Lady in the Lake

Morrow. Jul. 2019. 352p. ISBN 9780062390011. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062390035. SUSPENSE
Two murders in mid–1960s Baltimore change the life of 37-year-old housewife Madeline Morgenstern Schwartz. Maddie has already decided to leave her husband, Milton, when she’s turned away from a search group of Jewish men looking for missing 11-year-old Tessie Fine. On impulse, she heads to the arboretum where she used to park with dates and spots Tessie’s body. Her subsequent interview by a newspaper columnist sparks her interest in reporting, and her persistence gets her hired as assistant to the paper’s helpline column writer. When she responds to a question about why lights are out in a park, police find the body of long-missing Cleo Sherwood, an African American woman, in the fountain. Maddie may be untrained and inexperienced, but she’s ambitious and persistent, writing to the suspect in Tessie’s murder and searching for hints to Cleo’s. First-person accounts by persons who interact with Maddie—including Cleo’s, in italics—add texture and insight to what Lippman describes as “a newspaper novel.”
VERDICT While short of the adrenaline-fueled suspense of other Lippman stand-alones (Sunburn), this work captures a time and place as it mixes fact with its fiction, plus a protagonist who challenges norms. With its well-drawn characters and lucid prose, this newspaper novel shines. [See Prepub Alert, 1/23/19.]
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