The Fantasy Always Ends with a Pulitzer: Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Oh, Maddie.

For as much as I love the New Releases list every week, I try to make sure I am listening to friends when they talk about the books they are reading, and that’s how I came into Laura Lippman’s “Lady in the Lake” — my first by her, but well past her 20th novel. A friend was reading it, I was looking for a suggestion, and the library had it. Winning!

It’s been a while since I’ve tackled a thriller by an author I haven’t read before, and it’s always an enjoyable experience, because I can go into it without any knowledge of that writer’s tells — the hints that may give away the ending. For that reason alone, “Lady in the Lake” was an engaging ride.

Maddie Schwartz is a 37-year-old newly single woman that, having spent nearly 20 years identifying solely as a wife and mother, is now taking the time to discover herself. It’s complicated, of course, for reasons that I can’t get into too much without scraping away much the suspense, but I will say that while at first she grated on my nerves — she is far from perfect — I grew to root for her to solve the mysteries that make up the core of this story.

Maddie’s entry into journalism to solve the unrelated murders of a young girl and a young Black woman feels a little fantastical, but it’s also set in the 60s, so who knows — maybe it was possible to walk into a newsroom, land a job opening mail, and decades later have a Pulitzer nomination on your resume. (We all have that dream, right?) But if as a reader you can set aside some of the scene-setting, there is a lot to unpack about Maddie, marriage, civil rights, gender equality, religion and sexuality.

Can Maddie ever really be with Ferdie? Will Judith escape her parent’s clutches? And will Cleo’s “ghost” find the peace it desires? A good read, but also a little melancholy for this former long ago news girl that knows newsrooms will never be the same again, and remains wistful for the days of expense accounts and lunch with sources and hardened cynics that added the color to a long day hunting down a story. Even in fiction, journalism matters.

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