Book lover. Stephen King Fanatic. Will try anything once. General Lover of Fiction. Reviewer Everywhere. All views my own. Mostly.
Publication Date: Available now (kindle) 22nd Sept (Paperback) from Faber and Faber
Source: Publisher Review copy.
On a searing August day, Melisandre Harris Dawes committed the unthinkable: she left her two-month-old daughter locked in a car while she sat nearby on the shores of the Patapsco River. Melisandre was found not guilty by reason of criminal insanity, although there was much skepticism about her mental state. Freed, she left the country, her husband and her two surviving children, determined to start over.
But now Melisandre has returned Baltimore to meet with her estranged teenage daughters and wants to film the reunion for a documentary. The problem is, she relinquished custody and her ex, now remarried, isn't sure he approves.
I'm a fan of Laura Lippman's crime novels and I was very pleased to see the return of Tess Monaghan in this story - one of my favourite literary heroines, I know I'm in for a good read when she's involved and I was right.
In this story, she is reluctantly drawn into the case of Melisandre Harris Dawes, a woman who allowed her daughter to suffocate in a hot car one day whilst she sat by and did nothing. Found to be criminally insane, she has been living away from her other two daughters. Now back, she is involved in a documentary film, but someone is watching and waiting and Tess finds herself stuck in the middle.
The quality of writing is always of a high and addictive standard in Ms Lippman's books - no change here then as you inexorably get dragged into the world of Melisandre - a woman who may not have been responsible for her actions then but due to her personality she'll have you wondering. Some emotional and heart wrenching issues here, all enveloped in an intriguing mystery and giving a lot of food for thought. Personally I detested Melisandre and all that she stood for, but even so I could not make up my mind whether the death of her youngest daughter was deliberate. Some clever writing and a great psychological depth to the character will keep you going back and forth on that one...
Then we have Tess - I especially enjoyed learning more about her personal life, a mother herself she has worries about her own ability to parent - this makes for some interesting insights and interactions as she struggles with Melisandre, to do her job without prejudice and to cope with all the daily stress that motherhood can bring. Beautifully drawn, she is engaging and a great anchor to the rest of the tale.
Possibly the best part of this for me though was the family left behind and the way in which their story is told- Melisandre's surviving daughters have, of course, been affected by it all. Their Father has re-married and his new wife was probably the character I sympathised with most. A baby of her own now, she longs to be there for her stepdaughters but they dismiss her attempts to love them. The sisters have an intelligently written, often confrontational relationship that will absolutely enthrall.
Overall then a terrific character driven mystery story that will keep you turning those pages until the final revelations - the subject matter is horrific but handled with grace and authenticity whilst still being a fantastic crime fiction novel.
Happy Reading Folks!