Eliza Benedict is content in her life as a housewife. Mother to the teenage Iso and the younger Albie, Eliza and her family have just made the move back to the States, having spent quite a few years in England. When an unexpected note from someone in her past is delivered in her daily mail, Eliza's carefully ordered world begins to crumble around her. You see, back when Eliza (then Elizabeth) was only fourteen, she was kidnapped and held captive by a serial killer named Walter Bowman. The only one of Bowman's victims to remain alive, Elizabeth eventually escapes Walter and has gone on to lead a quite normal life. But now Walter wants Elizabeth to visit him in the prison where he is awaiting execution, promising her that if she does, he will reveal all the details that have remained hidden about the other girls he has killed. Eliza wants to visit Walter for her own reasons but doesn't realize that he has a plan to free himself, using Eliza's complicity to do it. As Eliza wends her way through increasing difficulties with her teenage daughter and her moral uncertainty about visiting Walter, other people tied to both Walter and her past begin to find their way into Eliza'a quiet life, freshening the old wounds that Eliza thought she had buried forever. Both intricately plotted and suspenseful, I'd Know You Anywhere is a haunting read that leaves its readers questioning until the last page is turned.
Though I am not usually a big fan of mystery/thrillers, a few moths ago I had the pleasure of reading my first book by Laura Lippman, called Life Sentences. I discovered that Lippman was not only adept making the book a thrill ride but also peppering it with the kinds of literary asides I really enjoy. Since reading that book, I have been wanting to sample some of her other offerings, and when TLC Book Tours approached me about reviewing this book, I snapped it up. I was greatly pleased by the story I found within its pages and am now thinking that I am going to have to go back and read Lippman's backlist.
Reading about the life of Eliza Benedict was very interesting. Though it takes a little while for her backstory to fully develop, I could see from the beginning that Eliza has gotten along by flying under the radar. Quiet and unassuming, Eliza makes it a point to always be polite in any situation. As I read on, I discovered that these were precisely the traits that kept her alive during her forty days with Walter. Eliza wants nothing more than to sink into her shy life with her husband and her children and is very pleased that her escapade with Walter has been forgotten by the world at large. Lippman takes pains to portray Eliza as plain and uncomplicated, which is thought-provoking, considering her past and the things that are threatening to bubble up in her future. She deals with the life of a snotty teenage daughter and an egotistical sister but it is Eliza's unremarkableness that truly sets this story on edge. Because Eliza refuses to engage in the drama of everyday life, and the drama of her past, she becomes the blank slate that the story can begin to sprawl upon.
This story is told through an inventive display of flashback, alternating points of view and sections focused on the present. Some of the chapters are told from the viewpoint of Walter, who is not only conniving and crafty but very misguided. At first, one could almost sympathize with him because he feels that he is special and deserving of the type of attention that he never gets. But soon, Walter begins to act like a predator, forcing young women to submit to him and later killing them. He has ways of justifying these behaviors to himself, and later to Eliza, but it was clear to me that Walter was a very sick individual who was trying to achieve something impossible through the murders of the young women. It's fascinating to me that Lippman chose to portray Walter from several different angles. He was a killer, yes, but there were times that he had a human side and times that he experienced unexpectedly complicated feelings over the things he did. Walter and his actions were never only black and white, but as the story progressed, his grays became darker and darker, turning him into the kind of man that he was sure he could never be.
A portion of this story revolves around the death penalty. Though Lippman stays clear of expressing a personal opinion about it one way or the other, her characters run the gamut as opposed, proactive and unsure of this issue. Is it right for the state to basically commit the same crime that the criminal is convicted of? Is anyone ever really deserving of death? In this book, each side is represented and explained but to some degree, the question is never fully answered. How does one quantify the suffering of a murdered child? Clearly, Lippman has given much thought to this subject and manages to present things in a way that fully encompasses all sides at once while never become tiring or preachy. It's obvious that given the crimes he is accused of that Walter is in serious trouble, but does his abstaining to kill Eliza and the murkiness of the fact surrounding the murders necessarily mean that he should be spared death, or do his misdeeds trump all of that? I found that reading about this conundrum from several different angles made me really stop to analyze the appropriateness of the death penalty, and though I didn't walk away with any concrete answers, the book gave me a lot of food for thought.
When forced to examine the situation from Eliza's perspective, I grew more anxious for her. Managing to put things behind her was very heroic in my opinion, but the doubt that she faced about her complicity in the other girls' murders and the strange feelings she had for Walter made an impression on me. Eliza was forced to look at things that she had managed to forget about and took away some very surprising information and conclusions about Walter and herself. That Eliza was not the victim of murder did not mean that she wasn't a victim, and in a strange way, she had reason to be grateful to Walter while also hating and fearing him. But how far does this gratitude really extend? A complex position to be in, I am sure, and one that Lippman excels at creating. And just what are Eliza's real reasons for wanting to visit Walter? Are they really benign or is there something darker lurking in her intentions?
Though I think I liked Life Sentences just a touch more than this novel, overall I was impressed with the breadth and scope of the messages that Lippman manages to portray. I'm coming to discover that there are many nuances to Lippman's writing and the one I think I enjoy most is the very literary feel that she gives to her thrillers. This is not only a book that tells a story, it's a book that asks bigger questions and gives the reader the freedom to reason them out for themselves. In a world where thrillers are a dime-a-dozen, Lippman's books manage to be unforgettable and morally complex, which is just about the highest compliment I can bestow. If you're looking for something that will get your blood racing but that also manages to be smart and provocative, I would highly recommend this book to you. You really can't go wrong with Lippman's approach to the genre, a fact which I am pleased to recognize and which will lead me to sample more of her work. Recommended!
|About the Author
Laura Lippman grew up in Baltimore and returned to her hometown in 1989 to work as a journalist. After writing seven books while still a full-time reporter, she left the Baltimore Sun to focus on fiction. The author of two New York Times bestsellers, What the Dead Know and Another Thing to Fall, she has won numerous awards for her work, including the Edgar, Quill, Anthony, Nero Wolfe, Agatha, Gumshoe, Barry, and Macavity.
I'd Know You Anywhere is Laura Lippman's 18th book.
To learn more about Laura's work, visit her website or connect with her on Facebook.
|A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.