4 January 2012

Review: THE MOST DANGEROUS THING, Laura Lippman

  • published 2011 Harper Collins Books
  • ISBN 978-0-06-170651-6
  • 342 pages
  • source: local library
Publisher's blurb (author site)

Set once again in the well-wrought environs of Lippman’s beloved Baltimore, it is the shadowy tale of a group of onetime friends forced to confront a dark past they’ve each tried to bury following the death of one of their number. Rich in the compassion and insight into flawed human nature that has become a Lippman trademark while telling an absolutely gripping story, The Most Dangerous Thing will not be confined by genre restrictions, reaching out instead to captive a wide, diverse audience, from Harlan Coben and Kate Atkinson fans to readers of Jodi Picoult and Kathryn Stockett.

My take

Some will argue that THE MOST DANGEROUS THING is again not strictly crime fiction (I seem to be reading a few of those recently) and I think it will appeal to many who do not generally read the genre. That said, there is murder, and there is mystery aplenty.

Five children, three boys from one family and two girls from separate families, four of them of an age and one of the boys quite a bit younger, become a coalition, a group. Over a period of three years they explore the swampy forest on the land that abuts their homes. Their parents are busy leading their lives and are not particularly concerned what their children might be up to. Quite a considerable part of the novel details what growing up in these very different families is like. When they are finally and inevitably separated by school, college, or a new house, they and their parents share a secret that the children, and some of the parents, only half understand.

The perspective of the novel is nearly three decades on when one of the five dies in a car accident that could be suicide. Lippman cleverly fills the reader in on the separate paths each of the children have taken in life. The structure of the novel is designed to make you think: from sections labelled GO-GO, US, THEM, and PITY THEM to the occasional time frames used as chapter headings: Summer 1978, Autumn 1979 etc.

So, Lippman probably does achieve what it seems she set out to do: a cross-genre novel that talks about growing up, shared secrets, and things you may find it hard to talk about later in life.

A very interesting read.
My rating: 4.6

Other reviews to check:
Other Lipman titles I have reviewed on MiP
ANOTHER THING TO FALL
WHAT THE DEAD KNOW

5 comments:

Kay said...

This one seems to have received mixed reviews, but I'm always partial to books about children and secrets that can't be denied. It's on my list.

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - I'm a little more familiar with Lippman's Tess Monaghan series, but I've enjoyed the standalones of hers that I have read. This one does sound like an interesting read...

Maxine said...

Sounds intriguing. I find her books very, very slow. Is this one a slow one? I wonder how much of the book is a mystery about the secret, etc, and how much of it "observations of domestic minutiae" which have dominated the past couple of books of hers I've read, in comparision with any "plot"?

Kerrie said...

I didn't find it particularly slow Maxine, but there is a lot of the minutiae stuff but the book needs that to work. It explains why the parents don't really know what it going on. Some reviewers complained she did not give enough prominence to the mystery,

Margot, Tess Monaghan makes a cameo appearance as the PI that one of the characters consults.

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