Friday, September 10, 2010

a review of "I'd Know You Anywhere" [69]

I'd Know You Anywhere: A Novel by Laura Lippman
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0061706554
August 17, 2010, 384 pages

"Of course, you are older, a woman now. You’ve been a woman for a while, obviously. Still, I’d know you anywhere.” 

When Eliza Bennett opens a letter sent to her home and reads those words, her blood runs cold and her hands shake. Because the man that wrote them is from a different time in her life. A time when she was known as Elizabeth, a time when living a life not filled with fear ended. A time she calls, to the few in her world that know about it, "the summer she was fifteen."
The summer she was kidnapped, raped and held by a serial killer for 39 days.

That man's name is Walter Bowman and he is in prison, on Death Row awaiting his long delayed execution for the murder of another girl, one of an unknown number of young teenage girls he killed. He would see them walking down the road as he drove around on his days off from working in his father's garage. He liked them very young, teenagers, tall and "well developed" with blond hair. He would offer them a ride in his truck and it would be the last ride they ever took. But Elizabeth was different.

He did not choose her but rather, in a way, she choose him, stumbling upon him in the woods as he was burying the body of one of his victims. He took her prisoner, telling her over and over how he will go back and kill her entire family if she does not do as she is told, and she is so afraid that she does not try to escape. There are some, including the mother of the last murdered girl, that believe she was an accomplice rather than a victim. It was her testimony that convicted him, but he suggests that her memory may not be totally reliable..and she fear that he might be correct. She knows that with these communications, this letter and the letters that follow, he is trying to use her, to manipulate her...but she has to find out the truth.

These stand alone books of Ms. Lippman are often not traditional mysteries or even suspense novels. Rather their emphasis is on the psychology of the people involved and this book excels at that. Eliza has made a life for herself with a very good marriage, supportive parents and two typical, not perfect children. But deep down she is damaged. She never sleeps with the windows opened, she has nightmares populated with the ghosts of the dead girls and has wondered all these years, filled with guilt, why she was the one allowed to live. 
Walter is a cold blooded killer and the glimpses into his mind, so banal, are rather chilling while the anger of the dead girls mother is anything but cold. Running through the book is a discussion of the death penalty, which is chasing Walter down, from the different characters very different points of view, but happily in such a way that we never feel the author forcing her own opinion.

This is a good novel that fans of Lippman previous books and fans of  psychological thriller will certainly enjoy. Lippman is an excellent writer and the structure of the book, on the one hand telling the present day story in a straight chronological way, then interspersing flashbacks to that fateful summer, works very well. From that letter at the beginning, through the book, as the contact with Walter escalates, the sense of terror and dread builds, finally concluding in a satisfying ending that happily answers all our questions.

My thanks to Library Thing Early Reviewers for my copy of this book


  1. I really enjoy the psychological study aspects of a novel. I need to finish What the Dead Know (which I started about 9 months ago....) but I plan to put this Lippman book on the TBR list as well.

  2. Another one that hasn't received a bad review, and generally Lippman seems to have a loyal following. I've got one of her books on my shelves, and I do intend to see what all the fuss is about. I really do prefer the psychological terror versus the physical.

  3. I'm afraid if I read this book, I wouldn't see for a long time. I can't handle psychological thrillers. They scare the livin' daylights out of me!

  4. "I wouldn't sleep" for a long time. See just reading your review scared me... ; )

  5. My blood would run cold if I got a letter like that too! This book sounds unputdownable!

  6. I didn't really find it scary..but maybe that is just me. maybe I am immune...more.just a sense of dread, of something awful happening or be found out.
    and I will not tell you if that happens.

  7. I'm going to have to try this one too after liking "What The Dead Know." I do like the whole psychological aspect part of it.

    Better go close my windows now.


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