And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman: Our Book of the Week
According to the people who track these things, there are roughly 170,000 new books published each year in the United States -- an alarming percentage of which arrive, unbidden, at the L.A. Weekly office.
Each week, we'll offer a snapshot of a newish book that's caught our attention. Just as there's a lid for every crooked pot, surely, there's a reader for every one of these 170,000 books. This is our attempt to play matchmaker.
THE BOOK: And When She Was Good
THE WRITER: Laura Lippman, former Baltimore Sun reporter and true crime writer extraordinaire
THE BACKSTORY: Lippman writes the Tess Monaghan series, which has made her wildly successful and very rich. But the latter probably isn't even necessary in her case: She's married to David Simon, best known as creator of the critically acclaimed HBO series The Wire. Lippman is apparently a bit tired of people sending her mash notes just to get to her hubby; one of the Frequently Asked Questions posted on her author site is "Can I get in touch with David Simon via your email link? Will you forward email to him or anyone else associated with The Wire?" (Answer: No.)
THE STORY: Heloise is an extremely successful business owner -- but though she tells everyone she's a lobbyist (and she's even officially registered as such with the state of Maryland) she's actually a call-girl who owns her own agency. Naturally, the dark past that set her on the road to prostitution starts to catch up with her -- but who's a hooker going to call for help, the police?
DON'T READ THIS IF ... You refuse to believe that a working gal can have a heart of gold. Heloise is a compelling character, but skeptics are going to find her just a little bit too good to be true: She's the kind of high-school dropout who prostitutes herself out to get access to classic literature at the library (yes, really).
READ THIS IF ... You're looking for a fast-paced, female-centered story that's too character-driven to be strictly a thriller, but still packs a suspenseful punch. Lippman is a much better writer than is usual for this type of beach read -- for the right sort of reader, this is a hard book to put down. And while Heloise's do-gooderism is ultimately a real flaw in an otherwise perceptive book, it may help you get into this one if you're squeamish about sex, drugs or the terrible things people will do to (or for) each other if the price is right: Church-going soccer mom Heloise is the least kinky prostitute since Donna Reed.
A KEY QUOTE ... "Is her father the one she despises the most? The competition, after all, is notable. She considers the top candidates. Billy. Val. No, her father's still the champion asshole of the world, because he was supposed to love her and didn't."