And When She Was Good

Morrow. Aug. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780061706875. $26.99. F
OrangeReviewStarHeloise is a suburban single mother who runs her own business, keeping the needs of her employees and her young son balanced on a knife's edge. She's also a former prostitute whose "consulting" business is actually an escort service with a client roster that includes politicians, lawyers, and other powerful men in Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington, DC. Heloise has kept her life carefully compartmentalized for years, but those lines start to waver and disappear, beginning with the apparent suicide of another local madam. The police officer who's acted as her protector leaves the department, the accountant who used to turn a blind eye starts asking uncomfortable questions, a pal from the old days tries to blackmail her, and a former employee threatens to sue over the HIV she contracted while in Heloise's employ. Worst of all, though, the most dangerous, violent man from her past may soon be released from prison and looking for revenge.
VERDICT Lippman's (I'd Know You Anywhere) recent novels have skirted the line between mysteries and mainstream fiction, and this one is no different. While the author slowly ratchets up the tension until the final, blood-drenched showdown, this is really a story about a woman wresting control of her life from the men who done her wrong and then using her considerable resources to defend what she's built. It's a page-turner, but often an uncomfortable one, as enough of Heloise's backstory is included for readers to understand some of her more unsavory decisions. What may seem like a dropped plot point concerning her stepsister, Meghan, is actually a callback to a connected novella, "Scratch a Woman," which appears in the 2008 collection Hardly Knew Her, but the novel easily can be enjoyed on its own.

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