I had the chance to meet Laura Lippman briefly at ALA last summer, and she spoke about the fact that this is the first book she has set in Dickeyville, the part of Baltimore that she knows best, the corner of the city in which she grew up. As a child, she and her friends played in Leakin Park, which in the 70’s was legend for being the place where dead bodies were disposed of. During that time, it was rare that groups of kids out playing were supervised by adults.
All of this comes to play in The Most Dangerous Thing, a mystery that focuses on how the adolescent actions of five childhood friends impact their adult lives. Adolescents who spend their time in and around Dickeyville and Leakin Park.
To hear Lippman talk about this time, and her training as a journalist, (eventually as a reporter with the Baltimore Sun), tune into her interview on the Diane Reams show.
Lippman is known for her Tess Monaghan series and equally celebrated stand-alone novels (What the Dead Know, Life Sentences, I’d Know You Anywhere, etc.). Her homepage provides clear lists of which books are which. Lippman has won virtually every major U.S. crime writing award, including the Edgar Award, Anthony Award, Agatha Award, Nero Wolfe Award, Shamus Award, and the Quill Award.
Adult/High School–Secrets change lives, and Lippman’s new stand-alone novel features two secrets among different groups–childhood friends and their parents. The three Halloran brothers didn’t know how to handle pretty Gwen and tomboy Mickey when they crashed their kickball game, but soon the five of them are an exclusive group. In the days when seeing lightening bugs meant it was time to head home, the friends find themselves exploring the woods, daring each other to forge deeper. They discover a broken down cabin and a possibly deranged man they name Chicken George. For the rest of the summer they escape to the cabin whenever they can, loving the thrill of doing what their parents would surely forbid. Romantic feelings blossom among the group and jealousy simmers below the surface until one night something horrible happens. They band together to tell an altered story to their parents, and Chicken George ends up dead. Decades later the friends have split apart, but all have kept the secret, until Go-Go, the youngest, dies in a way that suggests suicide. It seems the parents kept their own secret, and now there’s no stopping the consequences. Lippman takes a common set-up–the secret pact to conceal a tragedy–and freshens it up with complex characters. The narrative flashbacks and varying points of view include significant time on middle-aged characters, and may be challenging to follow for some readers, but the sinister undertones and theme of sexual tensions keep the pages turning.–Priscille Dando, Robert E. Lee High School, Fairfax County, VA