Sunday, September 12, 2010
Book Review: I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
I'd Know You Anywhere is the story of Elizabeth Lerner, a 37-year-old woman who had been abducted at age 15. Not only was she the victim who survived, but Walter Bowman, her abductor, also took her on the run with him for six weeks.
The book opens when Elizabeth, now Eliza Benedict, moves back to the Washington, D.C. area after 20 years away, living first in Texas, then in England. She's a married, stay-at-home mother of two children who believes she's left the past behind her. At the same time, Walter Bowman is finally going to be put to death in nearby Virginia, and he contacts her, saying he wants to see her to make amends before he dies. Understandably, this rocks Eliza's world.
What follows is a thoughtful and thorough tour of both the abduction—told in real-time chapters alternating with the present—and its aftermath. The narrating voice moves among Eliza, Walter, a creepy death-row advocate helping him, and the mother of the last girl killed. Eliza is forced to revisit memories she had long kept at bay and examine her own motives for her actions when she was taken. Her sister tells Eliza the effect of the abduction on the Lerner family, and Walter explains and makes excuses the whole way.
I'd Know You Anywhere is compelling reading, its socially-conscious topic putting me in mind of Jodi Picoult's books. It also struck me as honest, in that there are no easy answers for any character. Ms. Lippman appears to inhabit her characters with ease, switching voices—and in the case of Eliza, ages—convincingly. She channels serial-killer Walter with aplomb, an ability she talked about when she appeared on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson:
Ms. Lippman's writing is eminently readable. The action is unpacked slowly, suspensefully, in tightly-constructed chapters that are real page-turners. I found the ending slightly anticlimactic after the drama coming before it, but it is satisfying none-the-less. Loosely based on a real crime (I do so wish Ms. Lippman had told us which one!), I'd Know You Anywhere should make any lover of contemporary crime fiction happy.
Article first published as Book Review: I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman on Blogcritics.