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30th June
2010
written by Steph

One of the things I was most excited about when Tony and I embarked into the world of e-readers was discovering the plethora of e-books that were now open to me via our public library. I’ve probably spent at least 3 hours clicking through the catalog of available titles, making a list (and checking it twice), of all the books I can’t wait to get my grubby little jamhands on FOR FREE. So exciting. Finally I’ll get to try stuff like Joshua Ferris’s The Unnamed, and if the desire should ever strike to continue with the Stieg Larsson trilogy, well, I can do that too. Maybe I’ll check out those Sookie Stackhouse books. You just never know. Of course, there’s an awful lot of… well, crap might not be the right word, but let’s just say that for every The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie in the collection, there are at least 15 Harlequin romances, with titles like The Billionaire’s Bride and The Greek Shipping Heir’s Lovechild. I’m sure they have their fans, but they’re not really my speed. All to say that I had to do some digging to find the diamonds. And when I found What The Dead Know, a book I had actually considered reading many times, I snapped and quickly borrowed it. I had heard good things about it, and it seemed like a worthy book to break my e-reader in with (except without any actual breaking). What the Dead Know is a crime thriller that takes place in Baltimore, Maryland and involves the resurrection of the cold kidnapping case of the two Bethany sisters who had gone missing about 20 years prior. The two girls had gone to the mall one Saturday never to return home. Their bodies never showed up, though it was assumed they were murdered. Flash-forward to 2005 when a woman who has just been in a terrible traffic accident claims to Heather Bethany, the younger of the two Bethany siblings. Only she hasn’t gone by that name for years and won’t give the police any information about her current identity or what she’s been doing in the intervening 20 years. Lead investigator Kevin Infante smells a rat and doesn’t think Heather is who she says she is, but there’s no denying she definitely knows certain things about the Bethany case that she shouldn’t otherwise be privy to. What follows is a twisted knot of deception and half-truths that will keep you guessing to the very end. Ever since I discovered Tana French last year, I’ve been on the lookout for rich and well-written psychological thrillers. I pretty much judge all thrillers against French, I must say, and What the Dead Know stacked up fairly well. The plot was engaging and the writing was strong, and it certainly kept me on my toes. I did at one point guess the twist involving Heather, but I was never quite sure so I didn’t feel that the mystery was transparent or feeble. That’s not to say it’s a perfect story; certain character motivations are opaque and certain things happen that I just couldn’t accept as what people would really do, but I still found the book fun even if plausibility was stretched at times. It did mean that I was somewhat unsatisfied at the end, simply because much of the difficulties in the case seemed to stem from people behaving unreasonably and illogically, but maybe this is realistic even if it is annoying. Also, more than a mystery, What the Dead Know is a thoughtful look into family dynamics and the way tragedies can cause infinitesimal fissures to crack wide open and devour us whole. It was a good blend of page-turning plot with psychological depth, and that I certainly appreciated.  I also really enjoyed the way the book was written in terms of it’s structure; Lippman drags readers back and forth through time, so that we see the Bethany story unravel from multiple perspectives and with varying degrees of information. I thought this was a pretty interesting way of tackling a mystery, rather than simply revealing information in a conventional, linear fashion. At times it could get confusing, but admittedly, I enjoy books that play with timelines so for me it worked and made things just a bit more interesting. All in all, I thought this was a fun read – great for summer vacation reading or lounging by the pool! If you’re a fan of literary thrillers with plenty of twists, I recommend it. It’s a book I’ve been interested in picking up for probably the last two years but just never got around to it, so I’m glad my e-reader gave me the push to do so! I definitely think my e-reader is going to help me branch out of the box and try things I might not otherwise have considered, something that might backfire but might also produce unexpected rewards as well! Rating: 3.5 out of 5

12 Comments

  1. 06/30/2010

    Oh, so glad you liked this one! I really enjoyed Life Sentences by Lippman, and had heard this this book was good as well. I think she writes thrillers that are smart, which is something I really like. Too many of them are derivative and feature the same twists, the same characters, and the same plots recycled over and over. I think that this is one that I really need to read. I also bought a copy of The Likeness last month after you recommended it to me. I am really looking forward to it!

