Posts Tagged noir

book review: Lady in the Lake

The Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman. William Morrow| July 23, 2019| 352 pages | $26.99| ISBN: 978-0-06-23904-2

RATING: ****/5*

“Alive, I was Cleo Sherwood. Dead, I became the Lady in the Lake, a nasty broken thing, dragged from the fountain after steeping there for months, through the cold winter, then that fitful, bratty spring, almost into summer proper. Face gone, much of my flesh gone.”

“It was only when she started moving her things in that she realized while the apartment was charming, the neighborhood was decidedly mixed. Mixed on its way to being not so mixed. Maddie wasn’t prejudiced, of course. If she had been younger, without a child, she would have gone south to join the voter registration project a few years back. She was almost sure of this. But she didn’t like being so visible in her new neighborhood, a solitary white woman who happened to own a fur coat. Only beaver, but a fur nonetheless. She was wearing it now. Maybe the jeweler would pay more if she didn’t look like someone who needed the money.”

When Cleo, a young African-American woman is murdered in racially divided Baltimore, recently divorced Madeline “Maddie” Schwartz thinks she can solve the mystery.  It’s 1966 and Maddie wants to have her own success apart from her wealthy ex-husband –“The infuriating thing was that her mother was right. Everything about Maddie’s post-Milton life was smaller, shabbier.”– She starts working at a newspaper where she’s relegated to answer questions for an advice column. She becomes romantically involved with an African-American police officer who provides her with inside information on Cleo’s case. She’s determined to figure out who killed young Cleo and to earn a better position at the newspaper. Maddie seems to be the only one interested in uncovering the truth about Cleo’s murder. Meanwhile, the ghost of Cleo has her own opinions about Maddie’s sleuthing. Author Laura Lippman effectively takes readers to the gritty streets of Baltimore in the 1960s through the vastly different and unique experiences of a black woman and a white woman.The novel alternates between Maddie, Cleo and a cast of characters (such as a bartender, a classmate, a patrolman, a columnist, a waitress) who may or may not know things about both women and the murder. As the novel progresses, we discover details about each woman. It’s a classic noir novel but also a strong psychological novel that examines what motivates women to make the choices they do, particularly in a white male-dominated society. Will Maddie’s own secrets end her journey of self-discovery, freedom and empowerment?

–review by Amy Steele

I received a copy of this novel from William Morrow for review purposes.


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book review: Sunset City

sunset city

Sunset City by Melissa Ginsburg. Ecco| April 12, 2016| 208 pages | $25.99| ISBN: 9780062429704

 RATING: ****/5*

When this book arrived unsolicited I was positive it would be another mystery/thriller that wouldn’t interest me all that much. I wasn’t enthralled by Gone Girl. I need a bit more depth in my thrillers. Fortunately, the phenomenal writing and intriguing characters and plot grabbed me from page one. Author Melissa Ginsburg writes a taut, colorful and gritty noir. She highlights the darker side of Houston—the strip clubs, the dive bars, the run down neighborhoods, the places where average Americans scrape by on minimum wage work. The descriptions of both setting—“By morning the city was hot and muggy, awash in dirty yellow air.”–and the drug use “With one more bump the world drifted from the stream of regular existence. I loved the separateness of it. I smelled the cocaine in my nostrils, a plastic bitterness that repulsed me if I gave it any thought. Back at the picnic table I was jittery, excited.”– take you right there.

A police detective shows up at Charlotte Ford’s house and she finds out that her high school friend Danielle Reeves was murdered. The now early twenty-somethings stopped hanging out when Danielle became addicted to heroin and went to prison. Danielle possessed a magnetic quality that attracted all types to her. Ford recalls: “Danielle was easily the coolest girl at our school. She wore outfits no one else could pull off—scarves and hats and glamorous upswept hair. She dressed for class like a movie star at some gala, and it seems elegant, never pretentious. Sometimes being around her made me feel sparkly, too.” Several days before Danielle’s murder, the two old friends met for a drink and Charlotte thought they might move beyond the past and become close again.

Danielle supported Charlotte when her alcoholic mother got sick and later died. Charlotte spent lots of time at Danielle’s house. Danielle partly escaped into drugs and the sex industry due to her overbearing and wealthy mother. Lately every novel unfolds from several points of view, often trading chapters back and forth between different characters. I’m getting a bit tired of this style. It’s refreshing and fitting that this story is told in first-person by Charlotte. Readers will feel empathy for Charlotte and her hard knock life. She’s gutsy and resilient which ensures an immensely readable and compelling read.

“I never got addicted to drugs when Danielle did. After a couple of days of being high, I wanted a break. I craved order, time alone, exercise. Danielle just wanted more pills. I knew it wasn’t any kind of strength of character. I wasn’t better than her. We both did whatever we felt like. It was only luck that what I wanted was not as dangerous.”

A bereft Charlotte decides to spend time in the places and with the people that Danielle did in order to understand how she possibly could have ended up viciously murdered in a crappy hotel room. Charlotte delves into the drug scene again as she hangs out with Danielle’s friends and at places Danielle frequented. She spends quite a bit of time and enjoys a physical connection with Audrey who worked at the same porn company as Danielle. She meets Danielle’s manager Brandon. But she also speaks with and shares an attraction with the handsome detective intent to solve the case. Besides tons of drug use, there’s lots of raw, hot sex.  Will Charlotte get hurt as she delves into this debased underworld or will she find answers and peace?

–review by Amy Steele

 FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Ecco.


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purchase at Amazon: Sunset City: A Novel

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