Friday, September 23, 2016

Book Review (OT): Wilde Lake (Maryland mystery)

Wilde Lake, by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins, 2016, 352 pages, $26.99)

You are your county’s first woman state’s attorney, a widow with 8-year-old twins who all live with your widowed father and the housekeeper who raised you and your brother in the planned city of Columbia, Maryland. Your brother is 8 years older and can do no wrong. Your father is the former county state’s attorney and your brother also went to law school. Your mother died when you were a week old. So, where is the mystery?

Or, are things really as they seem? It may take years to put the pieces together.

As a first grader and our tomboy narrator, you essentially have no friends (for years) because you have to be smarter and better than everyone else. And you are - but that does not endear you to others for many years.

Life revolves around your brother and his covey of friends, both black and white. He is in the chorus at a new school in the new town of Columbia. He saves a friend’s life during a fatal fight with a bully and breaks his own arm in doing so, at a high school graduation party. But he is the hero and your hero for life.

Some of his friends have become your friends as adults.

But things are not always as they seem.

Written in the vein of To Kill a Mockingbird, Wilde Lake is riveting, even for those who are not familiar with the Wilde Lake Village street names or architecture. Reliving the olden days of the 1970s is a fun bonus.

Another Stunning Story by Local Best-Selling Mystery Author!

Columbia’s favorite author (and Baltimore’s), Laura Lippman, has written another memorable mystery, her 21st – this time about residents of the Wilde Lake Village in the city of Columbia, Maryland.

A Waiting List A Mile Long

After being on the Howard County Public Library’s waiting list for two months and 22 days, I am still only number 29 on the waiting list of 261! Fortunately, a friend remembered I wanted to read it and loaned it to me for two days (that’s all it took, though it is a long read at times, especially if you do not relate to the neighborhood or the 70s – if you do, Wilde Lake is a book not to put down).

But Well Worth the Wait

Lippman, a former reporter for the Baltimore Sun newspaper, created our favorite ‘accidental PI,’ Tess Monaghan, in several books and also wrote a few non-Tess books, but Wilde Lake may well be her best yet.

Reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird

The story rotates around family secrets, teenage secrets, and adult secrets until they all coalesce quickly at the end of a long book. Like Scout in Mockingbird, we cherish little Lu as she tries to put two and two together subconsciously and finally computes the answers in adulthood – answers that are an Achilles’ heel, answers that were set in stone long ago and only recently revealed but answers that we wish were not true.

Unique Technique

Wilde Lake alternates between the story of Lu as the first woman state’s attorney in Howard County told in third-person, to reflecting back on her childhood in first-person narrative. The adult-written chapters are named by month and day while the child-themed chapters are titled.

Lippman has an uncanny ability to remember what it is like to be young, to eavesdrop on family conversations and not understand them all but file them away to add to other snippets years later. Another Scout.

And the Mystery is. . . .

Fun! You will probably learn some fascinating facts about the planned city of Columbia, Maryland, and many more about the village of Wilde Lake – from the street names to Wilde Lake High, a model “open-school for the nation,” built in 1971.  Besides Ms. Lippman, Wilde Lake also graduated Edward Norton, Academy Award nominee and grandson of Columbia founder, Jim Rouse.

If you remember the 70s, you will relive your childhood from dial phones to kids walking home alone at night, to teens drinking if their parents were present.

Go ahead. Put yourself on the waiting list. You will be glad you did, but if you can’t wait, Wilde Lake is available for purchase all over Columbia! And beyond. 

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