Monday, May 16, 2016
Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected—and first female—state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a job in which her widower father famously served. Fiercely intelligent and ambitious, she sees an opportunity to make her name by trying a mentally disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death in her home. It’s not the kind of case that makes headlines, but peaceful Howard county doesn’t see many homicides.
As Lu prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her small but tight-knit family of the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Now, Lu wonders if the events of 1980 happened as she remembers them. What details might have been withheld from her when she was a child?
The more she learns about the case, the more questions arise. What does it mean to be a man or woman of one’s times? Why do we ask our heroes of the past to conform to the present’s standards? Is that fair? Is it right? Propelled into the past, she discovers that the legal system, the bedrock of her entire life, does not have all the answers. Lu realizes that even if she could learn the whole truth, she probably wouldn’t want to. -- William Morrow
Laura Lippman has done it again! Her latest stand-alone, literary mystery WILDE LAKE is absolutely terrific -- definitely one of my favorites. It has interesting characters and an intriguing mystery that kept me guessing; however, I think it's the "literary" aspect of this novel that made it stellar. Ms. Lippman is just an amazingly talented writer... and quite honestly, I don't know that I need to say much more.
WILDE LAKE tells the story of Lu Brant, the first female state's attorney for Howard County, Maryland. She follows in some pretty impressive footsteps; namely, her father who had much success in this office. Lu also happens to be a widow and mother to a young set of twins. Her life is crazy busy as she tries to make a name for herself in this position. When a mentally ill homeless man is accused of beating a woman to death in the otherwise pretty tame town of Columbia, Lu decides to personally handle the case.
Howard County doesn't see many murders, and unfortunately this one takes Lu back to her childhood when her brother AJ helped save his best friend at the expense of another man's life. AJ and his friends were celebrating their high school graduation when an unthinkable tragedy occurs. While the grand jury decides not to charge AJ, that night has lasting effects of those involved.
Lu was only a young child when this horrible event occurred, and she begins to wonder how accurate her memories are. As she explores the murder case against the drifter, she realizes that he might have ties to her brother's past. Lu has to precariously balance her professional life with her personal life as she delves into both crimes and tries to discover the truth.
I absolutely devoured WILDE LAKE. Seriously, I could not put down this novel. I should know better than to be surprised by Ms. Lippman's writing, but this book blew me away! The mystery was terrific, but it was the way this book explored so many issues that brought it to the next level for me. I appreciated how the author linked the two main events, but I loved the way this novel made me think. And by that, I mean more than just trying to figure out the crimes.
I hardly know where to start on sharing my thoughts on the complexities of WILDE LAKE... or at least how I interpreted them! I found Lu's relationship with her father to be extremely interesting. It reminded me a bit of Atticus Finch and Scout because he was a widower who had a strong sense of justice and fairness that he tried to impart to his daughter. Her childhood definitely had elements of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD too with her idolization of her older brother and the way she processed the crime.
Another aspect of this novel that I thought was so well done was the development of Lu's character. She wasn't always likable to me and maybe that's because she was so determined and strong... even at the expense of other things in her life. Having said that, I respected her a great deal. Lu had experienced a lot of heartache and tragedy in her life -- her mother dying when she was just a few days old, her brother being involved in someone's death, the loss of her husband, and more. I found her ability to always bounce back and dig her heels in to be admirable, and I respected her ability to search for the truth even when it was extremely difficult.
And lastly, I really appreciated how this book explored so many complex themes including memory, loss, guilt, and justice. Needless to say, WILDE LAKE would make an excellent book club pick. There are some thought-provoking discussion questions that will definitely help generate discussion. In addition to the themes I mentioned above, your group also might want to talk about secrets, sibling relationships, parent/child relationships, and more.
I hope I was able to convey just how wonderful of a book WILDE LAKE is. Highly recommended to fans of Ms. Lippman's and readers who appreciate quality literary fiction.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.