three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
55-Nov-Dec-2011
user_rating: 
0

A-The Most Dangerous ThingLaura Lippman, an Edgar-winning mystery writer and former newspaper reporter from Baltimore, is the author of the best-selling Tess Monaghan series as well as stand-alone novels. Her newest novel is a stand-alone psychological thriller and coming-of-age saga. Recently reviewed I'd Know You Anywhere (4 of 5 Stars Selection Nov/Dec 2010).

The Story: In the late 1970s in the Baltimore suburb of Dickeyville, two girls--the innocent Gwen, the tomboy Mickey--befriend the three Halloran boys, Tim, Sean, and the reckless Gordon. Their adventures and close bonds form when they start to explore the wild woods surrounding their homes and meet a homeless man they nickname Chicken George. But then a terrible event breaks their friendships, involves their families, and destroys their innocence. Thirty years later, the children--now adults with families of their own--come together when the troubled Gordon, who never shook his demons, dies. Soon, new revelations about buried secrets and lies force them to evaluate their relationships and lives--past and present.
William Morrow. 352 pages. $25.99. ISBN: 9780061706516

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"No one gets off the hook of self-examination. But Ms. Lippman writes with empathy and grace about the buried secrets of friends and the debilitating silences between parents and their children." Cristina Rouvalis

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Childhood is a terrifying place in Laura Lippman's psychological thrillers, but that never stops her characters from revisiting this dark country once they've grown up. ... A mysterious childhood secret is standard fare in suspense novels, but Lippman keeps this device fresh." Marilyn Stasio

Los Angeles Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"And yet there is also something a bit headlong, a bit unformed about Lippman's writing. ... These are not disastrous lapses, but they raise questions about her command of her material, about what, exactly, is at stake." David L. Ulin

Critical Summary

Lippman's mesmerizing tale of innocence lost pans between past and present as it explores, through multiple perspectives, friendships, rivalries, parent-child tension, and loss of control. This shifting timeline, notes the New York Times Book Review, allows Lippman "to circle the secret in a way that broadens the mystery and deepens the characters." Of particular note is Gwen, an unhappily married journalist who, in her search for the truth, solicits help from Tess Monaghan in a welcome cameo appearance. But Lippman is equally convincing in her astute portrayal of the larger Baltimore area's social landscapes and tortured family dynamics. Only the Los Angeles Times thought that the novel didn't measure up to previous works. But for most readers, The Most Dangerous Thing shows that childhood can be a terrifying, scarring place.