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Wilde Lake: A Novel by Laura Lippman (Review #2)

Reviewed by Laurie Weatherlow

Wilde LakeThe Brant family are like Royalty in Columbia, Maryland in the early 1970’s. Andrew Jackson Brant is a state attorney who became “famous” when he tried a murder case and won without the presence of a body. He is raising two children on his own in the newly formed town of Columbia on Wilde Lake. His son AJ was eight when his daughter Luisa (Lu) was born and seven days later his wife Adele died. He relies on his housekeeper, Teensy, to perform the role of mother and homemaker.

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AJ Brant is a shining light in his high school. When he was eighteen there was an accident on the night he graduated from high school. He escaped with a broken arm, but another man lost his life. Was he innocent or guilty? Did his father’s name save him and his friends from further inquiry?

We fast forward to 2015 and Lu Brant has just been elected the first female state’s attorney of Howard County Maryland. She has recently been widowed with twins to care for. Lu returns home to Wilde Lake in Columbia to live with her father and Teensy who help care for the twins while she works. Her first case as state attorney is a murder where a woman is beaten to death in her apartment and a homeless man is accused. There are few murders in Hamilton County and Lou is eager to show her worth and prosecute him. Read the rest of this entry »

Wilde Lake: A Novel by Laura Lippman

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Wilde LakeWilde Lake is a modern day retelling of An American Tragedy. Lippman gives us a family of characters to follow from the mother’s parent’s home to a model community built to give people of all walks of life a chance to live the American dream. The schools were the “open grade” concept, the houses were built around the man made Wilde Lake and everywhere was the sense that the place was “special.” But as with most utopias, there is the perception and the reality. Behind closed doors families still struggle with buried secrets, divisions in communities still develop and kids still party-often with devastating consequences.

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Lippman uses time shifts to tell the story of the Brandt family. As it opens, Lu has just won the election for County Prosecutor and is reminiscing about her childhood. We quickly learn that for her entire childhood it was just her dad and older brother. Her mother had died shortly after Lu’s birth. We also learn that the night that her brother AJ graduated from high school the kids had gathered at Wilde Lake per tradition but the evening ended in tragedy. What happened that night, what caused those events to unfold come out slowly throughout the book as Lu is preparing to prosecute her first big murder trial since winning the election. All along readers will sense that there is somehow a connection between Lu’s case and the past but it isn’t until very near the end that all is revealed. When all is said and done, Lu realizes that some things she has always believed to be true, even about her own family are not at all as she believed.

This is an interesting book. First, the author shifts in time between Lu’s childhood and the present while also shifting voice from first person to third person. This is a little unsettling to begin with but in the end works. The book is beautifully written language wise, but is slow to develop. Painfully slow in places to the extent that by the time some plot threads are resolved, as a reader I was beyond caring. Aside from the pacing, the one flaw I found is that none of the characters are sympathetic. It is hard for me to stick with a book if I truly dislike all of the characters, which was the case. What kept me reading, and is to me the strongest point in the book, is the puzzle of how the present day murder case is tied to the past-specifically to the graduation party that happens in the beginning of the book. Readers know there is a connection, but the how is a long time in coming.

I feel that readers who generally like Lippman’s work will be pleased with Wilde Lake along with readers who like books centered around flawed characters and or dysfunctional families. Readers looking for a well-plotted suspense novel or crime fiction probably will be left wanting.