four-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
29-July-Aug-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-What the Dead KnowRoutine auto wrecks typically aren’t the stuff of great crime fiction. But when the Baltimore police pick up a woman fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run accident, they book her for more than a moving violation. The curious woman claims to be Heather Bethany, the younger of two sisters whose disappearance from a mall in 1975—30 years ago—left their parents, and the city, shattered with grief. As detective Kevin Infante puzzles out the woman’s story, What the Dead Know shuttles back and forth in time to reveal the deeper mysteries that the departed leave behind.
Morrow. 384 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0061128856

New York Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Ms. Lippman writes like a warmer-blooded American Ruth Rendell, keenly observant and giving a faintly spooky charge to every stray detail. … For a novel steeped in such elaborate gamesmanship, What the Dead Know is unusually three-dimensional." Janet Maslin

Philadelphia Inquirer 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Lippman is taking a risk writing books like this, so different from the private-eye mysteries that began her career. … What is clear that, by venturing out in such a bold new direction, Lippman has not only expanded the frontiers of genre fiction, she has also enriched the body of American literature." David H. Montgomery

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Lippman can be funny, raunchy and caustic when she chooses, but she also can take us, with rare sensitivity, inside the hearts of all four members of this troubled family. … It’s an all but flawless performance by a writer at the peak of her powers." Patrick Anderson

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"A can’t-put-down pursuit of the truth, weighing what’s happening, what seems to have happened, what really happened, and where it happened. Through it all, Charm City isn’t merely Lippman’s setting. It’s her inspiration." Diane Scharper

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"Her theme … is nothing less than the agonizing mystery of life and death, and the hope for resurrection when faith is all one has left." Joanna Connors

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"Lippman has the ability to crawl into the skin of diverse characters, from a young girl mooning for romance to a social worker who hides her emotions behind books to a rakish detective who’s messy in his personal life but exacting in his investigation." Cristina Rouvalis

Critical Summary

Laura Lippman is on a first-name basis with the mystery world’s accolades. Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, and Nero already grace her mantle, and critics unanimously agree that What the Dead Know is her best effort yet. On a hiatus from her Tess Monaghan series (The Sugar House, 2000; No Good Deeds, 2006), Lippman delivers a twelfth novel that "cement[s] her new standing as a literary novelist who just happens to work in the mystery genre" (Cleveland Plain Dealer). Her multiple narrators are each vivid characters in their own right; the plot is rich with detail—and potential clues; and above all, Lippmann gives the sense that much more is at stake than a straightforward whodunit. What the Dead Know is a career-defining work from this much lauded author.