  2. 06/30/2010

    I am glad you liked this one! I, like you, prefer literary mysteries, which can definitely be harder to come across than regular mysteries, and Tana French is a favorite of mine!

  3. Getting free books is a major plus point for ereaders, but I’m still not convinced enough to get one. I do like literary thrillers with plenty of twists so perhaps I’ll read this at some point, but you haven’t persuaded me to buy a copy – I’ll have to see if my library has a copy!

  4. 06/30/2010

    I raced through this when I read it, and found it a thumping good read. Didja know she’s married to David Simon, of The Wire?

  5. Kathleen
    06/30/2010

    Well first of all, you sure can’t beat FREE! I’ve heard about this one before and have had it on my list for awhile. I have a camping trip coming up in a week so maybe I’ll plan to bring it along then.

  6. 06/30/2010

    @ zibilee: This was my first Lippman, and I thought it was great. Didn’t really feel like it was recycling plots, which was definitely a bonus! I really hope you enjoy The Likeness!
     
    @ Stephanie: The new Tana French comes out in two weeks so get excited for that! It’s really good! I’ll be posting a review closer to the release date.
     
    @ Jackie: To offset the cost of an e-reader you’d need to get a LOT of free books, I reckon, but it’s going to be critical for me in the next year or so! Also, I don’t regret borrowing this one, but am glad I didn’t buy it. It was a fun one-off read, but I don’t think I’d read it again.
     
    @ Girl Detective: I remember you writing about this one back when you were reading it for the ToB. I had no idea Lippman was married to David Simon, though I can see how their styles are somewhat similar!
     
    @ Kathleen: Oooh, this could be good for a camping trip! It’s quite spooky but not overly so.

  7. 06/30/2010

    So glad you liked this! I think I liked this book slightly more than you when I first read it because I read it coming off of a literary fiction dry spell, and by that I mean, I wasn’t reading any lit fic (I was reading other stuff: YA, chick lit, etc, some of it by choice, some of it was assigned, so to speak), so to pick this up was like a sip of water in a dry mouth. If I remember right, I was kind of in a ho hum stage about reading, and this renewed my zeal.

    With that said, I certainly agree with your assessment.

    Somehow I missed how much you love THE LIKENESS. I have a copy of French’s next book, FAITHFUL PLACE, that I’d be happy to loan you. I know it comes out in about two weeks, but I could get it to you a little earlier than you could buy it. 🙂 Let me know.

  8. 06/30/2010

    @ trish: Thanks so much for the kind Tana French offer but I was actually given a review copy of Faithful Place back in Feb for my birthday from some friends with hookups! Can you believe I’ve managed to go without posting about it until now?!?! I haven’t refrained from reading it though! I’ll be posting a review closer to the release of the book, but needless to say I loved it!

  9. 07/02/2010

    I read this pre-blog and, as I recall, I felt much the same way you did about it. I did figure out the big twist, and some of the wrap-up didn’t seem plausible, but it was a good enough ride. I didn’t like it enough to go out seeking more Lippman, but if another of her books fell into my lap, I’d probably read it.

  10. 07/02/2010

    @ Teresa: Yup, that’s pretty much it. It was fun while I was reading it, but I’m not tripping all over myself to get my hands on another Lippman. Laurie R King on the other hand… 😀

  11. 07/14/2010

    I was eying at this one but wasn’t sure because I haven’t read any comments on this book. Laurie R. King is on my reading list. The whole collaboration with Shelock Holmes is irresistible.

  12. 07/15/2010

    @ Matt: I think you meant to post this over at The Beekeeper’s Apprentice post, but I’ll just say that I’m full-on addicted to Laure R King now! Expect a review of the second book in the series soon!

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