Prolific and award winning American crime author Laura Lippman (Wilde Lake) returns to her native Baltimore for her latest novel Lady in the Lake. Using two real crimes that occurred in the 1960s, one of which is still unsolved, as the jumping off point, she delivers a historical crime novel that, through a range of characters, provides exploration of Baltimore at the time.
Madeleine Schwartz Morgenstern lives the good life with her husband Milton and child Seth. But she is unhappy in her marriage and there are secrets in her past that come to the fore when she encounters an old school friend. Following this meeting she acts on her growing urge and leaves her marriage, starts seeing a black police officer in secret, and after discovering the body of a missing girl during a city-wide search, determines to become a newspaper reporter. Before long she becomes fascinated with the discovery of another body in a fountain in the middle of the city lake. Maddie is determined to make her name as a journalist by investigating the Lady in the Lake despite the lack of interest in the subject.
While Maddie is the centre of this tale, Lippman develops the story from a range of sometimes peripheral points of view: a waitress in the restaurant that Maddie visits, the man who takes her under his wing at the newspaper, one of the batters in a baseball game that Maddie goes to see. Many of these point-of-view chapters do little towards the resolution of the mystery, but they add considerable depth to a rounded picture of the city of Baltimore in 1966. While these detours slow down the plot a little, none of them are too long and Lippman manages retains the tension by constantly returning to Maddie. She also leans heavily on foreshadowing, including point of view chapters by the dead woman, which constantly warn about the damage that Maddie is going to cause with her constant digging.
Lady in the Lake uses the scaffold of crime fiction and newspaper novel to give a detailed picture of a time and place – Baltimore in the mid 1960s. It is a rich and detailed picture of the city provided by a mosaic of voices from all walks of life. And while the real crime of the Lady in the Lake was never solved, Lippman moves away from her multi-perspective approach towards the end of the novel to provide a twisty, satisfying conclusion.