Summary (from Goodreads):
“The bestselling author of the acclaimed standalones After I’m Gone, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know, challenges our notions of memory, loyalty, responsibility, and justice in this evocative and psychologically complex story about a long-ago death that still haunts a family.
Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected—and first female—state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a job in which her widower father famously served. Fiercely intelligent and ambitious, she sees an opportunity to make her name by trying a mentally disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death in her home. It’s not the kind of case that makes headlines, but peaceful Howard county doesn’t see many homicides.
As Lu prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her small but tight-knit family of the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Now, Lu wonders if the events of 1980 happened as she remembers them. What details might have been withheld from her when she was a child?
The more she learns about the case, the more questions arise. What does it mean to be a man or woman of one’s times? Why do we ask our heroes of the past to conform to the present’s standards? Is that fair? Is it right? Propelled into the past, she discovers that the legal system, the bedrock of her entire life, does not have all the answers. Lu realizes that even if she could learn the whole truth, she probably wouldn’t want to.”
I’ve been a fan of Laura Lippman’s for years now (I think about 13? But a while) and I have loved everything she’s ever written. If you had pressed me before, my favorite would have been To the Power of Three or maybe What the Dead Know.
Now, my favorite is absolutely this one. No contest.
It helps that there are some definite parallels to To Kill a Mockingbird but it’s also amazing just on its own merits. It’s not something you need to have read to love Wilde Lake (though if you haven’t read TKaM, you need to get on that), though.
I don’t want to get into the plot because of potential spoilers, but there is so much going on with this novel. Obviously you’ll get drawn into the dual mysteries (what happened with AJ when he was a teenager? And who killed the lady now? Is it the man that Lu is prosecuting? If not him, then who?) but there’s also so much going on with family and the ways that we deal with our relatives, the way that we resort to childhood roles and ways of dealing with things, even if we don’t want to and actively try not to.
This is an absolutely perfect book and, like I said, her best yet. And if you’ve already read Laura Lippman, you know that’s saying a lot.