What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
Published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins

After getting in a car accident and ending up in the hospital, a thirtysomething woman with no ID is subject to intense questioning by both the police and the hospital staff. Eventually she reveals that she is the younger of the two Bethany girls, sisters who disappeared and were presumed dead thirty years ago. As soon as the woman explains who she is, she stops giving details, leaving the lead detective on her case, Kevin Infante, in disbelief about her story. As Kevin untangles her story and the mystery of what really happened to the Bethany girls, the reader is treated to an exciting journey towards finding out the truth behind this mysterious woman and her past.

Would you believe I’d never read a Laura Lippman novel until now? I’d heard that her writing style is similar to Tana French (who I absolutely adore), so I knew that eventually I’d be reading her books. I had the opportunity to listen to What the Dead Know, and overall I was pleased with the experience.

Laura Lippman definitely has a knack for crafting a creepy, atmospheric mystery. I was kept on the edge of my seat for the majority of the time I was listening to this novel and I really wasn’t sure where the book was going to take me. I loved the suspense Lippman created and I also liked what she ended up doing with the story. It was interesting enough and a unique enough concept so that I wasn’t expecting a lot of what happened.

I have to caution you, though, if you are a fan of Tana French and want to compare the two authors (like I did) – just don’t. Lippman is a good writer and this book had a well-crafted mystery, but this book doesn’t quite measure up to the genius of French’s novels, in my opinion. So you’re best going in not expecting that type of novel. Just enjoy what Lippman does deliver and you won’t be disappointed.

One aspect of What the Dead Know that didn’t totally work for me was the characters. They weren’t written poorly or anything, but I simply didn’t connect to any of them how I would have liked. Perhaps this is because I listened to the audiobook instead of reading it in print, but I just didn’t form an emotional connection with anybody in the book, even the main character. This fact didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the novel too much, as I still found myself engaged in the mystery, but I think I would have loved the novel had I really connected with one or more of the characters.

Overall, I quite enjoyed What the Dead Know for what it is – an engaging and well-crafted mystery that held my interest throughout. I didn’t love the characters, but don’t let that stop you from reading the book as it really is well-written and the mystery is unique and expertly crafted. Laura Lippman is an author I will definitely be on the lookout for in the future.


14 thoughts on “What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman”

  1. I recently read another review of this book. I’ve read a few Lippman books, but I don’t think I would compare her to Tana French. They both write a good psychological mystery, but have different intensities to their styles. Lippman writes a mystery series as well, but I think she’s been nominated for more awards for her standalones. I’m looking forward to reading this one even more now.

  2. I have read almost all of Lippman’s standalone novels, but not this one. I do have it, and will be reading it soon hopefully. I agree that sometimes her characters are hard to really get to know and like, and I really felt that way with a few of her other books as well. It sounds like the plot and mystery of this book were top notch, but the characters were a little less pleasing. I will have to remember your comments when I do finally pick this one up. Very nice review today, by the way!

    1. You know what Kathy, I never thought about it that way but you are totally right. I do have a tendency to compare authors just so I have a reference point of what type of book to expect. But I should just really stop doing that!

  3. I listened to this a few weeks ago (my first Lippman) and absolutely loved it! I know I’ll be reading more of her work, but your post makes me think I should try Tana French, too. Her books have been on my radar for years.

  4. I really enjoyed this book when I read it some time ago. I had never read any of her work, but this book made me seek out some of her other stand-alone novels. “What the Dead Know” turned out to be the one I liked the most.

    And yes, Tana French is amazing. Can’t wait to read whatever she writes next. Why, oh why haven’t her books been made into movies?

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