Wilde Lake – Laura Lippman


Faber & Faber

Reveiwer: Celia Jelbart


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.

Review by Celia Jelbart

This book is a stand-alone from an author who has written twelve books in a series with her accidental PI Tess Monaghan. She has written nine other stand-alone novels before this one. Funnily, just after I asked to review this novel, my book club selected another of her stand-alone novels to read. It was interesting to get to read two books by the same author, as I had never read her books previously

There are two threads running through this book, the past and the present. Both threads are woven about each other really cleverly, and the revelation of the reason for the past thread is part of the culmination to the story.

Two different fonts are used to distinguish between the two time frames, with an exception at the start of the book, the introduction to the past.

The lead character has complexity in her hidden insecurity, and the revelations of events from her childhood, and the recent past that lead to this insecurity are interspersed well within the book.

Differences in the way that the systems for trial lawyers work in Australia and the USA lead to part of the complexity of the story. To have the District Attorney elected means that the position is not secure, based on merit, but on perception. This adds depth to some of the angst in the book, and leads to an interesting byplay in the plot.

This book was an enjoyable read, but I was not having to reach for it at any chance I got; it was comfortable to leave it to my normal reading time. It provided me with points to mull over: about perceptions of events within families; whether age has an influence on memory. I also spent time reflecting on the differences in the judicial systems in Australia and the USA. The main character of the book has stuck with me since I finished reading, and I reflect on how our past influences our present.