Saturday, February 9, 2013

Review: WHAT THE DEAD KNOW by Laura Lippman


What the Dead KnowOne half of the daughters of a missing persons case dating back to 1975 makes a remarkable return via the unlikeliest of circumstances. Heather Bethany is involved in a hit and run and is soon the subject of much interrogation as police, doctors, social workers, and her lawyer try to pry the truth surrounding her disappearance many years ago. Complicating matters is that Heather isn’t forthcoming even with her own identity for fear of having her seemingly quiet existence thrown into the media spotlight. Her reluctance to divulge her identity prompts questions surrounding her credibility and subsequently, once she releases information, the accuracy thereof.

A former detective returns from retirement, a 14yr case he couldn’t solve comes back to haunt him. A simple mistake or glimpse of information discarded and not investigated plays constant on his mind. The frequent inner battle Chet faces is both a past and present one which adds another dimension to the events surrounding Heather’s recent reappearance.

WHAT THE DEAD KNOW isn’t an action packed crime game of cat and mouse and police shootouts though it isn’t without drama and anticipation. Surrounding the events that led to the disappearance of Sunny and Heather Bethany and ongoing investigation upon the return of Heather follows the police procedural theme while also focusing on family drama from the then and now. The slow decimation of the Bethany family as a result of this tragic event plays out like a car crash, you can’t help but look knowing it’s going to be bad. That’s exactly how things turn out for the Bethany family.

Lippman’s style extensively captures the mood and emotion of her characters and defines the place-setting to such an extent it feels like your there with the Bethany girls back in 1975. While at times, the descriptive nature of the writer felt unwarranted and padded out the novel, it did serve a purpose.

For me, the best thing about WHAT THE DEAD KNOW is the way Lippman is able to completely flip the story on its head. True enough, Heather’s credibility is a constant question mark, but what Lippman does will shock. A very well and deeply plotted ending ensures.

WHAT THE DEAD KNOW is not the fasted of novels in terms of plot progression, it’s more of a slow burn with information released in crumbs before the full course meal is unveiled at the end. I actually liked this approach, it complement the story and increased the levels of anticipation.

WHAT THE DEAD KNOW is a decent tale and not your standard crime novel that’s more drama than action but still worth a look.

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