review: What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

July 21, 2010

What the Dead Know CoverTitle: What the Dead Know
Author: Lippman, Laura
Length: 372 pages
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher / Year: Avon, Harper Imprint / 2008
Original Publisher / Year: William Morrow / 2007
Source: This was sent to me for review by HarperCollins Canada.
Rating: 3/5
Why I Read It: It sounded interesting.
Date Read: 15/07/10

After a hit-and-run accident, a dazed and confused woman claims to be Heather Bethany – one of the two young girls (aged eleven and fifteen) who were abducted from a Baltimore mall and never heard from again. There were no leads, no evidence, no body has ever turned up, and the girls have never reappeared. A true cold case.

As the story progresses we switch between present day with the detectives, social worker, lawyer, and the supposed Heather Bethany, and the past. Sometimes the past takes us to the family before the abduction. Sometimes to this girl who claims she is Heather, or her mother, or father afterward the abduction. Through the glimpses of the past we can see how the abduction affected the family. How the family fell apart, how Heather has been living and how it has affected her life.

It was heartbreaking to read of the parent’s struggle afterwards. Dealing with grief and loss, not knowing what to do, how to hold on to hope, not able to give up hope. It was also interesting reading about the detectives present day and how they were trying so hard to figure out if Heather was telling the truth or not. Every lead she gave them turned in to a dead end, so what was going on? She seemed not quite truthful, but what part was she holding back on? Was it all a lie? Was it partially a lie?

The book really did a good job of keeping you guessing and on your toes. That being said, it just wasn’t the right kind of book for me. Crime fiction and mystery just doesn’t seem to do it for me as much as other genres. I found that I couldn’t really get invested in the characters. I never got in to the story enough that I truly cared what happened. I was disappointed to stay at arms length throughout and found it difficult to get to the end, but I think a lot of people would truly love this novel. If you like crime fiction and mystery, I would recommend this book to you.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. lavenderlines permalink
    July 21, 2010 9:43 am

    At one time crime and mystery were all I read. Not so much anymore.

  2. winstonsdad permalink
    July 21, 2010 10:07 am

    It does sound interesting amy ,all the best stu

  3. July 21, 2010 10:21 am

    I’ll read a mystery if I’m in the right mood and just need a change from my normal stuff, but mostly they dont’ work for me either. I’m not sure any crime thriller/fiction has ever worked for me, though.

    • July 21, 2010 3:28 pm

      I don’t know what it is with mystery and me Amanda. Sometimes I like them, usually not so much.

  4. July 21, 2010 11:17 am

    I’m not a crime fiction/mystery reader either. My interest peaked when you wrote about the story of the parents’ loss, but I think that for a story like that I had better look outside the crime genre.

    • July 21, 2010 3:29 pm

      Yes, too bad Iris, it is good but… if mystery isn’t your thing you might be left only thinking meh like I was.

  5. July 21, 2010 11:36 am

    I like crime fiction/mystery every so often. This one sounds interesting – I might give it a try.

    • July 21, 2010 3:30 pm

      If you like crime fiction and mystery I think you’d really like it Tricia. I hope you enjoy it.

  6. July 21, 2010 12:27 pm

    I’m really picky about my mysteries, but the ones I love, I REALLY love. :) I tend to just stick to my tried-and-true authors though!

    • July 21, 2010 3:31 pm

      Some lighter mysteries work for me Eva, but not so much crime fiction. A lot of people love Lippman’s books though so this might be a good author to try. I’m not sure!

  7. July 21, 2010 2:16 pm

    I am not really that into crime thrillers either, but I did have a lot of success with Life Sentences by Lippman. I think it was probably one of the better crime thrillers I have read. I have been thinking of trying this one and really appreciate your thoughtful review. Thanks!

    • July 21, 2010 3:32 pm

      If you liked her other book you will probably really like this one as well zibilee. Most people seem to love it so it’s probably just me :)

  8. July 21, 2010 3:23 pm

    I generally like this genre, especially when I’m kept guessing. But sometimes these books do feel a little difficult to relate to anyone. I remember my husband read this one and thought it was just okay so I never really got around to reading it. The plot does sound good too.

    • July 21, 2010 3:35 pm

      I hope that you like it if you read it Jenny. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one too that thought it was only OK :)

  9. July 21, 2010 7:27 pm

    Too bad it didn’t work for you! I’ve never been big into mysteries or crime books either.

  10. July 21, 2010 8:25 pm

    I have heard good things about Laura Lippman, and if I ever decide to give crime-type mysteries a try, she’ll be high on my list. But I rarely read mysteries, and when I do, they tend to be slightly cuddly ones with not much blood and no police procedurals, like Dorothy Sayers.

    • July 21, 2010 8:49 pm

      Good to know Jenny. I hope you love her books, I know most people seem to.

  11. Lua permalink
    July 22, 2010 2:54 am

    The plot sounds quiet interesting but I can understand your point Amy; I don’t read that many crime fiction myself, it’s not really my genre either :)

    • July 23, 2010 8:59 am

      Too bad Lua. I might say to skip this one then, though a lot of people have loved it.

  12. July 22, 2010 4:08 am

    I’m sorry this didn’t quite work for you, Amy! I’m a mystery fan myself, so I’ll probably give it a try at some point.

  13. July 22, 2010 9:17 am

    I love mysteries, but usually prefer the cosy version. But the title and premise are very intriguing so maybe I´ll give it a try.

    You might want to try Songs for the Missing by Stewart O´Nan. It has a mystery (the dissappearance of a teenager), but focuses on how the people she leaves behind, her friends and family, deal with that loss and with not knowing what happened. And it´s also beautifully written.

    • July 23, 2010 9:17 am

      If you do give it a try I hope you enjoy it Bina. I will add that to my wishlist, thanks.

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