I sure hope Mobtown has outlived its moniker ...
... because otherwise I may be run out of town for the following sentence.
I don't like Laura Lippman's writing.
Well, let me clarify, which is another way of saying, let me hedge my bets. I don't like THIS Laura Lippman book.
With Bouchercon coming up, I thought the least I could do was read some classic Lippman, in preparation for the festivities. Lippman's returning to Baltimore as a guest of honor, and they sure are excited to have her.
So I picked up What the Dead Know. I chose her 2007 mystery detailing the 30-year-old cold case on two missing sisters, rather than a Tess Monaghan classic, because I wanted to get a feel for the writing, not just a character. And in the past I've picked up a mystery novel from a series, and grew quickly annoyed that the lead of the story far surpassed the plot.
So I began. I was looking forward to some suspense, some twists and turns, and some amazing characterizations. After all, this is Laura Lippman. Instead, I found myself wondering why the heck this wasn't a short story.
The premise, based on a real unsolved case, was promising: Two teen girls disappear after an afternoon at the mall. Decades later, a woman claims to be one of the missing girls. Do you know what happens next?
Nothing. For about 300 pages. Oh sure, we find out more about a bunch of peripheral characters: why they became a detective or a lawyer or a social worker or an art dealer in Mexico. You get snippets of what this surviving sister experienced, before and after the disappearance -- or what she says happened, anyway.
But you don't find out anything about the day that ruined so many lives, despite the fact that one of those little girls is all grown up in a hospital bed, surrounded by people desperate to hear her story. That's because she refuses to talk. Something about protecting the life that she's built for herself.
So instead, we follow a bunch of sad characters around, with their disappointed hopes and lives, their questions -- oh, and a detective who's a deadringer for McNulty: the antagonistic boss, the love of booze, the acrimonious relationship with every woman he's every met, even a vaguely ethnic name -- but the lady still won't talk.
Needless to say, I didn't develop much sympathy for her. And by the time I got to the anticlimactic end, I was just wishing for her parents to ground her for another 30 years. Oh, and that life she wanted to protect? The reason we dragged this story out so long? Yeah, she leaves it and begins anew in Mexico.
I'm not saying I was expected everything to be wrapped up within the first hundred pages. I'm just saying that if you're going to write a mystery woman, don't make her so stubborn and vapid -- and the payoff so far off -- that I don't even care what the mystery is anymore.
So here I am, about to begin Lippman's latest release, Hardly Knew Her. And lo and behold, it's a collection of short stories. I hope, for my own safety, that I love it.