Wednesday, March 21, 2012

2011 Edgar Nominee: Book Review: I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

I’d Know You Anywhere
By Laura Lippman

     Laura Lippman is a former Edgar Award winner. She was a reporter for 20 years including 12 years at “The Baltimore Sun. She began writing novels while working full time before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Most of her crime novels feature a female private investigator named Tess Monaghan.  I’d Know You Anywhere is a “stand alone” novel and, according to the book jacket, is based on a very well-disguised true story.

     The story opens with main character Eliza Benedict re-adjusting to life in America after living in London for several years with her financier husband and two children.  Her seemingly bucolic existence is shattered one morning when she receives a letter from Walter Bowman, a Virginia death row in-mate who recognized her picture in the Society section of “Washingtonian Magazine.”  This man, sentenced to die for a capital murder, has been on death row for close to twenty years and an execution date has finally been set.  Walter wants to see Eliza, whom he kidnapped and raped when she was 15.  Unlike other victims in Walter’s crime spree, Eliza’s life was spared.  The mystery of why she was the only victim to survive has haunted her and been fuel for tabloid speculation during all of these intervening years. 

     The plot alternates between Eliza’s present day terror and indecision about confronting her previous captor and the actual months she spent as Walter’s prisoner.  During the present day Eliza agonizes over how to continue to shelter her children from her horrible history, how to avoid the journalistic spotlight which searches for her as Walter’s execution nears and how to justify her morbid curiosity and search for answers to her life-long questions regarding her experience as a sexual crime victim.  The account of her abduction and imprisonment includes a serious psychological look at the criminal mind and “The Stockholm Syndrome”. 

     The setting of this book ambles from suburban Baltimore, West Virginia and parts of the Shenandoah Valley and Northern Virginia.  There is one critical scene which occurs at Luray Caverns.  Walter takes Eliza there and she comes very close to escaping with a group of school children who are on a field trip.  There is a flash point in the story where Eliza contemplates escape and Walter, watching her from a distance, understands what she is thinking and decides to let her go should she so decide.  Fearing for her family’s safety (Walter has threatened to kill all of her family members if she ever leaves him) Eliza elects to stay with Walter.

     This is an interesting book with intriguing character studies.   The plots are intricate, but at times a bit slow moving.  I expected more of a surprise ending.  The ending is basically fairly predictable and almost anticlimactic.  There are interesting statements regarding capital punishment woven into the fabric of the story which are a plus.  All in all, this was a very enjoyable read, more of a "building tension" type of novel and not a "hang on to your hat" kind of mystery.

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