book review: I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

I'd Know You Anywhere: A Novel The backstory: I really enjoy mysteries, and when I read my first Laura Lippman novel last year, Life Sentences (my review), I didn't really love it because I didn't think it was much of a mystery. I did think she was a good writer, though, and when I heard about her latest stand-alone mystery, I'd Know You Anywhere, I wanted to give her another try.
The basics: When Eliza was fifteen, she was kidnapped and held captive for weeks by a man who raped and killed young women. He let her go. He's now on death row, and she receives a letter from him that shatters her present world. She changed her name from Elizabeth to Eliza, took her husband's name and never speaks of the event.

My thoughts: Once again, I read a Lippman novel I wouldn't describe as a mystery. The central mystery, if you can call it that, is the lingering effect of kidnapping. The novel is told in alternating chapters of the summer of 1985, Elizabeth's summer with Walter, and the present day. I found it to be somewhat interesting but incredibly slow-placed. Initially I thought it would be a psychological thriller, but as the pages turned, I found it to be a psychological introspection. It is fascinating and disturbing to get so deeply inside the mind of Walter, and the novel does explore humanity in the face of crime well. There is a lot of discussion about the death penalty (as the novel takes place in the D.C. area, the differing politics of Virginia and Maryland are discussed at length.) Part of my disappointment with this novel stemmed from my assumption it was a mystery. Lippman is a good writer, but this book straddles a few genres. It may disappoint mystery fans, frighten literary fiction fans, and not be gory enough for psychological thriller fans, but somewhere between the three it will intrigue and appeal to an audience more than it did to me.

The verdict: Despite Lippman's strong writing and an interesting subject, I thought this novel was too long and too slow. I was expecting a mystery, but I got a close look at the lingering psychological impact of kidnapping. I'd rather watch an episode of Criminal Minds.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 384 pages
Publication date: September 1, 2010
Source: I received a copy from the publisher via TLC Tours

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  1. I read What the Dead Know recently and I quite enjoyed it, but I was surprised to find that a lot of readers found it disappointing because they'd found it slow (there is a lot of attention paid to characterization, perhaps more than most mystery readers want). Maybe if these were marketed with the emphasis on psychology rather than plot, fewer readers would be disappointed...

  2. I think I know what you mean about this book. Though it's billed as a mystery, it's really nothing of the kind, and deals more with larger issues. I liked the book for what it was and thought that the literary feel was really good in this book, but I can totally understand how someone expecting a mystery would be disappointed. I like Lippman's writing, but it was a lot different than what I was expecting. Very nice and thoughtful review, thanks!

  3. Sorry this one was a bit disappointing to you. I liked the last Lippman book I read, so I am excited to read this one.

  4. You're right, Lippman does straddle a few genres with her books. They aren't exactly mysteries and they aren't exactly thrillers. I think you do a great job of explaining that in your review - it should be very helpful to readers considering picking this one up. Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  5. Thanks, for sharing, might try this one.


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