*originally published 05/05/2016
WILDE LAKE Written by Laura Lippman
2016; 368 Pages (William Morrow)
Genre: fiction, historical, mystery
(I received an ARC from the EDELWEISS)
In Lippman’s newest standalone novel she weaves the 1960s, 70s, 80s and present day to tell us about the Brant family. Lu Brant is following her father’s footsteps when she is the newly appointed state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland. The first murder case that comes to her brings backs memories of her past, or rather her brother’s coming of age story. As she delves into the murder case she is also uncovering secrets of her past – some that should have stayed buried.
Lippman opens the novel with the broken arm of AJ Brant, Lu’s older brother. Lu is the youngest daughter of widower, Andrew Jackson Brant, also a lawyer. Working as a state’s attorney he has late hours so is primarily raised by their housekeeper. At this time their father is prosecuting a big case and the children are intrigued with it. They meet a young boy, who is gay, and becomes their friend. Well, more of AJ’s friend as Lu doesn’t have any friends till later in the book. Lu is living her life through her brother. She is smart but also literal and competitive.
Does the story line sound familiar? Does it sound like a really famous book by the name of To Kill a Mockingbird? Lippman was inspired by the book but it reads too much like TKAM and leaves you dissatisfied. There is a scene in Wilde Lake where Lu finally makes a friend and invites him over for Thanksgiving dinner. Her friend, Randy instead of using a fork uses his hand to eat his dessert. Lu chides him for his lack of manners and calls him white trash. Her father scolds her and sends her up to her room as punishment. This scene right away brought up TKAM with Atticus and Scout (Jean Lousie). In fact, I think it took me so long to read this book because I was spending a lot of time reminiscing about TKAM. In Harper Lee’s newly published novel, Go Set A Watchman we see the grown up version of Jean Louise and that is what we get in Wilde Lake – child and woman Lu.
I gave Wilde Lake three stars because Lippman is a great writer. This is not a traditional suspense mystery but more of a literary novel with little mysteries running through it. I didn’t have any expectations going in and the novel sets itself up quite early so I was not disappointed in genre or writing. Whereas with TKAM the main characters are predominantly good and likeable, the characters in this novel were self-serving and at times unlikable. Yet, it fit the characters and story so I was still able to read the book and be engaged. After finishing this book, just an hour ago…I have been wondering how to rate it. The writing was great, the story was too easy to figure out because of TKAM, I wanted to finish the book but did skim some of Lu’s inner chatter and I honestly don’t know if I would recommend this book (and if I did, who to). As a concession I went with three stars. I didn’t hate it and I didn’t love it. It was well written but I wanted less of TKAM and more surprise. I have read most of Lippman’s standalone novels so I do recommend her as an author to read – even when it is a so-so book. I am going to stop here before I get to wishy washy with this, lol.