Lippman`s latest is a subtle story

London: Eliza Benedict is a stay-at-home suburban mom with a sweet young son, a surly teenage daughter and an adoring and understanding husband. Walter Bowman is a serial killer who has been on Maryland`s death row for 20 years. He has finally exhausted his avenues for appeal.

One day, an envelope arrives in the mail and shatters Eliza`s peaceful existence. The letter is from Bowman. I saw a photograph of you in a magazine, he tells her. You are older now, he adds, "but I`d know you anywhere."

Years ago, when Eliza was just 15, Bowman kidnapped her, raped her and held her prisoner for weeks. While she was his prisoner, she saw him murder another girl. Police finally rescued her when they pulled Bowman over for a routine traffic stop. Her testimony put him on death row.

Over the years, Eliza successfully walled off her past, but Bowman`s letter brings it all back. Why, she wonders, did this monster let her live? Eliza loathes the very idea of any contact with Bowman, but he is the only one who can answer her question, and in a matter of weeks he will be put to death.

Meanwhile, the mother of the murdered girl, who has been impatiently awaiting Bowman`s execution, has a question of her own: Was Eliza really a victim, or might she have been an accomplice?

In ‘I`d Know You Anywhere,’ Laura Lippman takes us into the heads of each of these three characters, exploring their doubts, suspicions and terrors.

This is the 17th novel by Lippman, a former Baltimore Sun reporter and the new president of the Mystery Writers of America. Many of her books chronicle the adventures of Tess Monaghan, a Baltimore private investigator, but her stand-alone novels, including the brilliant "Life Sentences" and "What the Dead Know," are her finest. It is a body of work that places her in the company of George Pelecanos and Thomas H. Cook as one of our most accomplished literary crime novelists. "I`d Know You Anywhere" ranks with her very best.

Lippman says the novel, like most of her stand-alones, was inspired by a true story, but she declines to identify it, and there is little point in guessing. "The real case," she says, "is unrecognizable, even to those who know it well, in this particular incarnation."

It is a subtle and complex story of survivor guilt, revenge, family relationships and psychological manipulation. Bowman, in particular, is a master manipulator although after a while, the reader starts to wonder who is manipulating whom.

The book also explores the morality of the death penalty, but Lippman never preaches. Instead, she examines the question from the perspective of each major character while never so much as hinting at her own view on the subject.

As Bowman`s date with death draws near, the suspense builds. Will Eliza`s question ever be answered? Could it be that she was somehow complicit in the other girl`s death? Might Bowman`s hints that he had additional victims get him a temporary reprieve? In a stunning final scene, Lippman provides all the answers, some of which you will never see coming.

Bureau Report


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